Samsung SyncMaster 930BF-Black LCD Monitor Review

Sagittaria - 2007-01-12 21:59:50 in Monitors
Category: Monitors
Reviewed by: Sagittaria   
Reviewed on: February 27, 2006
Samsung
Gfcitycomputers
Price: $459
Introduction
Over the years, Samsung has come up with a wide variety of electronics, from printers to televisions, and until now I was never a fan of theirs. The way I ended up with this monitor is quite strange, an act of fate you might call it. I went to my local computer store, Memory Express (www.memoryexpress.com ) to buy a ViewSonic VX924. They were out of stock except one in the bargain bin with dead pixels, so I decided I would go for the only other 4ms display they carried: the SyncMaster 930BF. It was a bit more expensive, sitting at $459.95, but I wanted a new LCD right away. I finally brought it home with me but I was still a bit skeptical about its performance.

Closer Look
The first sight you see is the standard brown briefcase style box from Samsung. It is fairly solid, easy to carry, and the monitor is well protected with Styrofoam. The packaging this company chose is perfect for moving the LCD around with great ease. After unpacking everything, you should be greeted by:
- Cables (power, DVD-D and D-Sub)
- Software/ Driver CD
- Warranty card
- Quick setup guide
- And of course, the SyncMaster 930BF itself






The instructions are detailed and can be followed with great ease. Also, the heads of the plugs (analog and digital) are fitted with plastic caps to protect them, quite a nice touch. Let’s have a closer look at the actual monitor, shall we? Once you unpack everything, you will find yourself looking at the monitor itself (only comes in black unfortunately) and the base (detached). If you are familiar with Samsung, you would know that their monitor bases are usually rectangular in shape. This time though, they deviated from their typical stands and included a circular design. I prefer this; I think it makes it look more aesthetically pleasing. I did not like the fact however, that the base cannot be height adjusted, or even rotated. It is only able to tilt back and forth. I hope Samsung decides to address this issue in further models, but moving on… The panel itself has a very simple and elegant design and is overall fairly thin. Later on once I got it running, I found out it has a decently low heat output as well. My only negative comment on the bezel is the button layout: in low light conditions, it is nearly impossible to tell which is which since the text is just carved into the black plastic. The way I managed past this was to memorize their order (menu, up, down, back, auto balance and power). For the screen I would have preferred a high gloss layout, but don’t really mind this when it comes down to it. Another fact to take note of is the panel itself: it’s made by Samsung, and not by another company. The lower back piece where you can find the ports is cleverly masked with a piece of plastic. It all adds up to make for a very pleasing product.


Installation & Software
You really can’t get any simpler than this. Plug in the monitor via your preferred port (D-Sub or DVI-D), fire up the computer, and install the software. It was all very easy, especially with the drivers, which were self installing and didn’t even require a reboot. The one CD that came with the package had everything you would need. It contained safety instructions, introduction, setup, monitor adjustment, troubleshooting, specifications and information. They were well covered and simple to understand. Samsung also kindly included two applications besides the drivers: Natural Color and Magic Tune. The latest version of Magic Tune performs a wide variety of tasks and adjustments for the monitor including brightness, contrast, resolution, Magic Bright (providing 6 different brightness levels to fit your needs) and everything is wrapped up in a simple to use interface. You can also change the color tone, gamma, or you can use the calibration tool. One feature I found interesting is the ability to control the sharpness of the image. Natural Color 2.0 is a simple tool that helps you adjust the screen color through a series of tests, mostly comparing two images and tweaking the colors this way. The color preference and gamma curve can also be accessed via Natural Color 2.0.




After everything said, what do you do right after you buy that shiny new LCD monitor? You go home, set it up and test for dead pixels. I used the Dead Pixel Test, and after a few moments of close scrutinizing, I found none! Going back to the first seconds of use, when I powered my rig on with the LCD attached for the first time, everything was a blurry haze until I set the resolution to native (1280x1024). However most LCD displays behave like this (under any other resolution than native), so that didn’t bother me. Another aspect that I took note of is the brightness of the screen, which lit up my dark room. I then adjusted it down to a softer 60%. The picture was also very sharp and of good quality. To test the color quality and form an initial opinion, I went through some user posted digital art at www.depthcore.com . Everything was looking great until I noticed that what was meant to be black was not of its true color. If a really dark shade of grey and black were compared side by side, the first would seem darker than actual black. This fact might throw you off a bit if you are into art or design, or extremely picky for that matter. Don’t chuck this monitor into the bucket just yet; I have set up some further tests.


Specifications
Model Name:   SyncMaster 930BF-Black
Model Number:   930BF
Panel Type:   a-si TFT/TN
Viewable Size:   19"
Pixel Pitch:   0.294mm
Brightness (Typical):   270 cd/m2
Contrast Ratio (Typical):   700:1
Viewing Angle (H/V, Typical):   160°/160° (CR>5)
Aspect Ratio:   4:3
Interface:   Analog/Digital
Response Time (Typical):   4ms (Gray-To-Gray)
Native Resolution:   1280x1024
Max Colors:   16.2 Million
Input Video Signal:   Analog RGB, DVI Digital Link
Sync Type:   Separate H/V, Composite H/V, SOG
Input Connectors:   15-Pin D-Sub, DVI-D
Max Power Consumption:   38 Watts
Wall-Mount Interface:   VESA 75mm
Emission Std.:   TCO '99
Bezel Color:   Black/Black
Net Dimensions:   16.6"(W) x 16.8"(H) x 7.9"(D)
Weight:   11.2 Lbs
Special Features:    MagicBright™, MagicTune, MagicColor, Built-in Power, Fast Response Time (4ms G-to-G), Safe Mode


I’ve had some people ask me about the cord lengths recently, so I measured them. The DVI and VGA cables are roughly 72” or 180 cm. The power cord however is only a few inches shorter.
Testing
Samsung gives us all these fancy specs about this LCD, but it all comes down to how it actually performs. Can it live up to its expectations? Let’s have a look. Since this display is aimed towards the gaming crowd, I decided that I would try it out on: Half-Life 2: The Lost Coast, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory and Need for Speed Most Wanted. A monitor can’t be strictly used for gaming, so it would only have been adequate to try a DVD (Lord of the Rings: Return of the King was close at hand) and Adobe Photoshop CS2 (since I draw/design as a hobby) as well.

Game Tests
Half-Life 2: The Lost Coast
Since Valve released their tech demo using HDR rendering, I was eager to try it on the 930BF. The reason being, HDR is supposed to use every bit of the monitor brightness to take full advantage of its true dynamic light range. That being said, I fired up the game and set the graphics to max and 1280x1024 resolution. I was amazed just how bright it was when the character was looking directly at the sun and HDR adjusted the image! I was impressed how crisp, sharp and luminous this display was. The 4ms response time made sure there would be no ghosting at all, just as I was expecting. Pictures can’t do it justice, but here it is below anyway:



Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
I chose every game on my testing list with a purpose in mind. Lost Coast would test brightness and detail, NFS Most Wanted would test the response time, and Chaos Theory would test the dark color range. Since Sam Fisher likes the shadows, there would be a significant amount of pure black on the screen next to other cold shades. After playing the game 1280x1024 max everything for a few minutes on the Bank level, I noticed that the hue meant to be black wasn’t as it was supposed to be (mentioned earlier on as well). It seemed lighter than a really dark gray, looking like a semi-transparent piece of plastic with a white or blue cathode behind it. This might upset some gamers and serious graphic artists, but after a few more minutes of playing it ceased to bother me as I got used to it. You can see this at work in the picture below, notice the blue outline of Fisher’s black suit:



Need for Speed Most Wanted
NFS would test the response time of the monitor and make ghosting evident if there was any because of its fast paced racing nature. Running native resolution and max graphics, I was amazed at the level of visual detail and motion blurs of the game used together with this monitor. I can gladly say there was no ghosting whatsoever and I was very pleased with the results.



Other Tests
Photoshop CS2
I enjoy drawing/painting/designing with Photoshop and my Graphire 2 tablet, therefore I wanted to make sure this monitor would support my hobby. After 30 minutes of quick sketching I saved the file and took it with me to the other PC with an older but decent CRT monitor for comparison. I am pleased to say that there’s nothing ugly to see here.

Movie Test
My DVD of choice was Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. I watched for a few moments paying attention to details, and the only fault I found is the fact that it seemed a bit grainy. This was nothing major, since it took me more than a couple minutes focusing on the quality instead of the actual movie. I would say this monitor is perfect for watching videos otherwise.
 


Viewing Angle Test
I wanted to make sure it had a nice, wide viewing angle (even though Samsung’s spec sheet states 160*). The only one that impedes viewing quite a bit is if you look from about 20 cm below the monitor. Most people don’t have their display way above them, so I thought it was fine.


Conclusion
The moment everyone has been waiting for is here: the verdict. Coming in at around $450, not everyone would find the SyncMaster 930BF affordable. I have to be honest with you- I really had my doubts about the actual performance of this display at first, however after heavy scrutinizing I believe it has lived up to its hype. It had some minor flaws, but nothing’s perfect. This is definitely a product to look into if you have some bucks to blow and a hunger for a fast, sharp, bright and of excellent overall quality image.

Pros

  • Excellent response time and contrast ratio
  • Extremely bright
  • Sharp, crisp picture
  • Excellent overall build and image quality
  • Simple, elegant design
  • DVI-D connection, as well as Analog
  • Easy to use software

Cons

  • Non-rotating or height adjustable base, only tilting
  • Black is not true black on screen, but seems lighter then a really dark grey
  • The monitor interface makes it hard to find the right button in low light


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