LED (Light Emitting Diode) backlighting has seen a real push recently, with many manufacturers keen to show off their ‘green’ credential. Not only does the use of LED backlighting make a monitor more efficient and cooler-running; it also allows the product to be free of mercury (an environmental issue during disposal), lighter and thinner. Some manufacturers also make image quality claims such as ‘LED backlighting can provide a brighter and more pure flicker-free image’ over CCFL (Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lamp) backlights.
The BX2350 belongs to the BX50 series that is the latest in Samsung’s now extensive ‘Touch of Colour’ editions. The BX2350 uses strips of white LEDs around the inside of the bezel (hence edge-lit LED) in place of CCFL lamps to offer consumers some of these benefits. We look at the most important aspects of the BX2350’s features and performance and compare this to the stellar performance of the XL2370. To say that the BX2350 has a lot to live up to would be an understatement.
The specifications of the BX2350 are very similar to the XL2370. According to these specifications the BX2350 is light, efficient and well-rounded. We praise Samsung for dropping the absurd numbers for their dynamic contrast ratios and simply stating ‘Mega DCR’ as a feature. It is also worth noting that the price of the BX2350 is around £50 cheaper than the XL2370 was when we reviewed it.
We are certainly a fan of the design of Samsung’s Touch of Colour monitors. The BX50 series, which the BX2350 belongs to, is a new addition to this range of artful and stylish monitors. The front of the BX2350 continues Samsung’s ‘Perspex border’ fascination but ramps it up even more than usual. The overall effect is one of a wet ice-like gloss that looks surprisingly elegant and not at all tacky. Underneath the bezel, the black which borders the BX2350 blends seamlessly for a refined look. The stand of the BX2350 is not covered in Perspex and presents a departure from the usual glossy plastic, with some real metallic weight to it. Before attaching the stand to the monitor it reminded us of a boomerang or possibly a doorstop – but once the chrome-topped boomerang was attached the whole package was complete. Due to the stands weight and weight distribution the BX2350 was surprisingly sturdy on the desk.
Thankfully the back of the monitor is matte plastic, so you can pick the monitor up without horrendous greasy marks streaked down the back. The back of the monitor is in itself rather intriguing, with a kind of bark-like texture that we found quite agreeable.
At the bottom of the monitor you will find the BX2350’s central ‘input hub’, featuring; a DC input socket, RGB (VGA) in, audio out and dual HDMI sockets. That’s right – no DVI; but thankfully Samsung does include a DVI out to HDMI in cable in the box. They also include a VGA cable, power cable and a rather nifty low-profile AC/DC adaptor.
From the side the ‘thick’ Perspex front meets the matte black back to form a stunningly thin 16mm profile. The monitor does ‘lump out’ slightly towards the centre, but the overall look remains sleek.
Like the XL2370 we reviewed previously, the OSD and power button controls of the BX2350 are touch-sensitive. Unlike the XL2370; the touch sensitive areas are at the bottom of the panel rather than the front. Whilst this does stop you getting visible glossy surfaces grubby, the temperamental nature of the touch controls makes operation a little challenging. Sometimes the controls seem too sensitive and other times they don’t seem to respond at all. Unlike the XL2370, there is also no illumination, apart from the small rectangular blue power LED – but menu labels do appear on screen in the appropriate position above each button. This slight compromise on the control side (form over function) didn’t take much away from the great overall build quality of the BX2350.
It is also worth mentioning that the onscreen display of the BX2350 is fairly easy to navigate (once you get used to the touch-sensitive controls) and offers good range of adjustability options. As well as the usual brightness, contrast and sharpness adjustments you are able to change the response time settings (normal, fast or faster), choose from 3 gamma presets, adjust the balance of individual colours and apply MagicBright presets; Custom, Text, Internet, Game, Sport, Movie and Dynamic Contrast. Overall it is very similar to the XL2370’s OSD controls, with the addition of several ‘Magic’ features. The first of these features is ‘Magic Eco’, which allows the user to ‘quickly’ choose between 100%, 75% and 50% brightness settings. This is particularly useful considering that the usual direct brightness and contrast have been replaced by volume controls for the audio via HDMI or audio out – a little annoying for us as we were constantly testing using different brightness and contrast settings. Next up there is ‘Magic Angle’, which adjusts the picture so that it looks clearer from specific off-centre angles (for example if you are leaning back or to the side of the monitor). Although this is a nice idea and does make some improvement in these circumstances, the image never looks quite right using these settings and it does not fix the inherent viewing angle limitations of Twisted Nematic (TN) panel technology. Last but not least, in a multi-monitor setup, is ‘Magic Return’. This feature means that the BX2350 will automatically shift all content from multiple monitors onto a single monitor if the other monitors lose signal or power to them is cut.
We performed a basic calibration of the BX2350 using the ‘Display Color Calibration’ feature of Windows 7. Whilst the use of a colorimeter would have led to better results, we felt it was more appropriate and fair to use a by-eye calibration procedure that is readily accessible to home users – the BX2350 was never intended to be a ‘professional’ panel. Because the BX2350 is lit by a border of white LEDs it is not necessary to wait 30 minutes or more for the screen to ‘warm up’ prior to calibration; although it is still a good habit. It is worth remembering that, as with any Twisted Nematic (TN) panel, the gamma curve of the monitor is highly viewing angle dependent. This means that you are only really calibrating specific points of the monitor from a particular viewing angle – if this is done by eye it is particularly important that your head height is as it would most commonly be when using the monitor.
As with other Samsung monitors, we found that the general performance of the BX2350 in these ‘tests’ could be instantly improved by switching from gamma ‘Mode1’ to ‘Mode2’. After this simple switch was made we proceeded with the calibration. We left the gamma alone in accordance with the first test as results from our usual seating position were pleasing – you could also see the gamma shift associated with TN panels if you moved your head slightly on this first test. For the second test, adjusting the brightness made little difference – we left this at 100%, although you should lower it according to your preferences or if you experience eyestrain. According to the Windows 7 calibration tool, the contrast could be comfortably bumped up to 100% without any loss of fine detail. Samsung provide a superior utility for adjusting contrast called ‘Natural Color Pro’. The contrast test on this tool revealed that at 100% the four white circles (each a slightly different shade of white) were bleached and therefore become indistinguishable from one another. The circles became distinctive at a contrast level of around 80%, so this is what we set it to. The final test revealed that the BX2350 exhibited a cool tint to colours – simply knocking down the blue slider 5 notches produced lovely neutral-looking greys.
Samsung claims that the SyncMaster BX2350 will produce a typical brightness in the region of 250cd/m2 range and a static contrast ratio of 1000:1. These are fairly usual things to claim and for that reason we have no reason to doubt them; but from our experience that last figure is probably difficult to achieve using usable settings. We applaud Samsung for not quoting some ludicrous and frankly meaningless dynamic contrast ratio numbers – it gets a bit tiresome. By enabling dynamic contrast, the backlight intensity is varied depending on the level of black and white (or dark and light) on the screen. This means that the backlight would be turned off (or very close to it) if an entirely black screen was to be displayed; hence no backlight bleed-through to raise the luminance of the black and decrease the possible contrast ratio. In an entirely white scene the backlight should go full on – this combination leads to an ‘artificially high’ contrast ratio using a setting that is impractical for most applications. For the BX2350 we recorded a dynamic contrast ratio of >36,000:1. It was probably significantly higher, but the resolution of our light meter is limited to 0.1 cd/m2. And frankly; we don’t think you should look too much into this figure anyway.
So we could test Samsung’s claims we got out our trusty light meter to test the BX2350’s brightness (luminance) in an entirely white image, an entirely black image and the resulting contrast ratio using various manufacturer settings. The results can be seen in the table below with significant values highlighted in blue and discussed in the proceeding section (with the exception of dynamic contrast; we got that off our chest in the previous paragraph). Note that in all custom modes the contrast was set to 100%, but varied according to manufacturer settings for MagicBright preset modes.
|Monitor profile||White luminance (cd/m2)||Black luminance (cd/m2)||Contrast ratio (x:1)|
|Custom, 100% brightness||361||0.88||410|
|Custom, 85% brightness||316||0.74||427|
|Custom, 75% brightness (default)||283||0.63||449|
|Custom, 60% brightness||245||0.48||510|
|Custom, 50% brightness||220||0.40||550|
|Custom, 40% brightness||186||0.31||600|
|Custom, 30% brightness||152||0.29||524|
|Custom, 20% brightness||130||0.24||542|
|Custom, 10% brightness||96||0.18||533|
From the table above, you can see that Samsung’s stated 1000:1 static contrast ratio was unachievable using any settings. The closest we came was at 40% brightness, achieving a 600:1 contrast ratio. Blacks in centre of screen look fairly deep and inky (the black luminance level recorded as 0.31 cd/m2). We’d say this setting is a little dim for movies and gaming, but fine for general desktop work.
Raising the brightness above the 40% level highlights a problem that is most noticeable at 100% brightness; slight excess backlight bleedthrough. We say slight because it is noticeable in an entirely black scene but didn’t manifest itself as a major problem throughout our ‘real world’ testing. The bleedthrough is particularly evident at the bottom of the monitor, although it affects the black levels throughout the screen giving them a slight purple tinge. The black point and contrast ratio suffer a bit because of this. At 100% brightness a peak luminance of 361cd/m2 was recorded, which is pretty decent but not quite as high as the XL2370’s astonishing 450 cd/m2. The stated 250cd/m in a typical (i.e. not entirely white) scenario is perfectly believable if not slightly understated. This high brightness and the colour temperature of the LED backlight mean that whites in applications look nice and bright and ‘pure’. Looking at an entirely white screen there does appear to be a uniformity issue (not unusual for a TN panel) as the whites appear cooler at the bottom and slightly ‘dirty’ towards the top. As stated though the whites appear bright and clear in ‘small doses’, such as during games, text, icons and movies.
Given the values recorded we decided not to use the ‘Game’ MagicBright preset and instead stuck with our calibrated custom settings. In Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising the brightness of the backlight was evident in the sun’s glare; it was nice and bright with an impressive white sheen as it is reflected off metallic surfaces. Building interiors were appropriately detailed during the day time and only a minor loss of detail was apparent. The grate of a particularly dark fireplace, for example, blended in a little too well. At night, buildings were a little darker than they perhaps should be, hinting at some possible loss of detail. In the shadows outside, however, there was no noticeable loss of detail. The character uniforms, for example, retained some fairly subtle details. During the night on Dragon Rising the artificial lights of the urban areas and vehicles were impressively bright and ‘clean’, whilst explosions were ‘gloriously bright’ as is always nice to see.
In Battlefield: Bad Company 2 the desert glare and raging fires appeared nice and bright. Perhaps not quite to the extent that they did on the XL2370, but still enough to create a pleasing game atmosphere. The purity of whites in the game was particularly evident in the bright in-game text and icons. The snow on the game was also pleasingly bright whilst dark or shaded areas exhibited no noticeable loss of detail. The BX2350 also ‘shone’ on Colin McRae: Dirt 2. Bright whites from the glare, white sails around the track and artificial lights were all impressive – and so were the dazzling camera flashes, which is always a good sign.
To keep our movie fans happy we also fired up The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo Blu-ray to see how the BX2350 performed on that. There was nothing too spectacular to note – some minor loss of detail in dark areas but nice flashes of brightness from flames and artificial lights at night. One thing to note is that the brown of the main characters eyes, from a frontal perspective, blended into the pupil a little too well – you do need a very deep black level for any sort of differentiation here.
For the avid technology fans we also tested the BX2350 using a series of LCD tests provided by Lagom. These tests are designed to bring any weaknesses in a monitor’s performance to the user’s attention; even if they would not normally be clear.
At the low end of the blue bar in the contrast test there were steps that were a little difficult to distinguish; elsewhere there were distinct blocks of ever-increasing brightness, which was impressive.
The black level test results were good although clearly influenced by vertical viewing angle. If the test squares are centered then then first 2 blocks (out of 20) are indistinguishable from the background. If the test squares are put as far down on the screen as possible (i.e. by scrolling up as far as possible) all squares are distinguishable from the background; although only half of the squares are actually visible on the screen. There was also some minor static and temporal dithering on some of the squares.
The white saturation test results were pretty good, although the final 3 squares were invisible using our test settings. Lowering the contrast to around 50% revealed the third-last square – but no amount of adjustment could reveal the final 2 squares. Again, the white saturation test was heavily influenced by viewing angle. If you lower your head so that your chin is roughly level with the bottom of the BX2350’s bezel then the final two checkerboard patterns were revealed.
The gradient showed minor banding at the lower third but was smooth elsewhere. The good news is that such effects were not noticeable in our ‘real world’ tests.
The BX2350 showed some dashing and fairly vibrant yellows in the menu system of Dragon Rising. The range of yellow shades also seemed impressive, but ironically; this is exaggerated by the effects of poor viewing angle and ‘TN colour shift’ rather than some sort of fantastic colour processing. In the game itself things appeared much more muted than on the XL2370. Not in a washed out way, but in a rather more balanced way. There were still vibrant elements (such as the oranges and yellows of roaring fires) however nothing was overdone. This actually gave a pleasingly natural look to the game – this is the aesthetic we are after on this title. Whilst we were testing Bad Company 2 the word ‘balanced’ sprung to mind once again. Although it lacked the vibrancy we have seen in other panels (such as the XL2370), natural khaki tones of the dessert and deep greens of the lush vegetation create a nice natural look. In addition to this there were dashes of vibrancy here and there, such as the orange tips of flames and bright blue containers throughout the game.
Colours in Dirt 2 were again fairly balanced, but if anything were edging more towards the vibrant side. Deep earthy browns and natural looking (not overly yellow) greens made it a real pleasure to drive in the forests of Malaysia. One thing we love about this title is the diversity of landscapes – the deserts of Utah had an authentic look with dusty greens and browns and no out of place oversaturation. The sandstone did lack that subtle red tone that the rocks of the region are famous for, but this is only a minor gripe. The paintjobs of the cars were also impressive, showing a good range of shades including some vibrant colours. The ‘highlighter yellow’ and dark blue of the Subaru Impreza WRX STI was particularly pleasing, as was the bright yellow of one of our Mitsubishi Eclipse GT paintjobs.
Moving on to our movie testing; we tested The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder Blu-rays. The Girl with the dragon Tattoo shared the natural but not too vibrant look we’d come to expect from the BX2350. Skin tones (and indeed most things in the film) appeared fairly natural. Although appearing a little muted in parts, natural vegetation showed a good range of browns and greens which further reinforced the ‘natural look’. Futurama is a good test of colour reproduction as it offers large blocks of solid and contrasting colours. The BX2350 displayed a respectable (but not fantastic) level of vibrancy here. The range of colour shades was also pretty good, particularly pastel shades of green, blue and pink. Colour consistency is often an issue with TN panels, such as the BX2350, and this is highlighted quite nicely by this movie. The skin colours of the characters changed depending on the position on screen. This was also observed on many other objects in the movie but was particularly noticeable on the skins.
To further investigate the effects of viewing angle on colour reproduction, we fired the viewing angle tests of Lagom. Nothing unexpected here – the BX2350 performed much in line with other TN panels we have tested, as they are all limited in terms of viewing angles. The purple block shifted between purple and pink if viewed from directly in front and flashed through an additional blue hue at times if the head was shifted. The red block appeared pink at the bottom under direct viewing with the ‘pinkness’ shifting around in accordance to head movement. The green block in the Lagom test appeared a bright lime green, with a hint of lemon at the bottom. Certainly a very citrusy performance and much as we’d expected. Again in line with expectation the blue block was remarkably solid with only a minor brightness shift if you moved your head. The Lagom ‘text test’, which is a quick way of identifying the viewing angle dependency of a monitors gamma curve, didn’t throw us any curveballs and confirmed that the gamma curve of the BX2350 is highly dependent on viewing angle. For normal desktop monitor usage (i.e. sat in front with the monitor fairly central to your field of vision) the experience in games, movies and on the desktop is not hampered by the imperfect viewing angle performance of the XL2370. Colour accuracy does of course suffer and professional users will probably want to invest in a panel with superior colour accuracy and consistency (such as an In-Plane Switching model).
As we mentioned in the ‘features and aesthetics’ section, the OSD does allow you to adjust the response time settings between ‘normal’, ‘faster’ and ‘fastest’. The ‘fastest’ setting introduced response time compensation artifacts such as reverse ghosting and other little out of place blips, so we left things on the default ‘faster’ mode. Using this default setting; in our game and movie testing the BX2350 turned out to be a very responsive panel. Gaming in the fast and moderately paced FPS and racing titles we tested was an impressively fluid experience. There was some minor trailing at times, such as when strafing close to a vertical post on Bad Company 2, but nothing of much concern. Because of the bold colours and well-defined edges Futurama proved to be an excellent test of responsiveness. Overall the experience was very smooth, with only minor trailing evident on some fast-moving objects. We also tested The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, for completeness. There was some minor trailing during particularly fast motion, but it was perfectly smooth and very watchable in the main.
One thing to bear in mind is that the number given by a manufacturer for the response time (in this case Samsung quotes 2ms grey to grey) should be taken with a pinch of salt, is only one piece of the pie, and is often a redundant figure in reality. The BX2350 is actually far more responsive than a lot of other 2ms panels we have used and we feel it is very close in this regard to the exceptionally responsive XL2370.
The Samsung SyncMaster BX2350 is a lovely monitor to look at on the outside. It combines elegant refractive Perspex that accentuates the lighting in the room with a smooth and glossy bezel. The stand of the monitor is equally elegant both in terms of its unusual ‘boomerang’ styling and the nice and heavy chrome coating. The overall package is slim and light, so transportation between rooms and showing off its slender physique is a joy. Despite this, the stand gave some much needed weight to the package and overall it exuded a quality and luxury that most other panels in this price range simply can’t match. The BX2350 also includes another nice addition that should keep the gadget wizards happy; a touch-sensitive control panel. Although it is a nice touch to the BX2350 we did find it the responsiveness a little iffy at times so you could question whether it is a case of style over substance.
In terms of the real substance (the image quality of the monitor) the BX2350 gave a pleasing performance. Although the black levels were not quite as deep as on the XL2370 and the backlight not quite as powerful, the BX2350 impressed us where it matters – in the games and movies we tested. Bright and clean whites really added to dazzling glare, fires and explosions on games, whilst performance at the low end was good enough to show some more subtle details in the darkness. The colour reproduction of the panel was in a sense less of a ‘wow’ factor than it was with the XL2370 – due mainly to the relative lack of vibrancy. Despite this; the images displayed looked pleasingly natural with dashes of vibrancy where it counted. The combination of the fairly impressive luminance and pleasingly ‘natural’ colour reproduction gave a very nice look to both games and movies. Thankfully, the response time of the BX2350 was equally impressive and it proved to be a great all-rounder for entertainment purposes.
As with any TN panel, however, the usual caveats still apply. The most pressing of these is the fairly limited viewing angles that the monitor supports. Even across the screen under direct viewing some colour-shift was evident in testing, so it is prudent for professional users who require excellent colour precision to look elsewhere. For pure entertainment purposes, however, the BX2350 performs admirably. At just under £230 it is a tough call – but the build quality and strong all-round performance is worth paying that little bit extra for.
|High luminance brings bright whites to many applications||Whites are not entirely uniform in large white spaces, appearing cooler at the bottom than the top|
|Good ‘natural’ colour reproduction, especially for a TN panel||Colours sometimes lack vibrancy and the ‘wow’ factor|
|Solid build quality and aesthetically pleasing design||Black luminance a little higher than the XL2370|
|Very responsive even for a ‘2ms’ grey-to-grey monitor||Viewing angles and colour uniformity are restricted by TN panel technology|
|LED backlighting provides better energy efficiency and high luminance with less flicker||There are cheaper options out there but we think this could be worth the extra|