Most monitors released these past few years have been aimed at the modern home user who requires an affordable panel that is responsive with a bright and sharp image – offering good performance for internet browsing, movies and games. A recent push has also been made by manufacturers wanting to enhance the experience for home users by offering 120Hz ‘3D’ PC monitors and LED backlighting in an attempt to increase the intensity and immersiveness of the viewing experience. At the other end of the spectrum there are ‘professional’ LCD monitors that offer more accurate colours and superior viewing angles. These PC monitors are still LCD screens, but internally they are very different to the average Twisted Nematic (TN) LCD screen. Instead they use technologies such as In-Plane Switching (IPS) and boast native support for colour depths of 8+ bits per pixel.
Somewhere between these technologies lies the Samsung F2380; aimed at those who require a ‘professional’ monitor but who do not have a professional monitor budget. Based on a novel Patterned Vertical Alignment panel matrix (cPVA: we aren’t sure what the ‘c’ stands for but you can read more about the technology here); the F2380 promises superior colour reproduction, contrast and viewing angles to the run-of-the-mill TN panel. We see if this is really the case as we put the F2380 through its paces in our outrageously rigorous, punishing and unforgiving testing suite .
The Samsung SyncMaster F2380′s specifications reveal some interesting attributes that might just seperate the F2380 from the crowd (highlighted in light blue). The first thing to note is that the panel type is cPVA with an impressively high stated static contrast ratio of 3000:1. The viewing angles are also a little higher than the usual 170 horizontal and 160 vertical degrees stated by Samsung for their TN panels. The response time, on the other hand, is a worryingly high 8ms GTG which even then is probably understated. In this review, PC Monitors will extensively test the F2380 on a range of applications to see how the specifcations are reflected in the real-world performance of the monitor.
Whilst it is fair to say that the Samsung F2380 won’t ball you over with its looks, it’s clear from its broad and square appearance that it, quite literally, means business. It is an aesthetic that may not appeal to all users, but many will appreciate the sheer practicality of the F2380; with its thin bezel and a plethora of adjustability options.
The F2380 is not the thinnest of monitors and is considerably thicker than the LED-backlit XL2370. This is partly because it is lit by CCFL lamps, but there is also an extra bit of baggage that the F2380 has to contend with; the ‘power pack’ is at the back of the monitor rather than attached further down the power cable. You can see this clearly in the side profile image below.
And slightly less clearly from the back.
Where the Samsung F2380 truly shines is the sheer adjustability that the monitor offers. The stand is readily height adjustable by around 5 inches – sliding up and down with ease in a beautifully smooth gliding motion. You can also tilt the monitor forwards and backwards slightly and can swivel it left and right by about 45 degrees either side. The real ace up the F2380’s imaginary sleeve, however, is the screens ability to be rotated up to 90 degrees to put it in portrait mode (as shown below). This allows you to see well over a page of writing in a document at once, a full Google results page and generally work with applications demanding insane amounts of vertical real-estate but requiring little in the way of horizontal space.
The stand is generally very stable, although it does wobble slightly if the OSD (on-screen-display) buttons are pressed or if knocked from the side; this is impressive considering the level of adjustability. The onscreen display buttons themselves have a nice tactile feel when pressed, but the monitor button labels can be difficult to see even in broad daylight. The medium grey on a silver panel really doesn’t work as well as the full illumination offered by the XL2370 – with only a relatively dim and deep set white central power LED to illuminate the area.
The Samsung F2380 has fairly limited connectivity options which include a VGA socket, dual DVI sockets and, thankfully, a power socket. The lack of HDMI or USB ports is perhaps not surprising as they would only add to the cost of what is supposed to be an affordable but high quality display.
The onscreen display of the F2380 is generally fairly easy to navigate and offers a decent set of adjustability options. As well as the obvious 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.
To calibrate the F2380 at a fairly basic level we used the Windows 7 ‘Display Color Calibration’ procedure; we are sure better results could be obtained using a colorimeter (highly recommended for professional applications), but we felt it would be fairer in our testing if the monitor was calibrated by eye using tools that are readily accessible to home users. Because the colours change as CCFL lamps such as those found in the F2380 heat up; the computer and monitor should be left on for at least 30 minutes before attempting any sort of calibration by eye and at least 1 hour if using a colorimeter or similar device. For further advice about calibrating monitors please read this TFT Central article.
If you are not familiar with the Windows 7 calibration procedure, it is advised to either read this article or skim through this section.
We found that an instant improvement could be made in most areas of the test by simply changing the F2380’s gamma mode to ‘mode 2’. Having enabled this, we then went through the calibration procedure. The gamma needed to be shifted up ever so slightly in accordance with the first test, but brightness was absolutely fine even at 100% (although this may be too bright for some people depending on preferences). Likewise, the contrast could be bumped up to 100% without loss of fine detail; although as with brightness, some users may prefer it lower. We found that greys on the colour balance tests appeared to have a slight blue tinge, but this was easily rectified by knocking down the ‘blue slider’ very slightly (4 notches) to achieve neutral greys.
Samsung claims the F2380 is capable of producing brightness in the 300cd/m2 range and a static contrast ratio of 3000:1. The latter claim is rather audacious and most panels would struggle to break the 1000:1 barrier for static contrast. Unlike dynamic contrast, whereby the backlight intensity is varied depending on the level of black vs. white on the screen, the backlight would remain on even if a totally black screen was to be displayed; the inevitable bleed through, even if minor, would raise the luminance of the black and therefore decrease the possible contrast ratio. Because the backlight can be turned off to display a black screen and turned on fully for a white screen in a dynamic contrast scenario, you get much higher contrast ratios which allows manufacturers to play the insanely high numbers game. Samsung have settled for a relatively modest 150,000:1 for the SyncMaster F2380.
The first thing we did to test the contrast and brightness performance of the F2380 was to use a light meter to record some values for the brightness (luminance) of an entirely white image, an entirely black image and the resulting contrast ratio using various settings on the F2380. The results are shown in the table below with significant values highlighted in blue and discussed in the proceeding section.
|Monitor profile||White luminance (cd/m2)||Black luminance (cd/m2)||Contrast ratio (x:1)|
|Custom, 100% brightness||340||0.37||919|
|Custom, 85% brightness||290||0.35||829|
|Custom, 75% brightness (default)||260||0.32||813|
|Custom, 60% brightness||260||0.32||813|
|Custom, 40% brightness||150||0.12||1250|
|Custom, 35% brightness||120||0.04||3000|
|Custom, 30% brightness||100||0.03||3333|
|Custom, 20% brightness||90||0.02||4500|
|Custom, 10% brightness||40||<0.01||>4000|
From the table above, you can see that the stated 3000:1 was achieved at 35% brightness and exceeded below this brightness level. The image is actually a bit too dull at this setting and it is only really once you bump up the brightness to at least 60% that the image approaches acceptable levels of brightness. The contrast ratio of 919:1 that was achieved at 100% brightness (our favoured level for the F2380) is certainly nothing to be sniffed at; the white luminance was recorded as 340 cd/m2 (thus exceeding Samsung’s specification) and the black luminance of 0.37 still produces a deep and pleasing black. Under the game mode setting a luminance of 350 cd/m2 was recorded with a slightly higher black luminance of 0.42 – it seems that the brightness of the F2380 is increased beyond a ‘custom’ 100% under this setting. We recorded a dynamic contrast ratio of >34,000 for the F2380. It was undoubtedly considerably higher than 34,000 but the black level luminance was so low that it was beyond the resolution of our light meter. What all of these numbers translate to in reality is excellent contrast; this is particularly evident when seeing the F2380 display brilliant white text against an exceptionally deep and dark black background.
The term backlight bleed is frequently thrown around these days and is commonly misused. With any LCD monitor, due to the fact that there is a backlight and the pixels are never able to shut out all of this light, there will always be some degree of backlight bleed. There was no noticeable excessive backlight bleed from the F2380 – although clearly from values recorded in the table; backlight bleed was occurring.
The contrast performance of the Samsung SyncMaster F2380 on the game titles we tested was very impressive, although we did encounter a few problems on the darker end. Enabling the aptly named ‘Game’ MagicBright setting gave the most pleasing contrast performance across the board but we still had some issues. We found that the character, vehicle and weapon models in Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising lacked detail due to dark greys of the shadows being ‘crushed’ into the blacks. This problem was also particularly noticeable on building interiors, exterior walls at dusk and just dark textures in general. This made the UAV on Bad Company 2 very difficult to use; the monochrome display from the UAV camera lacked the fine details required to even pick out soldiers from their background (at least – that was our excuse).
Conversely; on Dragon Rising we were impressed by how well the F2380 displayed different smoke types on the game; there was excellent contrast between the dark dirty smoke of burning vehicles and the bright white smoke grenade smoke. The ‘black crush’ problems that plagued our experience on the two FPS titles tested was not such an issue on Colin McRae: Dirt 2. Although some subtle detail was lacking in shaded areas such as the underside of rocks and sheltered buildings the contrast was generally very impressive.
The ‘black crush’ issues reared their ugly heads once again when it came to testing DVD movies on the F2380. The shadow detail in James Bond: Quantum of Solace was certainly lacking and a similar loss of detail was observed on David Attenborough’s Life in the Undergrowth. The problem could have been exacerbated slightly by the somewhat grainy appearance of the upscaled movies (which incidentally is not a fault of the monitor), but I have no doubt that the same issues will occur in Bly-Rays at the correct resolution. Despite these problems, the overall contrast was impressive with deep blacks and bright whites where they were needed.
The contrast test revealed weak performance at the low end, particularly on blue, green and red bars where the first 3 bands were difficult to distinguish from one another. The upper two bands for red, purple and yellow were also indistinct. Overall performance on this test, however, was pleasing.
The F2380 really struggled when it came to the black level test. Although the black background was clearly very deep black and all squares were distinguishable from the background; the blacks did not appear progressively lighter in shade (as they should) and the black levels appear to shift if you move your head slightly. This effect was such that the middle 8 blocks of the test appeared to be the same shade at time.
White saturation performance was decent but not perfect. The last 2 squares had checkerboard patterns that were indistinguishable from the background and the third last was also very difficult to distinguish. This is still a decent result and most monitors are weak at this test.
The F2380 displayed a very smooth greyscale gradient; no complaints here.
If you’re used to a TN panel, some colours at first may appear a little dull and washed out on the F2380. This is actually because TN panels tend to oversaturate colours – making them appear vivid and vibrant at the expense of accuracy. As you use the F2380 a little more the subtle tones that the F2380 brings out become increasingly apparent; even on the desktop. To give a specific example; the yellows of the sun on the desktop weather widget, the Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising logo and the ‘99’ of the Fraps logo were all distinctly different shades. A similar variety was apparent in the luscious greens of a forest wallpaper which on the whole look very natural – aside from the lighter shades which are somewhat lacking in vibrancy. The deep blues of the ocean in a wallpaper of two Bottlenose dolphins were also pleasing (even if they have been artificially enhanced by the artist). Another wallpaper we tested showed a close-up of a colourful triggerfish, highlighting some striking electric blues – they could certainly have been a bit more vibrant and electric, but the overall range of blue hues was fairly impressive.
The Samsung SyncMaster F2380 offered similarly pleasing results in our movie testing, especially on the ‘Movie’ preset. In the Life in the Undergrowth DVD there was a good natural appearance to the water, earth and vegetation with a good range of colours shown on various insects (with impressively deep reds and greens, in particular). The skin tone of Sir David Attenborough’s loveable and friendly face was also suitably pink and red with a good range of shades in between. We were equally impressed by Daniel Craig’s well groomed and moisturised skin in James Bond: Quantum of Solace which showed a good range of natural pinky red hues with the correct level of saturation.
There were moments in Life in the Undergrowth where the F2380 really had a chance to strut its stuff on the more vibrant colours; and it did a fairly admirable job. When the wonderful Sir David Attenborough shone his UV torch light to reveal scorpions at night the strong blue of the torch light contrasted well with the light blue/violet of the highlighted scorpion. Overall the two movies we tested weren’t as immersive or as vivid as some people would have liked, but colours were pleasing and natural nonetheless.
In the game titles we tested, using the ‘Game’ preset, there was a good variety of colours and the overall feeling you got from the image was suited to the game title being tested. In Dragon Rising the game artists intended a very muted, rustic and gritty aesthetic. The environments of Dragon Rising’s fictional gameworld of Skira Island are not supposed to be lush green forests or azure seas; they are the muted khaki colours of steppe grasslands tarnished by war and conveyed very nicely by the F2380. There was a good range of dark greens, whitish greens and earthy browns and greys on the landscapes and, buildings, walls and other features. Most colours in the game really did appear very natural and, considering the geographical location of the fictional island, true to life.
The gameworld of Bad Company 2 is vastly different and the F2380 handles the vibrant aesthetic fairly well. Lush greens aren’t as vibrant and lavish as we would have liked and appear somewhat dull and washed out – switching the MagicBright mode to ‘Dynamic Contrast’ helped add a touch more vividness to the greens, but exacerbated the ‘black crush’ issue explored previously. The icy blue seas on the snowy landscapes of Bad Company 2 are shiveringly blue and the various roadsides such as speed limits (something most gamers would probably overlook, to be honest) have a deep red border. This is important, because a monitor that is weaker at displaying red hues may show these as more of an orangey red.
We also tested Colin McRae: Dirt 2 and were particularly impressed by how the F2380 handled the colours (a lot better than how we handled the cars). There is a very pleasing natural look to the environments, in particular the dusty greens and browns. The reds and blacks of the car paint schemes were impressively deep and there were moments where the bright blues of Union Jack flags and other blue materials were almost distractingly brilliant. Our only real criticism, if we are to have one, is that the lush greens when rallying in the Malaysian forests were not as vibrant as we would have hoped for.
Overall the F2380 impressed us with very natural hues and a pleasing range of colours. The SyncMaster F2380 did seem relatively weak at more saturated and vibrant colour hues but this is partly down to the colour gamut, which is not extended (as illustrated below). This is good news for colour professionals who work strictly within the sRGB colour space, although for games and movies an extended gamut can be an advantage. Without seeing a side-by-side comparison of the F2380 and an extended colour gamut monitor, however, you won’t feel hard done by.
A very important factor to consider in ‘real situations’, with any PC monitor, is how colour reproduction is affected by viewing angle. Unlike most modern PC monitors intended for home use, the SyncMaster F2380 is not plagued by the ‘colour shift’ curse of the TN panel (and since the F2380 is not a TN panel, this shouldn’t come as a shock). Even if you just look at a TN-based computer monitor from directly in front a particular colour will appear differently at one section of the screen to another. This is highlighted quite nicely by the viewing angle tests of Lagom, on which the F2380 performed admirably. There was a very slight pink appearance to the purple and red blocks at the far left edge, but the overall consistency of the colours was considerably better than any TN panel we’ve come across. The green and blue blocks were impressively solid and consistent, with no visible colour or brightness shift. The ‘text test’ confirmed that the gamma curve of the F2380 is not viewing angle dependent.
As you may have anticipated a slightly negative comment after reading a nice section of positives; I don’t want to shock you. The viewing angle performance of the F2380 is not perfect, as there is a slight contrast shift even if you just move your head about the screen a little. This is not particularly noticeable and is in no way as severe as the colour shifts on a TN panel, but it would be an issue for to consider for professional use. If you remember back to the results of the ‘black level’ tests from the ‘contrast and brightness’ section, the depth of black appeared to shift if you moved your head about the screen even slightly. It seems that this contrast shift effects darker colours the most, and probably contributes to the ‘black crush’ problem that plagued our game and movie experiences.
The video below makes the contrast shift look a lot more extreme than it perceivably is, but really we are trying to highlight the shift in contrast that occurs on the F2380 at ‘extreme viewing angles’ (for those who like to hang off their seat or treat their monitor like a TV screen). TN panels tend to invert colours and make them appear wildly off at these kinds of angles, but with the F2380 it’s really just a shift in contrast.
One of the weakest aspects of the Samsung SyncMaster F2380 (its Achilles heel, if you will) is the sluggish response time. Even when navigating the desktop, moving the mouse cursor and scrolling webpages and documents, ghosting becomes immediately apparent. Ghosting is even more of a problem where dark colours are involved – custom dark blue and dark grey scroll bars and web pages emphasise the effect as you scroll. In the two FPS games we tested (Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising) ghosting was particularly noticeable when strafing or running towards a building. Dark colours in particular appeared to smear into a red, purple and black smoke-like trail which could be reduced only slightly by setting the response time setting of the F2380 to ‘faster’. Disappointingly; by moving the response time setting all the way up to the ‘fastest’ mode you introduce artifacting triggered by response-time compensation errors. Ghosting was also apparent (although not quite as noticeable) in our movie testing, manifesting itself on many moving objects on James Bond: Quantum of Solace and in the form of jerky camera panning on Life in the Undergrowth.
In Colin McRae: Dirt 2 ghosting was not such a major issue. We don’t deny its existence, but when the focus is on the cars and the track it simply isn’t noticeable – the environment simply blurs at high speed anyway and there was no malevolent red-purple glow either. Ghosting is something that some people are more concerned with and find more noticeable than others; it is certainly a problem with the F2380 in our eyes, but may not be an issue for everyone.
The Samsung SyncMaster F2380 may not be the most stylish monitor to look at, but looking beyond pure aesthetics it becomes clear that this monitor has a lot to offer. The level of adjustability that the stand offers is truly exemplary and there is strong performance in key areas of image quality. Colours are excellent, with blues and reds in particular showing strong and deep tones with a good range of hues. Some more vibrant hues were perhaps not as punchy as they we have seen on other PC monitors (such as Samsung’s own XL2370) but the exceptional contrast really adds a good deal of depth to the image, with deep and rich blacks and crisp and bright whites. The rich blacks were marred by an unfortunate tendency of the F2380 to “crush” dark greys and lighter shades of black into a very deep and dark black that lead to a loss of detail in shadows and other dark areas on games and movies.
The Samsung F2380 is difficult to recommend to fans of fast-paced games due to sluggish response times and noticeable ghosting. In first person shooters dark edges would blur into a dark black/purple/red smoke that became distracting at best – something that was not alleviated by adjusting any setting on the F2380, including the response time. If you are able to overlook these problems or you intend to limit your use of the F2380 to web browsing, office applications and photo editing then Samsung offer you an attractive package. At £200, the cPVA F2380 offers superior colour reproduction, contrast and viewing angles to similarly priced TN LCD panels. As a low-budget screen for imaging professionals the F2380 is also an attractive prospect, although the ‘black crush’ and shifting contrast levels could be potential barriers that a more expensive IPS panel would overcome. Whatever your intended use, the Samsung SyncMaster F2380 should certainly be a consideration if your budget is around £200.
|Excellent contrast with deep blacks||CCFL backlit. Not flicker free or as energy efficient as LED backlight|
|Excellent level of stand and screen ergonomic adjustability||Not the most attractive monitor|
|Good colour reproduction (deep reds and blues in particular)||Loss of shadow detail through ‘black crush’|
|Good viewing angles (no significant colour shift)||Contrast shifts for dark colours in particular|
|Attractive price tag||Response time is sluggish and ghosting is noticeable|