For some people a simple computer monitor is all good and well but if you can watch TV on it ‘out of the box’ then that’s even better! Samsung have been inspiring the wallets of many consumers with their attractive and unbelievably thin range of ‘LED’ TVs – now they have brought that wallet-tugging style over to computer users with the FX2490HD. Featuring LED backlighting for improved efficiency and a built in DVB-T tuner the FX2490HD lets the user take a break from browsing the internet and fragging their mates with a bit of digital TV watching or digital radio listening.
We are of course interested in how the FX2490HD performs as a TV, but as always the main focus of our review will be how the FX2490HD fairs as a PC monitor. We will be putting it through its paces in our visual obstacle course and will testing its every weakness. Fasten your seatbelts!
Nothing really jumps out at us from the specifications of the FX2490HD and aside from the DVB-T tuner and built-in speakers there is little to distinguish it from other 24 inch LED-backlit monitors out there. There are plenty of options for connectivity as we explore in the subsequent section of the review. ‘Distinguishing’ aspects of the specification are highlighted in light blue.
The FX2490HD is the latest addition to the elegant ‘Touch of Colour’ series of monitors. This time it’s a case of a glossy dark mocha bezel (in most likes it could be mistaken for black) with and elegant Perspex border. In a room filled with natural light a beautiful rainbow refraction effect can be observed around the bezel.
The stand is equally attractive, consisting of 4 chrome-topped splayed out legs. It is similar in style to the stand of the Samsung 8000-series high-end 3D TVs
The feel of the stand is heavy and solid and greatly adds to the overall feeling of ‘quality’ from the overall package. Attaching the stand to the monitor initially involves a small amount of screwing at the bottom rather than the usual tightening mechanism. Once it’s in place though the monitor is able to tilt backwards and forwards (slightly) with relative ease and also swivel the monitor left and right – adjustability not usually afforded to modern consumer monitors.
Also at the front of the monitor you will find a devilish red power light – something that goes against the grain somewhat when a monitor is switched on, but it’s a nice change. You will also find touch sensitive buttons, but the touch-sensors are found at the bottom of the monitor and there is no illumination to help guide you at night. We find the controls generally quite responsive although slightly difficult to use at times (there is little space between the touch sensors and you often end up activating the wrong one).
Thankfully, being a monitor and TV hybrid you get a nice big remote control which can be used to operate the OSD. The control offers many functions with commonly used buttons such as ‘menu’, channel and volume controls coloured differently to the surrounding buttons so they are easy to spot. The navigation buttons are also well laid out as you can see below.
At around 12mm thick the FX2490HD is a fairly thin monitor. This is partly due to the LED backlighting, partly due to the external AC/DC adaptor and partly due to the way the inputs are arranged at the back with a removable panel.
Once removed the many inputs (and a couple of outputs) of the monitor are revealed. These include DC input (power), digital audio out, EXT (RGB), various ‘component’ inputs (audio and video), PC IN (VGA), dual HDMI ports, PC audio in, ‘Common Interface’ (expansion of TV services etc.), USB and a headphone port.
DVI and normal SCART sockets were probably deemed too large for this slender design – but given the converter cables available this shouldn’t be a problem. The only ‘out of the box’ option for the PC is to use the supplied VGA cable. Because we didn’t have any HDMI cables to hand we connected up the monitor in this pure PC way. Despite being an analogue connection the picture quality when using VGA on a modern monitor is usually every bit as good as using a digital connection such as DVI or HDMI. Modern PC monitors are very good at converting and handling the signal appropriately – using the VGA cable connected to our Radeon 5850 using the DVI to VGA adaptor that came with the GPU yielded good results.
Once you have connected the monitor up as required the back panel can be placed back on with the cables running through the bottom. Everything becomes black and glossy again with a small hint of Perspex and chrome.
We performed a basic calibration of the FX2490HD using the ‘Display Color Calibration’ feature of Windows 7 and some familiar desktop backgrounds and icons. Whilst the use of a colorimeter would undoubtedly have yielded better results (highly recommended for professional uses), we felt it was more appropriate and fair to use a by-eye calibration procedure that is readily accessible to home users. As this is an LED-backlit screen it is not necessary to wait for the backlight to ‘warm up’ before calibration – but we do anyway, out of habit. It is always worth remembering that, as with any Twisted Nematic (TN) panel, the gamma curve of the monitor is viewing angle dependent. This means that you are only actually 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 usually be when using the monitor. If you intend to use this monitor as a TV and laptop monitor then that is quite a big ask and it’s best not to fuss around too much with calibration.
The first test involved a quick calibration of the FX2490HD’s gamma settings. We felt that from a ‘straight on’ perspective the gamma was a little bit high so we lowered this a touch. We ignored the contrast and brightness tests as we find the black and white test images slightly limiting. We observed a familiar set of desktop icons and backgrounds and had a fiddle. Reducing the contrast and brightness to 75% each yielded improvements from the default values. We then returned to the Windows 7 calibration tool to adjust the colour balance of the monitor and try to achieve neutral greys. The FX2490HD we were testing appeared to suffer from a slight purple tint indicating that it is too strong in red and blue. We reduced the blue and red sliders by three notches each to improve the balance.
The OSD of the FX2490HD is very large and user-friendly and includes animated icons to separate it into appropriate sections. These sections include Picture (MagicBright, MagicAngle, contrast, brightness, sharpness and colour adjustments), Sound, Channel, Setup, Source List, Application and Support.
The Setup section includes a step-by-step ‘plug and play’ setup procedure for the TV tuner. You simply enter the pin (default – 0000) and follow the on-screen prompts. Within a few minutes the FX2490HD had picked up over 100 digital channels. In the UK these include standard Freeview channels and digital radio stations. A separate Freeview HD box can be connected for watching HD channels.
As a TV the FX2490HD did a thoroughly decent job. The built-in speakers were actually quite good as far as such novelties go. Whilst they can’t compare to external systems the OSD offers plenty of adjustment options – including equaliser adjustment and the possibility of enabling ‘virtual surround’ if you prefer a slightly more ‘ambient’ sound. We found using ‘standard’ mode with slightly increased 100hz and 300hz frequency responses gave a decent sound, although a little more bass wouldn’t go amiss.
The picture during TV viewing was vibrant and ‘punchy’ using default settings, offering bright whites, fairly deep blacks and excellent bright blues and reds. Skin tones and some other colours did appear slightly oversaturated; this was improved by reducing the contrast and increasing the brightness to 62% each. We encountered no noticeable problems that would suggest any response time issues – this was no 100Hz CRT like the beast sitting next to it but trailing was rarely seen. Another thing to note is that the FX2490HD did an excellent job of maintaining the source aspect ratio although manual adjustment is possible using the ‘P.Size’ button of the controller.
Samsung state a typical luminance in the 250 cd/m2 range, a static contrast ratio of 1000:1 and a fairly tame dynamic contrast ratio of 50,000:1. To see if the FX2490HD can live up to these specifications we used a light meter to measure the brightness (luminance) of an entirely white image, an entirely black image and the resulting contrast ratio using various display settings. This data can be seen in the table below. Significant values are highlighted in blue and discussed in the subsequent section. For ‘Standard’ modes assume a contrast level of 100% unless otherwise stated – other MagicBright modes may vary contrast.
|Monitor profile||White luminance (cd/m2)||Black luminance (cd/m2)||Contrast ratio (x:1)|
|Standard, 100% brightness
|Standard, 80% brightness
|Standard, 60% brightness||218||0.31||703|
|Standard, 40% brightness
|Standard, 20% brightness
|Standard, 0% brightness
|Standard, 75% brightness, 75% contrast (ICC profile enabled)
|Standard, 75% brightness, 75% contrast (ICC profile disabled)
From the table above you can see that Samsung’s claimed 1000:1 static contrast ratio could not be achieved at any setting. This is by no means unusual; the highest static contrast ratio we recorded was a relatively impressive 703, at 60% brightness. This contrast ratio was the result of a pleasing black point with inky looking blacks and a reasonably bright white point. The maximal white point of 295 cd/m2 was achieved, perhaps unsurprisingly, under the 100% brightness setting. This value is not outstandingly high but comfortably so nonetheless – the stated 250 cd/m in a typical (i.e. not entirely white) scene is perhaps just a tad overstated. Using this setting there was no noticeable excess bleed-through with blacks looking reasonably deep but slightly purple-tinted.
This same white point was reached using the ‘Dynamic Contrast’ mode; with an accompanying black luminance that was so low that it was beyond the resolution of our lightmeter and recorded as <0.01 cd/m2. This resulted in a contrast ratio of >31,000 – so quite possibly reaching the 50,000:1 quoted by Samsung. We aren’t fans of dynamic contrast, as our long-time readers will be aware. This is because games and movies are themselves dynamic in nature and contain areas on a given scene of differing ‘lightness’ and ‘darkness’– attempting to give an overall brightness solution for a scene that craves variety just doesn’t make sense. The idea is that the backlight intensity is constantly adjusted to compensate for changes between scenes. The overall effect is one that is distracting at best and often it ends up compromising the overall quality of the experience – so in our real world testing, we left it off.
The first game title we tested was Battlefield: Bad Company 2.Despite relatively low luminance readings in our aforementioned testing the sun’s glare still appeared nice and bright whilst roaring fires were a scorching sight to behold. Snow also consisted of nice bright whites but these were not overpowering enough to simulate snow blindness – which is a good thing! Where glare was particularly prevalent, such as desert levels; whites did seem a little overpowering at times and did seem to affect detail elsewhere in the scene by way of slightly bleaching the scene. Nonetheless the necessary detail in dark areas was maintained and such areas appeared appropriately dark.
In our second title, Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising, explosions and roaring fires appeared nice and bright without being overwhelming. Glints of sun from white and silver metals and glass were also satisfying whilst shadows in the same scenes contained some impressively minor details. This same level of detail was maintained in the dark areas of a slightly different title we tested; Colin McRae: Dirt 2. Whilst whites (around the track in particular) appeared ‘pure’ and bright; artificial lights art night weren’t as dazzling as we have seen.
We also tested the contrast performance on a Blu-ray movie title; The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Whilst there were flashes of brightness from flames and lights at night there was nothing particularly spectacular to note. We did notice that the dark brown of the main character’s eyes appeared as black as the pupil at times – for differentiation here you’d need some rather exceptional black levels. Another way to test the contrast is to use, as we often do, the Lagom LCD tests. Results from these contrast tests were a bit of a mixed bag, as is often the case.
Colour gradients were fine at the low-end but a little bleached at the high end. The upper two blocks of purple, red and blue were particularly difficult to distinguish.
In the black level tests the top row was not visible using any settings. There was also slight temporal dithering on lighter grey shades although Samsung’s algorithms mask this well.
White saturation test results were moderate – only 7 out of 12 checkerboard patterns were visible. We were unable to improve this with any OSD tweaking, although by lowering your head so you are looking up at the screen could you see what you ideally should see – another example of the viewing angle limitations of a ‘TN’ LCD panel.
The FX2490HD displayed a fairly smooth greyscale gradient. There was some minor banding at the low end and slight temporal dithering on the mid tones.
The first test of colour reproduction involved that familiar, entertaining and destructive frag fest they call Bad Company 2. Colours on this title were displayed by the FX2490HD with a decent level of vibrancy without appearing too heavily saturated. Greens were quite impressive in their variety – from more earthy brown-greens to minty greens and dashing shades. The FX2490HD pumped out some pretty deep reds, too, for example the stripes on the American flag and the rear reflectors of the ATV (All-Terrain Vehicle or quad bike). We also tested the slightly less intense frag fest they call Dragon Rising. Colours on this title were very well balanced with neither a natural look that was neither washed out nor, the heinous sin; oversaturated. Fires had a warming orange glow to them at night whilst various shades of green and brown brought colour to the day – overall we found the aesthetic pleasing on this game and as we like from this title.
Another game we tested, Dirt 2, has proven itself to be an excellent showcase for colour reproduction. The Malaysian forests had a nice lush vibrancy to them without looking oversaturated. Contrasting with this are the dusty khaki tones of Utah that the FX2490HD handled admirably. The car paint jobs also had a fairly vibrant look about them with impressively deep ‘British racing’ greens and nice bright reds standing out in particular. An even more useful tool in the ‘real world’ for testing colour reproduction is the Blu-ray title Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder that features solid blocks of vivid but varied colour. What was noticeable on this title is that the colour of the character skins, in particular, changed depending on the character’s position on screen – this is related to the viewing angle dependency of the FX2490HD’s gamma curve and is the same for all TN panels. In terms of colours that really stood out there were a few particularly impressive shades – the deep purple of Leela’s hair and the deep red of Fry’s red jumper. Overall there was a good variety of shades from vivid and deep to some subtle pastel shades – the variation across the screen did make mean that the more subtle shades were lost, though.
To reinforce the idea of colour shifts and the limitations of the SyncMaster FX2490HD’s viewing angles we used the viewing angle tests of Lagom. The purple block appeared to shift between purple and pink across the screen and flashed through additional blue shades at times if you consider ‘extreme viewing angles’ (i.e. moving your head around past the side bezel of the screen). The red block appeared pink at the bottom although the very top was an impressively deep red. The green block appeared the usual bright and somewhat garish lime green for the most part but slightly deeper at the top – to achieve anything resembling a proper deep green you had to move your head below the monitor and glance up at it. As we usually find the blue block was remarkably solid with only a minor brightness shift if you move your head. The extent to which the gamma curve of the FX2490HD is dependent on viewing angle can also be highlighted by the ‘Lagom text test’; as expected this confirmed from its various pink and green flashings that the gamma curve of the FX2490HD, in line with other ‘TN’ panels, is highly viewing-angle dependent. This does of course mean that colour accuracy suffers and professional users will probably want to invest in a panel with superior colour accuracy and consistency (such as an In-Plane Switching or Vertical Alignment model).
The FX2490HD handled our game titles well showing pretty good responsiveness throughout. On Bad Company 2 problems were limited to minor trailing when strafing and slightly more noticeable trailing when zipping around on an ATV. Similarly, trailing in Dragon Rising only really manifested itself when turning quickly in a vehicles and the performance was generally very smooth. Since Dirt 2 features ‘driving’ more extensively than the other titles trailing was also more frequent. It was particularly noticeable when turning corners or sharply steering the car but was generally not distracting.
Because of the bold black lines and lavish colours, Futurama proved to be an excellent test of responsiveness. The experience was smooth overall with some minor trailing evident on fast-moving objects. For completeness we also tested The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and found only minor trailing during fast motion (such as driving sequences). It should be noted that part of the perceived trailing in films can be attributed to the relatively low frame rate at which they are shot – often 24fps.
The FX2490HD is undoubtedly an attractive monitor sporting an exceptionally solid chrome-topped stand and a dark mocha bezel flush with a smooth Perspex border and coating. The red power light, although a little unusual, also offers a small break from the norm. Really the FX2490HD has more of a high-end TV look about it than that of a computer monitor – and this is rather apt considering its hybrid functionality. As a TV it performed well offering a simple setup, reasonable sound quality and pleasing picture quality. There is no shortage of input options either so in terms of connectivity the FX2490HD can cater for most user’s needs.
What we really care about, though, is how the FX2490HD performed as a monitor. In short it performed very well as a monitor – offering above average contrast for a panel of this type with pleasingly deep blacks. Despite the relatively low peak brightness of the monitor whites appeared bright and ‘pure’ which is consistent with our experiences on other Samsung LED-backlit monitors. At times, such as during heavy in-game glare, the white become a little overpowering and drowned out the image elsewhere but for the most part this was not a problem. The fact that the FX2490HD is LED-backlit adds nothing to the colour reproduction of the panel – but fortunately it was very good in this regard, anyway. Whilst not suitable for professional users the colours were vibrant but balanced – appearing to show very good range for a ‘TN’ panel and some particularly vivid shades without looking oversaturated. Responsiveness of the monitor was pretty good too without any major barriers to enjoyment in this regard; trailing was relatively rare and often restricted to minor blur during particularly fast action.
Overall the Samsung SyncMaster FX2490HD provides a great all-around entertainment experience with image quality above and beyond most other monitors of the same panel type. But at what cost does this come? This is a difficult question to answer as retail availability of the screen is fairly iffy at the moment but hopefully things will settle down.
|Very well laid out remote control which proved useful in all modes
||Touch sensors for OSD control can be a little tricky to use and are not illuminated
|Built in DVB-T tuner allows digital TV and radio to be enjoyed whilst great connectivity options allow the experience to be expanded
||UK users do not get access to HD content ‘out of the box’
|Good contrast with pleasingly deep blacks and clean whites
||Heavy glare in games slightly bleaches the surrounding image|
|Colour reproduction is very good for a TN panel – giving a vivid but balanced look
||Colour accuracy is insufficient for professional users (this is largely down to panel type)
|Pretty good responsiveness making the monitor suitable for gaming, movies and TV
||Viewing angles are restricted by TN panel technology
|LED backlighting enhances the ‘sideways appeal’ of the monitor and improves energy efficiency
||Retail availability can be a little iffy|