The Samsung SyncMaster XL2370 is currently the reigning king of LED monitors. Compared with the LG Flatron W2486L, the SyncMaster offers better performance, lighter weight, and a thinner design. Granted, the W2486L comes with a VGA port and two HDMI ports–as opposed to the Samsung’s single HDMI and DVI ports–but it also sells for $350–$50 more than the street price of the XL2370. So the question is, “How much is HDMI worth to you?”
Design and features
The 23-inch LG Flatron W2486L is nearly as thin as the Samsung SyncMaster XL2370, measuring 0.8 inch in depth, compared with the Samsung at just a tad more than 0.5 inch. The Flatron’s bezel measures 0.8 inch on the sides–thinner than the XL2370’s 1.1 inches. The full width of the display is 22.7 inches, slightly longer than the XL2370. Its screen has a slightly frosty, matte finish and the neck of the display uses a unique, slightly concave upside-down triangle with pink highlights. Overall, the shape and color lends a very organic look to the neck.
The Flatron uses an oval-shaped base that measures a relatively large 10 inches wide and 8 inches deep, yet it doesn’t do much to minimize wobbling. For better or worse, the Flatron’s weight of 10.32 pounds–more than 2 pounds heavier than the XL2370–worked as an effective anchor to prevent it from toppling.
The bottom of the bezel sits about 3.5 inches from the desktop, but unfortunately, the screen height is neither adjustable nor are there screen rotation or pivot options for portrait mode. The capability to tilt the screen back 25 degrees is its only ergonomic feature.
The W2486L’s connection options include two HDMI ports (one more than the XL2370), DVI-D, VGA, and a headphone jack. Unlike the Samsung SyncMaster XL2370, the LG offers no analog and digital audio out connections. All of the ports sit on the back in the lower midsection of the panel and face backward, instead of down, like with most monitors. The connections are only recessed about half an inch into the monitor, making them easy to access.
The power button sits on the bottom-right corner of the screen bezel. To the left of the power button is the touch-sensitive onscreen display button array with six buttons: Smart, Fun, Menu, Engine/Down, Source/Up, and Autoset. Pressing Smart brings up an eco-friendly menu with on/off controls for the ambient light sensor, an autobright setting that lowers the monitor’s brightness when displaying a bright screen, and a one- or two-hour monitor shutoff timer option. Listed under the Fun option is a mode for displaying the screen in a 4:3 aspect ratio. Also under Fun is a photo effect option that lets you set the screen to take on three photo effects: Gaussian Blur, Sepia, and Monochrome. The Engine/Down button offers four presets: Movie, Internet, User-defined, and Normal. Whether you consider any of these options “fun” is entirely up to you.
The Menu includes controls for brightness, contrast, and color temperature, including sRGB, which you use to adjust the custom color by changing the red, green, and blue values individually. Also included is a sharpness control that let you select from 10 levels. Adjusting it below level 4 caused Web sites to look blurry, but at higher levels, pages looked crisp and clear. We didn’t notice a difference in quality when we adjusted the sharpness during movies, but we recommend a setting of at least level 5 for games.
Each OSD button is invisible, requiring a few unintuitive presses of names and lights to get an appropriate menu to appear. To change the brightness, we followed a clunky menu hierarchy: pressing Menu to bring up main menu, and Autoset to select brightness/contrast. The brightness and contrast gauges are aligned vertically, but you can’t cycle through them using the up and down arrows. Instead, you must use the Autoset buttons to do so and then use the up and down arrows to change the value. The LG Flatron W2486L’s screen is a 16:9 aspect ratio and supports a 1,920×1,080-pixel “Full HD” native resolution. This continues the trend of more monitor vendors moving toward 16:9 from 16:10 because high-definition content–in particular 1080p movies–can fit onto a 1,920×1,080-pixel screen in full-screen mode without stretching the image.
Resolution: 1,920×1,080 pixels
Pixel-response rate: 2ms
Contrast ratio: 1,000:1
Connectivity: HDMI, DVI-D, VGA
HDCP compliant? Yes
Included video cables? VGA
Panel Type: TN
We tested the LG Flatron W2486L with its DVI connection. The display posted a composite score of 92 on CNET Labs’ DisplayMate-based performance tests besting the Dell SP2309W’s score of 90, but came in less than the Dell G2410’s 97 score and the SyncMaster XL2370’s score of 96. The W2486L scored well in our color tests, faltering only in our color ramp tests as it didn’t show a smooth intensity color ramp. In our Dark Screen test, clouding or backlight bleedthrough was noticeable on the top and especially the bottom-middle edge of the screen, but not quite as much as we saw on the XL2370. We were pleased though that the display didn’t crush dark grays and confuse them with black. We were able to see low levels of dark gray.
The W2486L achieved a brightness score of 226 candelas per square meter–much lower than the XL2370’s 344 cd/m2, and slightly lower than the Dell G2410’s 234 cd/m2. When we set the brightness of the W2486L and XL2370 to 100 and 75 respectively, we found the XL’s whites were noticeably brighter without compromising the dark detail and deep blacks of the image.
We used the W2486L’s Movie preset to check out “Kill Bill Vol. 1” on DVD and several 1080p movie files from Microsoft’s WMV HD Showcase. Because of the Flatron’s relatively low brightness level, its colors in scenes just didn’t pop the way did on the XL2370, and images looked rather dull.
We looked at World of Warcraft and Unreal Tournament 3 and noticed no signs of input lag or any streaking or ghosting during fast movement. Games looked better than movies on the W2486L, but didn’t quite approach the vibrancy of the XL2370.
Unlike the cold cathode fluorescent lamp-based backlights used on most backlit monitors, the LG Flatron W2486L relies on individual LEDs across back of the display that turn off or on independently, giving the display more precise control over the amount of light that comes through the screen. The purported advantages of an LED backlight are better energy efficiency, more accurate color reproduction, a conceivably thinner panel design, and a higher potential brightness level. While LG succeeds with its thin panel and energy efficiency, its low brightness is disappointing.
The optimal viewing angle for a monitor is usually directly in front, about a quarter of the screen’s distance down from the top. At this angle, you’re viewing the colors and gamma correction as they were intended. Most monitors are not made to be viewed at any other angle. Depending on its panel type, picture quality at nonoptimal angles varies. Most monitors use TN panels that get overly bright or overly dark in parts of the screen when viewed from nonoptimal angles. The LG Flatron W2486L uses a TN panel, and when it is viewed from the sides or bottom, we perceived the screen to darken about 6 inches off from center. Of course, when viewed from the optimal angle, we had no problems.