The 23-inch Samsung SyncMaster XL2370 is thin, sleek, and light. It’s as if Samsung’s own P2370 had a thinner, prettier sister. In addition, the XL also has an LED backlight that lets it perform better in movies and games. The monitor won’t be available in the U.S. until October 12, 2009, but Samsung expects the XL2370 to have an estimated street price of $299. That’s about $35 more than what the P2370 is currently going for, but it is about the same price as the 24-inch LED-backlit Dell G2410. However, our pick for best overall 23-inch monitor is still the $319 23-inch Dell SP2309W, with its high 2,048×1,152-pixel resolution, ergonomic options, Webcam, and USB ports. While the XL attempts to compensate with better looks, a thinner design, ease of portability, and great performance, the SP2309W’s features win out in the end.
Design and features
As we mentioned before, the 23-inch Samsung SyncMaster XL2370 looks like a thinner, sleeker version of Samsung’s P2370. The display measures just larger than half an inch in depth–a considerably thin measurement since most monitors of this size, such as the SP2309W, measure thicker than 2 inches. The XL’s depth is about half the depth of the P2370, which we already considered very thin. The bezel measures 1.1 inches on the sides and 1.75 inches on the bottom where a light-gray Samsung logo resides. On the edge of the bezel is a plastic transparent overlay. According to Samsung, this overlay changes color based on the color of the light in the room, yet, this isn’t entirely accurate. As different colored light passes through the overlay, it only gives the impression that the display is changing color.
The full width of the display is 22.4 inches, about the same as the P2370. The screen has a matte finish and the neck of the display shares its design with the P2370 and is still one of the most aesthetically unique designs we’ve ever seen. The neck is made of transparent glass with bluish crystals at the bottom. The glass reflects the crystals, which creates a blue hue within the neck. The effect is subtle, but it makes the XL2370 and the P2370 stand out visually among other monitors.
The oval-shaped footstand is 11 inches wide by 7.5 inches deep, but even with such a wide footstand, the display wobbles considerably–even with just a small shove. This is because of, in part, the display’s light weight. It weighs less than 8 pounds; about 3.5 pounds lighter than the 20-inch HP 2009m and 1.5 pounds lighter than the P2370. The G2410 weighs 12 pounds, while the SP2309 comes just over 17 pounds.
The bottom of the bezel sits about 2.4 inches from the desktop, but unfortunately, the screen height isn’t adjustable and there isn’t a screen rotation or pivot option for portrait mode. The capability to tilt the screen back 25 degrees is the only included ergonomic feature.
In the review of the P2370, we speculated that one of the reasons that monitor didn’t include any additional connections other than DVI-D was to save on cost and to keep it as thin as possible. We can throw both of those theories out the window. The XL2370 is thinner than the P2370, costs only a few dollars more, and has more connection options, including DVI-D, HDM, and analog and digital audio out connections.
All connections sit on its back in the lower midsection of the panel and face backward, instead of down, as on most monitors. The connections are only recessed about half an inch into the monitor making them easy to access.
Pressing your finger against the bottom right-hand corner of the bezel brings up the hidden onscreen display button array. The white, glowing buttons disappear after a couple moments of inactivity; however, there is an option in the OSD to illuminate them at all times for easier calibration. You can also set the OSD to be onscreen for 5, 10, 20, or 200 seconds. The array consists of a Menu button, an Up and Down button, an Enter button, and an Auto button. The Up and Down buttons also double as a brightness and preset shortcut buttons respectively. Picture options consist of brightness, contrast, and sharpness. You can also set the color tone to Cool, Normal, Warm, or Custom, letting you change the red, green, and blue attributes individually. There are seven presets including Custom, Text, Internet, Game, Sport, Movie, and Dynamic Contrast. Each preset changes the color temperature and brightness of the display to be appropriate to the task at hand. While not as intuitive as Dell’s brilliantly designed OSDs–seen in the G2410 and SP2309W–the XL2370 takes only a short learning curve to get the hang of it. Also, we liked that the preset menu was only one button press away, a perk missing from the G2410.
The Samsung SyncMaster XL2370′s 16:9 aspect ratio supports a “Full HD” 1,920×1,080-pixel native resolution. This continues the trend of more and 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.
Pixel-response rate: 2ms
Contrast ratio: 1,000:1
Connectivity: HDMI, DVI-D
HDCP compliant? Yes
Included video cables? DVI, DVI to VGA
Panel Type: TN
We tested the Samsung SyncMaster XL2370 with its DVI connection. The display posted a composite score of 96 on CNET Labs’ DisplayMate-based performance tests, besting the P2370, the SP2309′s 90, but coming in just under the Dell G2410′s 97. The P2370 got nearly perfect scores in our color test and the color tracking error that hampered the P2370′s score failed to rear its head here. In our Dark Screen test, clouding or backlight bleed through was noticeable on the top and especially the bottom middle edge of the screen.
The XL2370 achieved a brightness score of 344 candelas per square meter (cd/m2)–much higher than the P2370′s 239 cd/m2, the SP2309W’s 297 cd/m2, and the Dell G2410′s 234 cd/m2. The XL2370 just has a bright screen. When we set the brightness of the P2370 and XL2370 to 100 and 75 respectively, we found that when looking at the same image, the XL’s whites were noticeably brighter without compromising the dark detail and deep blacks of the image. This made for a higher contrast between the blacks and whites and for a much more natural-looking image. Hmmm, maybe this is what Samsung means by the “Mega” contrast sticker included on the display’s bezel.
We used the XL2370′s Movie preset to check out “Kill Bill Vol. 1″ on DVD and a number of 1080p movie files from Microsoft’s WMV HD Showcase.
In both Kill Bill and the 1080p movies, we found the color quality on the XL2370 better than that of either the Dell G2410 or the Samsung P2370. While the P2370 had a slightly washed out and muted look, the XL was bright in places it needed to be and appropriately dark when it was called for. In comparison to the other monitors, the G2410 had a slight bluish hue that threw its colors off. Deep blacks–a critical attribute for good movie playback–did not elude the XL2370 as it did the P2370. The Dell G2410 also sported deep blacks, but sometimes its picture was too dark and made seeing dark detail difficult.
As good as movies looked in the Movie preset, we found that the Dynamic Contrast preset worked best for movie watching. With Dynamic Contrast on, we only noticed the screen darkening on scenes where the screen is 90 percent black or more, such as the end credits and during fades to black. In the DC preset, blacks looked darker and the colors slightly more full.
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. Like in movies, in the game preset, the whites were brighter than on either the G2410 or the P2370 and the blacks were appropriately dark.
Much of this great performance can be attributed to the LED backlight in the monitor. Most monitors use cold cathode fluorescent lamp-based backlights–several fluorescent tubes stretched horizontally across the screen. The Samsung SyncMaster XL2370 relies on individual LEDs all over the back of the screen that turn off or on independently, giving the display more precise control over the amount of light that comes through. 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. Samsung seems to be using all of these features in the XL2370.
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 non-optimal 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 Samsung SyncMaster XL2370 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.
There is an option in the OSD to set the refresh rate of the monitor from Slow to Fast to Faster. Adjusting this setting did not affect performance in any way that we noticed. Samsung did not get back to us as to what this setting is for, but it could be Samsung’s version of overdrive. By sending out bursts of voltage to the liquid crystals that increase the crystal’s transitions speeds, overdrive can effectively reduce the amount of noticeable ghosting effects.