Samsung SyncMaster XL20 LED-backlight monitor

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Our sample was one that has been making the rounds to reviewers. The XL20 is bulkier than most consumer LCD monitors. This is in keeping with its image, as most professional monitors are bulkier, but the main reason for its larger size is that manufacturers seem unable to make LED backlight monitors smaller right now. The issue is having enough room for cooling. More on this later; for now note the large area of slots on the back of the unit. They are vents.

Despite its relative bulk, the bezel around the screen is pleasingly narrow, if not quite as svelte as the latest cheaper consumer models. The overall look is quite business-like, reminiscent of classic IBM (Lenovo) ThinkPad notebooks.

The monitor is fully adjustable for height, with a nicely damped action. It tilts back and forth, swivels on its base, and also pivots 90 degrees for vertical orientation of the screen. These are very nice features, but you'd expect them on a monitor that sells for upwards of $2,000. The stand came attached, and it unlocked with the removal of a small key.

The base rotates smoothly, and fully adjustable for height and pivot angle.
It contains a powered USB2 hub, with two output connectors.

Dual DVI inputs, power switch and cord connector all accessed from the bottom.

The menu controls are on the lower right edge of the bezel.

A DVI and a DVI-to-VGA cable are included, along with manual, drivers CD, and power cable. An A-to-B USB cable is also included for the USB hub. A hood comprised of three black plastic pieces is meant to isolate the screen from the effect of ambient light. Among the papers is a warranty card that declares a three year parts and labor warranty for the XL20 in Canada. Warranty terms may not be the same in all countries, so please confirm with your vendor. Finally, there is a USB device to calibrate the monitor for color and for ambient lighting conditions. The huey by x-rite is used with "GretagMacbeth" software on the computer to which the monitor is connected.

"huey Colorimeter" in its cradle.
It has photo sensors, LEDs and little suction cups on the other side to stick it on the monitor screen.


Room was made on my desktop for XL20. Plug in the power cord, connect the DVI cable to the second port on the ATI X1800GTO graphics card in my PC, and turn the power on. A few adjustments in Windows to make the XL20 the primary monitor in an extended desktop, and we're off and running.

Viewing the Windows desktop on the XL20 at its native 1600x1200 resolution means that compared to the 1280x1024 resolution on my main (typical) 19" LCD monitor, everything looks a bit smaller. The sharpness and clarity is excellent, which helps with text. I fiddled with the adjustments a bit. Aside from the usual range of controls, there are several modes: Custom, sRGB, AdobeRBG, Emulation, and Calibration. The brightness and contrast controls are only available in Custom; all the other modes are presets.

The hood comes in three pieces. The side pieces have little hooks that fit into cleverly hidden slots in grooves on the sides. The top panel then slides into grooves at the top of each side panel. It looks odd, but it could be useful in bright ambient lighting to keep the stray light from affecting your perception of the onscreen images. Many professionals use them.

Hooded for bright ambient conditions.

The installation of the software for the huey monitor calibration was painless. Calibrating the monitor takes just a couple of minutes. I set the monitor in Calibration mode, which gave an overly warm cast. The program calls for the wand tool to first measure the ambient lighting while facing the user. Then, the device is attached to the screen via the rubber suction cups mentioned earlier. The software runs through a gamut of colors and shades for a couple of minutes, at the end of which the monitor is declared calibrated. You can view the before/after color balance.

The huey wand affixed to the screen during the calibration process.

Was the end result better? Yes, it was better than all the other preset color modes, and seemed a bit better than my manual adjustments in Custom mode.

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