Samsung SyncMaster XL20 LED-backlight monitor

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The Samsung SyncMaster XL20 is not just a great monitor, it is an amazing imaging tool. The current price of over $1500 may seem high when 24" LCD's can be had for under $500, but the closest competition comes from monitors whose prices start at over twice as much: The NEC 2180WG-LED-SV, one of the few LED-backlight monitors, is selling for around $4,000. The XL20's extremely high color gamut of 114% might actually not be surpassed by any monitor at any price. Aside from the color rendition and great viewing angles of the monitor, the huey color calibration tool provides useful calibration and automatic adjustment for ambient lighting conditions. LEDs generally last much longer than CFLs, so the XL20 should give a long useful life, especially with good power/screen management on the part of the user. It's not a bad long-term buy for a computer product, especially in light of the incredibly short life cycle of most computer gear these days.

There are two downsides to the XL20: It consumes nearly 70W in normal use, and its fan is plainly audible in a quiet setting. The power consumption is about midway between typical CFL-backlight monitors and similarly sized CRT monitors (which often run >100W). As Samsung mentioned in their email, power efficiency of LED backlight monitors will improve, so perhaps that will come in the next generation (which is probably in the works even as I write). On the positive side, the very high power factor helps mitigate the higher power demand a bit.

The fan noise is probably not going to trouble any graphics or photo artist or professional who would benefit from the color accuracy of the XL20. Their benefits from the display performance would far outweigh the cost in noise. For someone less dedicated to color accuracy and more sensitive to noise, the noise after the monitor has been on for a while could be bothersome. A dedicated silent computing enthusiast could probably find a way to swap the fan for something quieter, but with a product this pricey, you may not want to risk the warranty. The other option is to use it solely as a secondary monitor for imaging work and turn it off when it's not being used. A pair of headphones with the music of your choice could be a perfect solution. Whatever, the quality of the noise is mild enough that it's not really annoying. In a typical office, you'd probably never hear it above the ambient.

Judged by the goals set for the XL20, you have to give Samsung credit. They've created a brilliant color-accurate monitor at a price that seems way lower than anything comparable. A bit of noise is a quibble in the face of the XL20's virtues.


* Dramatically vivid and accurate color
* Useful calibration and ambient light compensation tool
* Great stand
* Price

* Fan makes a bit of noise
* Uses twice as much power as similar size CCFL-backlight LCD monitors
* Price

Our thanks to Samsung Canada for the review sample and for their kind support.

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For authoritative discussions of LCD display technologies, check out Oleg Artamonov's excellent guides in X-bit Labs:

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