|Introduction & Specifications|
The price of LCD screens has steadily declined and in the last few years, larger monitors are starting to become relatively affordable. This is especially evident in the 19", 20" and 22" categories, where we see a significant number of products in the sub-$300 range. However 24" and larger screens still remained premium products until very recently. In the last year or so we have seen the first 24" screens to dip below the $400 mark appear on the market. The products in this new category of value oriented 24" screens almost universally combine a large and cheap TN panel with a basic monitor housing and stand to produce a cost effective product.
While these value oriented 24" monitors offer large screen size and high resolution (typically 1920x1200), they only have the most basic of features. Connectivity is often limited to just VGA and/or DVI and they are typically matched with a very simple stand with only limited tilt adjustment. Many models also suffer from low build quality. However, for the value conscious consumer, the sacrifices are well worth the cost reduction.
At first it would seem like Samsung's SyncMaster 2493HM is just another entry into the burgeoning sub-$400 24" monitor category. After all, it features a TN panel rather than the more expensive but better performing IPS, MVA and PVA panels found in high-end products like Samsung's own SyncMaster 245T. However, a look at the spec sheet reveals a feature set you would expect from a more expensive high-end monitor. Features like a 4-way adjustable stand, USB hub, built-in speakers and HDMI connectivity are well beyond what most other products in this category offer. Could this be a new break-away product or has Samsung skimped on other aspects in order to keep costs low? We have a Samsung SyncMaster 2493HM sample and we intend to find out.
The Samsung SyncMaster 2493HM is being positioned as a multimedia monitor and this isn't surprising given its feature set. With the HDMI connection, built-in speakers, highly adjustable stand and USB hub, the 2493HM should be well equipped for most multimedia tasks. Other than the multitude of additional features, the rest of the specifications look fairly typical for a TN based LCD monitor.
The 2493HM's 82% color gamut and 160 degree viewing angle are underwhelming, although par for the course when it comes to TN panels. We can see right away that this monitor is not meant for serious graphics work. A typical screen brightness of 400 nits is fairly average for a screen of this size and so is the 5ms response time. Samsung also touts a dynamic contrast ratio of 10,000:1, which seems very high but dynamic contrast ratios are generally misleading and relatively meaningless. The 2493HM's static contrast ratio is a more believable 1000:1.
A native resolution of 1920x1200 should give plenty of desktop space for productivity work and allows for true HD playback as well as high resolution gaming. These are all excellent reasons why a large 24" is an attractive proposition.
|Design & Build Quality|
The Samsung 2493HM is a sharp looking monitor, a far cry from the standard minimalist bezel and matte finish of most business oriented screens like the 2243BW. Covered with shiny high-gloss black paint with a silver accent strip along the bottom of the screen, the 2493HM's design is reminiscent of Samsung's LCD TV line-up. The design isn't particularly flashy but manages to carry an air of sophistication. It looks like an expensive piece of equipment and would fit in well with a set of hi-fi speakers.
Like most 24 inch and larger screens, the 2493HM is over an inch thick and will definitely not be mistaken for anything smaller. The 2493HM features a 3/4 inch thick bezel along the top and sides. The bottom bezel is much thicker at about 1.25 inches with an additional 1/4 inch silver accent strip. Overall, the bezel doesn't appear too thick but may not be as suitable for a multi-screen setup since two screens side-by-side would have a combined bezel width of 1.5 inches.
Other than the glossy outer skin, the 2493HM's design is similar to many of the other recent Samsung models. The model number is displayed at the top left corner while the screen's specifications are displayed by various badges at the bottom left and top right corners. The bottom right corner is dedicated to labels for the screen's controls. All of these labels and badges are painted on in a deep grey color that has a "barely there" look. In lower light conditions, the paint becomes very difficult to see. This is both good and bad since the numerous badges won't be distracting but the important button labels will be hard to see. A large Samsung badge is located in the center of the bottom bezel and it uses a much brighter white paint.
The back of the 2493HM has venting along the top and sides to dissipate the heat generated by the back-lights. A standard Kensington lock port is located in the bottom left corner of the screen. The stand is attached by a standard VESA mount.
The 2493HM comes with a robust 4-way adjustable stand that offers height, tilt, pivot, and swivel adjustments. The stand allows the screen to extend in height by 3.5 inches from a minimum height of 15 inches, measured from the top of the screen to the desk, to a maximum of 18.5 inches. The screen can also be tilted up and down by a significant amount. The screen can be rotated 90 degrees to the right into a portrait view. Lastly, the base of the stand has a swivel plate that allows the entire stand to swivel 360 degrees.
Overall, the stand is very firm and stays put where you place it. The base of the stand grips the desk well and doesn't slide, even with a hard push. The stand also holds the screen well and there is minimal screen wobble, which is impressive given the size and weight of the 24" screen. Unfortunately the stand doesn't offer any cable management features. The right side of the stand also has a simple 2-port USB hub built in.
The 2493HM offers a good connectivity with VGA, DVI and HDMI inputs. This is good since a multimedia monitor will often need a wide variety of inputs. The 2493HM's built-in power supply offers the rare feature of an on/off switch which is uncommon for a monitor, especially on smaller screens.
2493HM Ports - AC Power, HDMI, DVI, VGA, Audio In, Audio Out
The last of the 2493HM's features is a pair of stereo speakers. The speakers are hidden out of sight at the bottom of the screen and fire down into the desk. This setup is commonly used by Samsung's line-up of HDTVs and has proven effective in the past. The speaker receives input from a standard multimedia audio jack next to the rest of the inputs. There is also an audio-out jack also offers pass-through functionality. The output jack can be used for connecting headphones, although its location makes is a bit inconvenient for this purpose.
|Controls & OSD Options|
The Samsung 2493HM is controlled by six buttons along the bottom-right edge of the monitor's bezel. At first glance, it appears that these are merely labels and the buttons must be hidden, possibly under the bezel, facing downward towards the desk. However, this isn't the case; the 2493 features touch sensitive button technology.
Touch sensitive buttons located at bottom right corner of screen bezel
We are quite weary when it comes to touch-sensitive buttons. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't, but rarely do they work as well as traditional buttons. Thankfully, we found that the buttons on the 2493HM worked quite well, although not quite as well as standard buttons. The touch sensitivity is set at an appropriate level and a light tap is all that is required to activate a button.
The buttons themselves offer no feedback whatsoever. They do not depress, light up or make any sounds to inform you that they have registered your input. This is a bit inconvenient but didn't present any serious problems since the buttons operate the monitor's on screen display and inputs generally result in immediate visual feedback.
While the buttons worked well, there is one major flaw that makes them difficult to use. Like the rest of the text and symbols on the monitor, the buttons were labeled with a dull, gray, non-reflective paint. While this may help the overall aesthetic appeal of the monitor by maintaining the sleek, all-black appearance, it does create a visibility problem. The button labels were difficult to see unless there was direct light on the bezel of the screen and they proved to be invisible in low-light conditions.
This in combination with the button's total lack of tactile feedback makes them difficult to use except in bright conditions with plenty of ambient lighting. We wished the buttons had back-lighting that would turn on when any one of them were activated. It is easy enough to stab at the corner of the monitor to activate one of the buttons, but navigating the on-screen menu system without proper lighting proved difficult and frustrating.
A sampling of Samsung 2493HM OSD menus
The Samsung 2493HM's OSD system is identical to that found on other new Samsung models such as the 2243BW we reviewed earlier this year. We liked the OSD system on the 2243BW and nothing has changed for the 2493HM. Everything about the OSD system on the 2493HM is identical to that found on the 2243BW so instead of writing the same things all over again, below is a direct quote from our 2243BW review.
We found the OSD system to be easy to navigate and it offers a lot of options. Pressing the 'Menu' button brings up the OSD main menu. Vertical menu navigation and value adjustment are both achieved with the up and down arrow buttons. Horizontal menu navigation is achieved with the 'Menu' and 'Source' buttons, where the 'Source' button serves as the "right" button while 'Menu' acts as the "left" button.
Besides the usual brightness, contrast, gamma and color adjustments, the 2493HM's OSD menu also offers two menu options unique to Samsung monitors; MagicBright and MagicColor. The MagicBright menu consists of 7 presets for brightness and contrast. Each one is labeled with the presets intended purpose. "Text" for reading and writing text documents, "internet" for surfing the web, "game", "sport" and "movie". The "custom" preset is set at the factory for optimal all-purpose viewing. The last preset activates the screen's Dynamic Contrast capability. All of the presets, except Dynamic Contrast, can be customized and modified by the user. The MagicBright menu can be accessed on the fly by pressing the "down" button when not otherwise viewing the OSD. This will automatically bring up the MagicBright menu and allow you to scroll between presets. The menu automatically disappears after about 3 seconds of inactivity.
The MagicColor menu allows you to preview and active the MagicColor feature of the monitor. MagicColor is a dynamic gamma filter function that aims to enhance the colors displayed on the screen. The MagicColor OSD menu has four options; "Off", "Demo", "Full" and "Intelligent". In Demo mode, the screen applies MagicColor filtering to the left half of the screen while the right half does not have MagicColor activated. Full mode activates MagicColor filter for the whole screen while Intelligent mode offers a more moderate level of filtering. The color and gamma adjustment settings, including the MagicColor menu, are not available when Dynamic Contrast is enabled.
It is clear from Demo mode that MagicColor makes a significant difference in the colors the screen displays. However, we found that Full mode was too strong and it would often bring out colors too much, making certain things appear over-saturated. Intelligent mode was more consistent. Regardless of the mode used, users who care about consistent monitor calibration may want to avoid this feature.
|Everest - Image Quality Testing|
We put the Samsung 2493HM through some color and text reading diagnostics using Everest Ultimate Edition from Lavalys. Everest's Monitor Diagnostics provide a few key test patterns that allow us to evaluate various aspects, such as color accuracy, and uniformity. We ran through all of the screens, and captured a few that had points of interest.
A sample of the screen diagnostics available with Lavalys' Everest Ultimate Edition
We ran the Everest's monitor diagnostics test with the Samsung 2493HM set to factory defaults and the display set to the "custom" preset, which is supposed to be factory calibrated for optimal all-purpose viewing.
For the most part, the 2493HM performed well on all of the tests. The 2493HM did a great job on all of the grid and text reproduction tests, producing sharp and clear text, like all LCDs should. It also did a good job in the color and gradient tests, or at least as good as any TN panel we have seen.
In each of the solid-fill tests, the screen displays a single uniform color. In all of the solid-fill tests, we noticed the top of the screen appeared to be slightly darker than the bottom. This was especially noticeable in the orange solid-fill test. This is a characteristic of the TN panel technology used by the 2493HM. It results from the panel's relatively poor color-accurate viewing angles. While TN panels offer plenty of usable viewing angle in both the horizontal and vertical directions, they generally offer extremely poor accurate viewing angles, as proven by the solid-fill tests.
The 2493HM didn't have any trouble with the grey and white solid-fill tests, but the black solid-fill test revealed slight back-light bleed along the sides of the screen. The back-light bleed is is minimal and barely visible. The color palette tests weren't a problem for the 2493HM, considering the panel technology in use. As with nearly all LCDs based on TN panel technology, the 2493HM suffers from a relatively low color gamut and doesn't offer full 8-bit color processing. This shouldn't be a problem for gaming, multimedia or everyday office use, but it could be a problem for professional graphics work, where color accuracy is important.
Test patterns like those offered by Everest can be extremely useful for gauging a monitor's ability and also for calibration purposes. This is especially useful to people who need their monitor to be perfectly calibrated for work with publishing and photography. However the 2493HM is a multimedia monitor and most people won't purchase it exclusively for "work" so we'll look at some real-world tests with high definition video content next, to give you and idea of how well the monitor stands up to the sort of content is was designed to handle.
HD Movie Playback: We watched a number of DVDs and HD video clips to see how the monitor would handle video playback. The 2493HM performed very well in this task, although only after some calibration. In its out-of-box state, the 2493HM is much too bright and presented a washed-out image. The 2493HM's back-light is very bright and some tuning was required before we could use the screen without fear of burnt retinas. After some basic calibration, the 2493HM produced excellent color and contrast was acceptable.
While the 2493HM's color reproduction isn't especially accurate, as we saw on the previous page, the colors are very vivid and pleasant during movie playback. The lack of professional color accuracy isn't noticeable at all during video playback.
The 2493HM only weakness during video playback is an inability to produce high contrast during scenes with a mixture of very bright and dark areas. The screen always produced excellent brightness levels but it couldn't display a perfect black. Going back to our solid-fill screen tests, using a black solid-fill, the screen was more of a dark grey color. However, as we previously noted, there isn't any clearly visible back-light bleed so the screen was uniformely dark grey. Lowering the screen's brightness level would eventually result in a better black level, but at the cost of overall contrast.
The screen's somewhat poor black level was most noticeable in movies, where darker scenes appeared slightly washed out. However, the black level issue isn't quite as pronounced as it might sound. Movies and videos were still very enjoyable viewed on the 2493HM and the poor black level is only noticeable in very dark scenes with plenty of low-light detail. Fine tuning using the calibration tools offered by most video drivers can also greatly alleviate the issue.
Overall, we found the video playback quality of the 2493HM to be on par with most other TN based screens.
Gaming Test: To see how the Samsung 2493HM handled some fast-paced gaming, we played a few rounds of Call of Duty 4. This game is especially taxing on monitors for three reasons. First, the game involves fast-paced action that often has objects moving very quickly across the screen which tests the monitor's response time. Second, the game has many dark maps where details can easily be lost among the shadows, which could easily cost you your virtual life. Lastly, the dark environments are broken up by bright flashes of gunfire and explosions, which cause high-contrast situations that easily reveal ghosting and blurring.
The 2493HM performed very well in games. The screen's 5ms response time isn't quite on par with the 2ms of most gaming screens but we didn't notice any ghosting or blurring during fast action. We found the response time more than adequate for gaming. The black level issue was noticeable but it didn't bother us as much as during video playback. Some dark low-light details were lost but frankly we didn't miss anything we felt was important.
After some experimentation with the screen's settings, we found the best results with the dynamic contrast enabled. The screen boasts an insane 10,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio. Although the dynamic contrast ratio is admittedly a generally empty metric. Regardless, the screen seemed to produce better contrast levels during games with the dynamic contrast turned on.
Speakers: The 2493HM's speakers were somewhat disappointing. While we didn't expect them to be great, we had been fairly impressed with the speakers found on newer Samsung HDTVs and we were expecting a similar level of sound quality. Unfortunately the 2493HM fails to deliver here. The sound quality of the 2493HM is highly reminiscent of most notebook speakers. The sound was 'flat' and lifeless with a slight hollow quality. The mid-range is very weak and the bass is completely missing. The upper highs are also very harsh and piercing at higher volume levels. This ultimately results in a very unbalanced sound that has a knack for carrying well through walls.
The 2493HM's speakers work well for the occasional beeps and tones of standard productivity tasks and internet use, but highly unsuited for multimedia tasks like the 2493HM was designed for. The speakers will happily act as back-up speakers for your favorite set of headphones, but you'll definitely want to invest in a separate set of speakers for anything else.
General Usage: We used the Samsung 2493HM extensively for several weeks. During this time, we performed a wide variety of tasks with it, from browsing the web and spreadsheeting to image manipulation and writing this article. The 2493HM handled all of these tasks perfectly. The screen's built-in MagicBright presets came in handy for desktop use. The "Text" and "Internet" presets are perfect for their respective scenarios. The Text preset sets the brightness very low so long hours in front of a word processor won't burn your eyes out of their sockets. The Internet preset increases the brightness and contrast slightly to make viewing images and streaming video more pleasant, but the screen remains dark enough that our eyes remained comfortable after long hours spent browsing high-contrast web pages.
|Summary & Conclusion|
Performance Summary: Throughout our testing we found the Samsung 2493HM to be an excellent display. It performed acceptably in the multimedia tasks it was designed for an it also handled standard desktop tasks with aplomb. While the screen suffers from the same color accuracy and viewing angle issues as other LCDs based on TN panel technology, the 2493HM is positioned for multimedia and it does its intended job well. The only gripe we had with the 2493HM's image quality was the relatively poor black level which was most noticeable during movie playback. Switching on dynamic contrast alleviated this issue to an extent but the effect was not desirable during movie playback. However, the 2493HM proved to be an excellent gaming monitor, delivering fast visuals free of ghosting and blurring.
With a street price of only $389, the Samsung 2493HM is one of the newest members of a new breed of value oriented 24" monitors. Samsung has taken a cost effective TN panel and placed it inside a high quality shell to produce a moderately priced 24" multimedia monitor that is high in value. While the 2493HM can't stand up to comparison with higher quality screens like Dell's 2408WFP or Samsung's own 245T, the 2493HM has the distinct advantage of being significantly cheaper by well over $100.
The Samsung 2493HM's main shortcomings are the result of its use of a TN panel. This makes the 2493HM ill suited for professional graphics work but doesn't hamper its ability to play back movies, and the screen's relatively quick 5ms response time makes it excellent for games. While the screen does have built-in speakers, the sound quality is unimpressive.
Unlike other low-cost 24" screens, the 2493HM isn't just a large screen in a cheap enclosure. The 2493HM's build quality is top notch and you can expect the same level of quality and attention to detail that Samsung puts into their high-end monitors and HDTVs. The high-gloss finish is excellent and unlike other cheap 24" monitors, the 2493HM offers VGA, DVI as well as HDMI connections. The 2493HM also has the added advantage of a sturdy 4-way adjustable stand with a built-in 2-port USB hub, a distinct luxury in this price segment. These features elevate the 2493HM clear above most other 24" screens under $400.
While graphics artists may not be too impressed, the budget conscious user will find a lot to like in the 2493HM. Overall we think the Samsung 2493HM is a good monitor and we would recommend the 2493HM to anyone looking for a large 24" monitor that doesn't require the professional color accuracy and gamut of an expensive screen.