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Samsung SyncMaster 226cw - SyncMaster 226cw
Unfortunately, adjustability seems to once again have been left by the wayside. There is absolutely no swivel, height adjustments or pivot, and only the barest tilt, which is not even easy to operate. This would be disappointing on any monitor, but especially on one that might potentially have appealed to hobbyist/amateur graphics and photo enthusiasts. Also, attempting to tilt the monitor brings to light another slight issue, which is that build quality is not as solid as even most other SyncMasters, with some noticeable creaking.
Moving onto the OSD, it's the typical Samsung affair with clear icons but drab colours. This is one area where I wish more manufacturers would emulate Dell, with its colourful menus as seen on the recently reviewed UltraSharp 2408WFP. In terms of usability, the 226cw's menus are average: not particularly intuitive but never confusing. The buttons are really easy to use because, though they are not visible, their labels are clearly marked in the silver section beside the power button. Another touch I personally appreciate is that the 226cw is one of those relatively rare monitors that actually remembers its previous menu location when you re-enter the OSD.
There is a dedicated source-selection button to switch between the two inputs (HDCP-enabled DVI and analogue VGA), one for brightness and a MagicBright button for various presets (Custom, Text, Internet, Game, Sport, Movie, Dynamic Contrast). Why dynamic contrast justifies its own mode separate from Game, Movie and Sport is anyone's guess, since those are really the only scenarios where you are likely to want it, but the other modes are sensible and appear to be well-configured. Also, as on any wide colour gamut monitor worth is salt, it's possible to turn overdrive (in this case called Response Time Acceleration) off.
Samsung does include a feature that's supposed to make its OSD redundant -to the extent that all adjustments can be made under Windows through software called MagicTune. MagicTune is a Samsung-exclusive application that helps you to optimally set-up and fine-tune your SyncMaster monitor. However, we couldn't get the version on the included CD to run on two different Vista machines, while a newer download caused incompatibility warnings.
Starting image quality off on some positives, the SyncMaster 226cw features a very even backlight distribution. There is nary a hint of backlight bleed, except towards the bottom centre of the screen. It also made short work of our DisplayMate tests, differentiating well between subtle colour gradients, and managing to distinguish between the brightest whites and darkest blacks simultaneously - a test many TNs fail.
This is the main area where the 226cw would justify its price, were it not for some significant downsides. Surprisingly, considering the otherwise excellent tonal performance, there is some noticeable banding across darker shades. More damningly, this SyncMaster suffers from quite poor horizontal viewing angles, with obvious colour shift - especially a pink haze that comes to dominate whites - when moving off-centre. The upside is that as long as you are in the sweet-spot, this is not an issue.