Switching to the HDMI connection, things immediately improved. Colours were bright and punchy and even approached accuracy – as in greens actually looked green and red did a fair job of impersonating red.
However, a quick run of our Lagom test still showed major issues. The Movie preset was the most accurate, but was still blowing out the highlights in the RGB scaling unless we severally reduced the brightness, which in turn crushed the blacks. Raising brightness again we could see that first step caused all detail to be lost at the top end.
Black levels were a real low point, with very few of the blocks visible in the standard test. Viewing angles were also revealed to be poor, with significant colour shift when viewing from the sides. Samsung offers up a Lean Back Mode, with two settings, and we found that the first one offered a small improvement when viewing above or even on front of the display - but we emphasise that the improvement was small.
We then hooked up to a number of sources to try out the display with real-world content. First up was the TV tuner, and while the EPG proved easy to navigate, the standard def Freeview image quality was (unsurprisingly) quite soft and full of compression artefacts.
Moving to Sky via RGB Scart delivered an immediate step up, with stronger colours and less noise, and when we hooked up a HD source the panel began to show off some positive qualities. Sky HD, for example, offered a very watchable, crisp picture, and while the contrast and black levels prevent any sort of depth emerging from the image, the fact that the picture is relatively small helps to hide this shortcoming. Moreover, skin tones look good and colours are even-handed.
Connecting up a Nintendo Wii via Component, the vibrant colours of Wii Sports Resort came through easily. Motion was handled very well, with no visible sense of lag regardless of input.
Finally, we have to admit to being quite surprised by the sound quality, which was better than expected. It’s loud enough to fill a small room, and was never distorted or boomy – all the more impressive as the speakers are invisible inside the sleek chassis.
Summing up the Samsung SyncMaster B2230HD, when you consider its relatively low price, it’s hard not to use the phrase ‘you get what you pay for’ (though if that were always true, there would be no point to reviews). In fact, were it to be judged purely as a TV, we would deem the Samsung to be a decent enough offering. It delivers bright, smooth and watchable pictures, with its major deficiencies in contrast and black level hidden to a degree by its small size. These issues become even more noticeable when used as a monitor, and the poor quality VGA connection doesn't help.
This means we would certainly not recommend this display for anyone who is serious about image quality. It strengths lie not in text or graphics work but in bright games, where its strong colours, even tone and smooth, lag-free motion work in its favour. Its USB media playback also gives it an interesting advantage against older but cheaper models such as the award-winning Samsung SyncMaster LD220HD.
With its stylish design the Samsung SyncMaster B2230HD looks the part and offers much, with its plethora of connections and media playback. However, despite its flexibility, it’s guilty of the old adage of being a jack of all trades but master of none. For casual TV viewing from a high-def source, and for gaming and occasional computer use it can be deemed acceptable, but for more dedicated use, we’d look elsewhere.