In an age where widescreen displays are now almost standard fare, I never thought I would find myself wanting a standard 4:3 monitor again. However, the Samsung SyncMaster XL20 isn't your average display. In fact it's in another league when it comes to image quality, so much so that to use one, is to want one.
The reason for this is that XL20 uses an LED backlight rather than conventional Cold Cathode Florescent Lamps (CCFLs) found in almost every other desktop LCD display. Using LEDs over CCFLs brings with it a number of advantages, the most fundamental of which is that the LEDs are able to create a much purer white level, and thus, a much larger colour gamut.
Whereas standard monitors can only produce around 82 per cent of the NTSC standard, the XL20 can display 114 per cent, the full area of the Adobe RGB natural colour space. More significant is where that increased range is - in the areas of greens and reds, which really should make an impact on how accurately and vividly images are rendered on screen. This is of key importance for a colour critical workflow situation. There's no point spending ages getting the colour for a product right on screen only for it to come out quite differently when it's manufactured or printed.
LEDs have other advantages too. There's virtually no warm up time required so you don't have to wait for your monitor to stabilise to get correct colours. Next, they are more eco- friendly, in that they don't contain mercury. Thirdly, they're more robust as they're much less susceptible to sudden failure or burnout. They can fade over time, but even with regular use you're looking at many years of benefiting from your LED backlit screen.
We've looked at a reference level LED backlit screen before in the guise of the NEC Spectraview 21in. However, at the time of review in November 2005, the NEC would set you back nearly £3,000, and bizarrely, nearly two years later, the same supplier now wants even more - £3,297.79 - excluding VAT!
Now, we have no doubt of the NEC's credentials but with the LED backlit XL20 available on the virtual street for a mere £765, including VAT, it's going to attract some serious attention. And to get to the numb of it straight away, yes, Samsung has done a very good job with the XL20.
As befits as monitor of this ilk, the Samsung comes with a colour calibration unit in the box - the Eye-One Display 2, from X-Rite and also a hood, helping to block out any surrounding ambient light that may affect the screen, which has an immediate effect of boosting effective contrast ratio. Also supplied is software to use the calibrator, the Natural Colour Expert.