- Review Price: £324.00
We’re in a digital age where convergence continues to play an important role. A lot of this is understandably about saving cost and space, and where could both of these be more applicable than with the displays we use? Televisions and computer monitors are some of the biggest and often most expensive items in the digital home, and – especially where entertainment is concerned – often fulfil similar duties. So, if you don’t have the room or the budget for both, why not get something that combines the two? Today we’re looking at what might well be the ideal candidate; Samsung’s SyncMaster T220HD.
This isn’t the only LCD TV/monitor we’ve looked at. For instance, LG’s Flatron M2294D was a stunning recent example, while Hyundai’s BlueH HM22D offered decent value despite its disappointing design. Actually, it’s not even the first TV/monitor from Samsung’s recent ‘Touch of Colour’ range that we’ve reviewed, as Andy looked at its 24in cousin, the Samsung SyncMaster T240HD, only a while ago. The T240HD did fairly well, so let’s see if its smaller sibling can hold up.
Typically, the move down to 22 inches also sees a drop in resolution to 1,680 x 1,050, but 22in models sporting 1,920 x 1,200 are starting to trickle out (we have a review of one coming soon). Unfortunately, this means the T220HD won’t be able to display Full HD signals without down-scaling. On the up-side, it should be significantly cheaper.
In the box, you get DVI, audio, VGA and power cables, in addition to a soft cleaning cloth. The notable omission here is an HDMI cable, which more and more manufacturers are including where their monitors support it. The monitor itself, like all Samsung’s recent models, comes in three main parts. You get the display itself with separate parts for the neck and base. These click together fairly easily, but unfortunately allow for very little adjustability: all you get here is tilt. While this might be acceptable on a TV, it’s a major disappointment on any PC monitor. However, it’s not fair to criticise Samsung too much over this, as we’ve yet to see a combi-screen with anything more than tilt – not even height adjustment.
Things look up considerably when it comes to aesthetics and connectivity. Unlike the T200, which was a tad small to really make the most of the hint of rose-red colouring in the bezel against the piano black, the T220HD, by virtue of its bigger size, has a little more impact. In fact, there’s just a hint of red on all the bezel’s edges, with the bottom sporting a more obvious streak which, as before, subtly integrates with the red power LED. Basically, this styling is also mirrored in Samsung’s SyncMaster T240HD where a transparent plastic overlay gives the bezel that glass-like finish.
Connectivity, meanwhile, doesn’t disappoint either. Samsung provides exactly the same huge variety of options as on the 24in version of its HD range, meaning you get DVI-D, dual v1.2 HDMIs, VGA, component, composite and SCART taking care of video. The only notable (and puzzling) absentee here is S-Video, which is superior to composite as a standard definition analogue connector. Audio is covered by 3.5mm in and out jacks, and an optical digital-out to carry surround sound from HDMI sources. TV-specific connections consist of an antenna jack, and a CI slot for Freeview viewing.
Thankfully, all these ports are incredibly easy to access. The majority are located on the monitor’s back, angled out to make hooking cables up a doddle. On the right-hand side is a hinged flap behind which you’ll find the second HDMI, CI slot and headphone jack.
One of the highlights of Samsung’s LCD TV/monitor range is without doubt the remote; the company has a lot of experience making televisions, and it shows. It’s very comfortable to hold, and places the most important buttons perfectly under your thumb. It feels very well-built, too, and sports soft-feel buttons positioned in a logical, intuitive layout that makes it easy to use even in the dark, despite not being backlit.
To be honest, you’ll rarely want to use the monitor’s own buttons in preference to the remote, but just in case your dog chews it up, it’s good to know the T220HD’s controls work well. Hidden from view on the left side, the buttons are easily distinguishable by feel, and offer a pleasant tactile experience – unlike the touch-sensitive ones many manufacturers implement these days. As well as calling up and navigating the menu, these controls provide shortcuts to changing TV channel, volume and input source.
The menu system is also very attractive and easy to use. You get a large, full-colour menu panel, which actually looks like it’s running on a high definition screen rather than something from the Atari days. The five huge icons on the left give logical visual representations of display properties, audio, Freeview, other settings and input. Input is the simplest menu, which lets you switch between the monitor’s various ones and allows you to assign them a name from a set list. Thus you can label a certain input as ‘Satellite STB’ or ‘D-VHS’, though considering all the consoles out there ‘GAME’ is a bit generic.
Next up is the setup menu, where you can adjust date, time, language, sleep timer and the red power-LED’s brightness under the perplexing name of Light Effect. You can also enable a ‘tune’ (a few notes) to welcome you whenever the monitor is switched on.
Above this you’ll find the audio menu, which contains a surprising amount of options. First, there is a mode selection, including Music, Movie and Speech. Then we have an Equalizer, SRS option, Automatic Volume Control and the option to switch the ‘TV speakers’ permanently on or off.
The most important menu option, however, is the top one, which deals with the screen itself. I was pleasantly surprised to find the brightness set to a sensible medium level (45/100), but the T220HD was still eye-searingly bright. Interestingly, this was a result of a separate backlight adjustment option set to its maximum of ten. Thankfully, lowering it to five made a world of difference compared to the bleached-out mess the screen presented before.
Another area where the T220HD demonstrates its versatility is in the choice of aspect ratio options, of which Auto Wide (stretching the image to its maximum width without distortion or clipping), 16:9 and 4:3 are the most useful.
With many key aspects comprehensively covered, the T220HD has given little reason for complaint so far, but as ever, the most important element of any display is its image quality. After a bit of manual tweaking in Standard Mode, with brightness in the low fifties, contrast around 70 and backlight on five or six, subjective impressions were very good.
Fortunately, jumping into DisplayMate did little to change my mind. To start off, the grey-scale performance is really impressive – always keeping in mind we’re dealing with a TN panel here. Amazingly, the T220HD managed to distinguish between even the darkest shades, though it couldn’t quite manage the lightest two.
There was a touch of backlight bleed along the bottom of the screen and a slight hint of banding. However, don’t be too discouraged by these factors; the excellent tonal reproduction, great contrast and likewise remarkable vertical viewing angles more than make up for the panel’s shortcomings. The only traditional weakness it retains to an annoying extent is that viewing the panel from below causes dramatic contrast and colour shift. However, if you’re in this position – for example, watching TV from a seat lower than the display – the generous forward tilt will sort it out.
Watching films on the T220HD is also a visual pleasure. You’ll probably want to avoid the Movie mode, since despite deepening blacks it will lose you quite a bit of detail in those dark areas of many films. Instead, leave it in Standard mode and fine tune the main settings. Alternatively, rather surprisingly, Dynamic mode actually offered an acceptable compromise too, darkening your viewing material less than the Movie mode did while making an appreciable difference in contrast with only minimal loss of detail.
The good news continues when it comes to using the T220HD as a television. Analogue channels are perfectly acceptable, with a minimum of the noise you often get when watching standard definition content on an LCD monitor. With digital TV, the main challenge was realising there is a separate D.menu button above the volume and channel controls to set this up, which is somewhat counter-intuitive at best. Still, Samsung’s tuner made the best of the channels, and channel guides were simple but attractive and responsive. Best of all, they allow you to continue viewing the channel you were on while accessing them – unlike Sky.
As far as the speakers go, we weren’t expecting too much and that’s exactly what we got. Turning Auto Volume on increases the volume to very decent levels, although this does introduce a little distortion. Aside from this, you can forget about bass, and gunshots literally sound like someone popping caps. Still, the speakers do an adequate job for daytime TV.
In terms of image quality, this is the first TN-based 22in LCD TV monitor I would actually consider owning myself, although obviously it doesn’t support full high definition. Apart from the lack of adjustability and a very slow wake time from standby, we’re left with a display that wins on almost every count – offering a classy design, good image quality, loads of connectivity, passable sound and a great remote. There’s only one factor missing from this list; good value for money.
Believe it or not, the T220HD’s bigger, 1,920 x 1,200 24in brother can actually be had for around the same price. Though the former does seem to use a slightly superior panel, it’s difficult to ignore the extra inches and resolution the Samsung SyncMaster T240HD provides.
An impressive showing for a TN panel that, combined with its good looks, wealth of connections and clever design, makes the Samsung SyncMaster T220HD one of the better LCD TV monitors we’ve come across. But with its 24in sibling available at the same price and LG’s M2294D for £100 less, it’s not an instant buy.
Score in detail
Image Quality 9