Samsung has a knack for putting together attractive-looking displays, and it’s fair to say that the SyncMaster BX2231 does nothing to dent that reputation.
What’s it like?
Samsung’s 22in, 1,920×1,080 resolution monitor is enclosed in a TV-like glossy black plastic bezel with soft edges, with a stand that has a tapered neck that flows nicely out from the base. It all looks modern and stylish. However, there are no height adjustment options and you’re limited to tilting the screen forward and back a few degrees.
The BX2231 may not be quite as wafer-thin as some of Sasung’s top-end TVs, but the use of an edge-lit LED backlight and an external power supply ensures than it’s slim and lightweight. The whole thing only weighs 3.2kg, so it’s very easy to pick up and move from place to place.
The Samsung’s similarity to a TV continues when it comes to connectivity. You’ll find two HDMI ports but no DVI or DisplayPort. You do get an analogue VGA option, however – but there’s also an audio out. Finally, there’s a slot for a Kensington security lock to keep thieving hands at bay. Other than this the rear is bare – there are no extras such as a USB hub.
The samsung’s minimalist styling extends to the controls for its on-screen display (OSD). There are icons that run along the bezel at the bottom left, but there no visible controls on the front, and surprisingly at first, none underneath either. Instead, the Samsung OSD operates by touch – in fact, it responds if you hover your fingers over the controls. While this sounds marvellous in principle, in practice you need ninja-like precision to stop the controls doing their own thing.
But once you’ve gained mastery over the screen, you’ll find a wealth of options available for optimising picture quality. As well as standard manual controls, Samsung offers MagicBright presets, which wildly alter brightness and contrast, with options such as Standard, Game, Cinema, and Dynamic. Under normal lighting we’d recommend sticking with Standard.
As well as MagicBright, Samsung also offers up MagicAngle, which claims to optimise the picture depending on whether you’re sitting, standing, viewing to the side or in a group. However, we didn’t really feel this feature made too much difference – the BX2231 still works best when you’re front and centre.
Numerous other options are available, including the ability to manually alter red, green and blue levels, and gamma correction. There’s also a frankly weird effect option that will apply a colour filter to the entire display; you can choose between Greyscale, Green, Aqua and Sepia. Why you’d want this we’re not so sure, but there you go…
Another option we don’t think will see much use is the MagicEco option, which severely reduces brightness to reduce power consumption. Even if you don’t employ it, you can at least take solace in the knowledge that the display consumes just 0.3W in standby mode, a sizeable reduction on its usual 1W. You can also set a timer that will turn off the display automatically after any time between one and 24 hours. If any of the Magic-branded options do take your fancy, however, you can at least assign one to a ‘favourite’ for speedier access.
While all of these settings are nice, they’d mean little if Samsung made a pig’s ear of the picture quality. Fortunately it doesn’t. Colours have a strong, vibrant look, and each stage of the 32-band contrast Lagom test was handled with aplomb. Gradients were also particularly smooth and free from banding. The challenging red did show noticeable colour shift when moving off centre, and the last three squares in the white peaking test could not be made out. Even so, for the £165 asking price you can certainly do a lot worse.
The acid test of the Batman: Dark Knight Trailer in HD revealed a smooth, silky and vibrant picture with a reasonable amount of shadow detail. In games such as Trackmania, we were treated to a bright, vivid and smooth picture.
Samsung SyncMaster BX2231 is a stylish-looking monitor with a fine selection of options and features, many of which are entirely frivolous. However, they don't distract from the fact that, for the asking price, this display serves up a highly watchable picture that excels at gaming and video content. Photographers will probably need to consider a true IPS-based panel for greater accuracy, but for everyone else on a budget this is a great option.
BEST POINT: Stylish looks; decent image quality.
WORST POINT: Limited to HDMI and VGA output.