Samsung 915N 19" LCD Monitor

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Product: Samsung SyncMaster 915N 8ms LCD
Provided By: Samsung Canada
Price: ~ $450.00 @ PriceGrabber.ca

Introduction:

As I sit here writing code for my directx keyboard handler, I keep reminding myself that I'm not supposed to like LCD monitors. All of my computing existence I have have preferred traditional CRT technology over LCD for various and assorted reasons. So why am I writing this while sitting in front of a Samsung 915n? Maybe my eyes are getting used to LCD technology from using them at work, or maybe I like the fact that they take up way less space and power. The simple fact of the matter is that I have been using this monitor for several weeks under a wide variety of situations and I think that this LCD monitor is starting to grow on me. Of course its not perfect and there are still situations that I prefer a good old CRT, but the benefits are growing while the caveats are shrinking. In this review I will be taking a look at the Samsung 915n to see how well this midrange LCD would work sitting on your desk.

I must admit that I did not intend on reviewing this product originally. Instead my intentions were to borrow it from Zeus for a week to take to Fragapalooza (Canada's largest gaming event). However as I used this monitor I came to the realization that here was an LCD that suited my picky eyes. I don't have a lot of fancy testing equipment for resolving contrast ratios and light consistency, so this review will be based around what my eyes can perceive.

Unpacking and setup:

Packing for this product was exemplary as is usual for Samsung. This monitor includes the usual accessories of VGA cable, power cable, software CD, and manual. Well, its not really a manual but a quick setup guide.

Samsung 915N - Front & Bundle
 Samsung 915N - Front & Bundle

The full manual can be found on the installation CD which I had a few problems running under Windows XP 64. The autorun function did not work but I was still able to browse the CD and find the manual. Samsung also has this manual available online as well. It is very detailed and gives extensive information on all of the settings that are available to the end user. There are also sections dealing with unpacking and driver setup although these are likely to be of little interest to the average user.

Construction:

The SyncMaster 915N meshes sturdy construction with eye pleasing design. What I liked most about the design was the thin bezel that just seems to disappear. The base can be detached with a single thumbscrew which is a definite bonus for LAN parties. The panel can be tilted up and down to match the users viewing angle.

Samsung 915N - Back View
 Samsung 915N - Back View

Samsung 915N - Side View
 Samsung 915N - Side View

Samsung 915N - Base
 Samsung 915N - Base

This model does not have the ability to swivel, although in the target audience I don't expect that to be much of a problem. All of the adjustments are done through six small buttons on the lower right of the panel. The buttons are well designed and tend to blend in well, maybe too well. With direct light they are easy to read and use, but in a slightly darker environment you end up guessing which is which. I have to admit I had a hard time finding the right button in the rather modest light of my office. It would be nice if Samsung would make raised symbols on the buttons so they could be located by touch.

Samsung 915N - Buttons
 Samsung 915N - Buttons

All in all I would have to say the design is classy but simple and that's just the way I like it.


Adjustments:

Since each users viewing preferences will be different, Samsung has included a plethora of controls to help you get the most from your viewing experience. I will go over a few of them here.

All Samsung monitors nowadays come with a feature called Magic Bright. You can bring up a menu and choose from 4 different color profiles, Entertain, Internet, Text, and Custom. Their titles kind of give you a clue as to what they do, but since I didn't like any of the 3 standard profiles I went straight to custom.

Magic Bright
MagicBright

Under the “Custom” setting you are free to modify all the settings manually using the OSD menu. In the menu you may adjust brightness and contrast, color tone, color control and gamma. The only one I will touch on here is “gamma” which is defined as “A measure of contrast in photographic images”. Samsung gives you three gamma settings for this monitor and for my eyes I found that the 3rd setting gave me the best results. I was very pleased to see this setting included in the menu since I run my displays quite dim generally and they often appear washed out. By allowing gamma adjustments I was able to keep my low brightness and yet have a clear distinct image. Moving on to the next menu we find such adjustments as, Coarse, Fine, Sharpness, V, and H positions. To be hones I never saw very much of a difference when adjusting the “coarse” or “fine” settings. The “sharpness” setting seemed to only alter the image slightly. The Vertical and Horizontal settings worked fine, but using the “auto adjust feature will negate you ever having to adjust these controls.

Menu One
Menu One

Menu Two
Menu Two

Menu Three
Menu Three

The 4th menu allows adjustment for the onscreen menu. Using these setting you can set the language, where the menu appears on the monitor, the transparency as well as the time before it automatically disappears. I especially like that last setting. If you get things totally mucked up you can reset the display to default with the 5th menu. In the last menu screen you find some common information for the display such as resolution and refresh rate. While this information may seem superfluous at first, I often use this screen while in a game to see if my refresh rate overrides are being obeyed.


Menu Four
Menu Four

Menu Five
Menu Five

Menu Six
Menu Six


I thought that this menu was very well laid out, easy to use and included all the controls I need to make the picture look great to my eyes.



Performance:

At last we get to the meat and potatoes of this whole review. Namely, how does this monitor perform. Lets start off first with a list of the specifications.

  • Viewable Image Size: 19"

  • Brightness (Typical): 300 cd/m²

  • Contrast Ratio: 700:1

  • Viewing Angle (H/V): 160 °/ 160°

  • Interface: Analog

  • Horiz. Frequency: 30-81

  • Max/Native Resolution: 1280 x 1024

  • Emissions Standard: TCO '99

  • Available Color(s): Black

  • Special Features: Built-in power supply, MagicTune, MagicBright, MagicSpeed.

The contrast ratio of 700:1 is fairly good while the brightness is much more than adequate. In fact, I was able to use it as a spot light to aid the installation of a graphics card while in a darkened room. I am not sure why companies make their LCD monitors so bright. I have to run this monitor at 20% just to get it to a comfortable level. In my opinion the brightness is overkill. The overall brightness consistency was good, but I was able to perceive a slight change at the edges of the screen. Things seemed to be a bit darker. When my friend took a look at the monitor he commented on this as well. However it is only slightly noticeable and depends a lot on the angle at which you view it. Speaking of angles, this monitor must be viewed practically head on. As with most LCD, when viewed from an angle the color changed quite dramatically. The only other weakness I noticed in this monitor is in the VGA connection. The cable that is included is rather thin and so is prone to electrical interference. Most of the time it was not noticeable at but, but I was able to clearly discern it while viewing a pure black screen. This can be easily solved by using a higher quality VGA cable. Other than this minor annoyance I can find no fault in the basic functioning of this monitor.


Text:

I do a lot of text work, from the writing of this article to coding databases for corporations. So it is very important to me that a display is easy on the eyes. All of the specifications and features can go right out the window if a monitor is hard on your eyes. The 915N seemed a bit softer than other monitors, with pixels that were a little less distinct. This is not to say that the display was fuzzy or out of focus, in fact it seemed very crisp to me. Maybe the pixels are packed a bit tighter in this monitor, or maybe it is a tad bit more blurry than some other displays, but for whatever reason I found this monitor very easy to read and write text on.

Video:

I used this monitor to view quite a few hours of Divx and DVD video and I must say that it was a much better experience than with my older CRT. Colors were better, scenes were brighter and I experienced no ghosting whatsoever. I wish that I could post pictures of my viewing, but my 2MP camera just would not do it justice.

Gaming:

When I first hooked up the 915N I noticed a slight ghosting while playing UT2004. Perhaps ghosting is to harsh of a term. It looked a bit different. After several rounds of play my eyes were accustomed to it and I had no problems using it for tournament play. Believe me when I say that I am a hard person to please when it comes to gaming displays, but I very happy with the 915N. It also scales to lower resolutions very well since I play most of my games at 1024x768. With its 8ms refresh rate this monitor will handle everything from the fast action shooters to the frantic action RTS games with ease.

Conclusion:

The Samsung 915N is a great all around midrange LCD. While it does not have as many features as some of the higher end models (DVI, swivel), it does incorporate many good qualities for a very decent price. I found that the adjustments were excellent, the construction quality was great and it performed very well in high speed games. I used this display to write copious amounts of text and found that it was very easy on my eyes while still being crisp and clear. As with any product there are downsides as well. I noticed a bit of inconsistency in the brightness and I wish this model had come with a DVI interface or at least a more robust VGA cable. The high brightness level seems like overkill as well. However the downsides are small compared to the upsides, and I would not hesitate to recommend the Samsung 915N to anyone in the market for a new 19” LCD.

Pro's

  • High speed refresh great for games
  • Lots of menu adjustments
  • Easy on the eyes

Cons:

  • Software doesn't work under XP 64
  • Noticeable brightness change in the corners
  • No DVI interface, thin VGA cable

 

BensCustomCases.com Rating
Quality:
9/10
Performance:
9/10
Software Pack:
8/10
Stability:
10/10
Features:
9/10
Value:
8/10
Total Score 8.8

 



We'd like to send out a special thanks to Samsung for firing over the LCD to review.  It is one of the best we've seen.

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