Samsung MD230X3 Eyefinity 3x1 Display

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Product: Samsung MD230X3 Eyefinity Display
Provided By: Samsung
Price:Find Lowest Price Here

 

Introduction:

Samsung is one of those companies that aren't afraid to support the early adopters.  This makes them early adopters themselves and they've been right alongside AMD with the Eyefinity platform.  Early monitor releases had 1"+ wide bezels and the experience wasn't as fluid as we'd all hoped.  As time has progressed, things have got better, more affordable and today we are looking at the latest generation of Eyefinity-Supported displays from Samsung - the MD230X3.  This unit is a combination of three MD230 displays that have a very narrow/thin (15.2mm) bezel and work to make the multi-monitor experience less obtrusive. 

In this review, we're going to evaluate the MD230 display and share some experiences with the 3x1 Eyefinity setup.

MD230X3 Box 
MD230X3 Box

 

First Impression:

When Samsung offered to hook us up with some Eyefinity action, they first wanted to make sure we had a card that could run the displays properly.  We assured them that we did or would if our ASUS HD 5870 couldn't make it happen.  Thankfully, this card has two DVI-D ports, a Display Port as well as a standard VGA and they can be very easily configured to run three screens without any issues at all.

In terms of the box, it is huge.  You don't get the scale from the image above, but you could probably fit two Cirque de Soleil performers in this thing.  In fact it is almost as big as one of my small freezers.  Inside the box we've got a ton of hardware as they provide a hefty stand that can support the 3x2 Eyefinity setup.  Also included (but not pictured) are the power cables to daisy-chain to each LCD as well as USB cables for control and a wired control pad that can be used to setup each LCD individually or all at once.  This is also used to power cycle the screens.

Box Of Goodness
Box of Goodies
Three Screens
Three Screens

 

One of the major things that keep them all together and positioned correctly are the hinges.  The MD230X3 setup comes with two sets for the extra monitors and it looks like every other MD230 screen you buy comes with a pair of hinges to keep you rocking and expanding you setup.  This hinges have a very smooth and interesting pivot system that keeps the edges of the screens close to each other and keeps the experience sweet.  You'll also notice the stand is rather large as it will support up to six displays and provide height adjustment to boot.

Hinges
Hinges
Mega Stand
Mega Stand

 

Assembly:

It's not often that an LCD monitor review requires an "Assembly" section. However, the MD230X3 comes dissembled for obvious reasons.  When this is assembled in "landscape" mode, it is almost 63" wide.  That's much wider than a 55" LED TV.  This also allows you to decide if you would prefer the landscape or portrait modes.  I initially assembled in landscape, but after reading about all the games that do not support ultra wide screens due to the non-standard field-of-view (FOV), i changed things up for actual testing.  The installation and assembly below shows the landscape orientation.

Solo Back
Solo Back
One Plus Hinges
One + Hinges
Two Built
Two Built

 

The manual comes with very good instructions for building the 3x1 landscape, portrait or even the 3x2 setup.  I was able to easily follow along and assemble the display in a matter of minutes using my trusty Philips #2 screwdriver.  After I tried using this on a few games that didn't support the resolution or aspect ratio of 5760x1080, I ended up switching things around to the portrait mode and running 3240x1920.  This is closer to a standard aspect ratio and worked better in games.  Also, this kept things closer together and I didn't get neck strain while playing.

 

Features:

The following information has been pulled from the Samsung product page for the MD230X3 and posted here for your convenience.  For all the details and latest information, please check out the product page.

The Samsung SyncMaster MD Series enables to you to enjoy an expansive visual experience. Up to 6 monitors can be set - up on one stand, creating a seamless multi - display environment that allows you to appreciate a truly panoramic point of view.

Wide Setup

The ultimate multi-display for ultimate multi-tasking
With the Samsung MD series you can increase your productivity—just like Bill Gates did : “On my desk I have three screens, synchronized to form a single desktop…Once you have that large display area, you’ll never go back, because it has a direct impact on productivity.” (Fortune, April 2006). And since the Samsung MD series is easy to set up you won’t have to waste money on costly monitors, graphic cards, PCs, and cables. It’s also available in bundles of three and six and includes a unique stand you can customize. Experience the ultimate all-encompassing view whether you’re a power gamer or power player.

A commanding view is right before your eyes
The Samsung MD series guarantees your view is seamless with a bezel that’s seriously super-thin. In fact, the total width is only slightly more than 15.2 mm while the total top to bottom width is only 17.6 mm. The displays are easy to connect and with a slim frame, your view isn’t obstructed by a bezel. That means you’ll see a smooth picture across multiple screens—and a spectacular view right in front of your eyes.


A customized, multi-display set in a box
With three MD series packages to choose from it’s easy to select the multi-display that’s right for you. Not sure which one is right for you? The MD230 single screen is available. Ready to multi-task with a multi-display? The MD230X3 includes three screens and the option to easily switch between landscape and portrait. Interested in the ultimate multi-display unit? The MD230X6 comes with six high-performance screens.

Flexible, customizable multi-display solution
Each MD series display includes an ergonomic, custom stand which gives you total flexibility to play games, watch movies or design graphics just the way you want. It’s height adjustable up to 100 mm and includes a hinge that tilts inward at 30°. The stand even lets you assemble your multi-display in landscape or portrait form. How’s that for a design that adapts to your needs?

Brilliant picture quality everywhere you look
Complete your multi-display experience with the highest picture quality you can get—full HD. The MD series offers a stunningly clear picture thanks to an incredible 3000 : 1 static contrast ratio and a 150000 : 1 dynamic contrast ratio. And with a wide angle view of 178° / 178°, the picture looks razor-sharp from every direction.

Enjoy multi-control with a single controller
Take multitasking to new levels with this multi-control pad which lets you control up to six monitors. You can adjust the picture’s brightness and contrast, and even optimize the picture settings for editing a document, surfing the Internet, playing games, watching sports or movies.

Connect every monitor—with only one outlet
Worried you won’t have enough outlets to hook up every display? No problem—the MD series features a simple power connection. A daisy chain connects every monitor so you’ll only have one power cord to plug in.
 

 

 

Specifications:

Thankfully, Samsung has actually used some non-inflated specifications on this display.   They claim the standard contrast ratio is 3000:1 (which we'll test), and the screens have an 8ms response time.  Thankfully, the viewing angle is quite wide at 178 degrees, and this is very important for wide display setups.

Specs

 

On the next page we'll jump into technical testing before we jump into some games and see how it performs.

 

A Word About Testing:

In everything we try to be fair, accurate and as objective as possible when it comes to testing hardware.  In the past, LCD reviews were done completely subjectively, but we have purchased some equipment that takes some of this out of the equation.  Take a look at our LCD Testing methodology over here to get a better idea of how we test LCDs.

Desktop 
Desktop

Color Accuracy: 

We started things off by breaking out the LCD Spyder and finding out how well this unit is set up and how well it produces accurate color.  As all of these displays are supposed to match and be at the same specifications, we only tested a single LCD in this review.  The color accuracy is pretty decent as you can see below.

Target
Target
Uncalibrated
Uncalibrated
Calibrated
Calibrated

 

As you can see above, the color accuracy of the MD230 display is pretty darn close to perfect and although the software created a new color profile for this display, I could hardly tell the difference between the calibrated and uncalibrated settings.  Once the test is done, you can choose before and after comparisons, and there is a very slight difference.

 

Contrast Ratio & Uniformity: 

With the display now showing "perfect", we proceeded to take our contrast readings.  With the display calibrated we set out to find the "real" contrast ratio of the MD230. 

 Black Spot
White Spot
Contrast Ratio
0.43 252 586:1

 

I know we may take some flak for the above results, but this contrast ratio is exactly what the consumer will see when the display is set up properly.  It doesn't come close to being 3000:1 and even when we maximize the contrast and brightness, we don't get much above 600:1.  Keep in mind that this display is still very nice, clear and doesn't burn your eyes with too much brightness.  Companies pad their specs, much like gamers pad their stats in their favorite online game.  It doesn't mean the product is bad, merely that specs are over-rated.  A real contrast ratio of 586:1 is actually very decent and is much better than many other screens on the market today.

 

We use our luminance meter in a dark environment to measure brightness uniformity.  To measure brightness, we use a bright white screen and measure across the screen in a grid to get our readings.  The brightest spot is considered to be 100% and the blackest point (with a black screen) is considered to be reference 0%.  The other values are obtained by calculating the difference between the two.  The screen is often brightest near the center.

3D-Chart.jpg
3D Lighting Uniformity
2D Chart
2D Lighting Uniformity

 

 

As you can see the backlight drops off in certain areas of the display, and actually drops almost 23% off the brightest point.  While that may sound like a lot, often other "premium" displays from other companies can vary as much as 30%.  The Samsung MD230 comes in with a maximum 23% variation - which isn't great, but isn't too bad for a 23"+ display.

On the last page we'll cover some real-world applications and see how it holds up before we wrap things up.


Performance - Text:

The majority of my desktop application of an LCD is text and internet browsing and I used the MD230X3 in this regard as a massive desktop display in both orientations for a couple of weeks.  The resolution of each LCD is 1920x1080 and can be configured as a  5760x1080 display or as a 3240x1920 display.  It is incredible the amount of desktop real-estate that you get with a display like this.  For general text and internet use, the MD230 panels are great and it produces very good, crisp text in either orientation.

 

Performance - Gaming:

I thought I was pretty spoiled with a 24" 1920x1200 display or even my 30" 2560x1600 display, but after gaming at 3240x1920, I've got to say that gaming at this resolution on about 42" of screen is pretty sweet.  While the black borders are definitely noticeable at first, they almost seem to disappear after a few hours of gaming.  This is where at 3x1 setup is superior to a 3x2 setup.  In first person shooters, or where you eye is drawn to the middle of the screen, the bezel would get in the way.  With the 3x1 setup, the focal point is unobstructed and provides a great viewing experience.  With the LCDs tipped inward, you have a peripheral vision as to what is going on - especially in games such as Call of Duty: Black Ops.  I've included some multiplayer gameplay footage as well as a full resolution image that you can take a look at and see how much detail you get at 3240x1920.

 


Click for massive image.

 

Conclusion:

Wow.  If you've spent your life gaming at a 17" - 19" screen and haven't experienced a game on anything bigger at a 22" LCD, there really are no words to describe gaming at 3240x1920.  Even if you've gamed on a full 1080p large TV, keep in mind that the MD230X3 setup is THREE TIMES the resolution of a single 1080p panel.  The amount of pixels you get make the game look great.  There are several downsides to this setup however.  First is obviously the cost.  This isn't limited to just the screen package at $1800 either.  You'll need a good card (or two) like the HD 5870 or better in order to power these screens at full resolution in your favorite game.

Another drawback is panel performance.  If you watch the video above, you'll notice some obvious ghosting in the video.  This isn't as obvious when you're sitting in front of the MD230X3 yourself, but it is there and it is noticeable.  I'm used to gaming on a 5ms or faster screen that shows no obvious artifacting or ghosting.

Another drawback is cable clutter.  While you can do a much better job of hiding cables than I did, the truth is that you still have three video cables coming off your card as well as power cables, USB cables and more.  In the end, this MD230X3 probably uses close to 50' of cabling to make it happen.

With those drawbacks out of the way, the end result is pretty amazing.  The thin bezels are certainly much better than first generation Eyefinity packages and they offer a much clearer view of the screens.  If you have the card to power these, as well as a budget that can afford to spend the money, I'd recommend them for play or productivity.  In the end, it's all about the game though, right?


Pros:

  • Nice narrow bezels
  • Everything included for total landscape or portrait setup
  • Accurate color and good image quality
  • 3240x1920
  • 5760x1080
  • Control included works for individual or all displays
  • You can add extra MD230 panels to upgrade your display


Cons:

  • LCD response time is a little slow
  • Ghosting noticed in some games
  • HEAVY
  • Quite expensive

 

BCCRating
 
Gold

 

Even though I have to be fair and show that this isn't the greatest display in the world, the reality is that the experience is incredible.  I can't wait to see what the next generation of panels is like.  I'm sure they'll have better performance and an even thinner bezel for a better experience.

I'd like to thank Samsung for loaning the MD230X3 to us for the review.  It's a shame that it has to go back so soon, but it has been fun while it lasted.  If you have any questions or comments regarding this review, please feel free to post them in the forum at the "comment" link below.