Introduction

Monitors are a sensitive subject for many because they are often the most expensive component of a photographers workstation and can create the most enjoyment, or give the most frustration of anything else out there.  And I’ll be frank, most photographers really don’t understand enough about monitors to understand why to buy a certain type of another.  I know this sounds condescending, but this isn’t my intent.  My intent is to stress certain features and monitor types so you do understand why you buy a certain type of monitor over another. 

In the coming weeks I’ll be reviewing this Samsung BX2450, and my workstation NEC LCD2690uxi2’s.  There are many differences between the two, but the biggest functional difference is something I discuss below in my response to Rod about the benefits of your monitor having hardware LUT (look up table) capabilities, or being limited to video card LUT’s.  Please read my response to Rod very carefully and consider your own needs before purchasing a monitor.  In a nutshell, the NEC or other such high-end imaging monitor holds its own LUT.  So, you can profile the monitor to as many different profile types as you need, and then change the profile as desired to match the work you’re doing at the time.  Any other type of monitor runs off the video card LUT and limits you to only a single profile.  

Only when you understand color profiling can you fully appreciate these differences, so next week our learning topic will concentrate on color profiling and why you would use one profile over the other, where the most common profiles are normally used, and their limitations.  We’ll also once again go over profiling software and hardware colorimeters. 

This First Look will assume you’ve decided to choose a video card LUT supported monitor either for economic or other reasons and we’ll approach our evaluation of this monitor based on those choices.

 

My Requirements

My personal reasons for selecting this monitor were my specific needs: 

  • A lightweight portable monitor I can take on the road and carry in my carry-on sized roll-around suitecase without taking much room.  The size must fit in the carry-on, the weight must be under 10 pounds, preferably closer to 5. 
  • It must be able to be accurately profiled to a high degree (though not the highest) of color accuracy using a standard colorimeter and calibration software, and hold that setting during travel. 
  • The stand must detach without tools to make storage easy. 
  •   The screen must be matte, or non-glare. 
  •   Connectivity.  This should be able to connect either of my laptops either through a digital DVI or HDMI port, or through an anolog VGA port.  As every new still and video camera now comes with an HDMI output, direct connection to the monitor was a must so I can review my images/footage without a computer. 
  • The cost must be under baht 10,000.  I figure it will take severe abuse as a travel monitor and will eventually end up broken and needing to be replaced, so I didn’t want to have that much invested.  

 

My Selection

I didn’t ask for much did I?  With this list of requirements in hand and a Thai speaking assistant to help with any written/verbal translations/interpreting, I headed to Pantip Plaza with ONLY baht 10,000 in my wallet.  I was determined to walk the aisles of this hell on earth and not leave until I’ve forced myself to make the best choice available.   

Many shops and several hours later I’d settled on the Samsung BX2450 24” Widescreen LED-Backlit LCD Monitor.  Cost including a 3 year warranty was baht 8900.  It’s a 16:10 wide screen format with 1920x1080p resolution, 1000:1 contrast ratio (which means squat on any imaging monitor), and a 170 degree viewing angle.  It also has a 2ms response time making this monitor very suitable for viewing sports or playing video games.

 

Many shops and several hours later I’d settled on the Samsung BX2450 24” Widescreen LED-Backlit LCD Monitor.  Cost including a 3 year warranty was baht 8900.  It’s a 16:10 wide screen format with 1920x1080p resolution, 1000:1 contrast ratio (which means squat on any imaging monitor), and a 170 degree viewing angle.  It also has a 2ms response time making this monitor very suitable for viewing sports or playing video games.

 

 

Physical Description

This monitor met all my requirements.  The stand detaches easily and quickly with no tools.  This allows the monitor to be slipped into a standard size pillow case for protection, and nestled in my carry-on between my pants and shirts with the stand being stuck in any available space.  Because it’s an LED monitor the power requirements are very low (22 watts) which make the power transformer (brick) smaller than even the smallest laptop power supply.  The cables are very slender and don’t take up much room either.

 

The monitor is less than 1 inch thick when the stand is removed.  This makes it very slim indeed.  It’s also very lightweight, I’d guess 5-6 pounds.  It’s actually very stylish, easily moved or carried, and deceptively capable.  Compared to my 48 pound 6” thich NEC LCD2690uxi2’s it’s almost invisible.

 

The monitor is less than 1 inch thick when the stand is removed.  This makes it very slim indeed.  It’s also very lightweight, I’d guess 5-6 pounds.  It’s actually very stylish, easily moved or carried, and deceptively capable.  Compared to my 48 pound 6” thick NEC LCD2690uxi2’s it’s almost invisible. 

The screen is a non-glare matte finish backlit by LED’s vs. the common CCFL backlighting much more common in LCD screens  CCFL’s are essentially very thin and small fluorescent bulbs.  LED’s use very little power in comparison which means they also run much cooler and can be contained in much smaller housings.

 

The screen is a non-glare matte finish backlit by LED’s vs. the common CCFL backlighting much more common in LCD screens  CCFL’s are essentially very thin and small fluorescent bulbs.  LED’s use very little power in comparison which means they also run much cooler and can be contained in much smaller housings.

 

 

Connectivity

Connectivity is ideal for my requirements.  It has an analog VGA connector and comes with a light duty space saving cable.  VGA outputs are very common on older notebooks and are still common on even the latest models.  For instance, my new Lenovo x201s super lightweight computer only has a VGA output for a second monitor.  My Dell Mobile Precision Workstation has both a VGA analog and a DVI digital output.  Most desktop computers have a DVI digital output.  The BX2450 comes with an HDMI to DVI cable for these systems.  Some newer laptops, almost every new DSLR and video camera comes with an HDMI output, and the BX2450 allows direct connection via a HDMI to HDMI cable, usually supplied with your camera.  With two HDMI ports you can have your computer and DSLR (or Playstation or many other HDMI compatible video devices) connected to the monitor at the same time and then switch back and forth between them.  Perfect for my needs!

 

Connectivity is ideal for my requirements.  It has an analog VGA connector and comes with a light duty space saving cable.  VGA outputs are very common on older notebooks and are still common on even the latest models.  For instance, my new Lenovo x201s super lightweight computer only has a VGA output for a second monitor.  My Dell Mobile Precision Workstation has both a VGA analog and a DVI digital output.  Most desktop computers have a DVI digital output.  The BX2450 comes with an HDMI to DVI cable for these systems.  Some newer laptops, almost every new DSLR and video camera comes with an HDMI output, and the BX2450 allows direct connection via a HDMI to HDMI cable, usually supplied with your camera.  With two HDMI ports you can have your computer and DSLR (or Playstation or many other HDMI compatible video devices) connected to the monitor at the same time and then switch back and forth between them.  Perfect for my needs!

 

 

Internal Monitor Controls

The OSD (on screen display) is activated is a capacitive discharge touch type that uses the natural resistance of the human body to complete the circuit thereby ‘switching’ the function.  This means there are no physical buttons, only a designated area to place your finger on the gloss black bezel.  Over the years I’ve found my body has no natural resistance and I struggle with such devices and this was no exception.  Everyone else who I asked to try the switches had no problem. 

There are the standard on screen controls for brightness, contrast, red green and blue, and the standard controls like the sleep timer, resolution, modes, and so forth.  There are also some unusual controls unique to this series of monitors called Magic Bright 3, Magic Eco, Magic Angle, and some other controls that mean nothing to someone who is going to calibrate/profile their monitor for imaging use.  If you’re looking at this monitor for a general purpose computer monitor and/or for game play, the “Magic” controls adjust viewing angle, power consumption, and screen brightness automatically. 

 

Performance

This is the clincher right?  If it doesn’t present a sharp detailed image with accurate colors than it’s useless for imaging.  I’m pleased to say it’s usable for imaging work.  In fact, it’s even pleasant to use for imaging work inside the confines of the single profile you’ll have to choose from. 

There is tons of brightness and contrast, to the order of 200-300% more than you’ll need for imaging.  This is a very bright monitor with fairly accurate and vivid colors right out of the box.  If I wasn’t using it for imaging I’d just be able to hook up the power and signal cables, turn it on, and press the “On” and “Automatic” buttons and not need to do anything else. 

The first computer I connected it to was my small 2.5 pound Lenovo x201s Thinkpad.  I connected it via its VGA output port, installed the driver via the included installation disk (this was very easy and took about two minutes) and the video driver of the laptop immediately recognized the second monitor and allowed me to set it up either as  the main only monitor, a primary monitor, or an extended monitor.   

Before profiling I set it to automatic and ran some Blue-Ray movies and was very pleased with its out of the box performance. 

Next, I installed i1Display 2’s Imatch 3.62 software and connected the included colorimeter via a USB port.  The monitor profiled very easily with the most difficult part being dealing with the capacitive discharge touch switches on the monitor itself.  Frankly, I was surprised with the ease with which it profiled, producing a very acceptable profile on the first try.  Often, you have to try several methods with a monitor to see which works best and to get to know the limits of your monitor.  This wasn’t necessary with the Samsung BX2450. 

Once profiled I put up some images in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.2 and the colors looked as they should for the type of profile I made. 

Next, I connected it to my Dell Precision Mobile Workstation, a 17 inch powerhouse I use for workshops and large jobs away from home, and like the x201s it’s equipped with Windows 7   and uses the new color manager to assign profiles to each individual monitor.  This laptop is one of the very few equipped with a DVI port and I connected it with the included HDMI to DVI cable.  The profiling went just as smoothly as with the Lenovo x201s Thinkpad.   

Of course because it has uses the video card LUT, the internal monitor settings had to be changed which means each time I connect it to a different computer I need to go through the calibration process again.  This is very limiting if you use the monitor with more than one computer. 

 

Summary 

I must admit, for an inexpensive monitor I’m impressed.  For an LED back-lit monitor I’m impressed.  Overall I’m impressed.  It appears it will do the job I purchased it for and do so well.  Still, with monitors you can’t really be 100% certain about their performance without either using them extensively or running them through a battery of tests and I prefer to use them in real life situations.  For that reason I’ve called this a first look and I’ll update this into a review after 4-5 weeks when I’ve had a chance to really go over things.   

Usually I’d just wait and do the full review, but I know there are quite a few of you out there who have been asking me about just such a monitor and wanted my opinion as soon as possible.  At this time I’d have to say my impressions are very positive.  However, until you read next week’s feature on color profiling, and know for sure what type of monitor (internal monitor LUT vs. external video card LUT) you might want to hold off until then. 

The more expensive and the more serious use the equipment is, the more I like to use it before recommending it.  This is the case with my pair of NEC LCD2690uxi2 monitors.  I’m done reviewing them, but the write-up is either going to be very abbreviated, or exhaustive to cover everything.  These are probably the best monitors available without totally busting the bank.  I couldn’t be more happy with them and they fill my needs completely.  I’ll finish out this monitor series with the NEC review.  

 

Update January 8th

Over the last few weeks I've logged over 100 hours with the 24 inch Samsung BX2450 LED LCD monitor which I reviewed here.  In my review I stated I was impressed with the monitor for it's price point of just over 9000 baht from almost any store at Pantip.  Now that I've dragged it around as a travel monitor for a few months and just recently had occasion to log 100+ hours in a more controlled environment, I'm even more impressed!  Why?  During this 100+ hours of use I've had it side by side with (2) NEC LCD2690uxi2's (26.5" high end imaging monitors) and when used in sRGB (the universal color space used on the web) it's a very accurate monitor.  Some of my more difficult images which push the ability to render certain colors are just fine on this monitor.

However, a few of you have told me you were very unhappy with the monitor and couldn't get it to render colors properly at all.  I responded there are several things you need to do with these monitors to ensure their accuracy which is a bit different than most other monitors.  TURN OFF all the automatic controls, the magicolor, magicangle, magic bright, magiceco, and magicreturn.  Turn off all the automatic features.  Otherwise they'll conflict with your color profiling software both during creation of the profile, and if you somehow manage to get a good profile then they'll mess with your profile afterwards.  Turn them off, profile your monitor, and use the profile for all adjustments.  If you do, you'll be very happy with this monitor at this price point.