Samsung 226BW A and S series: The verdict - BeHardware
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Written by Vincent Alzieu

Published on April 19, 2007

URL: http://www.behardware.com/art/lire/667/


Page 1

Introduction

The Samsung 226BW, there are three versions!
This is just the sort of story we like to see. There were angry users, screaming, furious mail, and a hint of scandal. And then finally, there was reconciliation and everyone was happy…well, almost everyone.

The story which we are about to tell is that of the last series of successful screens by Samsung, the SyncMaster 931BW, 206BW and 226BW. You may have read test of the 226BW on our site. It is the same as the one on the 931BW and 206BW that appeared on LesNumeriques.com (in French). Never (to our knowledge) have there been general public screens as good and as well recommended for all areas of use. Results from tests made them stand out in :
  • the quality of colors in standard settings, which was even better than screens destined for graphic artists,
  • their reactivity was the best at the time,
  • HDCP certification, as indicated by the big stickers on monitors, even if Samsung didn’t push this as a central marketing point,
  • depth in black was impressive going as low as 0,17 cd/m˛ ! This is a record.
  • Their measured contrast ratio was superior to 900:1.

    In short, these screens were excellent in tests, however not entirely perfect as there is some shimmering in movies and ergonomics were basic. We widely recommended them and many followed our advice.

    In the beginning everything was just fine. Then something went terribly wrong. It started with two successive and back to back shortages, which Samsung claimed was due to a poor supply of bezels.

    So there were few orders in the beginning. Then in February, as Samsung promised, the situation returned to normal and clients finally received their screens. However, almost immediately a wave of discontent hit forums. A new version had appeared, recognized on the back of monitors by its sticker. Some were S series (those which we tested, « S » meaning whose panel’s origin was Samsung), other A series – for AU Optronics, a current competitor. The reputation of the « A » only got worse and the witch hunt began.
    How to distinguish the panel from the monitor?
    The quickest way is to look on the back of the screen and you will see a sticker with either an « A » or « S ».


    Unfortunately, this method isn’t 100 % reliable. Two readers showed us two exceptions with one having an S but with an AU Optronics panel on the inside and another with an A, while it had a Samsung. Therefore, you have to take this a step further and have the screen itself to display its identity. You don’t need a screwdriver, but rather an odd combination of keys displays the info via a hidden menu. In other words, this is something that no one could have guessed, and it was probably kindly disclosed by a Samsung technician. Here it is:

    - Set contrast and brightness to 0
    - Press the « Menu » button
    - Press the « Source » button for 5 seconds (the second one on the right)
    A hidden ''Service Function'' menu will appear including Panel Info on the bottom which clearly indicates the panel’s origin and reference.

    On most A and S versions, this will give you, respectively:


    The series A screen is indeed an AU Optronics panel. For the « S », it’s less clear. The listed reference is AMLCD 220M1, while the Samsungs are called LTM220M1. There is, however, more of a chance that they are related as other panel manufacturers AU (M220EW01), CMO (M220Z1) and LG-Philips (LM220WE1) didn’t opt for the 220M1 suffix.

    A third version of this screen has also just appeared in Asia and the US, the “C”, which stands for CMO. This manufacturer isn’t too well known for the quality of its panels, or none have really impressed us as much as the S series 226BW.
    Samsung 226BW A series : its defects pointed out by a few users
    Here is where things started to go wrong.

  • Problem n°1 : the A has a noticeable dominance in blue. This isn’t great for a screen that is supposed to have particularly good color fidelity.

  • Problem n°2 : they have a backlighting problem, which is evident on black images. For lighter ones, there is a white bright halo on the lower half of the screen.

  • Problem n°3 : the AU Optronics M220EW01 reference corresponds to a panel with a 5 ms response time.

    While some orders turned out to be S versions, for some time the majority seemed to have been “A”s. Tones mounted as Samsung was logically accused of giving almost perfect screens to the press, while giving something of lower quality to consumers without changing its name.
    Samsung’s first reaction
    At the end of March we met with Samsung and clearly asked the question, “Are there several versions of the 931, 206 and 226BW ? At this time, the existence of the secret menu was not made public. The director of the division responsible for Samsung screens in France said with all honesty that, no, to his knowledge all screens had Samsung panels. A shortage had affected their screens, this was confirmed, but this was not related to panels.

    The problem was that we had the hard proof of the existence of AU Optronics versions when a reader had the good will to physically bring us his own 226BW A series to our offices. In complete confidence, he left us his screen for 24 hours of intensive tests and here are the results of our investigation...


  • Page 2
    The A and S series of the 226BW : colors

    The A and S series of the 226BW : colors
    We will address the problems in the order they were presented above. Problem number 1 : a potential color dominance.

    On the one side we have our 226BW A brought by our reader, Sp1r1t (who is a concert photographer, who needs a screen to touch up photos), and on the other, a new 226BW S lent to us by Samsung. This wasn’t the same screen as the one in our 22 inch survey.

    Once the screens were connected in clone mode, we didn’t need the probe to confirm the impression of A series screen owners that there is a clear blue dominance. It’s obvious:


    Left, the A series, on the right, the « S »


    The profile loaded is indeed a generic one in Windows Vista, called Moniteur Plug-and-Play generic, as you can see in this screenshot:


    You may have noticed the evolution since the last 22 inch comparative. In the future, tests will be carried out with Vista and an HDCP certified NVIDIA 7950 GTX.

    After having warmed up the screens for two hours so that colors would stabilize, we booted each one and used our colorimeter to measure the difference in the color actually displayed and the one we wanted.


    Standard rendering on the Samsung SyncMaster 226BW series A, average dE = 6.5



    Standard rendering on the Samsung SyncMaster 226BW S series, average dE = 2.1



    Standard rendering on the Samsung SyncMaster 226BW S series tested in February 2007 with XP on another graphic card, average dE = 2.4


    The average gap for colors for the “S”, average dE, went down even more compared to the first 226BW tested. It’s 2.1 instead of 2.4 for the previous model. Contrast is also as impressive. As in the previous test, we didn’t touch anything in the monitor’s OSD, but used the Internet mode. We obtained a white of 220 cd/m˛ and a black of 0.23 cd/m˛, or a contrast of 957:1. At the same time, while there was some evolution, the two tables are quite similar. These screens are indeed closely related and underwent the same in factory pre-calibration.

    It’s a little more bleak for the A version. A 6.5 average dE isn’t great, but does conform to what we often obtain with AU Optronics panels. For example, this is exactly the average difference that we found on another popular AU panel, the Belinea 10 20 35W. At what point does this large dE become a problem? This may help you to better understand:


    Grays on the Samsung 226BW A series


    to be compared with:


    Grays rendered on the Samsung 226BW S series


    These grays clearly show the excessive blue dominance.

    In terms of contrast, in standard settings the 226 BW A have a brightness of 235 cd/m˛ in white and 0.28 cd/m˛ in black or a ratio of 235 / 0.28 = 839:1. Colors may be untrue-nothing more to say here-but images are contrasted and we can’t complain much in this area.

    For the 226BW S, white in standard settings is 265 cd/m˛ and black 0.28 cd/m˛. This gives us a contrast ratio of 946:1.
    So images on the « S » are slightly more contrasted and also brighter-maybe even too much. We even recommended that you switch to the Internet mode via the MagicBright button on the front of the screen. Now, white is at 158 cd/m˛ and black 0.17 cd/m˛ (!), or a ratio of 929:1. This is an advantage of the S version in that we can lower brightness without losing contrast or color fidelity. On the « A », this isn’t the case.

    With the 226BW A, the Internet mode is highly unrecommended as it is, because just like in standard settings there is a strong blue dominance. Either way, we measured it just to have an idea of contrast. Here, we found white at 137 cd/m˛, black at 0.17 cd/m˛, and a ratio of 805:1.


    Page 3
    The 226BW A series : calibrate your screen at no cost

    The 226BW A series : calibrate your screen at no cost
    Standard rendering on the A version is poor, but this isn’t the end. The proof is that once it’s calibrated (with a probe), it has colors just as true as the S. You have to have the same initial conditions as on the S version for optimal results. In other words, set all color parameters back to their initial settings and then select the « Internet » mode via the Magicbright menu.

    Once calibration is finished, we finally have an average dE of 0.8 on our Vista + GeForce 7950 GTX configuration.


    The Samsung 226BW series A calibrated with the LaCie probe


    The calibration file, the ICM profile, can be used on third-party configurations. We tried it on various computers to which we connected the 226BW A. Without any other adjustment besides resetting parameters to zero and in « Internet » mode greatly improved the average dE of 6.5. Here were the different test cases :


    These are OS + graphic card combinations. The Intel graphic chipset was a notebook, an ultra-portable Acer.

    We would have liked to have tested more combinations, however, we apologize that we didn’t have the time.

    We recommend installing this calibration file on your computer. It’s not guaranteed to turn your world upside down, but hopefully colors will be noticeably improved.
    We tried it and were successful with several systems without a single failure or degradation of colors. On the contrary, the improvement was obvious on the four configurations.
    Installing the profile
    Reset color settings in the monitor’s OSD, then choose the Internet mode.

    With Windows XP : Download and install the Microsoft utility for color management WinColor.

    Download our profile created for the 226BW A.

    Paste it in :
    C:\windows\system32\spool\drivers\color\

    In the Color program of the control panel (after installing WinColor), open the Profiles tab. Load the copied file, the calibration.



    In the following tab, Devices, select Displays in the scroll down menu and then click Add... to add the profile corresponding to the screen.



    Finally, click on Set as Default. Now, normally if the profile is well applied, colors on your screen will start changing.



    In Windows Vista :

    Download our profile created for the 226BW A.

    An equivalent of Wincolor is already integrated. Just right click / personalize / display parameters
    / advanced parameters / color management tab.
    Check « use my parameters for this peripheral" after having placed the ICM profile in :
    C:\windows\system32\spool\drivers\color\

    »Add », select the modified ICC profile, and set it to default.
    Click on the « Advanced » tab in the peripheral profile, select the modified ICC profile, click « OK » and it should start working

    Is there still a red dominance ?

    If there is a red dominance even after going into the « Internet » mode, restart the computer, shut off the screen and turn everything on again. It should correct itself.

    Did the correction not work ?

    Sometimes the program bugs (notably when there is a change of drivers in the graphic card). In this case, select the profile again and set it to default.

    Is the A series actually a Samsung panel after all?
    Here are all the different contrast ratios measured. We added the Iiyama screen as it is equipped with an AU Optronics panel, a TN 5 ms.


    The difference in rendering is obvious. Its colors are as untrue as the 226BW A’s, but the contrast is not as strong and mostly the depth of black is much less at 0.35 cd/m˛. This is something that sets the 226BW A panel apart even more from those usually made by AUO.

    The 226BW A and S can go as low as 0.17 cd/m˛. Such a depth in black is typical of Samsung, and we’ve never had an AU Optronics panel capable of such a black. This leads us to believe that Samsung sub-contracted out to AUO and CMO, however in providing them with their own components. The « A » panel which is supposedly an AUO does not look like one of this manufacturer’s classic products, nor does it have its performance.


    Page 4
    226BW series A: A manual correction

    226BW series A: A manual correction
    In case calibration failed, you can try and correct colors manually. This could be useful for those who use a source other than a computer such as a game console, camera, etc.

    First step : go to Personalized settings, via the MagicBright button on the front of the screen.



    Step 2 : Adjust the brightness and contrast. Press the Menu button. You will automatically come to the image window.



    Step 3 : choice of RVB values in the color window.



    With these values, we have greatly improved colors. You may remember that we started with an average of 6.5 and with the following color differences:



    After manual correction, we are at an average dE of 3.4 with these differences :



    In practice, almost all colors are truer, especially grays:



    It’s undeniably much better. There is still a little blue dominance with a little too much green, but by hand we couldn’t do any better. Further playing with green and blue values degrades the image, and we think that this is as good as it gets (by hand) with this screen.

    However, we are left with one little problem, contrast. If we gained in fidelity, we had to strongly reduce brightness without increasing the depth in black. We went from a default contrast ratio of 800:1 to roughly 400:1 after manual adjustment. This is enough for all uses, but a little frustrating when we know that the screen is capable of much more. To have this ideal image quality, you will have to either go with the profile we propose above, or ideally calibrate with a good colorimeter.
    If the latter is within your reach, as we said above, try it on the « Internet » mode, without touching any other setting. This will give you an almost perfect image with a contrast ratio of 835:1 and black at a superb 0.17 cd/m˛.


    Page 5
    A – S : comparison of panel homogeneity

    A – S : comparison of panel homogeneity
    The A panels are reputed to have a backlighting problem on the lower part of the screen, or more precisely, a slight white halo. Before looking into this, we wanted to go through an intermediary step of measuring brightness homogeneity on the screen. Is it the same everywhere, or at least are differences modest ?
    As a reminder, perfectly homogenous panels don’t exist. In the best case, on the Dell 27 inch, for example, we measured variations of 12% from one point to another. In the worst case, on some older generation Apple and Dell screens, this figure went up to 50% ! More commonly, average screens have differences of around 30 %.
    On our two screens, we measured maximum gaps of:
    - 21 % on the 226BW A series,
    - 30 % on the 226BW S series.
    Panel A, 1 point. Panel A, one point.
    This is illustrated in these images:
    Samsung 226BW A

    Samsung 226BW S


    Don’t give in to your first impressions as the first screens has lesser differences. At the same time, the 226BW S seems to do better in this area, because its defects are more homogenous. In both cases, the center is brighter than the rest and brightness diminishes near the edges. On the S it’s progressive, while on the A, this phenomenon is more pronounced on the left of the monitor.

    Finally, the average difference by area is 5.8 % for the A versus 6.1% for the S. If we take all points where measurements were taken and compared them to the average brightness, the maximum gaps for the A version is from -9% to +12% or the 21 % max from above.

    On the S version, we go from a more extreme -13% to +17% or a max variation of 30%. This result is consistent with other screens, but not as good as the “A” s results.

    Again we remind you to take these figures into perspective, because they depend on a number of factors. There is of course the quality of the product, but also transport.

    Now, does the 226BW A have a bright white halo on the lower part of the screen ?
    We go to a dark room, and with the help of our probe set both monitors to a brightness of 150 cd/m˛.
    Here are the two screens shot in the dark with an exposure time of 1/6 second :

    Samsung 226BW A

    Samsung 226BW S


    The two screens have the same defect of a little white halo-very subtle-that you may notice on black images. If we wanted to split hairs, we could say that that of the A is slightly more visible. For us the existence of this little halo is overshadowed by this screen’s nice depth in black.


    Page 6
    226BW A: 2 or 5 ms ?

    226BW A: 2 or 5 ms ?
    Put yourself in the seat of someone who has purchased a 226BW A, if this isn’t already you. They bought a screen for its extraordinary reproduction of colors-we said it and other PC magazines did as well. And then there is this dominance in blue. Arrgh ! They look for the panel and find an "AU Optronics M220EW01" – which corresponds to an AUO 22 inch panel, however, a 5 ms.
    There are some who would take this very badly indeed.
    For example, myself for one. At this point a jury of techie nerds would acquit me of almost anything.

    Luckily (!), we don’t have to go this far as the panel is indeed a 2 ms. Actually, it’s a 5 ms with an optimised overdrive. As a reminder, Samsung calls its overdrive, RTA, for Response Time Accelerator and only they can use it. This is why it’s strange to find the RTA function in a hidden menu of an AU Optronics screen, something they could not do without Samsung’s consent. This reinforces the hypothesis that Samsung simply delegated the manufacturing of some of its screens to AU Optronics and CMO, giving them precise instructions and even specific components. Either way, the RTA function found in the series A tends to suggest this.

    We therefore, conducted our usual tests, with the RTA activated and then OFF (default mode) and compared all results with the 225BW, a TN 5 ms :


    The 226BW A and 226BW S are strictly identical in games, movies, and everything in movement. The A is thus also a 2 ms.
    It was interesting to note that without RTA, the A and S were no better than the 225BW. They all become equally slow when deactivating this function and the 2 ms appears to be a 5 ms with an optimised overdrive.


    Page 7
    The delay compared to CRTs, A vs S

    The delay compared to CRTs, A vs S
    Amongst the many qualities of the 226BW S tested in February, we found practically no delay compared to a tube screen. If you didn’t know, almost all LCDs are subject to slight delays in display. To measure this we photograph a chronometer that is precise to 1/1000 of a second, take ten consecutive delays, and then find the average. On the 226 S, this was :


    On the 226BW A (drum roll, please) :


    Good news, it’s comparable. It’s a hair less reactive than the S, but honestly, nothing no human could detect in games.


    Page 8
    Energy consumption

    Energy consumption

    The last test looks to see do the two screens have the same power consumption. According to Samsung, this shouldn’t exceed 55 Watts.

    Results in tests show that the A and S (once again) are almost equal, with the A at around 45 Watts, and the S at 51 Watts. This is consistent with product claims.


    Page 9
    Samsung’s reaction after the tests

    Samsung’s reaction after the tests
    This is of course a delicate arena. It’s not easy to justify such differences in colorimetry, to admit that the press was given pre-calibrated screens while some clients received versions with delirious colors.

    We asked them for an official response to publish, a reaction. They had difficulty in finding someone in so little time that could address this issue. And at rate what could they say ? Samsung did fulfil its contract on all of the versions sold, and no where did they write that the 226BW was factory pre-calibrated.

    On the monitor’s technical sheet, Samsung claims :
  • a ridiculous and unreachable contrast ratio of 3000:1, moderated with a much more realistic "700:1 static" right next to it. We measured a ratio of roughly 830:1 on the A and 930:1 for the S. They both live up to this promise.
  • A response time of 2 ms. Both A and S are good here.
  • 300 cd/m˛ max : also OK.
  • a power consumption of 55 Watts. The two models tested are below this figure.

    So there’s not much to say and the A series is conform to Samsung’s claims. Finally in the same line of thinking, neither did they say that all 226BWs would be produced by Samsung.

    Well, now that we begrudgingly made the excuses for this manufacturer, we do find it truly unfortunate that there are two models under the same name. We tried to limit the damage by placing the profile at your disposition. However, we do feel like we’ve done what should be part of their job. Why don’t they provide a file for A versions with the procedure adapted to your particular OS?


  • Page 10
    Conclusion : should you return your A series?

    Conclusion : Should you return your A series?
    The 226BW was initially recommended without precising what type of panel to buy as we had no knowledge of this. So after tests, should we differentiate between the A and S ?

    Is an S better than an A ? Yes, because in the end it’s preferable to have truer colors. After this, A series owners can install the file and calibrate their screen. User testimony on this subject is starting to come in. Some that have tried the calibration have complained of a dominance in red. To our knowledge, they have since resolved the problem. Some didn’t use the recommended program to load the profile. Others that tried to go through the graphic card’s driver had to start over and follow the procedure exactly. Those that did everything right only had to reboot, turn everything off (including the screen), turn on and true colors were there. At least this was the case for Windows. Some even managed to use the file with Linux.

    Should we regret having bought an A version and would another screen have been better? No. The 226BW, whether it’s an A or S, is still above the rest.


    Here is a table for comparison of the previous 22 inch participants, to which we have added the 226BW A. If we don’t make any adjustments, it takes a hammering in colorimetry. However, unlike the Asus which has a similar problem, take into account:
    - we were able to make manual adjustments for satisfactory colors much better than standard ones,
    - the profile seems to effectively correct colorimetric defects with Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.

    One last question : should you cancel your order for a 226BW if you are not sure of the version ? In my humble opinion, and at the risk of seeming like a spokesman Samsung, which I’m not, no.
    Once again, we find it extremely unfortunate that this manufacturer took the liberty of having three versions of the same screen and by chance gave the press the best model. We think that each monitor version should strictly have one name.

    There is the last issue of those who have SyncMaster 931BW A or 206BW A. Sorry, we have no profile to give you and Samsung obviously says that they cannot provide us with an A screen. Try the same profile. One reader had success in doing this, however it supposedly complicated leaving the sleep mode on his computer. If not, try manual adjustments, because you never know...


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