Samsung XL20 Review

As technology rolls on, monitors seem to have become stuck in a rut. Now that CRTs are effectively dead, panels are having to find ways to differentiate themselves from big-selling budget products.

Samsung’s answer is an affordable take on exotic LED backlighting technology. Originally seen in NEC’s £3,000 Spectraview Reference range, this lights the panel with a matrix of LEDs instead of a single cheaper electroluminescent panel. The advantages are better, more consistent lighting and more accurate calibration.

At less than a third of the price of the NEC, the Samsung XL20 is aimed at the professional market, and includes an X-Rite Eye One Display 2 colorimeter with colour management software. This takes some of the sting out of the £705 price tag, but this is still not a cheap panel, and given the 20in size and the 1,600 x 1,200 resolution it’s going to need exceptional performance to be worth considering.

Physically it has a fairly generic design with the usual dark grey-blue plastic finish. The bezel is marred with pointless decorations that can’t be removed – a minor nitpick, but high-end monitors should be visually neutral, with no distracting features. The OSD is the usual mix of semi-organised button pushing; we’ve seen worse, but it’s not particularly friendly or straightforward. Complaints aside, the base is solid and the panel rotates easily to portrait mode with just a push.

Colour modes include Adobe RGB, sRGB, and custom modes. An optional indicator on the bezel shows the currently selected mode, but this feature can be turned off. Setting up Calibration mode and running it through our colorimeter tests found an astonishing wide gamut – pushing far further into green than any other monitor we’ve tested, stretching significantly further into red, and also slightly further into blue. Linearity was also very good, with tight colour matching and near straight-line brightness response throughout. The one minor disappointment was the 260 cd/m2 brightness – 300-400 cd/m2 would have been more useful.

OUR VERDICT

The LED backlighting is much less interesting than the impressive wide gamut performance. The 20in screen isn’t overly generous and at £705 the XL20 can’t be considered a bargain. However, colour performance is outstanding, making it a good entry-level choice for serious amateur photographers, designers, and colour professionals.

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