Sometimes when tech companies combine two or three devices into one, the end result is a product that doesn't do anything particularly well. That's not the case with the Samsung SyncMaster B2330HD ($269), which is an HDTV and HD monitor in one. This slick display includes a TV tuner as well as picture-in-picture support, so you can surf the web in one window while watching your favorite shows in the other. Add in multiple inputs for connecting a cable/satellite box, Blu-ray player, or gaming console--and the ability to stream media from USB drives--and you have a multitasking dynamo.
There's nothing flashy or attention-grabbing about the SyncMaster B2330HD's design; it's just a quietly attractive package for the 23-inch display. The matte plastic casing on the back tapers from the edges inward and features a striated, textured surface, making the monitor relatively easy to carry during setup. The front casing and stand are a glossy piano black. This isn't the slimmest monitor on the block, but its 2.6-inch thickness is by no means egregious.
The included base is removable, in case users wish to mount it to the wall. You'll find a fairly wide range of angle adjustment, but no height adjustment.
As the SyncMaster B2330HD has both monitor and TV modes, there are a wide range of inputs in the back. Samsung makes them easy to access by placing them directly on the back of the unit, facing outward. Aside from the standard VGA port, there are also two HDMI ports. However, there is no DVI port. Beyond this, there are multiple audio and video inputs for connecting cable/satellite tuners, DVD/Blu-ray players, game consoles, and more. Aside from RCA audio in, there's also component AV in, optical audio out, and even an antenna port for connecting coaxial cable.
Given the multitude of connections available, we were disappointed that Samsung bundles so few cords. Beyond the standard VGA cable there's only a stereo jack cable in the box. We'd also like to see an HDMI cable. At least Samsung includes a cable organizer, which is a nice touch.
Plug and Play with USB
Connecting a USB key or hard drive to the SyncMaster B2330HD's USB 2.0 port will activate the monitor's built-in media player, which can access and play media directly from the source. This feature supports a wide range of video formats, including the common ASF, AVI 3GP, MKV, MP4, MPEG, and more. Users can also play music from a drive or a slideshow of stored images.
Settings and Remote
At the bottom center of the bezel users can access the capacitive-touch power and on screen display (OCD) controls. However, as the Samsung SyncMaster is also a television, it comes with a remote control; accessing the OCD is far easier and intuitive with the remote. The available options for tweaking the monitor's settings for brightness, color, contrast, and even optimal viewing angle are the most robust of any of the monitors we've recently tested. The user gets a fine level of control over almost every aspect of the view, no matter what the video source. Samsung has also included a few pre-sets for common uses, from watching movies to surfing the web.
Display and Performance
The 23-inch, 1920 x 1080 full HD matte display exhibited the best color depth and range of any monitor we've tested. When evaluating contrast in PassMark, we saw some color blending on the darker end of the spectrum, but after 4 percent, brightness each step from light to dark was clearly defined across the range of blue, green, red, and white. When viewing solid colors fading from dark to light vertically across the screen, there were only very slight steps visible between the colors. From 3 feet away, the color blend appeared smooth. Small fonts are eminently readable on the screen, though the Acer S231HL produced crisper text at 6 points.
Thanks to its matte display, reflections were never a problem on the SyncMaster B2330HD. Viewing angles are very wide, so even if users are watching a move from across the room and can't sit directly in front of the screen, they're not likely to encounter color distortion.
Though the integrated speakers face backward, they produce relatively powerful sound for a monitor. You won't get the same depth as you would from a pair of good standalone speakers, but they're better than the average notebook speakers.
Watching television on the SyncMaster B2330HD was just as enjoyable as watching video from a notebook. The quality depended on the source, but we found that digital signals produced good results, especially when we switched to the Movie mode. With our cable connected via the Antenna in and a notebook connected via HDMI, we tried the Picture-in-Picture feature and found that the quality didn't diminish much though there were more visible artifacts in the smaller image.
Model Family and Warranty
Aside from the 23-inch model (B2330HD), Samsung also offers a 22 and 24-inch in this line. The 22-inch SyncMaster B2230HD is only $238 and the 24-inch SyncMaster B2430HD can be found for as low as $289 (MSRP $315). Samsung covers the SyncMaster B2330HD with a one-year limited parts and labor warranty.
The $269 Samsung SyncMaster B2330HD offers the best picture and the most robust feature set of any monitor in its price range. While other HD monitors can be had for less than $200, this product's dual function as an HDTV sweetens the deal. Whether you're looking for a great monitor, an HDTV for a smaller space, or both, the SyncMaster B2330HD is an excellent choice.