With an attractive design and all the adjustability a person could ask for, the 20-inch Samsung SyncMaster 204T could be an ideal addition to any home or office setup. This $599 LCD is a solid performer all around, but the Gateway FPD2185W bests the 204T's image quality and offers USB ports, video inputs, and HDTV capabilities for the same price.
The Samsung SyncMaster 204T has a native resolution of 1,600x1,200 and features a pleasing yet basic design. The 20-inch screen is framed by a thin 0.75-inch bezel and rests atop a large, square base. The 204T offers all the flexibility we could ask for in a monitor this size. The thick, telescoping neck offers 4 inches of variable height, though unfortunately the sliding action is stiff, making small adjustments difficult. The 204T's panel swivels 45 degrees right and left, tilts backward 30 degrees and forward 5 degrees, and pivots smoothly from landscape mode to portrait mode and back again. On the back of the 204T, you'll find a power switch, a port for the power cord, and digital and analog inputs, though only an analog cable is included in the box.
A printed quick-setup guide outlines the installation process, and a complete user guide is included on a CD along with drivers and four software programs: Natural Color, MagicTune, MagicRotation, and MagicBright. Natural Color is a color-management tool used to calibrate colors for uniformity between your monitor, printer, and scanner. MagicTune works with MagicRotation to rotate your desktop after you turn the panel. MagicTune also offers a desktop utility for adjusting brightness, contrast, resolution, and other aspects of the image. MagicBright offers six preset viewing modes: Text, Internet, Game, Sport, Movie, and Custom. You can switch between these presets by using the onscreen menu (OSM) or a dedicated button on the monitor's control panel. We appreciate that Samsung makes the presets easy to access, unlike those on the NEC MultiSync LCD1970VX, which hides the presets in the OSM. The 204T's other control-panel buttons launch the OSM, adjust brightness, switch between analog and digital mode, automatically restore image settings (analog only), and power the screen on and off.
The Samsung SyncMaster 204T performed quite well on CNET Labs' DisplayMate-based image-quality tests. Sans-serif type was dark and easily legible, even at 6.8-point font size. The 204T impressed on our grayscale tests, showing minimal pink tints. Colors were solid and bright, though we did notice that red was slightly orange and that blue also showed some off tints.
Though the 204T's 16ms response time is fairly slow by today's standards, it should be fast enough to give decent performance on our DVD-playback tests. Instead the 204T's performance was mediocre. We saw lots of noise, especially in flesh tones, though colors were accurate and vibrant. Games looked acceptable, with vibrant colors and only slight ghosting.
Samsung backs the SyncMaster 204T with an industry-standard three-year warranty that covers parts, labor, and the backlight. Year-round technical support is provided toll-free, 24/7 for the life of the warranty. Samsung's Web site offers manuals, drivers, and FAQs.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)