20-inch WS, Dell 2007WFP vs Samsung SM205BW
Colour Quality (updated)
Since most users who would buy a screen would not have access to any hardware calibration tools, I think it is important to consider how the colours on this monitor look out of the box, as well as with some basic manual calibration. After all, the majority of users are more concerned with how they can get the screen looking, rather than how one might calibrate it using tools they don’t have access to.
I hooked up the test screens with both VGA and DVI in clone mode first of all and restored both my graphics card and the display to default colour, brightness and contrast settings.
The screen initially looked a little washed out and there was a yellow / green tinge to the white background of my word documents. I personally like more vivid colours since I am not a professional graphics / Photoshop worker and don’t mind sacrificing accuracy for nice bright colours. The colours produced on default settings were good, but not as bright and vivid as I would like.
This was quite easily cleared up with a little bit of tweaking including turning the default brightness up a little on the monitor (contrast was about right as it was using DVI). Adding a bit of ?digital vibrance’ can help make colours more vivid, but at the cost of accuracy. In normal use I would usually have this feature turned up a little, but for the purpose of this review I will leave this option off. Overall it was easy enough to get the 2007WFP to a comfortable level and colours seemed well produced and even. The screen did seem a little dull and it seems as if this model is of the school of accuracy as opposed to overly vibrant and eye-catching colours which are more aimed at multimedia use rather than providing a good reproduction of accurate shades.
Default colours actually seemed pretty good on the SM205BW out of the box, but as with many models the brightness was excessive. After turning this down a little the screen reached a good point for normal use and I doubt many average users would need to do much more to get the screen appearing as they would like. Colours were not too washed out and black depth was pretty comparable to the 2007WFP, maybe even a little better (see below for more). There was no sign of any dithering or frame rate control (FRC) artefacts or twinkling and there seemed to be a decent range of colour shades and of good accuracy and brightness.
The colour palette sample picture shown features the Gretag Macbeth colour profile board and is a handy example image to observe colour reproduction and vibrancy on a display. The 2007WFP and SM205BW both produced a nice range of colours on this image, with all shades easily distinguishable from one another. Grey shades were separable and overall the image colour levels were quite impressive.
I had chance to test the Samsung SM205BW using the LaCie Blue Eye Pro hardware Colorimeter. This is a professional calibration device built around a product from Gretag Macbeth. It allows you to tests the accuracy of your screen and then, where necessary, calibrate the colours, luminance, gamma and colour temperature accurately for the best results. Rather than go in depth about what this device can do, there is a full review of it available here. I used the device on the SM205BW to determine how accurate the colours really were out of the box, at default settings:
The above graphical representation is fairly standard across monitor review sites and perhaps the easiest section to understand is the DeltaE graph on the right hand side. The graph is designed to show the difference between the desired colours and those actually shown by the monitor. This is represented by the bars for each colour, with lower bars being preferable. The lower the DeltaE reading (shown along the Y-axis), the better, in terms of colour accuracy. LaCie describe the DeltaE readings as:
- If DeltaE >3, the colour displayed is significantly different from the theoretical one, meaning that the difference will be perceptible to the viewer.
- If DeltaE <2, LaCie considers the calibration a success; there remains a slight difference, but it is barely undetectable.
- If DeltaE < 1, the colour fidelity is excellent.
Not actually very impressive in terms of colour accuracy, but then this is a much lower priced model, and uses TN Film panel technology. Accuracy was poor across the range and brightness was too high by default settings. This model comes set at 100% brightness in the OSD, far too much for average and typical use. Black depth was recorded in the saved PDF results as 0.4 cd/m2 giving a usable contrast ratio of 610:1. In practice the colours felt quite good, and not too saturated with any particular shade. With a bit of tweaking of the brightness, it is certainly easy enough to get the screen looking nice for average use, but accuracy like this will not be suitable for colour critical work.
However, an impressive result after calibration, showing that modern TN Film panels are certainly capable of providing accurate colours with the right settings and configuration. Sadly unless you have a hardware colorimeter such as this device, you are unlikely to see such results and will need to make do with the limited default settings on the most part. Gamma and colour temperature were well matched with their targets, but luminance became a little more varied. However, brightness is reasonably easy to adjust to meet your requirements. Black depth was recorded at an impressive (for TN Film) 0.2 cd/m2 giving a usable contrast ratio of 545:1 in this calibration