Widescreen monitors are becoming incredibly popular these days, and after spending a large amount of time using 20", 24" and 30" widescreen monitors for gaming and work, I've found that the additional space is a great asset in many aspects of my daily computing needs. Once you've spent time using a widescreen monitor, and then head back to using a more traditional 4:3 monitor, you can't help but feel a little cramped when working, even when you're using a pair of monitors.
I must admit that having used the three main widescreen resolutions I've found that 1920x1200 is my preferred resolution. However, unlike the 24" screens out there with a 1920x1200 native resolution, there is no need to sell your kidney to play games at the native 1680x1050 resolution with all of the eye candy turned on - this is because unlike 1920x1200, 1680x1050 is reasonably video card friendly in today's current games.
Despite Samsung's SyncMaster 215TW having the same native resolution as all typical 20" widescreen monitors, the company's latest widescreen panel is different from virtually every other monitor with a native resolution of 1680x1050. The first big difference is the size of the screen. Instead of using a typical 20" panel, Samsung has opted to increase the physical size to 21" - this makes quite a telling difference to the whole widescreen experience. Everything is more comfortable to read and the monitor doesn't feel quite as cramped as a 20" widescreen, despite having the same desktop area.
There are very few 21" widescreen monitors on the market and the price differential between 20" and 21" widescreen TFTs isn't all that massive. Also, because the 215TW has the same native resolution as a typical 20" widescreen, it can be compared to those - it's just at the high end of the pricing ladder for monitors using a 1680x1050 native resolution. Most of the 20" wide panels have an 8ms response time, but NEC quotes a 6ms response time on its MultiSync 20WGX screen. This means that the 215TW shouldn't show weaknesses against its competitors.
21" (wide) viewable area;
8ms response time (grey-to-grey);
1000:1 contrast ratio;
DVI (with HDCP), VGA, Component, S-Video, Composite inputs;
Adjustable height, tilt, swivel and pivot;
Price: Approx £440-470 (Prices may vary depending on market conditions - check Dabs and DigiUK)
The brightness is appreciably lower than the NEC panel, but none of the other 20" monitors we've tested was streets ahead of Samsung's SyncMaster 215TW in the brightness department. Another area where the 215TW stands out is its quoted contrast ratio. At 1000:1, it's at least 25% higher than the other monitors we've looked at.
None of the monitors tested in March had a HDCP-compliant DVI port, so that's another area where the 215TW excels. While on the subject of connectivity, there are very few monitors with more than DVI and VGA connections, so it is great to see Samsung differentiate itself further with Component, S-Video and Composite out connections.