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Samsung FX2490HD 24" LED Hybrid HDTV & Monitor Review

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AkG

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In today’s high tech world, people are usually able to make the distinction between monitors and high definition televisions. Unfortunately, most HDTVs are ill-suited for word processing or internet surfing stints while by their very nature PC monitors lack the features which make TVs appealing. In order to bridge the gap between these two markets. Samsung recently released their FX2490HD; a type of hybrid product that seems to incorporate the appealing aspects from both sides of the fence.

The idea of a perfect dual purpose display is certainly intriguing since it is next to impossible to find a HDTV which can properly display small lines of text. In addition, we have seen that modern HDTVs tend to feature an abundance of post-processing effects which end up increasing response times to the point were gaming becomes next to impossible. Using a monitor as a TV also brings in its own set of issues since most aren’t equipped with a built-in tuner. This may be a moot point considering the expanding array of set top satellite and cable boxes but many still make use of an on-board tuner.

In order to accomplish this fusion, Samsung has used LED backlighting which powers a 24” LED display. This may seem tiny for an HDTV by most people’s standards but the aim here was to create a product which is as comfortable in a living room as it is on a desk connected to a PC. Nonetheless, the FX2490HD is packed with items like a TV tuner, built-in speakers and a picture in picture feature which can be used to work on a document while watching a TV program in one of the corners.

The FX2490HD is widely available across North America and can be found online for about $350 USD which is actually a highly competitive price. However, to us the crucial issue is whether or not it can seamlessly transition from one environment to the other.

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AkG

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Dimensions & Specifications

Dimensions & Specifications

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AkG

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A Closer Look at the FX2490HD

A Closer Look at the FX2490HD


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There is no getting around the fact that the FX2490HD sports a drop dead gorgeous design which is perfectly suited to literally any environment. Even though Samsung has removed their “Touch of Colour” from most of their HDTVs, it seems it is still alive and well with this monitor. The combination of a deep and rich glossy maroon tone underlay covered with clear Lucite on the front is very, very striking to look at; and really does add a hint of class to what would otherwise be a boring device.

What is also equally striking is the fact that this panel is only 36.5mm thick even though it packs a laundry list of connectors and processing power into its svelte frame.

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It seems Samsung has taken a strong “form over function” approach to this hybrid panel since it boasts a complete lack of physical buttons. In the place of buttons to control the OSD, Samsung has continued to use their proximity based sensor touch pads. Basically, when a finger is placed where the button would be, it reflects back an infrared beam to a hidden sensor and registers it as a command.

Sadly, there is absolutely no tactile feedback, the labels themselves are small, closely grouped and lack contrast to the rest of the panel. This naturally leads to a seriously lesson in frustration as you flail around while trying in vain to make the necessary adjustments. You will hit the wrong button and you will do it often. This is nothing new for Samsung panels as it was introduced a while back.

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Luckily, Samsung actually includes a well-heeled, multi function remote with the FX2490HD. It is basically a direct clone of the one included with most of their new HDTVs.

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The list of input and output connectors Samsung has included is impressive to say the least. There is an antenna in, component in, VGA input, dual HDMI connectors and audio inputs as well as a USB 2.0 port. Their L shape layout also works extremely well by cutting down on the input panel’s overall bulk while grouping the connectors together in a logical fashion.

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Unfortunately, the panel which is supposed to cover these inputs is less than ideal since it will plainly refuse to install if the HDMI cable used has a ferrite choke.

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The other issue we have here is the Cylon-like stand Samsung has opted for. Basically, this is a miniature version of the one Samsung uses on their LED HDTV’s (such as the UN55C6500 we reviewed not that long ago). From an ascetic point of view you are going to either like it or hate it.

On the one hand, this chromed stand does make for a very stable design which will allow the FX2490HD take a bump without it falling over, but it is not height adjustable. This is perfectly acceptable in a HDTV, but is extremely annoying if it will be used as a PC monitor. On the plus side, the stand does allow the FX2490HD to swivel side to side and allows it to tilt up to 10 degrees.
 
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AkG

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Menu Layout & Observations / Audio Options

Menu Layout & Observations


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In what looks like a carbon copy of the ones used on Samsung’s TVs, the menus on the FX2490HD are laid out in an extremely logical manner with the main picture options being the first item on the list. Through this and the following menus, numerous details pursuant to the overall picture quality, brightness levels and other items can be fine tuned with relatively high levels of precision.

While it is a very compressive set of options, a lot of the fine tuning ability is buried awfully deep under a large number of sub-menus. For example to adjust the gamma you need to go into picture menu, then into the advanced settings sub menu, find the gamma option, select it and only then can you move the appropriate slider. Adjusting the individual R/G/B colours is even more complicated as you have to go all the way down to advanced settings, set “RGB Only Mode” to one of the three main colours, adjust it, change to the other and rinse and repeat. This is extremely annoying and time consuming for something as simple as correcting the off-base default colours.

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The FX2490HD comes only with three presets for the overall look and feel of the picture: Dynamic, Standard and Movie along with an interesting set of “ECO” options. ECO limits the backlight output in order to tightly control power consumption while the other options affect the picture in some more substantial ways.

Dynamic is an option to avoid altogether since it tends to completely wash out the picture while Standard will allow the panel to run at defaults but won’t allow the end user to do much in the way of fine tuning. Movie mode on the other hand unlocks the full gamut of picture correction options in other menu sections and is what should be used when fine tuning this monitor for the best possible picture quality.

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Since this particular model comes with built in speakers there is of course a sub-menu dedicated to tweaking the audio output. Here you can set the dual speakers to normal “stereo” mode or select a virtualization mode which does a pretty decent job of making a virtual surround sound field.


Audio Options


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While we will go over the actual included speakers’ sound quality later in the review there is one very interesting and noteworthy feature of the FX2490HD: the ability to pass on DTS (core) audio via TOSLINK. This may not sound like that big a deal but it could come in handy when you are using the Media Share option and actually want to output a surround sound signal to an amp.

If however you are perfectly happy with stereo sound, the FX2490HD comes equipped with two speakers featuring Dolby Digital Plus and SRS Theater sound processing.
 
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AkG

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Feature Testing: Connect Share & Picture In Picture

Connect Share


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Samsung’s Connect Share has been around for a while on their HDTVs but it is a feature which many people tend to overlook. This is a shame since it and the associated Media Share allow you to play a pretty wide variety of video, audio or still pictures even when the FX2490HD is receiving an input signal from an external source.

All you need have is a USB flash drive (supported file formats are Fat, Fat32 and NTFS) that contains the data you wish to display and then plug it into the included USB port behind the panel. However, we really wish Samsung had included a USB extension cable since reaching the connector is next to impossible without overturning the monitor.

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Once the FX2490HD is turned on with an external drive connected, a different on-screen menu pops up which lists additional media functions. Selecting each icon allows for browsing of specific supported media types and is quite straightforward in its functionality.

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Once a specific media type has been selected, the FX2490H scans the attached USB drive and displays all the files it has found. Select the one you want to watch and sit back and enjoy.

The process really is simple but we do have one major caveat. Basically, while the supported format list is long, not all files are going to play. This is especially true of any encrypted formats such as Blu-Ray, encrypted mp3 files and the like. We also noticed the occasional hitch with .mkv’s not working 100% of the time (though the ones that had issues gave our Patriot Box Office fits as well). In other words when this feature works it is likely going to be a great conversation piece, but when the dreaded “Not Supported File Format” flashes up on the screen, you’re out of luck.

All in all, this is a nifty feature but certainly not one that will make you give up your HTPC, media player or cable television subscription for. Count it as an easy, accessible way to play files quickly and without any external devices getting in the way.


Picture In Picture


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We have all known Picture in Picture to be a ubiquitous feature in every self respecting HDTV but it is still great to see it on the FX2490HD...but with an interesting spin.

In this case, Samsung allows the use of two input sources at once – one of which has to use the TV tuner. Since there is a huge selection of input connectors to chose from you can – in theory – have the main picture displaying Hockey Night In Canada while in the PiP you have a spreadsheet or vice versa provided the TV signal uses the onboard tuner.

Samsung’s implementation also gives you the ability to switch the two so commercials can be seamlessly minimized to increase productivity. To be honest, this is at the least certainly an interesting idea and is actually the first potentially useful implementation of PiP we have heard of.

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In our case we had the FX2490HD connected to our computer and watched a movie via the "cable" option. The ability to quickly switch between the two modes as needed definitely came in handy but there was a one glaring limitation.

We mentioned above that one of the picture signals must go through the onboard tuner which makes receiving two digital signals (from HDMI, DVI, etc) impossible. For example, this means you can’t use the PiP function to watch a hockey game via HDMI while working on a document from your PC.
 
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AkG

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General Picture & Image Observations

General Picture & Image Observations


Unless otherwise noted, to obtain these results a DataColor Spyder 3 Elite using version 4.02 of the DataColour Elite software was used. All readings are taken from the center of the panel.

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The FX2490HD is rated for 250 Lumens and to be honest this is being overly generous since our sample couldn’t break the 237 Lumen mark. For a PC monitor anything more than 120 – 140 Lumens is mainly wasted, but by the same token seeing an error ratio of over five percent is not a good thing in this case.

While the Lumen output of this panel is only moderately close to the rated numbers, this was actually more impressive than the default gamma rating. For a PC monitor a gamma of around 2.2 is optimal but Samsung’s hybrid displayed a gamma of 1.64 out of the box. However, once you find the “Advanced Settings” sub-menu, adjustments can easily be made to bring the gamma in-line with expectations.

When it came to the brightness uniformity of the panel it too was also less than optimal and unfortunately there is no menu or control to fix it. With the center of the panel set to an optimal 120 Lumens, the upper right measured 115.6 and the upper left measured 118.1. Things got worse in the bottom left and right areas which measured 118.1 and 121.3 Lumens respectively. This is a brightness variance of nearly five percent which will definitely be perceptible to many users.

On the positive side, the power consumption of the FX2490HD was very good. The max power draw (at 100% brightness and 100% backlighting) was only 30 watts. When set to a more reasonable 120 Lumens the panel only uses about 24 watts while in standby mode a mere 2 watts of power was needed.

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Even though the FX2490HD uses a TN panel, its viewing angles are absolutely superb. You can still clearly watch this panel when not sitting directly in front of it and while the overall contrast does suffer, its viewing angles are certainly above average. Sadly, this Samsung monitor / HDTV is priced in-line with many IPS-totting displays and as such is merely adequate when compared to similarly priced 24” monitors.


Default Colour Levels


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Note: Grey line = optimal results, Black Line = actual results

With the FX2490HD reset to factory defaults, the panel exhibits an somewhat poor colour profile. It has the potential to cover the full RGB primary spectrum but it is off and shifted to both the red and the blue end.

Basically, in a perfect world all three values would have a 100/100/100 rating. Sadly the FX2490 does not even remotely come close to this perfect ideal even when its colour profile is set to “standard” and not “cool”.

Measuring the R/G/B levels using our SpyderPro and HC-FR program, the Blue was set to 120 instead of 100, the Red was set to 106 instead of 100 and Green was 93 instead of 100. Worse still is the default gamma was measured at a pitiful 1.64, which is not even close to being the 2.20 you want in a monitor.


Dynamic Mode:

With all settings reset to their factory levels, the Dynamic mode results in a colour temperature of about 8500K. To obtain an output of 120 Lumens we left Contrast and Sharpness at their default levels of 25 and 50 and set the backlight to 15 (out of 20) and the brightness level to 25 (out of 100).


Standard Mode:

Standard mode is also way off base in it its colour temperature with an out of the box rating of about 7500K (7467K to be precise). To obtain an output of 120 Lumens we left Contrast and Sharpness at their default levels of 100 and 50 and set the backlight to 15 (out of 20) and the brightness level to 35 (out of 100).


Movie Mode:

Of the three modes, we actually liked this mode the best at it resulted in an out of the box level of 6525K. Being within 25K of the gold standard of 6500 Kelvin is very nice to see.

To obtain an output of 120 Lumens we left contrast and Sharpness at their default levels of 95 and 55 and set the backlight to 10 (also the default) and the brightness level to 50 (out of 100), though we did prefer 60 for brightness as it was better for movies (and was still only 126 Lumens).


It is worth pointing out that while it is very easy to correct the Lumen level of this monitor it is damn near impossible to get a perfect R/G/B level of 100/100/00 (and no more or less) unless you use the remote. The sad fact of the matter is the onboard menu is set up for HDTVs and you really have to dig down deep to find the settings you will NEED to get this panel even close to being adequate. That being said, using the information we provided above it is possible to correct the coloration to one’s liking
 
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AkG

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Gaming & Movie Performance / Sound Quality

Gaming Performance


Pre Calibration Image:
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It goes without saying that the out of the box performance of this monitor is down right horrible for gaming. With such a heavy blue shift colours are not even close to what they should be and this does make getting immersed in a game very difficult. Lack of contrast also makes the picture look excessively washed out.


Post Calibration Images:

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Using our SpyderPro in combination with the cavernous menu system to set the R/G/B colours, the gamma and the Lumens, the FX2490HD actually does a great job as a gaming monitor.

The combination of 24” of widescreen real-estate and a fast panel which doesn’t exhibit any signs of ghosting or input lag makes for a highly enjoyable experience. To be blunt, the FX2490HD has loads of potential but you will need patience and be willing to invest a lot of TLC to get optimal colour reproduction.


Movie Performance



Pre Calibration Image:

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When it comes to movies (aka using this product as an HDTV) things are actually pretty good with the out of the box experience. This is because a “cool” blue colour shift is very pleasing to many people. However, contrast wasn’t what we would call acceptable which caused the picture to look overly dull.


Post Calibration Images:

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We personally prefer a cool colour pallet for movies but set it to “standard” for these pictures and with a bit of additional tweaking we neared perfection. Upping the Lumen output from the default setting allowed for some absolutely excellent depth as well. Blacks were very black and while whites were not blinding, they were still more than adequate.


A Quick Note about Audio Quality


At this point we think it prudent to quickly comment about the built in speakers this hybrid comes equipped with. They are - at best - barely adequate and really don’t do justice to your Hi-Def movies.

While not “tinny”, their small and less than powerful 5 watt design does give the sound a highly veiled profile. There is no easy way to explain the experience they produce other than to say it always sounds like there is always someone standing between you and the speakers.

The surround virtualization does do an adequate job at trying to fool you into thinking it is a real surround sound, but once again their size (or lack thereof) make these speakers mediocre performers at best.

With all of that being said, we feel like Samsung’s attempt to reproduce an adequate soundstage without adding an unsightly sound bar to an otherwise clean design succeeded. The speakers themselves may not be the best around but they do a decent job in a pinch.
 
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AkG

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Conclusion

Conclusion


Samsung has a longstanding history of delivering excellent products and in our opinion the FX2490HD continues this tradition by adding in a healthy dose of innovation. Hybrid monitor / HDTV units have been introduced before with varying degrees of success and yet many have failed, sometimes spectacularly. What we have here is a genre-defining blend of features which work in tandem to make this particular product a success in nearly every way.

Starting from an aesthetics standpoint, the slim profile granted through the use of an LED backlight allowed Samsung to put forth a truly stunning design. Access to the inputs may be tough and height adjustment is nonexistent but in this case, we’ll take form over the loss of some functionality.

The panel itself was actually a pleasant surprise considering the relatively low expectations we have for modern TN panels. It was more than fast enough to provide ghost free images in both a gaming and entertainment scenarios and viewing angles were nothing short of stellar. Having a maximum power consumption of 30 watts is bound to open some eyes as well. Believe it or not, the FX2490HD also comes with a class-leading 3 year warranty as well.

Blending the best features from both HDTVs and PC monitors does come with a number of drawbacks though. With a price of about $350 in many cases, the FX2490HD competes with some larger 32” TVs and dedicated computer monitors sporting IPS panels. This leads to its size being a limiting factor for movies and its panel’s colour reproduction just can’t compete with other solutions in the personal computer market.

Sadly, there is one other issue that is worth mentioning. In its default “out of the box” configuration the FX2490HD’s colours are not even close to being adequate let alone correct. But this was to be expected. What we didn’t expect was the hopelessness of navigating through dozens of menus just to get to the calibration settings. Thank God that Samsung included a remote since the on board “buttons” will drive you insane long before setup is complete.

Honestly, the FX2490HD feels like it is first and foremost a good HDTV and the PC monitor aspect is a secondary feature. Nonetheless, Samsung has designed this product in such a way that it somehow feels at home in nearly every conceivable environment. It can dub as an excellent gaming platform while putting the PiP feature to good use and really does show off movies to good effect. As long as you are willing and able to spend the time needed to slowly correct all the individual issues (everything from Gamma to R/G/B levels to Lumens) or have access to a colour calibration device you will be more than pleased with it.


Pros:

- Frugal Power consumption
- Good picture quality when properly set up
- Great looks
- Abundant input options
- Included multi function remote
- Excellent viewing angles
- Impressive feature set
- 3-Year warranty


Cons:

- A tad pricey for a 24” TN-based monitor
- Extremely ugly picture out of the box
- No real buttons on the panel itself means you will have to use the remote
- No height adjustment


 
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