Samsung SyncMaster C24A650X USB Monitor Review

With mobile and multiple desktops now a reality for many of us, the chance to easily extend to a primary or secondary monitor using just a USB cable shouldn't be missed, but Samsung’s new pro-grade USB monitor has other tricks up its sleeve.

The SyncMaster moniker isn't new – Samsung has been using this sub-brand for yonks – but it takes on a new meaning with the 568x418x224 mm C24A650X, a 24-inch ‘hub monitor’ that’s designed not only to de-clutter desktops for those who want a second screen, but also to make it more practical to carry around a netbook and still enjoy a fullscreen experience on a desktop at home or at work.

The C24A650X is all about USB 3.0; it’s the first PC monitor to have such connectivity, and it allows it to perform some rather neat functions. It’s all making space on your desktop by eliminating cables, and its sole USB 3.0 port allows it to transfer both display signals and data via a USB cable.

Better still, this particular incarnation of the C24A650X – indicated by the X on the end of the model number – includes a dual wireless USB dongle arrangement that allows this monitor to acts as a display for a netbook, laptop or desktop PC. Meanwhile, the C24A650X can also connect to a wireless router to get online itself, with a hard-wired Ethernet RJ45 option, too, which it can share with connected computers. It even includes D-sub and HDMI slots and four USB ports (two are USB 3.0, though to take advantage of fast data transfer speeds and rapid charging of peripherals you’d need a USB 3.0-equipped computer).

In terms of connectivity and versatility, the swivelling (vertically and horizontally) C24A650X lives up to its unique ‘hub’ claims, though we’re not totally convinced about its resolution. LED-backlight and bright enough at 250 cd/m2, the 24-inch C24A650X offers a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels, which is enough for most applications though does look paltry when compared to the 2048x1536 figures achieved by the 9.7-inch iPad 3. If you're after something that’s capable of beating a mere tablet on resolution, there are a few 27-inch monitors that achieve 2560x1440 and some 30-inchers with 2560x1600. The C24A650X also uses a rather old hat TN, not IPS, panel, which will mean watching from the wings drains colour and contrast.

Installation & set-up

The C24A650X is ideal – perhaps even designed – for getting a big screen experience from a netbook, so why Samsung has included a set-up CD to host the critical HUB monitor setup software is beyond us. Having to hunt for the correct software online immediately removes a a large portion of the convenience argument. Located on the product page, this device driver software – which is called Central Station – sizes 76.98 MB and works with Windows XP upwards. Other than making the horrific blunder of making people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland choose ‘England UK’ as their country (as if anyone would confuse North and South Korea!), the drivers are simple enough to install, though the three-minute gap between clicking on the icon and the drivers actually beginning to install did cause us to start troubleshooting at the first hurdle. After a few minutes of configuring our netbook’s Core Graphics Software, the installation failed, citing an issue with the display, then the network. Err … did we mention that we’re using a Samsung netbook? On the second attempt, after a complete re-install of the software, the Wireless Connection Manager constantly connected, then lost connection to, the C24A650X, despite the latter showing its status as ‘connected’. Shame – this configuration also allows audio to transfer to the C24A650X (there’s a headphones slot next to the four USB 2.0 slots), too, as well as allowing sharing of an internet connection.

With wireless pairing out of the question, we instead grabbed the USB 3.0 cable included in the box and hooked-up the two. This worked much better, connecting instantly and optimising the resolution output by our netbook to fit the C24A650X’s panel. One thing we did notice is that when the host computer goes to sleep the whole arrangement is forgotten; waking-up the netbook and monitor put the desktop on the former, which reverted to the latter only after about 50 seconds or so.

Performance

Once the connection is established, all peripherals – thumbdrives, hard disks, keyboards, mice etc – can be attached to the monitor, which is handy indeed for those after a bigscreen experience from a laptop; it’s the four-way USB hub that really makes a difference.

The panel is relatively easy to tune-up, with Samsung’s Magic Bright presets proving useful (especially since the out-of-the-box settings are super-bright) as a shortcut, though the cinema setting is oddly bright. The two-megapixel image on the C24A650X will be clear enough for most, though the viewing angle is nothing to get excited about. In fact, it’s pretty poor, with reds losing their lustre and blues taking on a green tinge when viewed off-axis. Contrast is acceptable; during a run-through of some video files we witnessed little shadow detailing in dark areas of the image. Local dimming isn't on a par with a big LED-backlit telly, though the overall image is relatively sharp and documents are displayed well. Bear in mind that the C24A650X’s 1920x1080 resolution lends it a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio, which proved excellent in our test for working on two documents simultaneously. Do bear in mind that with a 8ms response time, this work-centric monitor isn’t a candidate for gamers.

Verdict

A stumbling wireless set-up aside, the 24-inch C24A650X is a well connected and will be genuinely useful to those who rely largely on a small laptop or netbook, but who need a monitor to easily connect to. With no dongles in the equation, the USB 3.0 hook-up works very well and the USB hub is handy, too, though the panel itself could do with an IPS – or, better still, OLED – panel to make a truly high-end, exciting effort.

Pros: USB 3.0 hook-up, 4x USB slots for peripherals, widescreen aspect ratio

Cons: Wireless dongles set-up, lacklustre panel, IP dimension is duplication, average response time

Manufactor: Samsung

Price: £350

Rating: 8/10