The Samsung 226BW, there are three versions!
This is just the sort of story we like to see. There were angry users, screaming, furious mail, and a hint of scandal. And then finally, there was reconciliation and everyone was happy…well, almost everyone.
The story which we are about to tell is that of the last series of successful screens by Samsung, the SyncMaster 931BW, 206BW and 226BW. You may have read test of the 226BW on our site. It is the same as the one on the 931BW and 206BW that appeared on LesNumeriques.com (in French). Never (to our knowledge) have there been general public screens as good and as well recommended for all areas of use. Results from tests made them stand out in :
the quality of colors in standard settings, which was even better than screens destined for graphic artists,
their reactivity was the best at the time,
HDCP certification, as indicated by the big stickers on monitors, even if Samsung didn’t push this as a central marketing point,
depth in black was impressive going as low as 0,17 cd/m² ! This is a record.
Their measured contrast ratio was superior to 900:1.
In short, these screens were excellent in tests, however not entirely perfect as there is some shimmering in movies and ergonomics were basic. We widely recommended them and many followed our advice.
In the beginning everything was just fine. Then something went terribly wrong. It started with two successive and back to back shortages, which Samsung claimed was due to a poor supply of bezels.
So there were few orders in the beginning. Then in February, as Samsung promised, the situation returned to normal and clients finally received their screens. However, almost immediately a wave of discontent hit forums. A new version had appeared, recognized on the back of monitors by its sticker. Some were S series (those which we tested, « S » meaning whose panel’s origin was Samsung), other A series – for AU Optronics, a current competitor. The reputation of the « A » only got worse and the witch hunt began.
Unfortunately, this method isn’t 100 % reliable. Two readers showed us two exceptions with one having an S but with an AU Optronics panel on the inside and another with an A, while it had a Samsung. Therefore, you have to take this a step further and have the screen itself to display its identity. You don’t need a screwdriver, but rather an odd combination of keys displays the info via a hidden menu. In other words, this is something that no one could have guessed, and it was probably kindly disclosed by a Samsung technician. Here it is:
- Set contrast and brightness to 0
- Press the « Menu » button
- Press the « Source » button for 5 seconds (the second one on the right)
A hidden ''Service Function'' menu will appear including Panel Info on the bottom which clearly indicates the panel’s origin and reference.
On most A and S versions, this will give you, respectively:
The series A screen is indeed an AU Optronics panel. For the « S », it’s less clear. The listed reference is AMLCD 220M1, while the Samsungs are called LTM220M1. There is, however, more of a chance that they are related as other panel manufacturers AU (M220EW01), CMO (M220Z1) and LG-Philips (LM220WE1) didn’t opt for the 220M1 suffix.
A third version of this screen has also just appeared in Asia and the US, the “C”, which stands for CMO. This manufacturer isn’t too well known for the quality of its panels, or none have really impressed us as much as the S series 226BW.
Samsung 226BW A series : its defects pointed out by a few users
Here is where things started to go wrong.
Problem n°1 : the A has a noticeable dominance in blue. This isn’t great for a screen that is supposed to have particularly good color fidelity.
Problem n°2 : they have a backlighting problem, which is evident on black images. For lighter ones, there is a white bright halo on the lower half of the screen.
Problem n°3 : the AU Optronics M220EW01 reference corresponds to a panel with a 5 ms response time.
While some orders turned out to be S versions, for some time the majority seemed to have been “A”s. Tones mounted as Samsung was logically accused of giving almost perfect screens to the press, while giving something of lower quality to consumers without changing its name.
Samsung’s first reaction
At the end of March we met with Samsung and clearly asked the question, “Are there several versions of the 931, 206 and 226BW ? At this time, the existence of the secret menu was not made public. The director of the division responsible for Samsung screens in France said with all honesty that, no, to his knowledge all screens had Samsung panels. A shortage had affected their screens, this was confirmed, but this was not related to panels.
The problem was that we had the hard proof of the existence of AU Optronics versions when a reader had the good will to physically bring us his own 226BW A series to our offices. In complete confidence, he left us his screen for 24 hours of intensive tests and here are the results of our investigation...