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Samsung 204B

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The 19" monitor on my tertiary pooter had been giving me trouble the last several months. It was Good Enough, but after a few mins it would lose focus. The text was barely readable. And this machine/monitor was the ones I was using for IMing. So that got on my nerves.

Also, my 21" is about eight years old, and has become noticably dim, even with the brightness cranked up to 100%. It's still usable, but games were pretty dark.

And, finally, those two monitors took up a *lot* of room on my desk.

I got some Christmas money, so I decided to splurge and get an LCD monitor. I searched around a little bit, and the first articles I came across were 18 months old or older. Back then, the monitors simply weren't capable of changing colors quickly enough. Especially going from one dark color to another, which is very common in FPS games. The monitors would experience very noticable ghosting. So I was beginning to think that an LCD wasn't going to be a good choice.

Then I found some reviews on some of the more recent monitors. About a year ago they figured out how to make those pixels change faster. The Samsung 204B kept coming up as a monitor that was finally Good Enough for gaming. I read several reviews on it, and all of them said it worked fine for action games. The reviews from places that had actual testing
equipment stated that the uniformity of brightness wasn't top notch. And there were a couple of user reviews that said that the monitor was unacceptable if good color rendition was important.

There was one other monitor that had an even faster response time. But the 204B was reasonably priced and readily available. So that's the one I went with. Picking up the monitor and bringing it home is a story all on its own. I'll get to that later.

I've been playing Prey on this monitor for a few weeks, and I just now fired up Doom 3. I looked specifically for ghosting in the dark areas, and didn't see any. And if there's any variance in brightness, it's below my threshold to see it. I had to crank the brightness waaaay down, to 47%. The default setting was *very* bright, and it's still maybe a little too bright. My uncle keeps this room pretty dim.

The size is pretty good. Just eyeballing it, the viewable area looks pretty close to what my 21" has. The native resolution is 1600x1200, where I run the 21" at 1280x960. And the face of the monitor is about ten or twelve cm (five or six inches) back from where my 21" was. So the text is maybe a little small for my corrected vision. But not enough to cause my eyes to strain, I don't think.

The styling of the monitor is almost completely immaterial to me. In this dim room the screen is essentially floating in space about eight cm (four inches) off the desk. The black bevel is about two cm (one inch) wide. I never turn the thing around, so I don't really care about the back.

Though, I should have paid more attention to the back when I first tried to set it up. I'm clearly a very experienced computer user. But even I can be stymied by the simplest oversights.

I had a date with Kim that evening. But I had decided what I wanted and I was impatient to get it. So, I went to the CompUSA near my house and picked one up. They had to go in the back to get one, but no big deal. Brought it home, set it up, and...

Nothing.

No power. I tried holding the power button for several seconds. I tried different power cords I had lying around. I tried different video cables, both DVI and analog. I broke down and read the instructions. There were only four instructions, and nothing unusual.

Just nothing.

So I took it back. But I got the last one in stock. My date was up near another CompUSA, so I asked if I could return it there. They called ahead to check if they had any in stock (they had nine) and to let them know I was coming. So off I went.

Exchanging it was simple and no hassle. I took the second unit to my date's place and unpacked it.

Same thing.

I scoured the instructions. No clues. I called their telephone support. The guy took me through standard questions (plugged in to power, into the pooter, into the back of the monitor, etc.) No joy.

We went back to the store and spoke with someone there. Not sure if he was a tech guy or an unusually knowledgeable salesperson. He offered to set it up on one of their systems to see if he could offer any suggestions. While he was setting it up on the shelf I was speaking with another salesperson. Suddenly, the guy setting it up says, "Oh! Here's your problem."

Turns out, there's a physical power switch on the back of the monitor, next to the power cord socket. It's black like the rest of the monitor. It's pointing down. So it's nearly invisible. Having it up on a chest-high shelf in a brightly lit store is what it took to spot it. I've put so many power cords into monitors and computers that I do it by feel, without looking at the socket. So even though I had plugged and unplugged the power cord a few times, I kept missing that power switch.

Just goes to show that even an experienced person can miss the simplest things.

Of course, what they should have done was put a big red sticker on the back of the monitor, pointing at the power switch. And, they should have mentioned it in the little instruction sheet that was written in 6 point type. And, CompUSA telephone tech support should have that in their menu tree.

Bottom line: I like this monitor. It's crisp and clear. I have not noticed any ghosting. I don't see any of the brightness variance that others have reported. Albeit, I'm already kinda wishing it was bigger. Though, I don't want a widescreen. (I don't get why people have a problem with black bars when watching shows.)

On my brother's Game Total Value Scale, for my uses, this monitor rates 90%.

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Last modified: April 29, 2007
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