Samsung continues to innovate in the monitor space. The Korean electronics giant in late August began shipping the SyncMaster 650 with Central Station, a business version of the combined universal docking station and monitor that it released for consumers earlier this year.
Available in 24- and 27-inch 1080p models, the 650 series is one of four new LED-lit displays that employs MVA flat panel display technology, which boasts ultra-wide viewing angles and highly accurate color reproduction, but is less costly than IPS panel technology.
For evaluation, the company sent the CRN Test Center the 24-inch SyncMaster CA650, and with it came our first opportunity to set up and test a Central Station first hand. Set-up from the included CD was straightforward, but we would have preferred the option of a single installation process for all three functions, rather than separately installing drivers for the monitor, automatic screen rotation (Windows 7 only) and Central Station.
Before it's even powered up, this SyncMaster is a work of art. The brilliant luster of its deep black glass is framed by a matt-black plastic bezel with a look of brushed aluminum. Unencumbered by excessive icons or logos, the bezel is home to a row of control buttons centered along the bottom. When buttons are pressed, an on-screen display just above them lends a hand with function-specific labels.
Also pleasing to the eye is the small AC/DC power adapter, which all but disappears when it attaches to the back of the panel, occupying the space that a moment earlier was a carry handle. A C-shaped plastic guide helps keep cables out of sight behind the pedestal's central column.
Next: How Did It Perform?
Samsung's MVA panel performed extremely well, displaying consistent colors, high contrasts and white saturation when viewed using our standard test images for LCD displays. Other Samsung monitors that employ the MVA ( Multi-domain Vertical Alignment) panels are the 200 (budget) and 450 series (office workhorse), which are available in 19- and 24-inches models.
Central Station wirelessly joins any machine running Windows to the display, and provides Ethernet, audio and four USB ports (two of which are USB 3.0 compliant) as if it was physically connected. Once the drivers are installed, any Windows laptop with the Samsung dongle can simply walk up to a Central Station-equipped monitor and have access to all that communications goodness.
In addition to its utility as a docking station for mobile users regardless of laptop brand, Central Station also has applications in schools, libraries, corporate conference rooms, waiting rooms, visitor cubes and other drop-in locations where physical connections are desired.
For now, Central Station drivers are available only for Windows XP and Windows 7. The company says it will have drivers for Mac OS X and Vista in October (they're already a month behind on their original September goal). The new drivers will work with the same hardware, Samsung said. The unit also includes HDMI and RGB inputs, can work as a KVM switch, and uses about 40 percent less power than similar products thanks to a user proximity sensor and other power saving technology. The specified range is 5 feet, but effective range in our tests was nearly 15 feet. Your results will vary, depending on the physical environment.
The 24-inch SyncMaster CA650 (model C24A650X) we tested will list for $660 and sell for an estimated street price of $480. The 27-inch model C27A650X lists for $880 and will sell for around $640.
According to the company, its prices for a docking station-enabled monitor are about $200 more than for a similar Samsung monitor alone. The CRN Test Center recommends the SyncMaster CA650 with Central Station.