Samsung MagicTune, anyone?
First off, let me just say that I love the Samsung 226BW; this is a rather exceptional statement coming from a very recent CRT convert, not to mention one from the visual design field:
MagicTune: Released with 225BW but not 226BW?
Prior to being the proud and quite pleased owner of a Samsung 226BW LCD, I had tried it's predecessor, the 225BW; even though I took the 225BW back after a couple days, mostly due to reading some reviews of the 226 model, I still was upset to find that the 226BW LCD did not ship with Samsung's MagicTune software, as the 225BW did.
Maybe I got a bum package or something and everyone else's 226BW shipped with MagicTune, but, for whatever reason, my particular monitor did not.
Since I was totally impressed with the MagicTune calibration routine and since I hate using the OSD buttons on the monitor to make changes to my display, and since Magic Tune is freely available for download from Samsung's site, I decided to install it and try it with my 226BW anyway.
What I've found, after two months or so with this Samsung 226BW LCD is that the MagicTune software has become indispensable insofar as a daily tool, especially it's color calibration routine which allows you to save user profiles and load them automatically at startup; furthermore, if I ever need to fine tune the monitor's settings (brightness/contrast/gamma), I don't have to lean forward and actually use the monitors OSD buttons (I've in fact, *never* used the button interface on the monitor).
Anyway, on the chance that all 226BW's shipped without MagicTune, I thought I'd write a short post on my own experiences with it while also highly recommending it to anyone who hasn't installed it.
** EDIT ** 12/24/07 ***
Just got off the phone with Samsung monitor tech and he says MagicTune is perfectly compatible with the 226BW and that it was withheld by Samsung for marketing reasons only.
His words: "Hell, we use it here with our 226BW's every day!"
Anyway ... just thought I'd add that.
Also interesting, the software was originally designed for a Samsung monitor which had *no* external menu buttons on the monitor at all ...
The main MagicTune download page, at Samsung's website is here: MagicTune Download
There's quite a few different versions of MagicTune available on the main download page, and it seems some are indicated to only be for certain Samsung monitors; since I'm using XP Home and since, technically, the 226BW is not listed as a supported monitor, I simply decided to go with the 'Premium' version which has no specific model or models associated with it:
MagicTune Premium for XP (direct download): XP Version
The Calibration Function
What I've found most invaluable, and especially since coming from a decade of using high end 21"+ trinitrons (visual design professional) has been the color calibration routine built into Magic Tune's "Color" tab.
Here's the screen in Magic Tune from which you launch the calibration routine:
This feature alone made it possible for me to get rid of most of the main problem I was having with the step up from CRT's to LCD's: the much discussed tendency of colors to look 'washed out,' or otherwise, just not as saturated as one would find in a decent Trinitron CRT, especially greys; this phenomenon is most evident when viewing large areas of continuous tone colors such as those found in windows interface objects, etc.
The grays in Windows XP's default interface start bar, for instance, compared to a CRT and when using an LCD, just look a bit lighter and, well, 'washed out;' I think that's a good term for it.
I found that using the calibration routine that comes with Magic Tune greatly reduced this tendency in my own Samsung 226BW.
Unlike the interface suggests, and especially if your not familiar with other, very similar calibration routines, it's not really that simple of a process.
I did some notes on the main calibration page which might help explain how to go through the calibration process.
Click the smaller image below for details:
Calibration Test Screen Explained
The calibration test itself, unless you've used something like Adobe Photoshops color calibration routines, is not really that intuitive. Once you understand the concept, it's simple, but for any n00bs out there, I thought it might be good to have a visual breakdown:
You'll have to view the linked test screen image at full resolution (1680x1050) for things to be rightly legible; but it should be clear enough.
Also, there's a help file accessible from that same test screen, in the upper right.
Repeat the indicated process for each of the 5 or so calibration test steps and be sure to save your profile when complete; later on, and as ambient light conditions change, you might try re calibrating and saving another profile as the LCD output can be perceived somewhat differently when going from a daylight lit room to one completely dark in the evening.
Anyway, as I've said before ... I found this feature to quite dramatically reduce the somewhat 'washed out' aspects of the typical consumer LCD versus the typical and decent CRT (Sony Trinitron etc.).
The fact that I even noticed this discrepancy between CRT's and LCD's is almost definitely due to the fact that I've worked with CRT's in a field that demands accurate color reproduction (screen-to-print, etc.) and so maybe the majority of you never noticed.
But for those of you, like me, who were initially bugged by the difference in saturation evident when using consumer LCD's ... the above explained calibration routine might just help you acclimate.
I know it did me.
Load MagicTune at Windows Start
As a final note regarding calibration and if you want your last saved profile to load at windows start, make sure you've selected "Enable Task Tray Menu" from the "Option" section of MagicTune's main interface.
MagicTune: Other features
Otherwise, the other main benefit of using MagicTune is that I don't have to lean forward to make the expected and regular changes to my 226BW's brightness and contrast levels.
Depending on my room ambient light and whether I'm watching a DVD or working on a text application ... or otherwise, I've found I need to adjust general brightness and contrast quite often.
When the MagicTune application is loaded in the system tray, I can simply open it and change the settings with sliders.
Following are those features which are available but for which I've never found any use for (MagicBright, etc.).
I've never found any reason to use this; just seems a bit like fluff-ware to me:
Again, as with MagicColor, above, I've never touched this; again, seems like more fluff-ware:
I played with this initially, but have found little use for it, other than the default settings because text and otherwise has always been displayed very nice and sharp. The difference in DVD's and otherwise is nominal at best:
As with most monitors, you can adjust the 'tone' of the overall output; I lean towards warm, myself:
This is another available and somewhat nit-picky item which I've never used much. Mostly, I think, due to the main color calibration routine handling this for me.
The main point is that for me personally, and even though (according to Samsung's site) MagicTune is not developed for the 226BW, it still has made a big difference in my personal appreciation of the 226BW LCD.
I mean specifically and most importantly the color calibration routine. I really affected the default 'washed out' sort of appearance of colors that seem to plague all LCD's.
Also ... and this is a huge benefit ... YOU NEVER HAVE TO USE THE CLUMSY ONSCREEN MENU via the buttons on the monitor ... you can just use a mouse with MagicTune which is way easier.
That said, I don't guarantee that you will have similar results using this software with your own 226BW, nor do I guarantee that it won't melt your screen or otherwise cause damage. So, use at your own risk.
But for me personally, and since I used the 225BW for a day or two and since that monitor shipped with a MagicTune CD ... I think it's safe to say that using MagicTune with the 226BW is most likely okay.
Otherwise ... and since I can't sleep ... I thought I'd pass on some of the love.