Friday, June 10, 2011

Samsung T24A350 HDTV Monitor: A Review

The Samsung T24A350 is an LED monitor with NTSC and ATSC TV tuners in it, meaning it can pull in analog and digital television signals. It's meant for those who want to watch TV at the same time as they're working on their computer, but I bought it for its TV capabilities alone. A monitor with an HDTV tuner in it is way cheaper than a same-sized LED (or LCD) TV. And, as you probably know, the best HDTV picture comes over the air not through cable or satellite -- so a good digital tuner is essential.

It's black, so it's not as elegant as the Philips LCD TV I had. It has a glass bezel round the edge and a shiny black stand that allows you to tilt the screen forward or back, but it's still black. Its remote control is black with those softish plastic buttons and reminds me of the Rogers cable remote control. Again, not elegant like the Philips TV's remote control but like almost every other boring remote control out there. The buttons don't glow in the dark, which would be useful. I think this HDTV monitor may come in white, and if I had found one on sale and available, I would've bought that. So black it is.

As another downer, the energy consumption seems to be almost as high as an LCD monitor, although it does have energy conserving features. Anyway...

When you first turn it on, the Plug & Play menu appears. It is defaulted to cable, so you'll need to switch it to Air if you have the TV attached to an outdoor antenna or rabbit ears.

If you do not run this or turn the TV off before running it, then turn it back on so that it doesn't come up automatically, the first channels you will see are the analog ones. I did that and thought this picture is BAD. But I was looking at an analog signal. The T24A350 doesn't pick up the digital channels automatically like it does the analog ones. You have to run Auto Program for it to scan the signal range and find them (under Menu/Channel or Plug & Play).

The two most important things you need to know about the Plug & Play setup: ensure you change from Store to Home when you get to that screen, and if your picture and sound settings revert to default after either 30 minutes or you turn it off and back on again, rerun Plug & Play and set it to Home mode again. The second thing is when you select Air under Auto Program, you have to use the down arrow to select Search then click Enter key on the remote to get it to search for channels. Just because it looks like Search is selected after you click Enter over the Air button, doesn't mean it is. If nothing happens but a Next button appears greyed out, repeat Air selection and navigate down to Search button then hit Enter.

The day I installed my new HDTV monitor, an American station added another sub-channel to its digital signal, and so my Samsung received 30 channels instead of the 29 I had been getting. When I had to rescan later, it picked up another one it shouldn't be able to, and I'm told there are four more (two stations, one digital channel each, one or two sub-channels each) that it could pick up. I was told Samsung and Sony had the best tuners, and it seems to be true for this HDTV monitor.

I connected my PC with a VGA cable (included) and audio cable (included). It didn't get the signal at first, but when I moved the mouse, after a few seconds, it showed the display that was on my laptop. When I played with the graphics settings, to see if I could get Windows to recognize the higher resolution of the HDTV monitor, it switched itself off and reset itself entirely. I had to rerun Plug & Play, including reselecting Home mode.

The component cable connection from my old VCR/DVD box did not work, the picture was green and flashed on and off. I was too hot and bothered (I set this up on the hottest day of the year in a room with no A/C) to figure out what was wrong, mostly because I knew that to see my videos, I had to use the AV connections. However, Samsung doesn't include the AV connector -- both component and AV cables have to be plugged into a connector that plugs into the HDTV monitor. It makes for a tighter, cleaner back, but is a pain to have to go find the AV connector to buy it.

The sound was weak from the computer until I changed the Sound settings from standard to Movie. I could hear that!

I then connected the laptop with the HDMI. With each connection, I had to change the Source to the appropriate connection and then set the picture settings. The first setting you have to change is Dynamic to standard unless you're in a super bright room. The default picture setting is awful, even after you do that. I also turned off Edge and turned on Motion, as well as adjusted Backlight, Contrast, Brightness, Colour, and RGB. The Lean Back feature under Samsung Magic Angle works well for when you're way below the HDTV monitor like lying on a couch, but for some reason there's no single button to switch this feature easily on and off or between its three options. You have to go into the Menu then Picture Settings. This is true also for checking signal strength. The converter and tuner boxes had a button to easily check for signal strength. Here it's Menu, Help, Self Diagnosis, Signal Information -- then you see it. What a pain, especially when you're trying to compare signal strenghts of 30 channels to ascertain if you need to move the antenna and which way.

The Exit button takes you back immediately to the TV show, the Return to the previous Menu level.

Once it has Autoscanned for channels, if you buy this before end of August 2011 in Canada, you may have a whole bunch of analog channels memorized along with the digital ones in your Channel List. How to delete these is not in the simple paper manual. Press the E.MANUAL button on the remote control to bring up a comprehensive manual on all the Samsung features.

To delete analog channels or any digital ones you don't want, press the Content button, use the Down Arrow key to go to Channel Manager, and you'll see a list of channels. Use the arrow keys to navigate to the channel you want to delete. When it is selected (highlighted), press the Tools button and navigate with arrow keys down to Delete. Press the Enter key to delete.

The Channel List button shows you all your memorized channels, along with the info on each channel. Note: as long as the broadcaster has enabled it, and not all Canadian ones have, the digital TV signal includes all programming info for the day. But the Channel List won't show the info for all the channels until you've actually watched every channel. So another person said the first thing he does is flip through all the channels, so then the Channel List becomes useful beyond telling you what channels you have memorized. Dumb Samsung bug.

So, all in all, in terms of quality of product only, a decent HDTV monitor, and for the price, way more affordable than a straight TV.

But then there's Samsung technical support. Someone online said it sucks. That's being kind. My experience with hp was that anything above "did you plug it in?" is beyond them. But they don't call you names if plugging it in doesn't fix the problem.

First problem: Samsung's technical support didn't understand English -- her accent sounded like from the southern US, so it wasn't a language issue. It took me so many tries to get her to understand that my picture settings were resetting to default that by the time she got it, I'm amazed I wasn't yelling epithets at her. In fact, I never called this Angelica person names, despite her utter unwillingness and inability to help me. But she labelled me uncooperative for giving her the model name on the manual and code on the back of the TV that was not in their database and refused to pass me on to her manager because she said I wasn't giving her the information. It never occurred to her to look it up on the web or that this was a new model not in their database. Instead she defaulted immediately to insulting me. In fact, as I learnt later, the T24A350 is so new that Samsung obviously didn't think it necessary to update their technical support database yet.

After I ranted on Twitter and calmed my adrenaline rush, I called again; this time I got thinking technical support. By not insulting me or calling me names, he didn't shut himself off from the possibility of finding my HDTV monitor in some other way, he kept the conversation going long enough to learn I'd bought it in Canada. He soon thought to look it up on the website and find both the HDTV monitor and the correct model code that way (which is different than what is on the back of my HDTV). He solved my simple problem quickly.

But I have to wonder why does Samsung -- unlike every other equipment manufacturer out there -- not allow one to provide the model name, but instead requires the customer to look at the back of the unit for hard-to-read model codes? When I called Philips for support, I wasn't insulted and I wasn't asked for some obscure code. Giving them the model name was good enough. So even with hp.

So, bottom line, if you want to buy a Samsung, ensure you know someone who has one so if you have problems with it you can call them instead and save yourself a very bad afternoon. If technical support is something important to you, don't buy a Samsung. The picture and tuner quality are not worth the hassle. Period.

17 comments:

mzcustom said...

Thanks for the great review. I just bought the same TV/monitor. I was wondering if you're using outdoor UHF antenna for your HDTV signal. For now, I have to use the analog cable which doesn't provide the great quality of picture. I'm considering buying an indoor antenna cuz the situation doesn't allow me to install an outdoor one. Do you think the indoor antenna is worth to try? I'm also living in Toronto. Really close to the Bathurst station.

talk talk talk / Shireen said...

mzcustom: Thank you! I have an outdoor antenna - you can read about it in my June 9th post http://pario.blogspot.com/2011/06/how-to-get-free-high-definition.html

You will need an antenna that picks up both UHF and VHF signals because all the digital signals are in the UHF band except for CHCH which yesterday moved their digital signal to same VHF as analog signal. At the end of August, all the analog signals will be turned off. I picked up a lot of channels with a powered indoor antenna. The key is to point it to the CN Tower. If you don't have a window aimed that way, try getting one you can place outside your window and point it as well as you can to the Tower. Some indoor antennas work better than others, you just have to experiment. And I always had to move it, sometimes only slightly, if the weather changed drastically or I wanted to pull in Citytv or some other weaker channel. It's the nature of the beast.

BTW with CHCH changing frequency and TVO coming on board with its digital channel on the 18th, you'll have to rescan for channels. I wish Samsung let you add channels, but nope gotta rescan the whole lot.

mzcustom said...

Hey, Thanks for the answer. Your posts have been a great help.
While looking into what indoor antenna to buy online, I went to the store and got myself a short coaxial cable, yesterday. I put one end to the TV and stick the other end to the little hole on my desk lamp. You know the tall steal one with a joint that can be clamped on the edge of the desk and swivels. I repeated the whole process of "swivel and rescan" and my best result is 7 digital and 8 analog channels. For HD, I got CBC,CTV,some french channel,Global, OMNI1, CityTv and SunTv. I got OMNI2 for a while, but lost it due to the weak signal, which isn't too bad considering I used a cheap desk lamp as my antenna.
I'm looking into buying the Antenna direct DB2 to use indoor. Unfortunately, I don't have a window facing south, so I'm not sure how it will work, but it might be worth to give it a shot.
Since it's only 2 bay passive antenna, would you suggest any signal booster or an amplifier?
Thanks, again.

talk talk talk / Shireen said...

mzcustom, glad I could help!

Your lamp antenna is clever! I would say it's worth giving the DB2 a shot, and I would recommend a signal booster and even chaining it with the lamp or another antenna. (Apparently there are instructions online for building your own rabbit ears.) I chained an old rabbit ears of mine with a new powered one designed to pick up UHF, and it worked better than one alone. Plugging the powered one in made the diff between getting some channels and not.

The French Channel 25.1 is the French CBC or Radio-Canada I believe. That's pretty good because channel 25 is out for me half the time. OMNI 2 will probably come back when the weather is optimum for it -- only time will tell which kind of weather works best for your reception. I hear fog on the lake is the worst interference for the US channels. Good luck!

mzcustom said...

Hey,
I think it's best for me to try the DB2 or some decent antenna first, and worry about the signal booster later. Thanks for your suggestion.
After rescanning today, 19-1 suddenly came up and OMNI2 is back. I think 19-1 is called Niagara-area TV or something. I guess they just joined this digital OTA group as of today??
I'll try to update after I get my real antenna. BTW, I really love to watch the Discovery channel and Sci-fi channel in HD, but I'm not sure if it's going to be possible with OTA.
Thanks.

talk talk talk / Shireen said...

Sounds like a good plan. 19.1 is TVO, and it turned off its analog transmitter at about midnight and turned on its digital transmitter in the wee hours this morn. I believe Toronto was one of the last to gets its HD digital signal.

Unfortunately, those are cable-only channels, but you can watch Space online. Don't know about Discovery.

mzcustom said...

Hey. This might be a little personal and not really relevant to this post, so you don't have to put this comment up. But if it's ok with you, are you a famous person by any chance? I assumed you're some tech-junkie kind of dude who always surrounds himself with a bunch of new electronics and stuffs, but I just noticed you write books and do other things. I only googled my new TV, this post came up and I clicked, so I had no idea who you are. I don't do any SNS, but I realized you put the whole bunch of posts and from what I see, you don't look like a techno nerd dude.

talk talk talk / Shireen said...

LOL! No, I'm not a techno nerd dude or famous, just a writer juggling writing books with marketing (so my books will sell already! :) ) and posting pieces on stuff I've learnt that perhaps others will find useful. I assume you've found my website http://jeejeebhoy.ca which lists my various books and essays, etc. As you can see, I'm curious about a lot of things, which my writing reflects, and have always had an affinity for gadgets and computers.

mzcustom said...

Hi,
Ordered DB2 2 days ago, received and hooked it up with the TV today. After rescanning, 18 channels came up. 2-1, 2-2, 2-3 are lost right after. ABC and Fox29 are kinda choppy. Since weather's not too friendly at this moment, I hope I will get better reception for those channel as the weather condition gets better.
I wouldn't buy any amplifier since they're quite expensive and I spent too much money already on my TV and the antenna and cables. Plus my beloved monitor headphone I used over 5 years just died, I have to get a new one. I had to sell my camera and lenses really cheap to cover all this damage. Still have some more things to buy. I'm just another bankrupt student waiting for OSAP kicking in next month.

talk talk talk / Shireen said...

Yeah, that weather can play havoc. Sometimes turning the antenna when the weather changes helps. But 18 with an indoor is good!

There's a second-floor electronics store on Queen West, between University and Spadina, sells powered antennas for $20, which you can chain with DB2. They may have an amplifier too. I'm sorry I can't remember the name. I may've blogged on it (tag=television)...

Anonymous said...

Hey.
i was also really happy about the monitor, but suddenly when i was watching tv via cable the picture got a little red shine, and especially moving objects got a really bad contrast and bad resolution. Especially on faces this phenomenon is pretty bad.
Did you have the same problems and does anyone know a solution for this?

Thanks for your help

talk talk talk / Shireen said...

Anon: That hasn't happened to me. All I can think is that perhaps the picture reset itself and the contrast and other picture settings need to be re-customized from Default.

I've had red blur on my old analogue TV. I fixed that, up to a point, by reducing red in the picture settings, but I don't know if that would work with the Samsung. Otherwise I'm afraid you'll have to brave support. Good luck! :)

Edwin said...

Hell, just wondering if it can handle DVB-T2 signal. I not sure of the difference between DVB-T and DVB-T2...

Edwin said...

Hello,
Just wondering if the monitor can handle DVB-T2? Am not sure of the difference between DVB-T2 and DVB-T. Am in Kenya and we are using DVB-T2.

talk talk talk / Shireen said...

Edwin: I'm afraid I don't know the answer to your question. Maybe someone else who reads this blog will know?

Edwin Siro said...

I purchased a syncmaster series 5 ta550 and i can't change the osd language from german to english! kindly help. thanks.

talk talk talk / Shireen said...

Edwin, I assume you'll have to look under Settings for language. Call customer support.