Low priced and versatile, the Samsung 24-Inch CF396 Curved LED Monitor ($149.99) would be at home in an office, a study, a living room, or a game room. It provides some convenience features that are usually limited to costlier monitors. And our testing showed the panel to be bright, with excellent color coverage for a monitor of its price. The CF396 offers enough value to make it a strong PCMag Editors’ Choice award winner for budget curved monitors.
A Prince Among Budget Panels
The glossy black CF396 is lightweight and fairly compact, measuring 16.7 by 21.6 by 8.6 inches (HWD) and weighing 6.8 pounds. All four bezels are chunky, nearly half an inch thick. The monitor rests on a V-shaped base that connects to the cabinet by a shaft that angles upward from the back.
The CF396’s 23.5-inch vertical alignment (VA) screen supports a native resolution of 1,920 by 1,080 pixels (1080p), at a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio. VA panels offer high contrast ratios, thanks to their ability to render deep blacks, as well as wide viewing angles. The CF396 is rated at 178 degrees for both vertical and horizontal angles, meaning that you can view the screen from off to the side, or from above and below, with minimal color shift or distortion.
The pixel density for a panel of this size and resolution is 94 pixels per inch (ppi), typical of a budget monitor. This pixel density is fine for everyday use but less than you would want for exacting visual tasks such as professional photo editing, though it’ll do fine for casual tweaking. (All else being equal, the higher the pixel density, the sharper that the text and other fine detail in an image should show up.)
The CF396 has a peak 60Hz refresh rate. It is equipped with AMD FreeSync, which can provide an experience free of screen tearing on compatible systems with AMD Radeon graphics.
As a curved monitor, the screen is slightly concave from a user’s perspective. The CF396 has what is known as 1800R curvature, which means that if enough of these monitors were placed side by side to form a circle, it would have a radius of 1800mm, or 1.8 meters. This gentle degree of curvature can make the user experience seem more immersive. Curved monitors tend to be either ultrawide or gaming displays, though curved panels are used occasionally in budget monitors such as the CF396 and the Philips 272E1CA.
The CF396 is short on on ergonomic features in its stand, being limited to just tilt adjustment, which is typical of low-priced displays. The top of the monitor can be tilted up to 2 degrees toward the user, or up to 22 degrees away. Fortunately, the monitor is small and light enough that you can easily move it or turn it around to access the ports or change the viewing angle.
Like most budget monitors, the CF396 has a limited selection of ports: in this case, one HDMI and one VGA, plus a 3.5mm headphone jack. The ports are in back, facing outward, which is preferable to the more typical (and less accessible) downward-facing arrangement we see in too many monitors, expensive and inexpensive alike. The rival ViewSonic VX2485-mhu also packs outward-facing ports.
Also in back, below the ports and to the right of where the shaft connects to the cabinet, is a notch for a Kensington cable lock, a useful feature for a small monitor, particularly if you plan to use it in a non-secure or public location such as a shop. Above the ports is a square grid of holes spaced 100mm apart, to fit a bracket for a VESA arm or wall mount.
In the lower left corner of the back (the lower right corner, if you’re seated in front of the display) is a mini joystick controller, a welcome addition that’s uncommon on a monitor of its price. You use it to control the monitor’s onscreen display (OSD) menu system, and it is much more pleasant to manipulate than the row of tiny navigation buttons found on the bottom of many monitors, particularly low-priced ones.
Samsung backs the CF396 with a mere one-year warranty, which is common for budget monitors and other low-priced products. But we wish it were longer, given the typical retention period for a monitor.
Testing the CF396: Bright, With Surprising sRGB Coverage
I did our luminance, color, and contrast testing using a Klein K10-A colorimeter, a Murideo SIX-G signal generator, and Portrait Displays’ CalMAN 5 software. Samsung rates the CF396’s luminance (brightness per unit area) at 250 nits (candelas per meter squared), and its contrast ratio at 3,000:1. The latter is typical for a VA panel. I measured its luminance at 309 nits in movie mode, and its contrast ratio at 2,602:1. This relatively high brightness, often lacking in budget monitors, was a nice touch. (See how we test monitors.)
Below is a color-accuracy or chromaticity chart of the sRGB color space, which was generated when testing the CF396 in standard mode. The area within the triangle represents all the colors that can be made by mixing the primary colors (red, green, and blue). The circles, representing my measurements, mostly lie on or just outside the triangle and are fairly evenly spaced.
The CF396 covered 98.1% of the sRGB color space—the standard color space used on the web and in many other applications—which is among the best sRGB coverage we have seen in an under-$200 display to date.
I viewed some of our standard test videos, as well as selected photos, on the CF396, and the monitor proved fine for viewing both. In video, colors looked true, and there was clear, strong contrast in both light and dark areas. With photos, colors looked rich and seemed accurate to the well-worn digital originals.
A Bargain-Basement Bonanza
The Samsung CF396 is a welcome divergence from the conformity of today’s budget monitors. It bears some of the hallmarks of its bargain-basement kin, but it adds surprising value in both features and performance. The CF396’s curved screen, tiny joystick controller, and outward-facing ports are all welcome touches.
The CF396 also easily exceeded its rated brightness, and showed great sRGB color coverage for a low-priced monitor. Whether you intend to use it for business, movie watching, or casual gaming, the Samsung 24-Inch CF396 Curved LED Monitor is a cut-above display that’s priced right for budget buyers, and an easy PCMag Editors’ Choice pick for general-use panels.