Samsung SyncMaster 173P LCD ReviewFormer staff writer - March 12, 2004
To begin, to understand the performance of an LCD monitor, we have to understand a couple of numbers, and grab a couple of definitions. So, let's go through a couple key stats on this monitor.
Pixel Pitch: 0.264mm - similar to dot pitch, the pixel pitch refers to the size of one full pixel unit. However, since all transistors are currently similar, LCD monitors of similar size and max resolution will have similar (identical) pixel pitch. As with dot pitch, a tighter pixel pitch will produce a sharper image. At 0.264mm, the 173P pixel pitch is the norm for all new LCD monitors with 17" viewable image size (VIS) and 1280x1024 max resolution. As technology progresses and transistors become smaller, the pixel pitch will become tighter. Summary: Pixel pitch determines image sharpness. Smaller is better.
Brightness: 270cd/m2 - This determines the maximum brightness of an LCD screen in candelas per metre squared. A higher rating helps with both image clarity and colour in high-brightness environments. At 270cd/m2, the 173P is in the top range of brightness, allowing better clarity and image colour. Brightness is also related to Contrast Ratio, Viewing Angle and Response Time.
Contrast Ratio: 700:1 - "Contrast ratio, most often talked about with LCD monitors, is the measure of the difference of brightness levels between the brightest white and the darkest black. A good contrast ratio of 120:1 easily displays vivid colors, while ratios as high as 300:1 support superior grayscaling." (Source 1) This means at 700:1, the 173P is easily among the top in its class.
Viewing Angle: 178° / 178° - This refers to the viewing angle from side-on and top-down. At 178° for both, the 173P has an incredibly high viewing angle, with most monitors only offering around 160°
Response Time: 25ms - This is the one Gamers should be on the lookout for. The response time is the time it takes for a single LCD to twist on or off. A high response time means ghosting. Ghosting is the 'residue' from fast moving images or movies. This means if you have a high response time, you're going to get trailing characters in games, and shadows in movies. At less then 30ms, ghosting is virtually eliminated - but response times of 20ms or better is best for the discerning eye. At 25ms, I'm just going to have to play a lot of games to test it out.
Digital Video Interface - DVI in general is a direct digital-to-digital signal connection. Traditional Analog signals can be slightly distorted in the switch from digital to analog. "Digital signals are comprised of a series of 1's and 0's. By comparison, an analog signal can be partially on or off. For example, an analog signal may measure 0.93 or a 1.09 rather than a 1." (Source 2) This means that using DVI for an LCD monitor (which are digital) allows for a crisper, cleaner picture. The technology involved also allows for a higher data transfer bandwidth, allowing for better image clarity, and opening options such as HDTV and higher resolutions on a monitor.
The SyncMaster 173P has a DVI-D connection - explained at more length here. To summarize, its a DVI connection transferring only digital signal.
Alright, so that's the technical stuff. Let's see how's this baby works.
Sources: NEC, ProjectorPeople, DigitalAuthor.
Seeing as Samsung is marketing this as "[t]argeted to PC and online gamers" that means for us, the most important thing is ghosting - a result of the response time. So, to check it out, I've played - and I've played a LOT. UT2k4, Counterstrike, BF1942, Deus Ex: IW, Star Wars: KOTOR, C&C Generals, NFS: Underground, Starcraft...the list goes on. (Okay, okay, so some of it was testing and the rest of it was goofing around, but I was still paying attention!)
I tested it myself, and got someone who conventionally uses a CRT monitor to come and play for a while as well.
Both of us agreed that for fast-action movies there was little to no ghosting present: anything that was possibly ghosting could be a result of the movie as well. This was 'tested' by watching the final scene from Equilibrium a couple of times (Note: You should all watch that movie) as well as scenes from the Matrix and Finding Nemo (What? There are some quick sequences in that movie).
For gameplay, the verdict was similar for us both, but with my constant use of the monitor, and his use of a CRT monitor, our results were a bit different. Being that he played for a short time, and was switching from a CRT, he complained of ghosting, that there was a slight 'lag' in CounterStrike, or a 'trail', which would be our ghosting.
For my gameplay, after a couple weeks' use of the monitor, I noticed the same thing at first - that 'trail'. However, the good news is, your eyes adjust to it - you don't notice it after a while. I could see this becoming a problem if the response time was higher however, lucky, at 25ms, the response time is at a level where you'll adjust to the new screen fairly quickly. At this level, I'd love to see what a monitor with a shorter response time would have to offer.
To make sure the monitor didn't have any dead pixels, I picked up a free piece of software called (surprise) LCDTest from Ekimsw.com that simply projects a full screen of red, blue, green, black and white. This tests pixel colours individually, and as a group. With the SyncMaster 173P, no anomalies or dead pixels were present.