Samsung SyncMaster 173P LCD Review

Admin - 2007-02-14 19:05:43 in Monitors
Category: Monitors
Reviewed by: Admin   
Reviewed on: March 12, 2004
Price: $649 USD

Introduction


Welcome to another all-new OverclockersClub review. Today we'll be looking at a brand new LCD monitor from Samsung. Everyone has heard of LCD monitors, many own them and the rest of us envy their desk space, but what makes an LCD monitor so desirable? Are they an improvement over CRT? Well, Samsung's monitors are among the best in the world, so the standards are being set high today as we dive into the world of LCD monitors. Will we survive? Who knows, let's jump into it.

First, a little bit about Samsung and the 173P:
"Samsung, the world’s leading manufacturer of CRT and TFT monitors, today unleashes one of the most versatile and technologically-advanced LCD displays on the market, the SyncMaster 173P. Targeted to PC and online gamers, corporate and business markets and perfect for the home, the 17” 173P incorporates Samsung’s brand new and proprietary MagicTune™ software for a truly hands-free experience. It also features Samsung’s MagicBright technology, dual inputs (digital and analog) and Pivot technology."

Kinda like a sneak preview isn't it? Let's move on to the review, and we'll kick it off by taking a look at the components.

Specifications


Specifications

Model

173P

 

Part Number

173P - Silver

Panel

Type

a-si TFT /PVA

 

Size

17"

 

Pixel Pitch (mm)

0.264

 

Brightness

270cd/m2

 

Contrast Ratio

700:1

 

Viewing Angle

178o / 178o

 

Aspect Ratio

5:4

 

Response Time (ms)

25

 

Interface

Analog / Digital

Frequency

Horizontal Rate - (Analog)

30-81

 

Horizontal Rate - (Digital)

30-63

 

Vertical Rate

56-76

 

Bandwidth

140

Resolution

Maximum

1280 x 1024

Color

Maximum

16.7M

Signal Input

Input Video Signal

Analog RGB, DVI Digital link

 

Video Level: Analog

Analog:0.7VP-P

 

Video Level: Digital

TMDSTM

 

Sync Type

Separate H/V, Composite H/V, SOG

 

Input Connectors

15pin D-sub, DVI-D

Plug & Play

DDC

DDC 2B

Power

On / Working

40 Watts (Max)

Wall Mount

VESA®

VESA 75mm

 

Emission Standard

TCO '03

Cabinet Color

Bezel Color

Silver

Dimensions

Physical (WxHxD)

15.0" x 15.6" x 9.3"

 

Packaging (WxHxD)

18.7" x 16.1" x 6.9"

Weight

Net (physical)

13.2 lbs.

 

Gross (packaging)

17.6 lbs.

Special Features

Special Features

Ultra narrow bezel and slim design; Dual hinge stand; Pivot technology; Button less design; MagicTuneTM; MagicBrightTM; Color gamut 70.8%

Pivot

Pivot Technology

Yes

Warranty

Parts / Labor / Backlight

3 / 3 / 3

Compatible Computer Systems

 

PC / Windows

Street Price

$649



Don't know what many of those means? We'll provide definitions as they come along.

Closer Look


The monitor arrived on my doorstep in Samsung's typical LCD monitor 'breifcase' style box. This box makes for easy carrying, and a generally solid constuction. Needless to say, everything arrived without harm, and it looks like the courier actually managed to not drop it down a flight of stairs this time.



Inside the box we find everything necessary for using this monitor:

  • D-sub cable (aka RGB cable)
  • DVI-D cable
  • Power Cord
  • DC-Adapter
  • Quick Setup Guide
  • Installation Disk (Drivers and Software)
  • VESA Mounting Bracket
  • Warranty Card and...something else...where'd I put it? Oh yes! The SyncMaster 173P monitor itself. Check it out:

     

     


    One of the first things I noticed about this monitor, seeing as its my first LCD, is that this thing is TINY! One of the major selling points of the 173P is its 'Slim and Simple Style' and it has plenty of all three.

    First: Slim. The monitor, when folded into its packaged position (also the wall-mounting position) measures a mere 6.9" in height (or, according to my ruler, 10cm). The screen itself boasts similarly slim dimensions, measuring a mind blowing 3 cm in depth, and that includes the rear pivot (the circle on the back of the screen).

     



    Want to see what that translates to in real life? Take a look at the next picture.



    That's a 17" CRT monitor it's next to. Can you say 'desk space'? Big benefit!

    Closer Look(Cont.)


    Next: Simple. Again, the 173P certainly qualifies. First off, the biggest difference between this monitor and any others I've used: No adjustment buttons. You heard me right; no adjustment buttons. This simplifies the overall look a great deal. 'But wait', you say, 'How the heck do I adjust my monitor then?' Well, with the MagicTune software of course. Which we'll look at in a bit. Back to the monitor: another Simple feature of the 173P is the power button itself. Small and sleek, it's not your traditional button. With a simple touch, as opposed to a 'push-and-click' type button, the monitor turns on or off, accompanied with a pleasant beep. This wonderful new technology is facilitated by anything conductive. So unfortunately, if you've become used to turning on your monitor with something like a toothbrush, or a small stick, you'll now have to use a fork, or a spare piece of steel; anything that conducts works. Personally, I chose to use my finger, and by simply brushing across the button, the monitor switches on/off.


    Samsung - Slim, Simple, Stylish



    Last: Style. This monitor is one slick piece of work. From the silver bezel, to the beveled edges and trim, to the simple, understated but sleek fashion, this monitor has good looks. The only thing that really threw me off was the colour of the back of the monitor: a basic (but still good looking) white. At the time it seemed strange in a time where black is the new beige, but I've grown to like it, to tell you the truth.

     


    The connections for the monitor are at the back of the base, and include DVI-D, a 15-pin D-Sub (Analog) and power connections. Movement of the monitor is in four dimensions...or 5...basically you have 360 degress of possibilities. Let me outline what the monitor offers (and what I mean).

    1) Vertical height: The height of the screen
    2) Tilt: The back-and-forth lean of the monitor
    3) Swivel: The base of the monitor has a track that allows you to swivel from side-to-side
    4) Rotation: The monitor rotates, and using the included PivotPro software (which we'll talk about later, with MagicTune) you can choose if you want to have a sideways monitor (which is good for watching movies lying down in bed, might I add) or a 'tall' monitor, which allows a maximum resolution of 1024x1280, and is fantastic for reading papers, writing, or checking up on the Overclockers Club Forums.


     


    Well. That's a whole boatload of features! Let's move on, this monitor still has plenty to offer!

    Installation


    To begin, let's take a look at the additional hardware that's included with the monitor for wall-mounting this unit. To being, the bracket simply slips on the monitor, to hold it in place (to keep it from extending).



    Second, the wall bracket is put into place, and screwed in. Make sure the tangs are facing down (towards the connector side). Snap it on to the wall bracket, and you're set. (This wall-unit was not physically tested)



    As for plugging in the computer, plug the power cable to the DC converter, and the converter to the monitor. Choose DVI or VGA, and connect your computer and the monitor. The monitor automatically detects what connection you're using, and adjusts the screen to the edges automatically. This means for all resolutions you'll be using the full screen, unlike CRT monitors which sometimes mess up as you switch from one resolution to another.


    Software - MagicTune
    The Installation Disc includes the SyncMaster 173P drivers, and 3 pieces of software. You've heard me mention 2 - MagicTune and PivotPro - the third is Natural Colour, and it is the result of the CD not being updated. The Natural Colour software was used for previous versions of monitors, and is now phased out (and completely overshadowed) by MagicTune. So, uninstall it if you've gone and installed it.

    MagicTune is the main colour tuning software used by the 173P. Let's start by saying this: Its Fantastic. Now to why its fantastic.

    The MagicTune software can be used independantly, or can sit idly by in your desktop tray (default) waiting to be used. For something you don't particularly think about, the colour adjustments on your monitor can mean a lot in the long run of gameplay and deskwork. My particular job involves a lot of time in front of a computer screen, and it makes this software even more useful.

    When you open the program, you're presented with the Display Screen. >From here you can either manually go through the three stages, or click on 'Wizard' to go through them automatically. On each screen, you're presented with a brightness/contrast calibration tool, each with just one slider to adjust. Simply follow the instructions, and you're set.





    The next step is the 'Colour' tab, which takes you through 6 colour adjustments. Personally, I didn't have to change any of these settings, I didn't need to. Simply adjust the box in the middle to the proper colour/brightness and repeat for all 6. The 'Show Me' button brings up instructions on how to manipulate the settings, and 'Quick View' shows all 6 boxes for quick reference.

    Understanding LCD's
    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.


    Testing
    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.


    Conclusion


    So, after putting the Samsung SyncMaster 173P through the gamut of gaming, video and software tweaking, it...still blows my mind. The 173P would be a fantastic choice for anyone looking to break into the LCD scene, for gaming or otherwise. Apart from mild ghosting, the screen holds up to everything you can throw at it, and with its impressive looks, adaptibility and simple software, the SyncMaster 173P lives up to Samsung's excellent reputation, and its own model of 'Slim & Simple Style'.

    Pros

     

    Cons



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