Traditionally, LCDs have been unable to keep pace with the fast action in movies and games, while CRTs, based on an altogether different technology, have had no such problem. Samsung's SyncMaster 172X attempts to end the LCD's laggard legacy as one of the first LCDs on the market with a blazing 12 millisecond pixel-response time. While the SyncMaster 172X probably won't have hard-core gamers or film fans tossing their CRTs just yet, it offers a stylish, intelligent design and enough performance for the average user's gaming, movie-watching, and other needs.
Samsung draws the SyncMaster 172X's handsome, clean lines in a finely brushed, silver-colored plastic, and until LCD's bezels disappear altogether, the best of them will be like this one--a microthin, three-eighths of an inch. The trapezoid-shaped base provides a heavy and stable foundation, but aside from the hinge on the back, which lets you adjust the panel's height by three inches, the SyncMaster 172X isn't as adjustable as some other displays in its price range, such as Dell's 17-inch. However, very wide viewing angles (160 degrees horizontal, 140 vertical) and a foldable design make the SyncMaster 172X a good candidate for wall mounting, and Samsung includes a bracket and screws.
An intelligently designed backside matches the SyncMaster 172X's up-front good looks. Its analog and DVI inputs are easy to access at the back of the base, as is the power port; this design eliminates cord dangle and keeps cable clutter to a minimum. To accommodate its thin bezel, the SyncMaster 172X's control panel sits half hidden underneath the lower front panel of the display. The control button labels are difficult to read but fairly easy to learn and use. One restores factory settings, while another controls brightness presets for text, Internet, or entertainment. For manual calibration, the SyncMaster 172X comes with the usual range of onscreen menu choices, plus a good selection of tools and test screens on the included MagicTune software CD.
Aside from its design, the SyncMaster 172X's most newsworthy feature is its 12 millisecond pixel-response time. The SyncMaster 172X indeed handles fast-moving gaming backgrounds and detailed movie scenes better than most other LCDs do, but we still found minor distortion in large blocks of solid background colors. Otherwise, the SyncMaster 172X was a fairly average performer in CNET Labs' tests. It produced above-average-looking colors, solid blacks, and reasonably uniform gradients from light to dark. Text looked bold but not absolutely razor sharp.