Samsung's $284 SyncMaster 955DF makes flat-screen monitors affordable for all types of users. But as with other low-cost units we've seen, its display quality falls short of perfection. Samsung's $284 SyncMaster 955DF makes flat-screen monitors affordable for all types of users. But as with other low-cost units we've seen, its display quality falls short of perfection.
User-friendly from the start
The SyncMaster 955DF gets off to a very encouraging start. The included user manual is packed with essential information, including a setup guide, a clear depiction and description of the onscreen display controls, specifications, and a brief troubleshooting section. Unfortunately, there is no tech support or customer-service information listed in the manual. An optional $31 USB hub makes the display even more useful.
The SyncMaster 955DF did a good job overall in CNET Labs' DisplayMate benchmark tests. It scored nearly as well as the SyncMaster 900NF (an Editors' Choice) and better than other low-cost displays such as the ViewSonic A95f and the NEC MultiSync FP955. But various imperfections in its display quality mean the SyncMaster is better for mainstream users than graphically oriented perfectionists. At our test settings of 1,280x1,024 and 75Hz, text looked crisp overall, but we noticed a slight haziness, which increased at the extreme left and right of the display. The darkest black the monitor produced was a little lighter than true black, which resulted in some loss of detail in the shadows of color photos we displayed. Hues were nicely bright and rich, save for reds and pinks, which looked a little dirty. We also noticed some flicker, especially at the 75Hz refresh rate. At 85Hz, it was less noticeable to the naked eye. You can bump up the SyncMaster 955DF's resolution to a high 1,600x1,200-pixel resolution, but the maximum refresh rate is an eye-straining 65Hz.
Great design for the price
While the SyncMaster 955DF's display quality fell short of perfection, we can't fault Samsung for the monitor's overall design. The onscreen display controls are hidden on a neat, little spring-loaded shelf that slides out from the bottom of the display when you press on it. The controls are intuitively named and organized. You get an information button, which tells you such things as the serial number, resolution, and active settings. There's an exit button, a menu button (which opens the onscreen display and chooses highlighted menu items), and a cluster of plus/minus and up/down buttons for scrolling and adjusting setting levels. The menu features are comprehensive and include position, size, zoom, geometry, linearity, color temperature, moiré, and degauss adjustments. There is also a power-save option, which should come in handy for the energy-conscious. The onscreen display automatically saves any adjustment after 3 seconds, and you can adjust how long it takes for the onscreen display to time out (3 seconds to 50 seconds). In addition to the cute shelf, we also liked two dials under the edge of the display for adjusting the brightness and contrast; there's something oddly comforting about a return to analog methods.