Samsung SyncMaster 151MP
Sleek and silver
Discreet sums up our first impressions of the SyncMaster 151MP. Its silvery plastic case has a quiet, burnished look that would blend well into a carefully decorated room. It helps that the screen is only 2 inches thick; when you don't want to see it, just turn it sideways. The unit rests on a flat, 7-inch-deep stand that feels stable yet takes up very little desk space. The monitor can tilt from vertical to 15 degrees back, but it can't swivel.
Samsung packs a lot of features into this compact (16.86 inches wide by 18.55 high by 6.86 deep, including the stand) package. The LCD's native resolution is a comfortable 1,024x768. Just below the screen on the bezel is a narrow strip of onscreen-display controls, along with stereo speakers good enough for watching movies when you're sitting close by. To transport the 151MP short distances, you can fold it flat and carry it by its stand--but be careful not to bump or scrape the screen, which (like all LCDs) is not as tough as a glass-fronted CRT. The stand comes off to accommodate a moveable arm or a wall-mounted bracket. Samsung doesn't sell such components, but the company provides third-party part numbers and contact information.
A surfeit of sources
A slew of cables pop out when you unpack the 151MP, and the back of the display is peppered with ports set almost flush against the shell. You can hook up the display to a computer, a VCR, a DVD player, an S-Video source, and even external speakers. When HDTV becomes the standard in this country (in the next 5 to 10 years), the DTV port will connect to an HDTV set-top box as well. An extra $100 on top of the display's $799 base price buys a television tuner that snaps onto the back and plugs into an antenna or an ordinary television cable. However, until March 31, 2002, you can get the TV tuner for free by registering for a mail-in coupon on Samsung's Web site. With so many other connections available, we were surprised that Samsung omitted DVI, which is appearing on more graphics cards and notebooks all the time. This means the image from your PC will still have to undergo an analog-to-digital conversion, with a corresponding loss of image quality.
Installing the monitor is straightforward; just plug it into whichever connections you plan to use and adjust the display as needed. Samsung's manual covers each feature of the SyncMaster 151MP, but it does so very tersely, pretty much assuming that the user is a gadget freak familiar with terms such as sync-on-green 0.3 Vp-p N. The onscreen display (OSD) has no help screens, but it automatically recognizes which input source you're using and enables the right menus, including the commands for setting up the 151MP's picture-in-picture (PIP) feature. PIP lets you park one source (for example, a cable-television channel) in a small window anywhere on the screen and see your computer desktop on the rest of the display. You can control the OSD using either the buttons on the display's bezel or the included remote control. We found it easy to understand and move through the menus, but they don't offer a Set or OK item; you have to take it on faith that your changes will go into effect as you back out of the menus.
Good display quality
The SyncMaster 151MP scored respectably in CNET Labs' tests; its image quality will work very well for most PC and media uses. DVD video looked bright and colorful and, thanks in part to the screen's 30ms pixel-response rate, managed to appear smooth and crisp at the same time. With a viewing angle of 140 degrees horizontally and 120 degrees vertically, the image doesn't disappear when you reach for a coffee cup, though it can be a little hard to see when you're standing up at your desk. Its focus is very clean, so it's a pleasure to peer at text and numbers.
The image quality falls short in the details of coloring and shading. Subtle shading was sometimes lost in saturated areas of color photos, and the interface between bright and dark patches was somewhat distorted. Grayscale images, such as monochrome photos, had a purplish cast, especially in the midtones. We also noticed that the backlighting was brighter in the middle and dimmed somewhat toward the edges. We tried adjusting the image problems by changing the contrast, brightness, and color temperature with the OSD but couldn't correct them completely. Most users wouldn't think or care about such things, but an artist or a graphic designer who needs impeccable color quality should look elsewhere.
Samsung's support for the SyncMaster 151MP is reassuring. The warranty lasts three years, including the backlight (some vendors guarantee the latter for only a year). If you run into problems, call Samsung's toll-free technical-support line, which is staffed 24/7 with live humans; it's free for the length of the warranty. Also noteworthy: Our test unit had no stuck pixels--pixels that can't read their instructions and get stuck on one color--which suggests Samsung pays close attention to quality control.
The SyncMaster 151MP offers a wide assortment of computer and multimedia capabilities in a small package. You can't beat it if you have limited space and want to use it as both a monitor and a TV (even simultaneously). Nevertheless, the price seems high, considering the display's lack of DVI connectivity and its imperfect color quality.
|15-inch LCD image-quality test|
Longer bars indicate better performance
|The Samsung exhibited some fuzziness in places where very bright patches met very dark areas; there were also differences in brightness between the display's center and its edges. Nevertheless, the 151MP had one of the highest quality ratings among the 15-inch LCDs.|