With all the features packed into the SyncMaster 173MW, Samsung still manages to deliver a simple display, handsomely housed in a silver-plastic chassis. The bezel runs slim along the top and sides--about an inch--but measures three inches wide along the bottom in order to accommodate the built-in speakers. The SyncMaster 173MW's small-but-sturdy, metallic circular base is equipped with a lazy Susan, which allows a smooth swivel of 45 degrees to either side. The panel also tilts 5 degrees forward and 30 degrees backward but does not offer any height adjustment or screen pivoting. If you're looking for more flexibility in a 17-inch wide-screen display, check out the Philips 170W4P, which handily pivots between Landscape and Portrait modes to accommodate a legal-size document.
Ten buttons run along the front of the SyncMaster 173MW, which may make screen adjustments a bit daunting for novices, especially since the onscreen interface is far from intuitive. However, pick up the included remote, and it's a snap to tweak the image or toggle between computer and television modes. The picture-in-picture function has a number of preset window sizes and configurations that allow you to decide whether you want to see more of your spreadsheet or more of the television/video image, although certain configurations stretch and distort images more than others. The built-in 3-watt speakers deliver surprisingly good sound quality and are up to the task of television/movie watching or gaming.
The SyncMaster 173MW's sleek design carries over to the back, where you'll find an array of well-organized connections to hook up your computer, DVD player, VCR, cable, camcorder, or other external video source. The SyncMaster 173MW is equipped with both analog and digital inputs (cables included), which are neatly tucked under a plastic panel. Under the panel, there's also component-video, coaxial, audio-in, and A/C connections. Also on the backside, but set close to the edge for quick camcorder access, are composite-video hookups as well as a headphone jack and an S-Video port.
The SyncMaster 173MW performed well in CNET Labs' DisplayMate test suite, which focuses on PC-application use. With nice sharp text, deep blacks, and vibrant colors, the SyncMaster 173MW proved to be an above-average performer in the role of computer monitor. We did find some minor flaws, such as a slight color shift in the grayscale, but such errors are common among LCDs. In our informal Unreal Tournament 2004 Demo testing, the SyncMaster 173MW provided one of the more enjoyable LCD gaming experiences to date. Hard-core gamers may still balk at the idea of making the switch from CRT to LCD, but for those considering the jump, the SyncMaster 173MW deserves consideration. We should note, however, that the Unreal demo supports the 173MW's unconventional 1,280x768 resolution, and your playing experiences may vary with other games.
In terms of video performance, the 173MW fared worse than many of the 17-inch TV/monitors we've tested. We noticed either overly harsh edges or softening at every setting of the sharpness control, and the color control didn't seem to work at all. The picture did look a bit sharper and cleaner via a DVI connection, and high-def sources looked sharp, thanks to the panel's high resolution. However, we still see this LCD as primarily a computer display; the TV capability is a bonus feature. If you want a great LCD television, this isn't the answer. But if you want to keep an eye on the game while Web surfing or working, the SyncMaster 173MW is a good choice.
Samsung backs the SyncMaster 173MW with a generous three-year warranty package that covers parts, labor, and backlight. Toll-free support is available 24/7, 365 days a year.
|Measured with the Minolta CA-210|