Samsung SyncMaster 173MW
Thinking about replacing your chunky CRT with a new flat-screen display? Wouldn't it be nice if you could also use it as a second television? Samsung hopes to meet both your needs in one fell swoop with the Samsung SyncMaster 173MW. At around $800, the SyncMaster 173MW's price tag is steep for a 17-inch display, but the cost may seem more reasonable when you factor in the extras: it's HDTV ready, and it has a built-in TV tuner and speakers, picture-in-picture capability, and a multitude of connection types to handle just about all of your multimedia needs. The SyncMaster 173MW also features a wide screen, which is a superb format for watching movies. Unfortunately, the 1,280x768 native resolution means less onscreen real estate than with conventional 17-inch LCDs. If you're looking for more basic functionality in a 17-inch monitor without the multimedia extravagance (and the big price tag), check out the or the Sony SDM-X73.
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, 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.