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The appeal of a TV/LCD monitor combo is obvious to anyone who lives in a small apartment, works in a small office, or wants to take multitasking to a new level. The Samsung SyncMaster 930MP caters well to all of these potential users. In one 19-inch display panel, you'll find a decent LCD for PC and video sources, a pair of embedded speakers, integrated TV and FM radio tuners, inputs for several kinds of video signals (including HDTV), and a picture-in-picture function for viewing two sources at once. The Samsung SyncMaster 930MP offers a good variety of features and screen real estate for the $699 price, but the less expensive 17-inch Sony MFM-HT75W performs better as a monitor and a television.
The SyncMaster 930MP looks more like a flat-panel TV than a flat-panel computer display, with embedded speakers along the bottom edge and a hinge connecting the screen directly to the square, stable base. The neckless design limits the display's flexibility: it tilts forward 5 degrees and back 30 degrees, but there's no side-to-side swivel, no way to raise the panel, and no Portrait/Landscape pivot function. The 3.75-inch-thick bottom bezel, which conceals the two 5-watt speakers, is uncluttered by the usual row of menu buttons. Instead, there's a circular power button surrounded by a narrow navigation ring with TV channel up/down buttons and a volume control.
All the other trappings of the SyncMaster 930MP's many functions are well labeled but hidden discreetly along the right edge of the bezel. Five buttons control picture-in-picture (PIP), autoadjustment, and input selection, as well as the FM radio and the menu; the bottom button toggles between task-specific display presets such as Internet, Entertainment, Text, and Custom. Along the left edge are ports for S-Video, composite video, left and right audio, and headphone jacks. Easily accessible on the back panel are analog and digital ports, an audio jack for connecting to a PC, component/HDTV video inputs, left and right audio jacks, FM- and TV-antenna connectors, and a SCART connector, the standard European audio and video jack. The display ships with an analog cable, a PC audio cable, an FM antenna, and a coaxial cable. It lacks a cable-feed system, but no neck equals no dangle, so we're OK with it.
To facilitate TV and video watching, the SyncMaster 930MP comes with an intuitive remote control that has buttons for all the onscreen menu (OSM) functions, including volume, channel, display presets, and sound-quality presets. The remote can also control the display's PIP options, which include two picture-by-picture viewing options--full screen or letterbox--and a small or large square that can be moved around the screen. We especially appreciate the remote's navigation cluster for the OSM; although it's easy enough to navigate with the buttons on the display, you have to use the buttons on the bottom bezel and those along the right bezel. With the remote, all the buttons are within easy reach of one thumb.
The OSM controls settings for both the LCD and TV/video inputs. In addition to basic settings such as brightness, contrast, color temperature, and horizontal/vertical picture position, the SyncMaster 930MP features extra color temperature and digital-noise-reduction settings; the option to adjust bass, treble, and balance; Dolby Virtual or Barcus-Berry Electronics sound-enhancement options; and the ability to program TV channels or FM radio stations. Many speaker-equipped displays deliver disappointing sound quality, but the SyncMaster 930MP's 5-watt speakers were impressively loud and sounded good. If you desire even fuller sound, check out the Sony MFM-HT75W, which has an integrated subwoofer.
The Samsung SyncMaster 930MP's performance as a television wasn't great. The picture looked blurry from a distance and blocky and pixelated up close; colors looked garishly bright and somewhat overexposed. Playback from a DVD player was better. Colors looked more natural and details were clearer, though we noticed more digital noise in background colors than we saw when playing the same DVD on a Toshiba 14AF44 television. With video games, the SyncMaster 930MP's rendering of fast-moving backgrounds was fairly disappointing--ghosting and streaking were particularly evident. Given the display's slow 25ms pixel-response rate, it's probably better suited overall to more static uses. On a positive note, the viewing angle is excellent, and the screen uniformity is good, which makes for a consistently bright picture no matter the tilt of the panel or the position of the viewer.
As an LCD monitor, the SyncMaster 930MP turned in scores on CNET Labs' Display Mate tests that make it suitable for basic productivity applications but not higher-end graphics programs. Text looked tolerably sharp, but we're skeptical of Samsung's advertised 1,000:1 contrast ratio. Our grayscale test screens revealed compression at extreme ends of the scale, and dark grays took on a greenish tint. The compression also affected less saturated colors, which looked faint and dingy.
Samsung supports the SyncMaster 930MP with an industry-standard three-year warranty on parts, labor, and backlight. Toll-free phone support is available seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET. Samsung's Web site offers driver downloads, FAQs, documentation, and a customizable support page.