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A big kahuna
The SyncMaster 950b is large, even for a 19-inch monitor. While many CRTs offer short-depth cabinets, this model is 18 inches deep, so only the biggest of desks can accommodate it. The Samsung also weighs in at chunky 42 pounds, but despite its heft, it tilts and swivels with little effort. There's nothing big about the SyncMaster 950b's price, though; it sells for a petite $219.
The monitor comes with a small instruction booklet and a software CD. While the booklet is brief, it sufficiently covers setup. The CD includes Windows drivers, color-calibration software, and a more extensive manual in PDF format.
The SyncMaster 950b's plain-Jane case houses an invar-shadow-mask CRT with a tight .22mm dot pitch. It offers about 18 inches of viewable real estate and can handle resolutions of up to 1,600x1,280 pixels at 68Hz. While the resolution is high enough for CAD (computer-assisted design) jockeys and graphics pros, the low refresh rate can produce eyestrain when used for extended periods. We found a setting of 1,280x1,024 at 75Hz more comfortable for viewing or working with documents and spreadsheets. And while the 950b skimps by with its two color-temperature presets--9,300K and 6,500K--most people won't notice.
Fresh colors, stale text
In CNET Labs' DisplayMate-based benchmark tests, the SyncMaster 950b did a better job with graphics than with text at its recommended 1,280x1,024 resolution. For instance, it rendered evenly saturated palettes in a color-scale test. In photos, facial tones looked realistic, and colors on a flower petal were sunshine bright. Text, however, was marginally acceptable; letters and fonts appeared lead-gray instead of coal-black, and a variety of font types revealed overall blurriness at Arial sizes of 7 points and less. Still, the Samsung's focus capabilities were above average for its category, and it had little geometric distortions--a nice plus for those who work with or display graphics.
In the zone
The SyncMaster 950b doesn't disappoint with its set of onscreen controls. In fact, it ups the ante and offers a dedicated zone (a set of onscreen display controls that allows you to select and highlight a portion of the screen, ratcheting up the brightness levels). You can even highlight the whole screen, if you wish. The zone was too bright for text or Web pages. However, photos and images were a different story; the control brightened them up--as if washing them clean--revealing vividness not otherwise apparent. This capability is better suited to games and graphics applications than to conference-room presentations that rely on a mixture of text and graphics.
Samsung backs the SyncMaster 950b with best-of-breed support that includes a three-year warranty for parts and labor and 24/7, toll-free phone support for the life of the product. The company also offers Web-based documentation and other resources, such as online registration and driver updates.
Though we were disappointed with the SyncMaster 950b's minimally acceptable text ability, its low price and strong color quality make it a desktop-worthy companion for bargain hunters.
--By Mickey Lockey
|Monitor image-quality test|
Longer bars indicate better performance
|The SyncMaster 950b displayed graphics better than text in CNET Labs' tests. In photos, facial tones looked realistic, and the colors on a flower petal were sunshine bright. Text however, was marginally acceptable, appearing light and sometimes faded. The monitor's focus was above par, and images were virtually distortion-free.|