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Samsung SyncMaster 953BW review: Samsung SyncMaster 953BW

Samsung SyncMaster 953BW

Eric Franklin Former Editorial Director
Eric Franklin led the CNET Tech team as Editorial Director. A 20-plus-year industry veteran, Eric began his tech journey testing computers in the CNET Labs. When not at work he can usually be found at the gym, chauffeuring his kids around town, or absorbing every motivational book he can get his hands on.
Expertise Graphics and display technology. Credentials
  • Once wrote 50 articles in one month.
Eric Franklin
5 min read

The 19-inch Samsung SyncMaster 953BW is available online for as low as $170. For that price, the monitor provides VGA and DVI connections and supports HDCP. The monitor delivers good performance; both games and movies have vibrant colors, but movie playback lacks the deep blacks offered by the Gateway HD1900. The Samsung includes a tilt feature, but forgoes adding a pivoting, rotation, or screen height adjustment option. The Lenovo ThinkVision 1940p includes all of these ergonomic options, but is about $110 more. The Gateway HD1900 is on par with the Samsung's performance--aside from the black levels--and costs about $20 less. Given the option of the Samsung or Gateway, our choice is the Gateway HD1900 because of its lower price point and deeper black level.


Samsung SyncMaster 953BW

The Good

Low price; great games performance.

The Bad

Severe lack of ergonomic options; bad lower viewing angle; shallow black level.

The Bottom Line

The 19-inch Samsung SyncMaster 953BW performs well and has a low price; however, its competitors one-up it on both counts.

Design and features
The first thing we noticed about the Samsung SyncMaster 953BW was the thin, translucent plastic glass strip running along the bottom of the bezel. On the right side of the strip are the labels for each of the onscreen display buttons. The buttons themselves are actually on the underside of the panel, right above the labels. The power button is further to the right and an LED emits a blue glow that reflects off the strip. Navigating is a simple task since the up and down buttons are clearly labeled on the plastic glass. The OSD includes the usual options of brightness, contrast, and color controls.

The bezel itself is a thin 0.65-inch long on the sides and top and 1.5 inches long on the bottom, including the plastic glass strip. The entire length of the panel measures 17.5 inches, just slightly shorter than the Gateway HD1900's 18 inches. The panel's depth measures nearly one inch, but its backside and ventilation system make for a total thickness of just greater than 2.5 inches.

Ergonomic options are limited, unfortunately. You'll only find options for tilting the screen back about 15 degrees and forward about 5 degrees. There are no screen height adjustments, rotation, or pivoting options. The bottom of the screen sits about 2.5 inches above the desktop, so unless you enjoy a sore neck, you'll want to prop it up at least another 3 inches. The footstand is oval shaped and measures about 9 inches wide and 7.5 inches deep. When knocked from the sides, the display wobbles more significantly.

The connection options are also limited, including only VGA and DVI. There is no HDMI connection, but the DVI connection supports HDCP for playing high-definition content.

The OSD buttons are located on the lower right side of the panel. There are five buttons total with each button measuring a short 0.5 inch in length. The buttons are labeled clearly, but you'll have to turn the display to the left to see them. The OSD options include the usual brightness, contrast, and color, as well as a Theme button, which lets you quickly switch between different modes such as Game, Web, and Movie. Unfortunately, navigating the OSD can be frustrating as there are no individual controls for up or down. Instead, the Auto and Brightness buttons double as the up and down.

Manufacturer's specifications:
Resolution: 1,440x900
Pixel-response rate: 2ms
Contrast ratio: 1,000:1
Brightness: 300cd/m2
Connectivity: DVI, VGA
HDCP compliant? Yes
Included video cables? VGA

We tested the Samsung SyncMaster 953BW with its DVI connection. The display posted a composite score of 84 on CNET Labs' DisplayMate-based performance tests compared with the 19-inch Gateway HD1900's score of 86. The two displays exhibited similar performance in most of the DisplayMate test screens, but the Samsung scored slightly better in our Dark Screen test as it exhibited significantly less backlight bleed when showing a completely black screen in a dark room.

The Samsung posted a brightness score of 285 (cd/m2), according to our test, just shy of the 300 cd/m2 maximum claimed by Samsung display. The Gateway HD1900 barely bested it with a 289 cd/m2 brightness rating.

World of Warcraft, as usual, looked great on the SyncMaster 953BW and the Gateway HD1900. On both monitors, the game exuded vibrant colors and the polygonal characters looked full and three-dimensional.

When we watched the Superbit DVD version of Spiderman 2 on the Samsung, we saw the same vibrant colors and no evidence of backlight bleeding. Overall, we felt that the Samsung had shallower blacks than the Gateway, which makes it less suited for watching movies.

The optimal viewing angle for a monitor is usually directly in front, about a quarter of the screen's distance down from the top. At this angle, you're viewing the colors and gamma correction as they were intended. Most monitors are not made to be viewed at any other angle. Depending on its panel type, picture quality at non-optimal angles varies. Most monitors use TN panels, which get overly bright or overly dark in parts of the screen when viewed from non-optimal angles. Both the Gateway and the Samsung displays use TN panels, and when they are viewed from a non-optimal angle, the screens appeared to darken and we were unable to see the picture details when playing a game. As long as it's being viewed from the optimal angle, however, we had no problems.

Juice box
Samsung SyncMaster 953B Average watts per hour
On (Default Luminance) 37.47
On (Max Luminance) 31.47
On (Min Luminance) 15.34
Sleep 0.75
Calibrated (200 cd/m2) 24.8
Score Fair
Annual energy cost (@$0.1135/kWh) $9.90

Brightness score (in cd/m2)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Samsung SyncMaster 953BW

Contrast ratio
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Samsung SyncMaster 953BW

DiaplayMate test
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Samsung SyncMaster 953BW

Find out more about how we test LCD monitors.

Service and support
Samsung backs the SyncMaster 953BW with a three-year parts-and-labor warranty that covers the backlight. It also offers support through a 24-7 toll free number, as well as 24- to 48-hour turnaround e-mail and Web-chat support. Navigating Samsung's site and finding the drivers, product manual, and quick guide was simple and easy.


Samsung SyncMaster 953BW

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 6Performance 7Support 8Setup 0