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As for the greyscales, these were smooth and linear although I could notice a touch of compression at the dim ends of the scales, which was a little surprising considering the 173P’s impressive 700:1 contrast ratio. That said, I had this display set up next to an aperture grille CRT noted for its bright and punchy picture, and I have to say the 173P was performing on an almost equal footing. In Displaymate’s white-level saturation test, grey level 252 was discernable, which is pretty good for an LCD - especially one that employs a 6-bit panel. Our test images also looked as fresh as the day I shot them, and the colour balance was spot on. Large areas of a similar colour were smooth too, whereas flesh tones looked realistic.
As for the test movie, there was little evidence of motion smearing, but I was a little concerned by the loss of detail in dark sequences. However, I then remembered the ‘Entertain’ setting in the MagicBright menu. By selecting this a little more detail was brought out and when viewed from a sensible distance the 173P demonstrated that it was capable of producing a televisual experience, albeit one with a relatively small 1,280 x 1,024 pixel picture. What's more, if you have a group of friends huddled around the display, those on the outer edges shouldn’t feel too left out, as the viewing angles both vertically and horizontally are amongst the widest I‘ve seen at around 85 degrees from centre. This is a virtue of the 173P’s Patterned Vertical Alignment (PVA) panel, where the liquid crystals are orientated vertically in a symmetrical pattern. Without going into too much detail, this arrangement allows light to pass through from wider angles as well as offering faster pixel switching, which to some extent explains why motion smearing was minimal in our test movie.
All in all, I’m convinced that the SyncMaster 173P will be a very popular choice for those looking for a solid panel with a bit of flare. There are some slight niggles, but I would consider purchasing one on the basis that Samsung has successfully married together the key attributes of image performance and aesthetics that make a 17in panel desirable – and that’s coming from a hardened CRT advocate.
Overall I’ve found very little at fault with the SyncMaster 173P. It offers more or less everything you can wish for in a 17in TFT screen. Granted, there are no speakers, it’s a 6-bit panel, and it’s a little more expensive than other LCDs of the same size, but it makes up for these points with a decent set of test results, a novel way of controlling screen adjustments, as well as offering a whole host of screen positions and even a wall mounting option. Oh, and did I mention how sexy it looks? A Recommended choice.