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Samsung SyncMaster 173P - 17in TFT monitor - Samsung SM173P
The fact that it has such a slim profile is largely down to the lack of speakers and Samsung’s decision to keep the power supply external. Now, as you may know from my other reviews, I am not usually a fan of external power bricks as they usually end up kicking about your feet or taking up room on your desk. However, in this case I am willing to make an exception because I don’t think the 173P would have looked quite as elegant or been able to offer its great range of movement if the power supply was built in.
Another reason why the 173P looks the part is the complete lack of any controls mounted on the fascia. The only control present is the touch-sensitive power button mounted to the right of the lower part of the bezel. As I hinted at before, the OSD isn’t your normal run of the mill multi-button affair, but is instead completely software based and entirely controlled by using your PC's mouse which sends the appropriate cues over the signal cable and Display Data Channel Command Interface, or DDC-CI for short.
The software is termed MagicTune and it must be installed before you can make any screen adjustments. Needless to say the software has been designed for Windows-based machines so those using other operating systems could well be disappointed. That said, once installed from the CD the range of options and features are quite impressive. For instance you have options for geometry, colour, personalising unlimited presets, and a help/support menu for downloading MagicTune upgrades and getting technical support.
In addition, what I really like about this set-up software is the added bonus of integrated test screens to help you fine tune the image. Normally the end user is left high and dry in this respect, but here the software throws up test patterns for geometry, clock and phase, resolution, and RGB colour levels (the first two are only available under an analogue connection). The brightness and contrast can be adjusted with the help of test screens too, thereby limiting the chance of getting washed out colours or losing detail in images where contrast is low. In the colour menu the white point can also be set precisely using a test image where a variety of skin tones are displayed for judging the changes you make.
Furthermore, I can’t forget to mention the colour calibration tutorial and the wizard, which both guide the user through a comprehensive step-by-step procedure for setting the colour and the majority of these settings respectively. There's also the MagicBright menu that offers three brightness modes for ‘Text’, ‘Internet’, and for ‘Entertain’. Briefly, in ‘Text’ mode the brightness level is pretty much typical of most standard LCDs. ‘Internet’ mode offers increased luminescence for viewing images and downloaded movies, and ‘Entertain’ mode, the brightest of the three, offers television-like luminescence for gaming and movies. Last but not least, Samsung includes Natural Colour software for creating a colour profile for the 173P, and Pivot Pro for rotating the desktop when the panel is pivoted.
All these options add up to monitor that should ensure that you or I will not be using a display that is ill-set, which believe me is something I come across on a regular basis. I can only applaud Samsung for making colour calibration an easy process rather than a daunting or confusing one.
Of course, all these screen settings are redundant if the panel itself isn’t up to the job, so as usual I ran the 173P through DisplayMate’s test screens plus our test images and DVD movie. First, I would like to point out that the 173P’s panel relies on temporal dithering to produce a 16.2 million-colour gamut, so I was half expecting the colour scales to be a little rough around the edges. Despite this, the colour separation up and down the scales was pretty impressive with clearly defined steps and no signs of changing tints with intensity. Colours looked very pure, rich and vibrant too, and all faded uniformly to black.