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CRT - Samsung SyncMaster 957MB

Once hauled out of its awkward packaging, initial impressions of the 957MB were those of familiarity. With its distinctive curved blue stripe on the flat topped case typical of many of the Samsung’s CRT monitors, you might be mistaken into believing that nothing major has changed.

At first glance not much has changed because the 957MB still makes use of Samsung’s own DynaFlat CRT, which in this case uses a shadow mask with a quoted horizontal mask pitch of 0.20mm - equivalent to a dot pitch of 0.25mm.

Nevertheless, there are some changes and the biggest one shouts at you in the form of a large label reading MagicBright and a dedicated button on the facia. This is Samsung’s answer to the enhanced brightness modes we’ve seen in the Iiyama, NEC-Mitsubishi, and the ViewSonic models.

With some clever technology that involves discharging more currents with the same input voltage, Samsung’s new high gamma gun offers three brightness modes, namely ‘text’ for general office applications, ‘Internet’ for increased picture brightness, and ‘entertain’ for moving pictures such as DVD movies and gaming.
In practice, the text mode is basically the default and while pictures looked more vivid in the Internet mode, text suffered from blooming, and lack of focus. The entertain mode had the biggest impact, clearly enhancing our test DVD movie. Furthermore, there’s a program on the driver/manual CD that allows you to mark out a rectangular region on the display, in which to apply these settings.

MagicBright aside, most users will probably spend more time operating the 957MB at its default brightness, so it’s at this level we assessed overall image quality.
First up was the dark screen test, which the 957MB faltered at. Although the front sheet of glass is flat, you can clearly see that the inner surface is curved in both planes. We know this, because the 957MB’s bezel is internally reflected on this inner surface in the curved manner we’ve just described. It’s quite noticeable too, so if you’re looking for a very flat image with reduced reflections, you’re better off with one of the aperture grille models.

Colour scales, however, were much better showing smooth transitions, between each step, while colour convergence was dead on – a good thing considering that the 957MB lacks these adjustment controls. Conversely, colour purity was disappointing showing inconsistencies in all three phosphor coatings, but good results for geometry were observed: a full screen square was as square as one can hope from a CRT, and overall linearity was unchanging. Focus and resolution tests all gained passes, and there’s even a focus control embedded in the OSD for some additional fine-tuning. Lastly, power regulation was pretty stable and streaking was kept at a bear minimum.

To top everything off, Samsung’s OSD system is very simply to navigate, and even has a top and bottom corner hooking setting, usually found on more expensive units. An sRGB mode is included too, along with two colour submenus where you can change the colour temperature and/or the levels of each RGB channel. You can even control the OSD settings by using your mouse, together with some slick software found on the CD. This is the reason you have to plug in the USB lead that runs out of the captive D-SUB cable.

Verdict

If you don’t want to spend much more than £200 on a 19in monitor, and you really despise those damping wires present on an aperture grille tube, then this could be the one for you. Some annoyances with colour purity and screen reflection do surface, but overall performance is commendable.

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