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January 22, 2003
By Chris Burek
Price: Approx. $600 USD
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Samsung SyncMaster 172T 17" LCD Montitor

Available in both black and silver flavours, Samsung’s SyncMaster 172T LCD monitor boasts a 17” viewable screen combined with a pitch of 0.264mm. Other features included a brightness rating of 250cd/m2, a contrast ration of 500:1, and a maximum resolution of 1280x1024 at 75Hz.

Packaged with the 172T are cables for both digital (DVI) and analog (VGA) connections, a power adapter, software CD, manual, and brackets for wall-mounting. The base unit hosts two ports for simultaneous source connections, which are toggled via a “source” button. This benefits users of older video cards by prolonging their life, and also caters to those spending the extra scratch on the latest and greatest.

Testing of the 172T was done in conjunction with an ATI All-in-Wonder Radeon 8500 video card using both DVI and VGA connections. Setting up the 172T consists of plugging in the power connections, selecting a digital or analog cable based on your video card, and installing drivers from the included CD. In our case, Windows XP recognized the monitor eliminating the need for the CD. However, the CD does contain utilities to help calibrate the monitor.

The SyncMaster houses six buttons, including power, menu, - and +, exit/source, and auto. The menu lets you adjust settings such as brightness, contrast, h/v-position, language and so on. The exit/source either exits the on-screen menu or switches between the DVI and VGA connections. Auto adjusts the screen settings automatically, as the name implies.

Let me note that I found little difference between using the VGA and DVI connections as far as image quality goes. Therefore, there is no reason to go out and buy a newer video card just for DVI output.

Moving from a CRT platform to LCD has both its pros and cons. Firstly, the image quality of an LCD can’t contend with a CRT, yet. You’ll notice this right away when making the transition as I have (if you have a good eye). Although LCD colours and contrast are definitely more vibrant, detail is not as sharp.

Secondly, when playing games, I noticed the 172T displayed a noticeable amount of ghosting or blurring during fast motion sequences. This was most apparent when racing in RalliSport Challenge or running around in Nightfire, and numerous other titles. I think it’s reasonable to conclude that LCDs are not geared towards the avid gamer. The occasional gamer, however, probably won’t notice. I should also note that when viewing movies, including DVD or VCD, SVCD, and DivX, there was no apparent blurring effect. Playback looked vibrant and smooth.

Let’s not forget one of the most appealing characteristics of an LCD- slim and futuristic-looking. At only about 3cm thick, the 172T saves you an incredible amount of desk space, plus you’ll have the bragging rights. The 172T is probably the coolest looking LCD I’ve seen so far. Additionally, you get lower power consumption, less heat production, a wall-mountable option, and the 172T is much easier to manage when lugging around.

One of the few shortcomings the 172T faces is a frequency noise at certain refresh rates. This occurred using all available refresh rates, but was more apparent in lower frequencies. For instance, at 1024x768 and 1280x1024 utilizing the rated 75Hz, the LCD produces mid to high-pitched noise when switching between certain interfaces. As an example, moving from a graphic-rich Web page to a blank white document produces a different tone. In fact, as this document is being typed, the noise is present. Again, switching back to the desktop yields a different pitch. However, the sound does stop after the monitor has been on for about 5-10 minutes. It may be contributed to the LCD’s warm up process. Ultimately, it can be overlooked.

Another article addressing the 172T complained of connector placement when mounted vertically. That is, since the connectors are housed at the rear of the base, they hang from the top instead of the bottom when mounted on a wall. The only viable solution we can think of is to implement a locking swivel-based stand that would allow the base to rotate 180 degrees, so that the connectors would relocate to the bottom when mounted on a wall. This is far from a deterring factor, but perhaps something Samsung should address in future LCD models.

I feel it necessary to add that before using the 172T, I suffered from headaches related to prolonged hours using my CRT. Using the same refresh rate with the 172T reduced the amount of headaches and their frequency. It won’t be fun switching back.

Of course, you’re paying a significant amount more for an LCD compared to a CRT, so it is important to weigh your options carefully.

An LCD is a good choice for those:

Working frequently in a Windows environment;
Not anal about image quality;
Concerned with the latest and greatest;
With deeper pockets;
With limited desk space;
Wanting to reduce power consumption costs;
Aching for bragging rights!

An LCD may not be a good choice for:

Avid Gamers;
Those on a tight budget;
Those anal about image quality;

If you fall into the former category, you’ll want to look into Samsung’s 172T to mount on your own desktop. You can pick one up in the area of $600 USD (PriceWatch) or $1,235.00 CDN (MSRP)

At the higher end of the spectrum, Samsung's SyncMaster 172T is the perfect choice for anyone looking to put down around $600 on an LCD. Although the 172T won't quite match the crispness and sharpness of today's CRT technology, it's many other features make it a very strong contender and a worthy choice.

Those wanting to indulge themselves further into the technology behind an LCD, check out a primer found here.

Performance/Quality: 4/5
Features: 4/5
Price: 3/5
Documentation: 4/5
Packaging: 5/5
Value: 4/5
Overall: 24/30 or 80%

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