Samsung's flat-panel display ready for prime time ? literally

Samsung's SyncMaster 170MP is a combination monitor and television that promises a lot: flicker-free, razor sharp images with vivid colors, all contained in a slim, lightweight unit. The unit delivers all that and more.

This flat-panel LCD thin-film transistor display is suited for users who need to incorporate video and television directly into their work. Some agency users might, for example, benefit by having access to C-SPAN directly from their desktops, or being able to switch from word processing or e-mail to CNN Headline News with the push of a button.

Physically, the SyncMaster 170MP weighs in at 14.3 pounds, which makes it a lot lighter than many desktop monitors, and not nearly as heavy as a television set. It measures 17.6-inches wide by 17.2-inches tall and is only around 2-inches thick. The SyncMaster 170MP has a fold-up base that provides stability. The unit tilts easily to optimize viewing, and its display, with resolution up to 1,280-by-1,024 dots per inch, can be seen from nearly anywhere in the room without significant loss of picture quality.

We tested the 17-inch SyncMaster 170MP first on a desktop PC running Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT and then on a laptop running Windows 95. Installation of the unit was a breeze; the most difficult part was removing the SyncMaster 170MP from its box. The back of the unit contains the mounting plate and a well-marked array of ports, making the occasionally tricky task of finding where to connect cables a snap.

The SyncMaster 170MP is easy to disconnect and transport. And switching from video mode to PC, then to TV involved one push of a button on the front of the SyncMaster 170MP.

Our experience with the SyncMaster 170MP got better as we practiced using some of its features. Picture-in-picture (PIP) mode allowed us to have a draft of this review open in Microsoft Word and watch the "Sopranos," the NBA playoffs, or other channels at the same time (of course this might cause managers to have scary visions of office productivity). The digital zoom mode (up to 64X) was also handy for focusing in on a specific part of the screen.

During testing, we never needed to adjust the monitor's display colors or properties. The unit automatically adjusted itself, and colors viewed on the SyncMaster 170MP were always distinct and true. When adjustments are necessary, menus including contrast, brightness, color select and more a dozen other options are readily available with the push of a button on the monitor or on its accompanying remote control.

The only significant knock on the SyncMaster 170MP is that it was easy to get lost while navigating its graphical on-screen menu display. For starters, we couldn't find an enter button with which to input selections. It turned out that the Menu button serves that function. Also, if we took too long to select a menu option, the display vanished and we hard to start all over again. The button pushing made us wish for the ease of use of a touch-screen, but the SyncMaster 170MP does not come with that option, although other products in the Samsung LCD flat-panel TFT line do.

But those are minor details. The SyncMaster 170MP is well suited for demanding graphics and color-intense applications.

Although the SyncMaster 170MP looks perfect on a desktop or an entertainment center, it seems custom-tailored for use in a conference room, where it could be wall-mounted or set up on a stand and used for PC, TV and video presentations.

— Ed Gray is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. He can be reached at edgray2000@yahoo.com.

REPORT CARD

SyncMaster 170MP

Score: B+

Samsung Electronics America, Inc.

(800) 726-7864

www.samsungmonitor.com

Price and Availability: The 17-inch Samsung SyncMaster 170MP LCD flat panel is available on the GSA schedule for $1,999. The smaller, 15-inch SyncMaster 150MP, notreviewed here, retails for $1,287.

Remarks: The SyncMaster 170MP is an attractive, well-built PC monitor that canalso display television and video signals. It is competitivelypriced with other LCD flat screens, some of which do not contain a TV tuner.However, government users should think seriously about their needs beforeinvesting in the SyncMaster, as it may be overkill for agencies intendingto simply remove bulky monitors from users' desks.

BY Ed Gray
May 17, 2000

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