Picture this: A monitor, TV and HDTV all rolled into one

Remember when your only choice in monitors was between green or orange phosphors? If you do, you must be older than 40.

Even if you're too young to remember the bad old days, you're bound to appreciate the recent line of flat-panel monitors that Samsung has added to the array of offerings.

A couple of weeks ago, we planted the SyncMaster 171MP on the reviews editor's desk — yes, mine — and it's going to take a backhoe to uproot it. This is one elegant, sharp monitor that's designed to support both standard and high- definition TV. You can swap between PC and TV mode, or you can run the TV display in a picture-in-picture window while in PC mode.

If you want a monitor that's presentable in an executive office, the SyncMaster 171MP fits the bill. Only about 2 inches thick, the panel sits unobtrusively on a desk. (Wall mounting is also an option.) The unit's silver matte finish is stylish, as are the built-in speakers and fingertip controls arrayed along the bottom edge of the display.

There are some trade-offs in the design of the 171MP. For starters, the unit's stand is almost invisible, and the only adjustment that can be made in the panel's orientation is to tilt it 15 degrees. The panel can't be raised or lowered, or turned from side to side.

The connections, including the one for the optional TV tuner, are intelligently located in the back so that everything can be put together with a minimum of hassle and clutter. You'll also find connections for video and Super-Video, as well as for an HDTV set-top box. The only thing we found notable in its absence was a Digital Visual Interface input.

DVI is a display interface developed primarily for digital flat-panel displays. Connecting a digital flat-panel to a traditional analog VGA interface necessitates a double conversion, because the digital signal from the computer must be converted to an analog signal for the VGA interface then converted back to a digital signal. This, of course, means performance and video quality take a hit. With DVI, there is no conversion.

However, we were very impressed with the image quality of the SyncMaster 171MP, which supports resolutions of up to 1,280 x 1,024 with excellent colors.

We were also impressed with the 170-degree viewing angle, which is more important when you're in the TV mode rather than the computer interface, because with the latter you are most often sitting directly in front of the screen.

Another impressive feature is the monitor's lightness — the device weighs less than 15 pounds.

The bottom line: The SyncMaster 171MP is an impressive display that can almost make you happy to sit down at your desk and get to work.


SyncMaster 171MP

Score: A-

Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.

Base price is $1,299. TV tuner is $100 option, but Samsung is currently including a coupon for free tuner with monitor.

The SyncMaster 171MP is a stylish monitor with a vibrant, sharp display and both TV and HDTV capabilities. The only notable drawbacks are limited maneuverability and no Digital Visual Interface, which means a decrease in performance and video quality.


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