Samsung SyncMaster 172MP LCD Monitor

Introduction:

Samsung SyncMaster 172MP

Samsung is back, and this time they have sent us another 17" LCD monitor (well, sort of). The 172MP is a 17" LCD multifunctional display unit with the capability to perform as a monitor, TV (using its optional TV tuner) , or both with its PIP (Picture-in-Picture) feature. It accepts inputs from pretty much any video device you can think of (ie: PC, Air/Cable TV, DVD, VCR, Camcorder). This is the first multifunctional display that we've been able to review, and from the press release and spec. sheet, this monitor looks very promising. Will it stand up to our expectations? Let's find out.

Features:

    The 172MP comes packed with a nice bundle of features and an easy to use menu system. This monitor is targeted towards home users, students and anyone who multitasks on a regular basis. Does it meet these needs? We'll find out in the performance section of this review. The 172MP has an estimated street price of $679 which I feel may be a bit steep for the average home user that doesn't use the 172MP to it's full potential; however,  for those users that do, it is definitely a fair price.  As usual, Samsung backs their monitor by a solid 3-year Parts/Labor/Backlight warranty. Also, included with the 172MP is a mail-in form for an extended 3 months of warranty.

Specifications:

Panel

Viewable area:

 17" diagonal

Pixel Pitch (mm):

 0.264

Brightness:

 250 cd/

Contrast Ratio:

 500:1

Viewing Angle (H/V):

 170˚/170˚

Response Time (ms):

 25

Frequency

Horizontal Frequency Analog (Hz):

 31-81

Vertical Frequency (Hz):

 56-75

Maximum Resolution:

 1280x1024

Signal Input

Analog RGB, CVBS, S-video,  TV(antenna/cable)

Weight

Net (Physical):

 10.7 lbs

Gross (packaging):

 17.6 lbs

Cabinet Color (front / back):

 Silver/Black


Features:


Now it's time to get the 172MP set up and installed.

Installation:

[1] Take a guess J
[2] Analog Input Cord
[3] External TV Tuner Module
[4] Remote Controller
[5] Installation Software
[6] Included Warranty Information
[7] Power Cord - Connects to the Power Adapter; explained below
[8] Power Adapter
[9] Batteries
[10] Sound Cord - Used to connect the monitor's base speakers to your sound card.
[11] Cord from the Power Adapter that plugs into the 172MP

    Here is where the power adapter and the power cord connect to each other to become one long line of electric-conducting happiness. The other end of the power cord (pictured on the left) is a 3-pronged plug obviously used to plug into a power source. The other end of the power adapter (pictured on the right) plugs into the DC input located on the base of the monitor.

This is the TV Tuner Module that came with the 172MP. I figured I would show you how easy it was to install this puppy. It is basically done in 3 steps.


First remove the plastic cover located on the back of the monitor.


Second plug the tuner into the input and screw down the two built-in screws.


Slide the plastic cover back on and you're done.

The nicest thing about the TV Tuner is that it requires no special software or anything of the sort in order to function. Just physically install it and it is ready to rock.
 



    The rest of the installation was very simple. Plug the Analog input cord into the back of the 172MP and your video card and then turn on your computer. I am running Windows XP, and when I booted up the computer with the 172MP attached for the first time, it installed the monitor for me with no problems at all. Just to be safe, I loaded up the included software disc. It brought me to the menu pictured in the first picture above. After I was done installing the drivers, I installed the Natural Color program. As you can see, it is a calibration tool used to fine tune your monitor and printer settings to your liking.

Overview

One of the coolest things about the 172MP, besides the fact that it can connect to a plethora of video sources, is its menu panel. The buttons on the panel are all metallic "Soft Touch" inputs. Soft Touch is Samsung's capacitance recognition technology that allows for the softest touch of the buttons to register your desired selection. How it works is when you touch the button with your finger, you change the capacitance of the button, which triggers the selection. I tried touching the buttons with a piece of paper over my finger and sure enough it did not register my selection. The display menu is also very well laid out and allows for easy configuration of the 172MP.

I'm willing to bet you've never seen this many inputs on the back of an LCD monitor before. On the left side you see the Audio Visual (AV) inputs which are the standard Left and Right Audio, Video, and S-Video inputs. On the upper panel you see inputs for: DC Power, PC Video (Analog) and Audio inputs, Component Y, Pb, Pr, and Left Right Audio inputs for HDTV. Samsung did an excellent job of packing a lot of technology into a very small area. All of the inputs, as you can see, are imbedding into the back of the monitor case keeping the monitor at a slim 2.5" inches.

Included on the side of the 172MP is a headphone jack which could be handy for anyone that likes to use a set of headphones rather than the built-in monitor speakers.

The stand of the 172MP is 8 inches deep; however, the monitor screen is placed in the middle of those 8 inches. Because of this, there is around 2 inches of the stand protruding in the front and about 4-5inches in the back. Basically, the entire monitor unit takes up an extremely small amount of desktop space. Being a college student and living with a minimal amount of desktop space, this monitor is very convenient.

Performance

Now we put the 172MP to the test. In this section I will be testing out the following display "functions"; PC, PC with PIP (Picture-in-Picture), Cable TV, and DVD quality. First we start off with how it performs as a PC monitor. To push it to the limits I ran the Display Mate program, which puts the monitor through many tests via producing strenuous images to be displayed. Below are some pictures of what is displayed during this testing. This is important: The 172MP is designed towards the average user that is heavy into multitasking. Samsung's main focus when creating this unit was its ability to perform all of its functions well. This means that the display quality of 172MP will not weigh nearly as heavily upon its final grade as will its functionality. Since this is a review, however, I will include the results from the display testing anyways.

 

The good news is that the 172MP has zero dead pixels. So far, out of all the Samsung monitors I have reviewed, I haven't come across a single dead pixel. Quite impressive! However, during the Display Mate testing, I noticed a weird display problem with the 172MP when trying to display gradient of black-to-white vertical  lines. To see a video of the problem please click here. At first the weird lines are because of the camera recording the display of the monitor but as I move the camera closer you will begin to see horizontal lines moving upwards in the image. These lines were very easy to see during some of the testing and shows that the 172MP has difficulty displaying images with black and white pixels mixed together. Despite these results, average monitor usage (browsing the web and working with applications) was quite a pleasant experience. At full resolution(1280x1024) and 75 Hz refresh rate, the picture was vibrant and pleasing to the eye. I should also add that the horizontal lines problem was only seen during the Display Mate testing and I did not come across it during normal usage.

The 172MP does very well as a monitor for the less-demanding user, but what about those darn gamers. They (myself included) are dying to find the perfect gaming LCD monitor. With that said, let's see how the 172MP handles high frame rates (70-80 FPS). To test this I used my normal FPS shooter Tactical Operations, an Unreal Tournament Mod.

As you can see the monitor has a minor problem with ghosting at high frame rate games. Game play is definitely playable but ghosting makes the game appear to look slightly fuzzy when playing. In reality, only the hardcore gamers will notice the blurring of the image. Average gamers will be quite satisfied with the 172MP's performance.

Performance Continued:

Time to disconnect the computer and plug in the cable TV. Switching from being a monitor to a Television took only the push of a button -the 'Video' button on the front panel to be exact. The default input is the Antenna. At first I was worried that the TV tuner may not have been working because I couldn't seem to get any channels to come in except a few basic ones. Then I realized that the input was on ANT (Antenna), so I switched it to HRC (explained below) and the channels came flooding in. The possible choices for input were: ANT, STD, HRC, IRC, and AFN. Here is some information from Samsung about those technologies:

"Some cable systems purposefully shift the video and audio carrier frequencies of some or most channels. Two common carrier shift schemes are the Harmonically Related Carrier (HRC) and Incrementally Coherent Related Carrier (ICC or IRC). The main advantage of an HRC or ICC system over the Standard system is to reduce a form of interference called triple beat. Triple beats cause interference lines in the cable pictures after long cascades of amplifiers or from improper signal levels or amplifier operation. Please check the following website to learn more information about these channel allocation schemes. http://www.sencore.com/newsletter/Feb02/Understanding%20MeasuringVideoTVRFSignalsPartII.htm "

The included remote controller provides access to all of the functions of the 172MP. It has the normal features of a TV remote with options like mute and previous channel. It also provides access to the menu system to configure each display mode. Basically any function you can do from the front panel buttons you can do from the remote. Now it is time for some 'telly'.

 

The picture above is an actual picture of the display taken while watching football, I just cropped out a section of the picture. The TV picture looked very sharp, but as you can see the picture isn't exactly crystal clear when there is fast motion. Another thing to note is the quality of the signal was just regular cable, not the supported HDTV quality. Sadly we don't get HDTV at college so I won't be able to test out the quality, but I would be willing to bet it looks quite nice. Watching television on an LCD screen was different but in a good way. There was absolutely no glare on the screen since it obviously isn't a glass surface and with the 170˚/170˚  viewing angle, the picture was visible from all around the room.

Another cool feature of  the 172MP is Picture-In-Picture (PIP). With PIP you can watch two video sources at the same time. For example you can surf the internet and watch TV or a DVD. While in PIP mode, the sound that will be heard through the monitor's speakers will be the sound of the TV or video input and not the computer's sound. I didn't have any other inputs connected to the monitor at the time of taking this picture which is why the PIP is blank, but you get the idea of how it would look. The PIP window can be in a normal square shape or in a rectangular wide screen shape for watching movies. You can also position the PIP using the remote to any of the four corners of the screen.

Yea that's right, Halo. With the 172MP's ability to connect to pretty much any video source and my roommate having an Xbox I simply couldn't resist. The quality of the picture was pretty good and it was definitely cool playing halo on a LCD monitor. The last thing I wanted to talk about were the 172MP's 3W speakers. They provide the quality and volume that you would expect out of a normal set of television speakers.



Conclusion:

The SyncMaster 172MP is an excellent monitor for home users that are into multitasking. It provides a large amount of possibilities for usage and performs very well at all of them. As a monitor, it provided a sharp and vibrant picture that was pleasing to the eye. As a television, combined with the remote, I couldn't find any flaws in how it operated. The remote provided full access to all of the options that one would normally use when watching TV (ie: mute or channel recall options). I can't recommend buying this monitor if you only plan on playing games on it as it is not designed for that type of use. The menu system of the 172MP is easily the best I've seen. It is extremely easy to navigate and configure all aspects of the display using the soft touch buttons.

Pros:
  Vast array of uses
  Menu System is easy to use
  Takes up very little desktop space
  No dead pixels
  Speakers perform well

Cons:
Ghosting during intense movement
 

The display quality of the 172MP could be slightly better, but overall is quite good. As previously stated, the 172MP is designed towards the average user that is heavy into multitasking. Samsung's main focus when creating this monitor was its ability to perform all of its functions well. With this said, I will give the SyncMaster 172MP a  well deserved 9.5 out of 10. I was very impressed with the performance of each of the different functions the 172MP provides. If the quality of the display were slightly better then I could very easily give this monitor a 10 out of 10.

SLRating: 9.5/10



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