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Samsung Syncmaster 173T Review

Highs

  • Supports both DVI and analog inputs simultaneously
  • very bright color reproduction

Rating

Our Score 7
User Score 9

Lows

  • limited to 450:1 contrast ratio
  • limited adjustability
Business and home users will love the 173T's bright display, crisp clear text and low price point.

Summary

The 173T does not offer any technological improvements over its predecessor, the 172T, so you will need to decide if it is worth the $100 increase to step up to a higher contrast ratio on an older model. The Syncmaster 172T offers higher a contrast ratio (700:1 over 450:1) than the 173T, a better looking and more adjustable base and can still be found for under $600. In fact the 191T, Samsung’s 19″ LCD from last year can be had for a mere $20-$40 more than the 172T. But what the 173T does offer over other 17″ LCD monitors in its price range is both analog and DVI inputs. Business users will love the features and functionality that the 173T has to offer and once the 172T becomes unavailable the 173T will be the best 17″ monitor in its class.

*Update 11/7/03 – The Final Word: I spoke with Samsung public relations and here is the final word as far as what Samsung is claiming happened. For 2003, Samsung is using a PVA panel with a 700:1 contrast ratio in their 173T LCD monitor but in 2004 will be switching to a panel with a 450:1 contrast ratio due to limited supply of the original panel. So instead of advertising the 173T with a 700:1 and then switching it to a 450:1 contrast ratio spec in 2004, Samsung thought they would do us all a “favor” and advertise the 173T as having a 450:1 CR from the start on SamsungUSA.com. Then when they switched the panels out at a later date there would not be a need to update the spec. The problem which I discovered, was that Samsung Canada and some retailers decided to go the other route and to advertise the 173T with the correct contrast ratio spec now, and to switch it later. There is no doubt that this monitor is a beautiful monitor to look at, but if you want the current 700:1 contrast ratio, you need to rush out to the store and buy it before 2004 when they will be switching to a different PVA panel featuring a lower 450:1 contrast ratio. We will be re-reviewing the monitor at that time.

Introduction

The Samsung Syncmaster 173T is a mid-range LCD monitor featuring analog and DVI inputs, a 25ms pixel response rate, a 450:1 contrast ratio and a recommended resolution of 1280×1024@75Hz in analog video mode. Business and home users will love the 173T’s bright display, crisp clear text and low price point. The 173T is listed on Price Grabber for as low as $499.

*Please read the disclaimer listed on the bottom of this review

Design and Technica

The 173T is Samsung’s new replacement for last year’s 172T model; and while they may look nearly identical at first glance, there have been some subtle changes to this year’s 173T. First of all, the 173T has had a minor facelift over the 172T. The base of the monitor has been changed losing the 172T‘s dual hinge design and retracting capability, leaving only vertical adjustment options. Secondly, the 173T uses a different substrate and PVA panel than the older 172T, which results in a lower contrast ratio of 450:1 compared to the 172T‘s 700:1 (some sites on the net are listing the 173T as having a 700:1 contrast ratio, which is not true). While this may come as a disappointment, we can assure you that the difference is minimal to the naked eye. There is, however, an upside to Samsung’s changes. The 173T can be found at a street price of $599, substantially lower than the 172T’s price when it was initially introduced. This means you can nearly get Samsung’s larger 193T 19″ LCD for the same price as the 172T (a bonus if you ask us). However, until the 172T’s are completely out of the marketplace, the 173T’s main advantage over its predecessor is its $100 savings. We were able to find the 173T listed on Price Grabber for as low as $499, one hundred dollars cheaper than the 172T.

The design of the 173T is pretty bland compared to some of Samsung’s other LCD models. The analog and DVI inputs are located on the back of the LCD panel instead of the base like the Samsung (name the models), but are still hidden from view due to a hole in the neck which hides behind the panel itself. Writers will love the 173T’s pivot technology which allows the panel to “turn” in a clockwise position to give you a long vertical screen. There are six sleek control buttons located on the front of the monitor that help contribute to the aesthetics of the 173T. The 173T is compatible with Sun Microsystems, PCs and Apple computers.

The Samsung Syncmaster 173T comes with a 3 year parts/labor/backlight warranty.

Setup and Use

The Syncmaster 173T comes in a relatively small box and requires almost no assembly. Simply pull the 173T out of its packaging, adjust the height to fit your preference and plug the monitor in using either the DVI or analog inputs. Samsung includes a quickstep guide with the monitor itself as well as a more detailed manual which can be found on the included CD-Rom. Windows XP SP1 detected the 173T as a universal Plug and Play monitor, so make sure you update your monitor drivers using the included software. Pivot software is also included with the 173T which will automatically change your desktop’s orientation as you pivot the monitor from a horizontal to vertical position.

If you plan on using the 173T strictly for business, as we would recommend, you will want to go out to the store and purchase a video card with DVI output. The crispness and brightness the DVI input gives you will simply blow you away. Gamers beware however, as using the DVI input means you will be locked in at a 60Hz horizontal refresh rate. We were told that all Samsung monitors are limited to a 60Hz refresh rate when using the DVI input.

We simply hated going from DVI mode to an analog input in order to test the 173T’s gaming performance. There is very noticeable signal degradation when moving from a DVI to analog signal, but this is the case with all LCD monitors. When comparing the text on the 173T using the analog connector, the text appeared a little more blurry than our CRT test monitor (NEC Multisync FE950+ using an AGP tube) although it was a lot brighter.

Casual gamers will love the 173T’s brightness level and minimal ghosting. Hardcore gamers on the other hand will want to stick with their CRT for games that have frame rates above 60fps (frames per second). We experienced “tunnel vision” when playing some of our favorite first-person-shooters, but the 173T looked great with every other game.

The OSD (on screen display) is identical to the 193T’s we reviewed last month from everything we can tell. The menu system is very intuitive to use especially if you are used to Samsung’s monitor products. Pressing the “auto” button will cause the 173T to automatically adjust to optimum performance depending on your desktops screen resolution and video card.  When using the DVI input, a lot of the 173T’s menu items will be unavailable due to the pure digital signal overriding the controls. One cool feature we absolutely loved is the ability to hook two computers up to the 173T at the same time using both the DVI and analog inputs. Then, by simply holding down the “source/exit” button you can switch between sources. Programmers and IT personnel will love this function since they often times require the use of more than one system.

Conclusion

The 173T does not offer any technological improvements over its predecessor, the 172T, so you will need to decide if it is worth the $100 increase to step up to a higher contrast ratio on an older model. The Syncmaster 172T offers higher a contrast ratio (700:1 over 450:1) than the 173T, a better looking and more adjustable base and can still be found for under $600. In fact the 191T, Samsung’s 19″ LCD from last year can be had for a mere $20-$40 more than the 172T. But what the 173T does offer over other 17″ LCD monitors in its price range is both analog and DVI inputs. Business users will love the features and functionality that the 173T has to offer and once the 172T becomes unavailable the 173T will be the best 17″ monitor in its class.

*Update 11/7/03 – The Final Word: I spoke with Samsung public relations and here is the final word as far as what Samsung is claiming happened. For 2003, Samsung is using a PVA panel with a 700:1 contrast ratio in their 173T LCD monitor but in 2004 will be switching to a panel with a 450:1 contrast ratio due to limited supply of the original panel. So instead of advertising the 173T with a 700:1 and then switching it to a 450:1 contrast ratio spec in 2004, Samsung thought they would do us all a “favor” and advertise the 173T as having a 450:1 CR from the start on SamsungUSA.com. Then when they switched the panels out at a later date there would not be a need to update the spec. The problem which I discovered, was that Samsung Canada and some retailers decided to go the other route and to advertise the 173T with the correct contrast ratio spec now, and to switch it later. There is no doubt that this monitor is a beautiful monitor to look at, but if you want the current 700:1 contrast ratio, you need to rush out to the store and buy it before 2004 when they will be switching to a different PVA panel featuring a lower 450:1 contrast ratio. We will be re-reviewing the monitor at that time.

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