The Ultimate Digital Photography Review

Francis Vale


With all of the great technical wizardry at work behind today's digital photography cameras and peripherals, you should have an equally great computer display in front of you for picture perfect editing. Say hello to Samsung's SyncMaster 173P flat panel LCD monitor. This is one great looking and great performing display. In 2004, the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA), which selects the best new product designs from specific industry categories, gave this ultra-sleek monitor the Industrial Design Excellence Award, or IDEA. With its matt silver fascia and polished silver bevel edges—a sleek design theme that extends to its nearly circular base—and its gleaming white enamel back and neck the Samsung 173P exudes executive suite elegance. A Piaget chronograph on your wrist and a Porsche in the company lot would be the perfect working complements.

The 173P"s design elegance continues with the monitor's controls. There aren't any. There is only one small on/off button. Controls for a built-in OSD (on screen display) are replaced with a Samsung-supplied PC-only utility called MagicTune. A light finger push is all you need to power the 173P up. The button is conductive, so if you are in the habit of poking a sharp wooden stick into your monitor's on/off eye, switch to an unfolded paperclip or some other such metal thing. Just don't stick a fork in it, even though the 173P is extremely well done.

The 173P's power switch also functions as a switch to select either VGA or DVI-D input when using two attached computers. Both cable types are included with the product.  You can, as I did, run the 173P hooked up a PC that has a DVI-D connector and use the VGA connector to hook up to a Mac OS X machine. To switch back and forth between computers simply hold down the power switch for several seconds.  You can set individual resolutions for each machine.  The Samsung unit automatically detects the desired resolution and pushes the image right out to the edge of the LCD, leaving no wasted screen real estate as sometimes happens with dual-input CRT monitors.

Ergonomic settings are easy to do, with height, tilt, swivel, and pivot available. The included PivotPro software (PC only) allows on the fly monitor rotation of 90 degrees for working on documents or reading papers online. The monitor can be rotated an additional 88 degrees for doing stand on your head yoga while catching up on your upside down e-mail. A wall-mounting bracket also ships with the unit if you are semi-permanently inclined.

Correct display settings are crucial for photo work. The 173P's MagicTune utility features a wizard mode or you can run through the various setup stages manually. Brightness, contrast, and color adjustments are easily done, and a very helpful "Show Me" button clearly explains how to perform the calibration tasks. You can manually select screen resolution, or as MagicTune suggests, let it set the optimal resolution, which maxes out at 1280 x 1024 and which is also the 173P's native resolution.

MagicTune allows various custom settings so you can have one for games, another for documents, yet another for image editing, etc. Moreover, for each of your saved settings MagicTune additionally offers its "MagicBright" options. These extra options include Text, Internet, and Entertainment. These settings further adjust brightness and contrast, with Text being the dimmest, Internet brighter, and Entertainment blasting at maximum wattage. You can save these MagicBright associations with each of your settings, or adjust MagicBright as needed.

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