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Samsung SyncMaster 173P

The £382 (ex. VAT; £449 inc. VAT) Samsung SyncMaster 173P's stylish matte-silver and glossy-white plastic makes it fingerprint-resistant; it also makes it look like an Apple iMac's cousin. The display sits on a small but stable circular base, under which is an embedded lazy Susan that swivels 360 degrees. With a dual-hinged neck similar to that of the SyncMaster 192T, the SyncMaster 173P's screen tilts 5 degrees forward and an impressive 135 degrees backward. You can also raise the panel about 7cm -- just a bit less than with the extremely adjustable Dell 1703FP. The panel pivots from Landscape to Portrait mode -- a nice extra on a 17in. LCD -- and Samsung includes Pivot Pro software to adjust the picture accordingly.

Some LCDs have limited viewing angles, a fact that makes the picture hard to see from the sides or from above or below. The SyncMaster 173P's viewing angles -- 178 degrees horizontal and vertical -- are the largest of any LCD on the market, according to Samsung. Although the SyncMaster 173P's screen does appear slightly dimmer at extreme angles, it is indeed superior to the other LCDs we've tested.

The SyncMaster 173P's design cuts down on connection clutter. The display features both analogue and digital signal inputs (Samsung includes both cables) that are neatly housed and easily accessed in the rear of the base, along with the power jack. This keeps cables flush with the desktop, and it prevents dangling cords from messing up your work space. Samsung also includes a VESA bracket for wall-mounting -- an extra that's usually sold separately.

Most LCDs have at least three or four buttons on the front panel, but the SyncMaster 173P has only one: power. Samsung's MagicTune software lets you make all image adjustments -- to geometry, brightness, contrast, colour and so on -- via the mouse, which is a nice feature. Another helpful extra is the included greyscale and phase patterns that help you optimise your image (some adjustments are not available when using the DVI connection).

The SyncMaster 173P performed well in our tests, producing deep blacks, sharp text and vivid colours. We did find some minor flaws, such as a slight colour shift in the greyscale, but the SyncMaster 173P's image quality is still far above average. We ran an informal DVD test and saw some digital noise in large blocks of colour but very few detectable artefacts overall.

Samsung backs the SyncMaster 173P with a three-year warranty on parts, labour and the backlight. The company also offers support via a Web-based FAQ, email and telephone. Phone lines are open from 9am to 6pm on weekdays, and 9am to 1pm on Saturdays; all calls are charged at national rate. The MagicTune software features a support link to troubleshooting tips for image adjustment and the Pivot Pro software.

            

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