Form and function
The $899 SyncMaster 171P's svelte stylings may not conjure up images of sports cars, but they might inspire a bit of envy. The display's brushed-metal look is a far cry from the usual putty. The panel is mounted on a pedestal that rests on a 9-inch-deep base. You can adjust the panel's height by 1.5 inches, but our display creaked and cracked when we tried to tilt it. You can also turn the LCD 360 degrees or pivot it between portrait and landscape modes. Installation went smoothly, (there's an eight-page setup guide), and the Samsung Windows drivers installed quickly.
Design by Porsche
Thanks to Porsche's designers, the 171P improves upon ordinary features that manufacturers often overlook. For example, instead of mechanical buttons to control the onscreen display, a touch-sensitive array in the lower-left region of the bezel illuminates each control with a chartreuse-toned light. The buttons emit a beep of acknowledgment when touched. Connections for VGA and power are housed in the back of the panel's base, meaning you won't have to flip the display upside down to connect cables. The power connection fits loosely in the panel's base, however, so it's easily possible to disconnect it.
Other features make this display as much a business tool as a desktop trophy. Its dual analog/digital inputs add to its versatility, while its impressive 170-degree viewing angle facilitates group viewing, such as during presentations in a conference room. The SyncMaster 171P offers a good 1,280x1,024 resolution and high 500:1 contrast ratio. The onscreen-display controls are intuitive and easy to navigate. Samsung offers the standard array of menu-driven options, one of which allows you to lock your settings.
Stellar image quality
The 171P exhibited stellar performance in CNET Labs' DisplayMate-based benchmark tests, rivaling high achievers such as Apple's elegant Studio Display and Formac's Gallery 1740. Web pages, text screens, and images looked great in both analog and digital (DVI) modes. In DVI mode, the display produced sharp colors and rendered relatively crisp text at 6.8 points and above, marred only by slight fuzziness at the screen's corners. The 171P's speedy 25ms pixel-response rate handled video well, though we saw occasional ghosting and minor color distortion when playing a DVD with frenetic action scenes.
The SyncMaster comes with a healthy three-year parts and labor warranty, including the backlight. Toll-free, 24/7 support is available for the life of the display. Online resources include updated drivers, product registration, and downloadable manuals. Samsung's policy for replacing a display with defective pixels is complex but acceptable. For the most common defects, it allows a maximum of 7 pixels to be stuck on (white on a black background), 10 off (black on a white background), or 10 total of both before it considers the display defective. Higher limits of 15 to 20 pixels apply to milder defects.