In a land of bland, look-alike LCDs, Sony's SDM-HX73 stands out. With built-in speakers, a handful of signal inputs, and a host of image-adjustment options, the SDM-HX73 will please the style-minded home or office user. There are less-expensive 17-inch LCDs that offer superior image quality, however, including Planar's PE170, which goes for about $200 less than the SDM-HX73.
Unlike its smudge-prone 15-inch sibling, the SDM-HS53, Sony's SDM-HX73 is a looker. The bezel is fairly wide--an inch on top, an inch and a half along the sides--but it's made of a sleek, matte, dark-gray plastic; embedded speakers add two inches to the bottom of the display. The panel sits on an arc-shaped neck attached via a hinge to a sturdy circular base. The top of the display sits about 17 inches from the desktop, and the SDM-HX73 lacks a height-adjustment mechanism, so most users will need a riser to achieve a setup that's tall enough to be ergonomically correct. Otherwise, the SDM-HX73 is moderately adjustable for a 17-inch LCD: the panel tilts smoothly about 20 degrees backward and 5 degrees forward, and it swivels 30 degrees to the right and left on a lazy Susan built in to the base.
The back panel slides up to reveal an array of easy-to-access signal ports--two analog and one digital (one of each kind of cable is included)--and it slides back down to cover the clutter of cables completely. Each signal input has its own dedicated audio-in jack (one audio cable is included). Embedded speakers on LCDs have been consistently disappointing, so we were pleasantly surprised to find that the SDM-HX73's speakers delivered loud and clear, though trebly, sound.
Sony tucks the slim, silver, clearly labeled onscreen menu buttons out of sight along the right edge of the display; a headphone jack hides behind the lower left edge of the bezel. The onscreen menus are easy to navigate and use, and it's a good thing--the SDM-HX73 offers a wealth of image-adjustment options. In addition to the usual controls (brightness, contrast, and so on), this monitor lets you tweak the sharpness, the gamma levels, the backlight, and a number of audio settings; the display also has a number of useful preset image modes for when you're playing games or watching a movie.
Nevertheless, the SDM-HX73 offers only mediocre image quality. Text looked OK, and color reproduction was decent in CNET's tests; the display also showed a very dark black and a pure white. However, grayscale and color test screens showed substantial color inaccuracies and some pronounced bumps that broke up the smooth flow of dark to light. These flaws won't bother the average user, but they will handicap anyone who uses advanced graphics applications.
Sony backs the SDM-HX73 with a standard three-year warranty on parts and labor and the backlight, and the company offers 24/7, toll-free tech support for the length of the warranty. Sony's dead-pixel policy is generous: the company will replace an SDM-HX73 with more than three defective pixels, more than seven defective subpixels, or more than three defective subpixels within a five-by-five block of pixels. The display comes with an informative printed setup guide that covers basic installation and troubleshooting, plus a comprehensive user guide on CD.
CNET Labs DisplayMate tests (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Brightness in nits
|Note: Measured with the Minolta CA210 or the Sencore CP500|