Sony's SDM-X73 features a clean design, a range of adjustability options, a pair of embedded speakers, and a cool, automatic picture-adjustment feature. Still, there are less-expensive 17-inch LCDs that offer superior image quality, including Planar's PE170 and NEC's LCD1765.
The SDM-X73 comes in two colors: black and two-tone gray. The black version that we tested, the SDM-X73/B, is elegant but nondescript. The SDM-X73's three-quarter-inch bezel runs along the top and sides, widening to about two inches on the lower edge, where it houses the unit's embedded speakers.
A perfectly round base and a backward-leaning neck support the display; you can slide the panel up the neck to give the SDM-X73 an additional 4 inches of height. The panel tilts 5 degrees backward and 20 degrees forward. A lazy Susan embedded in the base lets you swivel the display 175 degrees to either side, but the action is stiff, and the SDM-X73 is difficult to turn.
The SDM-X73 sports quite a few connections for a 17-inch LCD. Its one digital and two analog-signal inputs, each with a dedicated audio-in jack, are concealed, along with the power cable, behind a smooth sliding panel on the back of the display. Sony generously includes one of each kind of signal cable, as well as an audio cord. Two cable-feed clips--one on the back panel and one on the neck--keep the cords neat. The unit's embedded speakers aren't great; like the built-in speakers on most LCDs, they sound tinny and soft. Still, they're adequate for office use. A headphone jack is tucked away on the outside edge of the panel's lower-left side.
We found Sony's unique automatic picture-adjustment feature to be useful. Using the bottom Eco button, you can select one of four brightness settings: Low, Middle, High, or Auto. The higher the setting, the more energy the monitor uses. When set to Auto, which works only when connected via the analog signal, the SDM-X73 detects the level of ambient light in the room through a small sensor and sets the brightness accordingly.
The SDM-X73 delivered mediocre image quality in CNET Labs tests. Text was readable but not particularly crisp. At its highest brightness level, colors looked vibrant and well differentiated for the most part; subtle shades of lighter colors, however, tended to blend together. In our anecdotal DVD motion tests, we found some small patches of digital noise during fast action sequences.
The Sony SDM-X73 is covered by the standard three-year warranty on parts, labor, and the backlight. You can purchase additional extended warranties from Sony. Corporate purchasers of the SDM-X73 are eligible for a wide range of special service and replacement options not available to regular consumers. Sony offers toll-free tech support 24/7, good for the length of the warranty.
CNET Labs DisplayMate tests (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Brightness in nits (Longer bars indicate better performance)