SyncMaster isn't square anymore

The SyncMaster 172W is thin and light enough to hang on a wall, even though it's a 17-inch monitor.

Henrik G. DeGyor

Samsung's rectangular SyncMaster 172W takes LCD design in a new direction.

It optimizes DVD playback and horizontal room to maneuver among multiple applications. That gives the 17-inch SyncMaster the feel of a more spacious 18- or 19-inch monitor.

Getting used to it isn't instantaneous, however. A user who migrates from a squarish box to this wide, rectangular display has a weird sense of distortion at first.

On a desktop crammed with icons and work projects, searching for a specific file can be time-consuming. The 172W's rectangular frame shines a light on all that clutter. Suddenly it's easier to find things.

Unfortunately, Samsung didn't take the design another step by giving the screen a portrait mode. The shape and the easily adjustable stand would make screen rotation convenient. Portrait orientation would also notch up Web page display, which the 172W already does better than most LCDs can.

Text looks good

The Samsung's sharp, deep colors and native resolution of 1,280 by 1,024 pixels make even text look good'something LCDs generally have trouble doing.

Weighing just 10.6 pounds and measuring 17 by 14.6 by 8.5 inches, the sleek 172W can hang on a wall or, connected to a high-resolution camera, serve as a good surveillance monitor.

The only improvements it needs for presentations are an S-Video port and a viewing angle greater than the native 140 degrees by 110 degrees.

Magic Bright, a software portion of the configuration menu, let me adjust screen brightness for Internet, entertainment, text or user-selected display.

Text was the least-bright setting and entertainment the brightest. The one-touch adjustment was simple enough to do often, depending on the application of the moment.

For example, I worked up a PowerPoint presentation at text level, which is gentler on the eyes, then gave the presentation at the brightest setting by just pressing the Magic Bright button three times.

On standard LCDs and even most CRTs and plasma monitors, such adjustments require navigating successfully through many confusing options.

Priced at $649, the 172W won't break the bank, although it does cost more than many LCDs in the 17-inch range.

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