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Samsung 172x LCD Monitor
Date 17th March 2004
Author Manaz
Editor James "Agg" Rolfe
Distributor Altech Computers
Vendor AusPCMarket

Specifications and Features Continued

The colour depth issue is an interesting one. Most CRTs can easily display 32bit colour - this is about 16.7 million colours (24-bits, plus 8 bits for alpha blending/transparency). The 172x is only rated at 16.2 million colours, so is only slightly different, right? This discrepency is due to the nature of liquid crystals, and the low voltages at which they operate, when compared to the high voltages that the electron guns operate at in a CRT - quite simply, it's not (yet) possible to produce as many reliably-controlled voltages suitable for use in a LCD panel as it is to create different colours by mixing red, green and blue dots of the various intensities producable in a CRT. Most recent consumer-level LCDs (the 172x included) are 18-bit panels - and can only realistically create 262,144 different colours. So how can 16.2million colours be claimed? By electronic (and optical) trickery - basically by having a pixel change between two colours very quickly, quicker than the eye can see - this fools the eye into seeing the requested colour, rather than the two colours which the pixel is alternating between. Sometimes to complete the illusion, neighbouring pixels will also change colour quickly, masking the flickering pixel. This *can* lead to flickering displays, especially when the response time of the panel is a bit slow.

Speaking of which, the 12ms response time quoted for this monitor is simply excellent - and well below most other monitors it competes with, which have 16ms (or even 25ms) response times. The response time of an LCD monitor is a measure of how quickly a given pixel can respond to a change in voltage and change its colour, and then change back to the original state it was in. This is often measured by going from full black to white and back again (or vice versa), which is a little bit "cheaty", since you're dealing with full "on" or "off" states, which are more quickly adjusted to than the partial voltage changes required to change between colours between the extremes of full "on" or "off". Regardless of how it's measured, the 172x is one of the quickest (if not the quickest) panels on the market, and whilst I couldn't obtain a panel to compare with it side by side, I have used plently of LCD monitors in the past, and the difference, even from 16ms to 12ms, is noticable. Incidently, there is a "loose" connection between "refresh rate" and "response time". Basically, if you divide 1000 (the number of milliseconds in a second) by the response time of an LCD monitor, you'll get the effective refresh rate. Conversely, divide 1000 by the refresh rate of a CRT screen, and you'll get the equivelent in response time. The 12ms response time of the 172x gives it a maximum effective refresh rate of ~83Hz, which is pretty good, although the drivers will only let you run at maximum 70Hz refresh rate at the native resolution.

As I mentioned earlier, CRTs can use a lot of power. My 955DF has a rating of 100W - two and a half times higher than the rating of the 172x. And again, things aren't quite what they seem here either - whilst the 955DF claims a 100W power rating, this is the AVERAGE power usage - not the maximum. CRTs use a lot more power when they first start up than they do once they're running - they have to warm and fire up the electron guns, as well as fire off the degaussing coil - a powerful electromagnet which has pretty hefty power requirements. The 172x however, has a MAXIMUM power rating of 40W - and it will NEVER user more than that - LCDs don't have big start-up requirements like CRTs. You'll also find that if you reduce the brightness setting on your LCD, you'll reduce the power usage - brightness is almost exclusively a function of the backlight with an LCD screen, and the backlight uses a significant amount of the total power draw of an LCD monitor.

When it comes to the physical attributes of both monitors, there's really no contest. As I mentioned earlier, size and weight advantages were the initial reasons that LCDs started being produced for laptop PCs, and this advantage is still considerable - probably more considerable than it used to be in the early days of LCD production. The 955DF is larger in every dimension (being almost three times deeper), and weighs something like five and a half times more than the 172x. The 172x has a much smaller desktop footprint, though I'll go out on a limb here and say that this isn't as big an advantage as it first appears - you can't really push your monitor too far back from you, and there's not really a lot you can put behind your monitor. If you're stuck with a *really* shallow desk there's a big advantage, as you may find a CRT with comparable screen size won't fit on your desk without pushing the keyboard off the front, but anyone with a regular-sized desk should have no problems with all but the biggest of monitors (my 955DF fitted on my 75cm deep desk with room to spare for my keyboard). And due to its light weight, all but the weakest of people should be able to carry the 172x without difficulty, whereas I'd not be surprised at all if someone were to do themselves a back injury trying to carry a 19" or larger CRT monitor around. The 172x is so light in fact that when combined with its folding stand, wall mounting is possible - Samsung include a VESA mounting plate, and the monitor can be attached quite easily to most wall surfaces. Whilst it's definitely possible to mount a CRT to a wall (using a rather hefty mounting arm and stand), I seriously doubt that you could mount it as close to the wall as you can with the 172x - when folded flat, the 172x is only about 6.5cm deep.

Click to Enlarge

I suppose you could mount your CRT *in* your wall...

Finally, the 172x has a feature called "MagicBright". There are three preset brightness and contrast combinations made available to you - "Text", "Internet" and "Entertain", with "text" mode the least bright and seemingly lowest contrast mode, to make the screen easy on the eyes when working in text mode. Next is "Internet", with a brighter and more vibrant setup, designed to make pictures on the Internet more bright and better contrasted, whilst still allowing text-mode to be readable. Finally, the "Entertain" mode, which is the brightest and seems to have the highest contrast - I actually found this mode to be TOO bright in my naturally/incandessantly-lit study, though I think I'd have less trouble with it in a room lit with fluorescent lights.

Click to Enlarge

On the bottom of the monitor's bezel are the controls. From the left are the "Auto" button (used for automatically adjusting the picture's position when displaying non-native resolutions, or for swapping between VGA and DVI modes when both inputs are present), the "Exit" button (for exiting from OSD menus), the "Menu" button (for entering the OSD menus), the Power button in the middle (which I don't think needs a description), two brightness control buttons (which also function as + and - buttons when in the OSD system), and finally the button for controlling the above-mentioned MagicBright function. The OSD is pretty simple and self-explainatory, and is easily navigated even the first time you use it. The ability to instantly switch between VGA and DVI modes is fantastic if you have two PCs but only one monitor - you can switch between inputs almost instantly, and I found this to be a very useful feature when testing the difference between VGA and DVI display quality (especially handy if you have a dual-head video card with both VGA and DVI output).

With the specifications and features dealt with, it's time to look at the performance.


All original content copyright James Rolfe.
All rights reserved. No reproduction allowed without written permission.
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