Monitor makers are bringing 17in LCDs into the mainstream by pushing their prices below $2500. Two 17in models now shipping from Samsung and ViewSonic make persuasive arguments for moving up to a big LCD.
The overall quality of both displays is very high, but Samsung's SyncMaster 170T TFT won me over with superior-looking text plus great colour fidelity. Its swivelling base is a thoughtful design touch, and the $2499 price is sweet.
ViewSonic's $2226 ViewPanel VE170mb renders similarly clear, detailed photos and true, saturated colour. It handled subtle differences in shades a little better than the SyncMaster, but on-screen icons sometimes appeared murky. Although lettering in Microsoft Word lacked density, small letters in Excel documents and on Web pages looked sharp, and most of the text was clear and legible.
The ViewPanel's built-in, 1.5W speakers sounded tinny and thin: if you want to cut the price more, opt for the speakerless version [VE170] and save yourself $74. The Samsung model doesn't come with speakers.
The Samsung SyncMaster does the best job I've seen of displaying consistent brightness across the entire screen. The brightness of the ViewSonic monitor varied somewhat with even a small change in viewing angle, but that's a minor flaw. When I dragged the pointer across the screen, I observed some ghosting on the ViewSonic display, and, to a lesser degree, on the Samsung monitor as well.
The recommended (native) resolution for both monitors is 1280x1024 pixels; both models identify this resolution prominently.
The ViewSonic's quick-start booklet lists safety precautions in 14 languages and provides three-step, illustration-only setup instructions. If I had had to rely on these diagrams to install the "monitor, however, I would have been lost. Complete documentation is included on a CD-ROM.
My one quibble with the Samsung SyncMaster: the on-screen controls display is small, and figuring out how to cycle through the menu choices isn't easy. The bezel's control buttons aren't completely intuitive, either, although the printed manual explains how to use them.
The SyncMaster and the ViewPanel are both high-quality products, and neither would be a bad choice. When it comes to details, though, Samsung's flat-panel has the edge.
Samsung SyncMaster 170T TFT
Provides a knock-out image at a great price, with no compromises in design or construction.
Price: $2499; Phone: 1300 369 600; URL: www.samsung.com.auViewSonic ViewPanel VE170mbA good, affordable flat-panel with great image quality, though text could be better.Price: $2226; Distributors: Ingram Micro; Phone: 1300 653 333; Synnex Phone: 1300 880 038; URL: www.viewsonic.com.au