Samsung SyncMaster 192N Review

By Eric Grevstad | Posted April 07, 2003
If longing looks, comments, and inquiries from fellow workers walking past the Labs, Weather, & Sports Desk are any indication, Samsung has a winner in its new SyncMaster 192N.

It's not as if our neighbors have never seen LCD monitors before, even big 19-inch diagonal ones — as prices move down, flat panels have moved well into the mainstream. But stylish, skinny-black-bezel models still catch folks' eyes, just like skinny fashion models in little black dresses (even if you're unlikely to afford the two or three screens placed side by side that make thin-bordered screens popular in upscale offices).

And the 1,280 by 1,024-pixel SyncMaster 192N is almost as elegant as they come, with not only a svelte design but an internal power supply, so there's just an AC cord instead of the notebook-PC-style power brick that serves as a boat anchor on many LCD monitors. The display is just 7.5 inches deep, with an unobtrusive base with a cutout for routing the VGA and power cords.

And every coworker who asked was pleasantly surprised to hear the Samsung's price: $749. You can find 19-inch desktop LCDs for less, but most are economy models with thicker bezels and clunkier designs. The 192N has a couple of cost-cutting aspects, but it delivers a great picture in a classy package.

Two Tradeoffs
You'll find the first cost-cutting feature when you unpack the Samsung and connect it to your computer: Unlike most flat panels we've tested, its VGA cable is conveniently preattached, but that analog input is the only one available — there's no DVI digital connector for newer graphics cards. So while the 192N works fine with today's PCs, it might not mesh with a system you buy toward the end of its three-year warranty. (On the other hand, we've seen lots of value-priced monitors with mere one-year warranties.)

The second gripe is that, while it follows the VESA standard for optional wall mounting, the 192N isn't very maneuverable on your desk: The stand offers a fair amount of tilt adjustment, but no swivel — although of course it's easy to move the whole, 12.5-pound monitor to a different angle — and no height adjustment. We can understand an affordable LCD lacking the luxury feature of portrait/landscape mode pivoting, but we're a little disappointed to find the Samsung so stationary.

LCD monitors may have gone mainstream, but friends and coworkers will still cast covetous glances at Samsung's big (19-inch), handsome (sleek slim bezels) display — and if you ask them to guess its price, they'll pick a number well north of its reasonable $749. Even with one or two cost-cutting compromises, it's one of the classiest flat panels we've seen.

Worth A Look
Setup is plug-and-play simple, once you realize the SyncMaster follows the weird flat-panel pattern of having two power switches (a pushbutton on the front and a rocker switch at the rear). The monitor takes a thrifty 41 watts of power, or just a couple of watts in screen-saver mode.

In addition to sockets for the VGA and AC cables at the rear, there's an "audio power" port for a base with multimedia speakers not included in the 192N model (and, sigh, a boarded-up slot where a digital input port would be). Samsung supplies reasonably detailed if inelegantly translated HTML and downloadable but index-free Adobe Acrobat PDF manuals on CD, along with a Windows driver and color-matching software.

The manual declares that Samsung's LCDs are 99.999 percent free of "stuck" or bad pixels, urging buyers to overlook a few slackers amid the 3,932,160 red, blue, and green dots in the 1,280 by 1,024-pixel display ("This is not from bad quality and you can use it without uneasiness"). That percentage would actually allow 39 defective dots, more than enough for us to send a monitor back, but happily, our test unit displayed zero flaws or bad pixels that we could see. We were also impressed with how the SyncMaster lived up to its advertised 170-degree horizontal and vertical viewing angles; you can step so far to the side that you'll see only a sliver of the screen and still not mistake it for a photographic negative.

The 192N defaults to its native 1,280 by 1,024 resolution with the usual-for-LCDs refresh rate of 60Hz, but also supports 75Hz refresh. Both looked fine in our tests, with additional flicker-free points for the flat panel's 25ms response time— we still haven't seen an LCD monitor that auto-scrolls through text documents or Web pages as smoothly as a CRT, but the Samsung should satisfy all but the fastest video gamers.

Lower resolutions like 1,024 by 768 and 800 by 600 looked a little pixilated at full screen size, not because the display didn't do a fair job of scaling them but because the 19-inch blow-up makes it easy to see flaws compared to a smaller LCD. Returning to native resolution, we found the 0.294mm pixel pitch plenty sharp enough for crisp text and detailed images.

The auto-adjustment button (furthest left of the six on the bottom front panel) does a good job of tweaking screen size and centering as you switch resolution modes or refresh rates, and the onscreen menu with manual control of brightness, contrast, horizontal and vertical position, and color temperature is easier to navigate than many monitors'.

The only negative observation we can make about the display is that, at 250 nits, it isn't the brightest LCD monitor on the market — its 500:1 contrast ratio offers plenty of adjustment, changing Windows dialog boxes from murky dark to the palest gray, but if you try to crank up the brightness to nearly-washed-out, whiter-whites levels or pore through details when editing darkish digital iamges, you'll find the Samsung falls a little short. That said, other than having to move slightly to either side — not as far as we have with many flat panels — to make out all the color gradients in our DisplayMate test screens, we found the screen to be clear, vivid, and entirely satisfying for everyday applications.

With 15- and, increasingly, 17-inch LCD monitors becoming more popular every day, it's only natural to raise one's sights to big 19-inch panels, or covet the slim-bezel style formerly restricted to pricey, deluxe models. The SyncMaster 192N isn't quite as deluxe as it looks at first glance, but it isn't pricey, either — we think it strikes a good balance for anyone seeking a status-symbol but budget-conscious desktop display.

Adapted from HardwareCentral.com.

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