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Super-bright monitor with a brain

Samsung’s SyncMaster 957mb is one monitor everyone should know about. Review by Gary Krakow, MSNBC.
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I apologize. I should have told you about this sooner. I’ve been keeping Samsung’s SyncMaster 957mb monitor all to myself. It’s been nearly in constant use in my office for months and is SO good, that I almost didn’t want to let the word out. But, I’ve changed my mind. This is one monitor that everyone should know about.

InsertArt(1812389)THIS IS NOT your father’s monitor — unless he’s very enlightened! The 957mb is a very special 19-inch computer monitor. In a world of super-flat-screen-LCD panels and plasma TVs this device is definitely “retro” in size and looks. But, as we all know, looks can be deceiving.

First of all, the 957mb is bright. Not just bright, but BRIGHT. It produces the brightest images I’ve ever seen coming from a monitor, but it’s also bright, as in smart, in how it allows you to adjust everything to your liking. Let me explain.

The SyncMaster 957mb is a conventional-looking 19-inch, flat-screen, CRT (cathode ray tube) monitor with a horizontal dot pitch of 0.20 mm and a maximum resolution of 1920 by 1440. It’s very cube-like in size: 17.3 by 18.1 by 18.1 inches and weighs in at 46.2 pounds. It’s compatible with all PCs, Macintosh and Sun computers.

Now the fun begins. The 957mb allows you to select the correct brightness mode for the task you’re attempting. By pushing the special “hot key” on the front of the screen the SyncMaster allows a user to select between three settings: PC mode, for normal computer use; Internet mode, designed for viewing streaming video on the Internet and TV mode, the brightest setting, for gaming, multimedia editing and watching TV and HDTV (if you have the proper TV or HDTV tuner card).

If that’s not enough, the 957mb has something they call the “Highlight Zone” which allows you to select a specific area on the monitor (or the entire screen) and directly adjust the size, brightness, contrast, sharpness and color temperature. So, you can work on a word processing document and have the screen properly adjusted for that, while in a corner of the monitor you could be streaming video and have that portion of the screen adjust for maximum enjoyment. Pretty cool, huh?

Then there’s the automatic part of that adjustment routine. “Highlight Zone 2” is a built-in feature that automatically detects and brightens moving images and highlights that area according to the user’s viewing preferences — and allows users to make adjustments with their mouse. I told you this monitor is bright.

EASY ADJUSTMENTS In the old days you had to press little buttons of the front of the monitor to find the internal settings to adjust your monitor. Then you’d go through a little dance of pressing buttons to go into sub-menus, then make adjustments and then press other buttons to back out of the sub-menus and so on. What a pain.

The SyncMaster does include these buttons if you’re so inclined, but the real revolution is that you can also make those adjustments with your computer and mouse. The 957mb not only attaches to your PC via the standard monitor connection, but also connects via a USB port. That allows you to run special software which allows you to adjust color, brightness, sharpness and other controls without dancing with the front panel buttons.

There’s also something called “Natural Color” software for professionals who need to achieve true color compatibility from PC to printer. It allows users to see on their screen what the final outcome of an image will look like when it is printed, scanned or projected.

I could go on and on about how good everything looks on this screen and try to explain the technology behind how Samsung achieves this kind of quality, but I won’t. (You can thank me later.) Suffice it to say that when I leave my MSNBC office and have to use other workstations elsewhere, I really miss the 957mb. The difference when I come back to use it is startling each and every time. Other monitors I use on a daily basis literally pale in comparison.

Samsung should be commended for their $349 SyncMaster 957mb. It goes to prove there’s a lot of life left in the CRT monitor design. Before you decide to spend less for a smaller and cheaper design — or even if you think you want to spend more for a super-thin LCD, check the Samsung out. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.