Samsung SyncMaster 4 Plus. (color monitor) (Hardware Review) (Evaluation)
by Tom Benford
If you're thinking about upgrading your present monitor to one that offers a really large viewing area, a memory for retaining your preferred settings, a maximum resolution of 1286 x 1024, and several other noteworthy features, you'll be interested in learning more about the Samsung SyncMaster 4 Plus monitor.
The SyncMaster 4 Plus boasts a flat screen measuring 17 inches diagonally, which yields a 15-3/4-inch viewing area (also measured diagonally). Rotary controls for adjusting brightness and contrast are conveniently mounted under the display screen at the right side, along with an illuminated power switch. A soft-touch control panel resides behind a drop-down door at the left front of the unit. These controls include a function button, along with push buttons for increasing and decreasing the adjustment values. A degauss switch (for eliminating any residual magnetic fields that might accumulate in the CRT over a period of time) and a memory save switch are also located here, along with a selector button for activating either the BNC or D-pin inputs.
In addition to the standard 15-pin VGA monitor connection, four discrete BNC connectors (one each for red, green, and blue screen drivers, as well as one for horizontal and vertical sync) are also provided for use with advanced-function video equipment, such as high-end frame grabbers and video compression cards that require this type of input. A two-position slide switch is also located at the rear of the unit for selecting the termination setting (either high or 75-ohm) as well as another dual-position slide switch for selecting the input signal level (either 1.0 or .7 volts). Changing these switch settings from their defaults (75 ohms and .7 volts respectively) wasn't necessary, since the defaults worked fine.
The monitor is mounted on a sturdy tilt-swivel base that permits easy adjustment for obtaining the optimal viewing angle, and the 15-pin video connector cable is fully detachable from the monitor.
In addition to running dozens of application packages on the SyncMaster 4 Plus, I also ran Sonera Technologies' DisplayMate Video Display Utilities program to help me assess the monitor's display capabilities. I noticed softening of the edges at the upper left and right corners of the screen when running Windows 3.1 in 256-color 1024 x 768 mode with a Truevision VGA with Overlay video card (my standard configuration), as well as some edge wavering that was quite noticeable.
My observations were confirmed by the tests in the DisplayMate Video Obstacle Course, and some other shortcomings also became evident using these tests, as well. Less than optimal results were experienced with the monitor in the geometric linearity test, which showed a marked tendency for bowing in at the upper corners of the screen; in the corner resolution test the edges (also at the upper left and right corners of the screen) appeared blurry rather than crisp as at the center of the screen. The monitor also had a propensity for streaking and ghosting. The overall score for the SyncMaster 4 Plus was 25 out of a possible 33 for the tests (29-30 is the average score, with any score over 30 indicating a truly superlative monitor).
Another oddity was a "rouge spot" present in the lower right quarter of the screen, which could not be eliminated regardless of how the controls were set. I call it a rouge spot because it looked like someone had hit the screen with a powder puff dipped in rouge--a lightly tinged red area that was particularly noticeable (and distracting) any time a light-colored background was displayed.
While the SyncMaster 4 Plus is indeed a big, bright monitor with lots of features, it does leave something to be desired in its display performance.