INTRODUCTION (UPDATE AT BOTTOM)
I upgraded my desktop PC (early 2006) and picked up a new one at PCWorld for about £550 all in, which included a desktop hard drive, keyboard, mouse and monitor. The monitor included was the Samsung SyncMaster 713BM which I'm reviewing here.
Firstly this was the first time I'd owned a TFT/LCD monitor at home (have used several at work before now) and I was quite excited about having a monitor which took up less space on my PC workstation, having previously had a Belinea 17inch tank of a monitor (which I won't berate as it gave me good service for a good 5 years or so).
TFT means thin film transistor which is also widely known as flat panel. TFT screens are also referred to as LCD (liquid crystal display) screens by some people as well. CRT which is short for cathode-ray tube is what my old monitor (aka the tank) was.
Let me get the technical stuff out of the way first; it doesn't mean a lot to me as I'm not really a very technical person (especially when it comes to monitors), but it might mean something to a potential buyer, so hopefully this will help you in your choice
The Samsung SyncMaster 713BM is a 17 inch TFT LCD monitor which can be wall mounted if required. It weighs about 10lbs (or just over 4 kilos) and offers a native screen resolution of 1280x1024. It has a typical 700:1 high contrast ratio and 300cd/m2 brightness. With a typical 8ms response time the monitor has both analog and digital inputs and also has integrated stereo speakers. It's compatible with Windows, Macintosh and Sun Microsystems and has a built in power supply. Oh yes, I'd add here that it weighs about 4.5 kilos.
The front is silver and the back and stand are black and it's emission standard is TCO '99. The power consumption is 34 Watts (max), < 1 Watt (DPMS Mode).
PRICING AND AVAILABILITY
I've had a scout around on the net for prices on this monitor and found it at various sources such as ebuyer.com for £152.74, technoworld.com for £181.4, savastore.com for £182.94 (as advertised on ciao.co.uk), dixons.co.uk for £169.99. All in all, it seems you can't get this monitor for less than £150 it you buy it on its own at this current time. If you're upgrading your PC any time soon and like this monitor, I'd say it's a pretty good bargain to get a PC package with this monitor thrown in!
If I lost you in that technical blurb then I do apologise. I'm not a highly technical person and have so far found this monitor to serve my needs extremely well. My old monitor flickered quite a bit in the last year or so of use and I found this quite disturbing. I've not noticed any flickering in this Samsung monitor (although it's early days yet). I've heard from various sources that TFT monitors don't last as long as the old solid monitors but it's a chance I'm taking. I can personally afford to upgrade my PC every couple of years and considering I've seen this monitor advertised for sale at between £190 (from savastore.com) and over £210 (from PCWorld Business) I think I got a bargain having it included in my overall PC package that I bought recently. I also spotted it for £174.98 at shopgenie.co.uk being sold by PCWorld which I found rather strange as it's being advertised at over £200 from their business site!
The monitor has easy to access controls at the front just below the screen itself. When you press Menu you can choose between Brightness and Contrast, Colour Tone, Colour Control and Gamma, Coarse, Fine, Sharpness, H-Position, V-Position, Language, Transparency, Display Time, Auto Sources, Image Reset and Colour Reset. There's a volume control button, source button (which gave me a scare when I pressed it as my screen went blank, but came back on 3 seconds later after flashing "digital" then "analog"), an Auto Adjustment button which automatically adjusts your screen to what it feels is the best resolution, brightness, etc. And last but not least is an on/off button.
The stand on which the monitor rests is quite sturdy and I don't worry about it snapping or not holding the weight of the monitor.
To me this monitor is sleek and modern looking. Samsung, to me, has always been a brand name I feel I can trust, mostly through recommendations from others.
I've watched DVD's on my new monitor and found the picture to be clear and sharp. I use MS Publisher for newsletter designing and upload photos from my digital camera and have found the picture quality on screen to be above reproach. No dead pixels evident so far.
UPDATE * 10th August 2006 *
My (fairly) new monitor is still working very well - no dead pixels evident to date, I've viewed it from various angles (as well as sitting directly in front of it) and there's no glare, and haven't any complaints yet! Easy to clean - just dust lightly - no one's allowed near my lovely monitor with FINGERS, unless they want them chopped off!!
UPDATE * November 2007 *
My monitor started playing up a few weeks ago. I wasn't sure if the settings had somehow changed but whilst using my computer the screen would suddenly go blank and I'd get a floating box in the middle of the screen saying that it wasn't the optimum resolution. The only way it would work again would be to turn off the screen completely for an hour or so and switch it back on and it would seem fine again for maybe half an hour or so before reverting to the annoying message again. I took the monitor into work and borrowed a spare one from there. I asked my colleague to check the monitor on his machine (I work in a software development company) and the colleague I asked is a very experienced IT technician. He said the monitor was dead and luckily it was a Samsung as they had 3 year warranty periods.
I was very relieved. I didn't fancy spending a £150 or more or a new monitor at this time as I'm off on holiday soon and when you consider you can get a whole new computer for around £500 with lots of bits thrown in as well as a monitor, I didn't want to waste money on just buying a new monitor. I called up Samsung and was told by a very nice chap that someone would definitely call me back within 4 hours. 27 hours later I called back, slightly narked that no one had bothered to call me. This time I was asked to read out the serial number (after I told them the monitor had been manufactured in October 2005) - after I gave them the serial number they confirmed that it was manufactured when I said it had been (as if I was making it up) and I was eventually told that yes, it was definitely still under warranty and they would arrange for the old monitor to be collected and deliver a new one. I asked if they would repair and return and they said no, it would just be an exchange. I was advised to keep the cables as the monitor would just be delivered as is, with no cables and it would be up to me to check that the monitor was working when it was delivered. I was told it would be exchanged within 5 working days. 6 working days later I called them up and again and quoted the reference number I had been given. The rather inept person who answered the phone asked for the reference number and then asked me if I was calling about a printer! I was stunned! I said that THEY had given me the reference number so they should know what the issue was. He mumbled something about it being on a different screen and apologised. I was advised someone would call me back later that day (Friday). No one did.
I called back on the Monday (not bothering to try them on the weekend as I presumed they wouldn't be around to answer my call). This time I was told there was no call back that was supposed to have happened BUT someone had tried to call me on the Saturday but I'd hung up on them! Imagine that?! I was promised a call back yet again on the same day and was given the number of the company who was supposed to deliver and collect the monitors. I felt like I was being given the run around. When I called the company (Index Solutions) they claimed not to have any record of the reference number or of the post code from where they were supposed to collect or deliver to. SO basically I'm changing my ratings of this product to reflect my experience to date with the manufacturer AND to state that the value for money is poor. I don't expect to buy a monitor for £200 (whether or not I got it free with my PC is beside the point - the retail price is around £200) and for it to last less than 2 years is really not acceptable!
Latest news after me having had to chase them several more times is that the monitor is not in stock, they have deliveries every day (is it such a popular model that it gets sold so quickly they can't get a replacement one out to me or is it that so many of them are faulty that they have a backlog of monitors needing replacing like mine?) but they cannot guarantee delivery right now but anytime up to 28 days. I've had to leave my office address and arrange for my colleagues to take delivery and hand over my faulty monitor as I'm off on holiday for 3 weeks. In the meantime my opinion of Samsung customers services has dropped down to about oh 1 out of 10.
Not once have they called back when they said they would and I've wasted time and money having to call them up - good job I used the saynoto0870 website to look up an alternative number for warranty returns - the number listed on Samsumg website is 0870 7267864, the number I called (which takes you through to exactly the same place) is 01932 454358. You have to listen to a lot of spiel about them sharing your details with other companies and then you can press 1 for mobile phone queries or 2 for any other queries. Even after that the agent who answers the call start rabitting on about them sharing your details with other companies, I've interrupted every time and told them categorically that I do NOT want my details shared with other companies!
NB: the information at the bottom relating to processing quality, picture quality, ease of use, etc, all apply to when the monitor actually worked...