The monitor lacks an onscreen menu. It is controlled only via the MagicTune program that is available for Windows (including Vista) and for MacOS. It has a user-friendly interface and offers easy access to all the typical settings like brightness, contrast and color-related options.
By default, each version has 100% brightness and 75% contrast. To achieve a 100nit brightness of white I reduced the brightness setting to 42% in the newer version (to 34% in the older version) and the contrast setting to 40% (to 32% in the older version). The older version of the monitor controlled its brightness by means of the matrix. The newer version uses pulse-width modulation of the power of the backlight lamps at a frequency of 205Hz for that purpose. This is a considerable difference, by the way, although it is not mentioned in the official specifications. The backlight is uniform in both monitors.
Color gradients are reproduced with minor banding on the older version. The newer version of the monitor is free from this drawback.
The problem of the loss of dark tones on *VA matrixes is actively discussed on Web forums, so I’d want to mention it here. Yes, dark halftones (within a brightness range of 0-4%) are indistinguishable on the SyncMaster 971P, but only if you are looking at the screen at an exactly right angle. This may be a problem if you are working in professional image-editing applications, but most users won’t ever notice it.
Darks merge into black at a contrast of 25% and lower on the older model. The newer version is free from this drawback: it displays darks correctly throughout the entire range of the contrast setting. On both models lights merge into white at a contrast of higher than 75%.
The older version’s gamma curves don’t look well. Their gamma value is too high and the image looks whitish as a consequence. Moreover, the blue curve has a different shape than the other two.
The newer model has more correct settings. The red curve has a slightly higher contrast than necessary and the three curves go rather far from each other, yet this setup is overall quite acceptable.
At the reduced contrast the blue curve gets closer to the other curves on the older model, and all of them have bad shapes in the diagram. On the newer model the difference between the three curves gets smaller.