Samsung tackled the development the controlling software with more responsibility. First, you don’t have to sacrifice a USB port, as the monitor is controlled via the Display Data Channel Command Interface protocol (DDC-CI), which is supported by both analog and digital interfaces of any more or less modern graphics card. That is, you use only one cable – the video cable – to connect the monitor to the computer. Second, the MagicTune utility that you control the monitor with is much easier to use than any onscreen menu (you may click the image below to enlarge it; you can also download a 266KB animation GIF-file to view all the menu items).
The program interface is well-designed, pretty-looking and easy-to-use, especially for inexperienced users, because, unlike an ordinary monitor OSD, each menu item comes with hints and pictures and explanations how these pictures should look on a properly-set-up monitor. Besides the usual settings of brightness, contrast, color temperature and so on, MagicTune features an inbuilt routine for calibrating the monitor, which can adjust the gamma correction, if necessary, and correct the color curves to some extent.
Such full-color pictures for easy setup are available not only during color calibration but also in other modes when you click the Pattern button.
The settings can be memorized as a new profile, which you can quickly switch to from a context menu, for example. Besides that, there is the usual MagicBright technology with three presets of brightness and contrast, but of course it is less powerful than user-defined profiles. First of all, the MagicBright settings only store the values of brightness and contrast. Second, you cannot change the presets, while the profile stores all the available settings and there are more than three profiles. The MagicBright modes as well as the user-defined profiles are available in the context menu as you click with the right mouse button on the Windows Desktop (in the screenshot below, there is only one profile called “100cd”):
MagicTune comes with a Wizard that walks you through all the setup stages – choosing the screen resolution, the phase, the brightness and contrast.
Thus, MagicTune is an excellent tool for setting the monitor up, which is richer in functionality and easier to use than the ordinary onscreen display menu. In other words, you don’t feel in any way discomforted without the traditional control buttons on the front panel. On the other hand, the MagicTune utility is now only available for Windows and I don’t know about Samsung’s plans for porting it for Linux and other alternative OS’s or about third-party software for such systems. The owners of two monitors will also meet the following inconvenience if one of the monitors is not supported by MagicTune: the program refuses to start up if that monitor is turned on during the program initialization stage. This problem is easily solved, though. You can just turn this unsupported monitor off for a few seconds: once running, MagicTune will work normally with any number of monitors.
Besides the SyncMaster 173P, MagicTune supports the rest of the new batch of Samsung’s monitors, including the 172X, 173T and 174T that we will discuss below. So if you own one of these monitors, try installing MagicTune and using it. There is a high chance you will like it. I especially recommend this for inexperienced users who will easily and quickly set up their monitor with MagicTune.
Now, that’s enough about software, let’s turn to hardware.