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About Monitors

What you need to know about monitors before you buy...

Monitors are often taken for granted because they come "bundled" with your PC and you have little or no choice in the matter. Though this can save you a little money, you can really cut yourself short in other ways. Your monitor is the most used piece of hardware including your actual PC and the one of the most valuable. Without it, how functional would your top end PC be?

Now, you have more choices than ever when it comes to monitors; mainly because the "flat panel LCD" monitors have become more affordable. There are two types of monitors for you to consider: CRT and LCD.

CRT monitors

CRT monitors are the most common monitors and have been around forever. They generally cost less and respond faster than LCD. Will you be viewing moving images? CRTs give you the definite advantage of displaying the moving images without smearing (which can be very annoying).

You only get 15.9 inches of viewable area from a 17 inch CRT monitor When you consider the screen size of monitors remember that the size in inches is the diagonal measurement of the screen. And, the CRT screen is always a little larger than the image it will display. So, you will want to take that into consideration if viewable size is critical. For example: On a 17" CRT monitor you only get a 15.9" viewable area. Meaning you are basically getting a 16" monitor out of a 17" monitor (see right). The standard sizes are 15", 17" and 19". The other size factor on CRT monitors is depth. Unfortunately, the larger the screen size, the deeper the monitor is, at least for CRTs. If your workspace is limited, this can be a problem and a flat panel monitor may be a better solution.

Dot pitch is the measurement that tells you how much space between each pixel. It is measured in millimeters (mm). The smaller the number the sharper your image. Unfortunately, dot pitch can be calculated diagonally, vertically and horizontally, so make sure you are comparing the same type of calculation. You will typically see dot pitch ranging from .25mm to .31mm.

The resolution is the number of pixels in a horizontal row x the number of pixels in a vertical row. The more pixels the higher the resolution and the better the detail. A high resolution will also provide you with a larger usable display area. Most people do not run their monitors at anything higher than the "native resolution".

With a good video card on your computer, a CRT monitor will display excellent color. Most CRT monitors have at least 24-bit color depths, meaning they are capable of displaying over 16.7 million simultaneous colors!

There are many high-quality, affordable CRT monitors on the market that should serve you well for years and years.

LCD monitors

You get a full 17 inches of viewable area from a 17 inch Flat panel LCD monitor LCD monitors have been used in notebooks because they require little power and are lightweight as well as flat. LCDs are also able to completely fill the display area with an image (see right). This means that a 15" flat panel LCD monitor displays about the same area as a 17" CRT. These and other benefits make the Flat Panel LCD monitor attractive to many people. Until recently, price was the biggest deterrent to the Flat Panel monitor. But now, you can find Flat Panel monitors priced below $200 making them an affordable choice!

Flat Panel LCD monitors are a great solution for users who experience eyestrain that can be caused by the refresh "flicker" of a CRT monitor. LCD monitors have no "flicker" greatly reducing eye fatigue and strain. And since many flat panel monitors allow you to rotate the screen for a horizontal to a vertical position, viewing different page layouts is much easier!

LCD flat panel monitors use about half the power that a CRT monitor uses. If you are buying one or even a few this is a non-issue. But, if you're going to purchase a large quantity this could give you savings in energy costs.

When choosing and LCD monitor you may also want to compare Contrast Ratio. LCD monitor screens get their brightness from backlighting behind the LCD. This backlighting has the tendency to wash out colors and provide a close approximation on most colors. The contrast ratio of a LCD monitor is the rating of how distinguishable various shades of color are. The higher the contrast ratio, the better the color is represented on the monitor.

While CRT monitors still out-perform LCD monitors in color display it should not be an issue unless you are in a business where color is critical like graphic arts or photo editing. Digital signals are used in some LCD monitors giving you more accurate pixel placement and color formation. These monitors are also designed with one optimum resolution and you'll get the sharpest display if you stay with that setting.

Other things to consider about flat panel LCD monitors:

  • They allow you to use them side-by-side without interference.
  • The flat face does not reflect glare.
  • The backlight is about the only thing that will wear out.
  • View images from directly in front of the screen to avoid distortion. If you need to view your screen from different angles, a CRT monitor may be a better choice.
  • LCD screens can be fragile and susceptible to damage.
  • "Pixel defects" can be common. Check the coverage regarding this before purchasing.

If you are looking for a sleek, efficient, upscale work environment, start with a Flat Panel LCD monitor and you'll be well on your way!

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