Buying A Monitor
A good computer monitor is one of the best investments you can make. It can save your eyesight and make you more productive. Here are things to consider when buying a computer monitor...
Which Monitor Should I Buy?
The easy answer is "buy the biggest monitor you can afford." The bigger the screen, the more information you can display, and the easier it will be to read. In terms of value, I recommend that you go with a 19-inch LCD monitor, since they cost only a bit more than 17-inch models. Avoid the old 14- and 15-inch models completely.
A bit of quick searching today revealed that one can find decent quality 19-inch monitors for around $125. The 22-inch monitors are a nice upgrade and will cost only $30-$40 more. Stepping up to a 24-inch or 30-inch model starts to get more pricey, since those are generally considered "professional" models for graphic design, video editing, etc.
If you can swing it, consider going with a dual-monitor setup. My desktop sports dual 22-inch monitors, which allows me to easily view both a web browser and a word processor at once.
Monitor Specs and Jargon
The amount of raw info that a screen can display is called its "resolution." Resolution is measured in pixels, the tiny dots that form patterns on a screen. Typical resolutions are 1440 x 900, 1280x1024, and 1024 x 768 pixels. Every monitor can display info in multiple resolutions controlled by the operating system's settings. But physically larger screens display any given resolution in larger text and images which are easier to read. My preference is the 1680x1050 resolution setting, which makes text a bit smaller, but maximizes screen real estate.
Another important factor is the monitor's "refresh rate". That's the number of times per second that the monitor re-draws the patterns on the screen that make up images and text. A refresh rate of 60 Hz (60 re-draws per second) - is barely adequate for simple word processing and display of static images. Video and fast-moving games will appear jerky. A good, responsive monitor has a refresh rate setting of 72 Hz or better. The refresh rate can also be controlled through the operating system settings.
The "viewing angle" of a monitor is important only if the monitor will be used as a TV screen or for presentations to groups of people. Move slowly to one side of the monitor. Does the display remain bright and sharp? There is a sharp drop-off in image quality at some angle from perpendicular to the screen's surface; that is the maximum viewing angle. But if it's just you sitting right in front of the screen, viewing angle isn't that important.
Flat-screen monitors are all you will find for sale these days unless you shop at thrift stores or on Craigslist, where bulky, heavy CRTs are dumped. The main choice here is "LCD or plasma?" The better cost/benefit ratio is found in LCD monitors for all but the most demanding high-speed, 3D animation work. Compare LCD monitors side-by-side and choose the one with the brightest, sharpest, most vividly colorful image you can afford. Be sure they're all displaying the same image!
I've never been fanatical about brands when it comes to computer monitors. I've had some great no-name models, and some dismal ones with well known name tags. But I do recommend that you spend a few minutes researching your picks before you buy, to see how they've performed for others.
Monitor Connectors and Accesories
Modern monitors come with multiple types of connectors to accommodate different digital devices. If your computer is all that will be connected to a monitor, then you need only be concerned with connectors that exist on your computer. Most monitors some combination of RGB, SVGA, S-Video, DVI, and HDMI connectors these days. Go with HDMI if possible, since that will provide the sharpest picture and best performance. Just make sure your monitor can accommodate your computer's video card outputs.
Accessories often built into flat-screen monitors include stereo speakers; USB ports for connecting and powering iPods, flash drives, and tray-less DVD players.
A stand to hold a flat-screen monitor upright is standard factory equipment. But watch out for cheaper stands that don't allow you to tilt the screen. You'll want to tilt the screen at an angle that best suits your lighting and sitting position.
If you wish to hang the monitor on a wall to save desk space, you will find mounting brackets that fit flush against a wall and others that protrude a few inches to allow the monitor to swivel. Be sure your monitor has wall-mount screw holes in its back, and match the spacing and size of the holes to the mounting bracket you select. The hole sizes and spacing come in a few standard configurations for small, medium, and large monitors. There are also swiveling arm brackets that attach to the edge of a desk and suspend the monitor over the desk surface; these, too, must be carefully matched to the size and weight of a monitor.
Here's one final consideration when buying a new monitor, but it applies to your OLD monitor. Don't just toss the old monitor, since they tend to be toxic to the environment. If it still works, donate it to a friend, local school or charity. Freecycle can help you find a taker for unwanted equipment. If it's a junker, contact your local municipality for recycling info.
Got something to say about buying a monitor? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 3 Jan 2010
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Buying A Monitor (Posted: 3 Jan 2010)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved