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LCD Monitors

Altaf Khan

© Altaf Khan 2005-2006

LCD monitors started outselling CRT monitors starting in 2005. Their many advantages over the conventional CRT’s include smaller size, lower weight, reduced power consumption, lower heat and radiation emission. Due to ease of fabrication, manufacturers are able to build them in an increasingly large number of sizes and form factors. Moreover, favorable economies of scale are driving there costs lower and lower with every passing month.

LCD monitors have become more popular as compared with CRT monitors not only due to their space-saving advantage, but also because they typically consume 65% less power and emit little of it as heat or radiation. Their prices have been spiraling downwards for a while now, making even the 19" models quite affordable. All these factors have made CRT’s extinct in all but the most high-end of the high-end environments where precise reproduction of colors is essential.

Shapes and Sizes

LCD monitors come in numerous shapes and sizes. Height-to-width ratio of 3:4 is dominating these days, but those with 9:16 ratios are gaining fast. These wider displays make the best use of the screen in case you want to watch DVD on your computer or would like to display two pages at a time while word-processing. Business folks like them as they can see more columns of their spreadsheets on these wider displays.

The size of the monitor is specified in terms of the diagonal measure of the display area. 15” diagonal displays were popular until recently, then 17” ones became cost-effective, and now 19” monitors are selling rapidly. Their popularity is, generally, a measure of the cost: the costs are coming down fast due to the increasing efficiency of the manufacturing process, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Here is my advice on which one to buy: spend around $300 on a monitor. A year back that bought you a 15” size; a year from now it will buy you a 21” one.

The maximum resolution of the display increases with diagonal size. Most 19” displays (with a 3:4 height-to-width ratio) now support a resolution of 1,280x1,024. Try to find a monitor having a resolution at least that much.
There are a few other technical specifications that you should be aware off. First is the contrast-ratio between the brightest and the darkest that a monitor can display: the higher, the better. Look for at least 400:1. Another is brightness: again higher is generally better. Response-time has to do with how fast a monitor performs when quick action is taking place on the display. In this case, shorter is better, but different manufacturers use different methods of measurement. Therefore, use it only to compare models from the same manufacturer. As a general guideline, a 6 ms response-time is quite reasonable. Serious gamers should, however, look for something close to 2 ms along with a contrast ratio of 1000:1.

RGB -vs- DVI Interface

CRT monitors are generally connected to the computer through an Analog-RGB interface. Most of the early LCD monitors supported that interface only, but an increasing number of new ones support the DVI interface only, or both. DVI interfaces generally produce images of higher quality. For Analog-RGB, the computer converts the image data from digital form to an analog signal and transmits it to the LCD monitor. The monitor converts the analog signal back to digital data and displayed it on the screen. In case of DVI, the computer transmits digital data that is displayed directly on the screen. Not all computers have a DVI output, but if your computer does, buy an LCD monitor that works on DVI. In case your computer does not have a DVI output, you can upgrade it with a graphics card – most graphics cards come with a built-in DVI output.

As far as manufacturers are concerned, ViewSonic seems to be a good trade-off between quality and price. Acer appears to be the value-price leader. Apple and Sony are the winners when looks are a factor.

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