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Learn More About Monitors

What kind of computer monitor do you need?

CRT monitor


Ideal for: CRTs are the standard for computer monitors and combine affordability with high–resolution and image quality. Because they refresh very rapidly they are the monitors of choice for action games and other programs that require rapid and frequent screen redraws.

Key features:

  • Screen size is measured in inches diagonally across the monitor display. This is a measure of the glass size. If there are two size ratings, the first refers to the glass size, the second to viewable image size. The viewable image may be smaller than the glass size. A 17" CRT is recommended for general use, and 21" for use with high–end graphics and desktop publishing. Available screen sizes include 15", 17"–18", 19", 21", and 22"+.
  • Resolution is measured in pixels, or individual graphic dots of color. A resolution of 800 x 600 means there are a total of 480,000 pixels (e.g. color dots) on the screen. The higher the resolution, the sharper the image on a given screen size.
  • Image quality is also affected by frequency, which measures the refresh rate, or number of times per second a CRT monitor's screen is redrawn. The higher the frequency, the faster the refresh rate; the faster the refresh rate, the less screen images flicker. The frequency of most monitors can be adjusted higher by setting the pixel resolution lower.
  • The smaller the dot pitch — which describes the amount of space between individual pixels — the sharper and clearer the screen images will be.
  • Opt for a flat CRT monitor if you want improved image depiction. Unlike regular CRTs, flat CRTs don't have convex, or bowed, glass. Compared to standard CRT's, they offer reduced glare, greater image sharpness, and better uniformity in image brightness.
  • All CRT monitors emit a low level of electromagnetic radiation. If this is a concern, either opt for a CRT that is built on a low–electromagnetic–emission MPR II or TCO standard, or buy a TFT–standard LCD monitor.
Important: When purchasing a monitor, remember that there must be an adequate video graphics card on the CPU. An older video card (such as one with 2 MB of memory) may not have sufficient processing power or memory to drive the monitor without visible flicker and color saturation may be poor. It's important to choose the correct video graphics card for the applications you use. Gamers or graphic designers should look for at least a 32 MB video card. For the ultimate in image quality, match your monitor with a 64 MB (or larger) video graphics card.

Tip: To avoid eyestrain, place the monitor 18 to 30 inches away from the front edge of your desk.


Flat-panel LCD monitor


Ideal for: Anyone who has little space on their desk, is bothered by screen flicker, or who finds the energy–saving qualities of LCDs appealing. In addition to consuming 70% less power than CRTs, LCDs look great on your desk.

Key features:

  • Screen size is measured in inches diagonally across the monitor display, with available sizes ranging from 15" to 21+ inches.
  • LCDs take up less space, emit less heat, and consume 70% less energy than CRTs.
  • Resolution varies by model and is measured in pixels, or individual dots of color. A resolution of 800 x 600 means there are a total of 480,000 pixels on the screen. The higher the resolution, the sharper the image on a given screen size.
  • Image quality is also affected by contrast ratio, which describes the ratio between black and white on the screen. The larger the contrast ratio, the better subtle color differences will be displayed on the screen.
  • Image quality is also influenced by the brightness rating, which is measured in nits. (A nit is a unit of measurement describing the luminescence, or brightness, in LCD and CRT computer monitors. The more nits, the brighter the display.) The brighter the display, the easier it is to view images on the screen, even in direct sunlight. When in or near direct sunlight, LCDs with 300 nits can be much easier to read than CRTs.
  • The smaller the dot pitch — which describes the amount of space between individual pixels — the sharper and clearer the screen images.
  • There are two popular interfaces for LCD monitors — digital and analog. While most monitors and cards are designed for analog signals, some high–end video cards are monitors have digital interfaces (or both digital and analog). For the best screen image, opt for a model with a digital, rather than an analog, input signal. In either case, make sure that your card and monitor have compatible interfaces.
Important: When purchasing a monitor, remember that there must be an adequate video graphics card on the CPU. An older video card (such as one with 2 MB of memory) will give a new monitor a visible flicker and will drain it of color. It's important to choose the correct video graphics card for the applications you use. Gamers or graphic designers may require at least a 32MB video card. For the ultimate in image quality, match your monitor with a 64 MB (or larger) video graphics card.

Tip:
 To avoid eyestrain, place the monitor 18 to 30 inches away from the front edge of your desk.


Plasma display


Ideal for: Business use, especially conferences, multimedia presentations, and digital signs or promotions. Also ideal for anyone looking for a very large, flat–screened monitor that has a viewable screen–size up to twice the size of most CRTs and LCDs — and that may be able to double as a television.

Key features:

  • Screen size is measured in inches diagonally across the monitor display, with available sizes ranging from 32" to 50".
  • Typically around 3.5" thick, which makes a plasma display lightweight relative to its screen size. Typically weigh between 40 and, for the largest screen, 98 pounds.
  • Some models come with a tuner, which allows the monitor to double as a television. For improved TV image quality, look for a model that is compatible with HDTV (high–definition television).
  • Some models feature split–screen and PIP (picture–in–picture) technology, both of which are useful in video conferencing and multimedia presentations.
  • Can be hung on a wall or from a ceiling.
  • Resolution varies by model and is measured in pixels, or individual dots of color. A resolution of 1280 x 1024 — the top range of resolution for plasma displays — means there are over 1.3 million pixels on the screen. The higher the resolution, the sharper the image on a given screen size.
  • Image quality is also affected by contrast ratio, which describes the ratio between black and white on the screen. The larger the contrast ratio, the better subtle color differences will be displayed on the screen.
  • The smaller the dot pitch — which describes the amount of space between individual pixels — the sharper and clearer the screen images.
Tip: Plasma monitors can be susceptible to burn–in, in which images that aren't changed become permanently etched on the screen. To prevent burn–in, set the contrast ratio at a little lower than maximum, and avoid displaying static images that don't change for hours at a time.


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