The CRT monitor is a technology that is over 100 years old. Picture quality
has got considerably better since the 5" black and white televisions of
the 1950s, but the hot and bulky cathode ray tube seems woefully cumbersome
and low tech when it is sat on your desk next to a modern PC. Luckily in the
last few years, snazzy high tech alternatives have been made available and affordable.
LCD monitors use less then a quarter of the space taken up by a CRT monitor,
and use a third of the power. LCD monitors also give a much sharper picture,
and are easier on the eyes since the pixels stay continuously on or off, instead
of flashing every time the screen is refreshed.
We take an in depth look into the technology that goes into making an LCD monitor,
and how it affects the finished product.
The first and most obvious question facing the prospective LCD buyer is the
question of size. 15"? 17"? 19"? Or even more? The quoted sizes
for LCD screens are the actual diagonal dimensions of the picture, unlike CRT
sizes, which include the edges of the tube that are covered by the bezel. This
means that an LCD is the equivalent size to a CRT about an inch bigger. A 20"
LCD has as much screen area as a 21" CRT monitor, and a 15" LCD is
almost a match for a 17" CRT, which really only has 16" of usable
The physically fixed pixels of an LCD monitor restrict it to one "native"
resolution. The typical 15" LCD runs at 1024x768, and most 17" models
run at 1280x1024. There are exceptions to this rule, very cheap screens may
be cheap because they have a lower resolution, and larger screens often use
unusual resolutions, so do check before buying to avoid disappointment. If your
eyesight isn't too good, it would be a good idea to nip down to your local PC
retailer, and see what the various resolution and size combinations look like
Unlike CPUs and graphics cards which have an incredibly short life cycle, a
monitor is something you tend to keep hold of. Because of this, we feel it is
a good idea to save up and buy the biggest and best LCD you can. For general
office work, resolution and size are king. A large low spec LCD is more useful
than a smaller high spec one.
What are the differences between the cheap and the high quality monitors?
Almost all the important components of the LCD monitor are encapsulated in
the LCD panel module, which are standard parts produced by only 4 or 5 major
manufacturers. All the maker of the monitor has to do is add a case, power supply
and driving electronics. Let's not forget the all important branding and marketing.
Given this, you might presume that all LCD monitors are more or less equal,
but this isn't entirely true. LCD panels are very complex things, and some will
have defects such as dead pixels, which occur when a transistor fails. The LCD
panel manufacturers test the panels, grade them accordingly, and then sell them
on to monitor manufacturers. This means that a very cheap monitor is likely
to have a third rate panel inside it, and an expensive monitor will have a top
grade panel, and is unlikely to have any defects or dead pixels. Cut-price monitors
may also use older designs of LCD panel, with inferior contrast ratios, viewing
angles, and response times.
The driving electronics in the monitor are responsible for scaling resolutions;
so higher quality monitors are generally better at displaying non-native resolutions.
Better quality monitors will also come with longer warranties, and better return
policies regarding dead pixels. Most manufacturers will not promise a perfect
screen, and only let you return the monitor if you have above a certain number
of dead pixels. This can be as many as 10 pixels. It is definitely worth finding
out the policy on dead pixels before buying. Don't be too disheartened if you
get a monitor with one or two dead sub-pixels, you won't usually be able to
see them at a normal viewing distance.
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