Choosing a Computer Monitor

August 14th, 2006 by Peter

There seems to be very few choices when buying a new computer monitor. Sure, there are lots and lots of different companies gloating at how their monitor has a high refresh rate or low latency, but how does that translate to everyday performance for you and me?

The old style computer monitors that were referred to as Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) monitors didn’t have too many choice. You simply had to watch out for refresh rate as a low refresh rate would lead to that low level flicker that is often associated with monitors. Flickering computer monitors would not only hamper work performance, but lead to headaches and other discomforts because of strain on the eyes.

These monitors have all but disappeared from the consumer market, having been replaced by flat screen monitors. They are still around, but many of them are now aimed at the high range, being designed for people who do designing on computers for a living. They can be over $1000 dollars and offer magnificent screen resolutions and are produce ultra-clear images, better than many flat screen monitors.

Flat screen monitors have become the monitor of choice. Mostly because of their slim profile more than any specific performance benefits, but that is the way things go. For a while flat screen monitors were just too expensive, but now you can’t really find anything else. Even 19 inch flat screen monitors are under $300.

Stick with the big brands for flat screen monitors. Acer, ViewSonic, Samsung, Sony, Dell, HP, NEC and BenQ are well known and will be less likely to disappoint that a very cheap unbranded model. There are plenty of cheap flat panel monitors hitting the market, they might do for your purposes, but be warned of less than thrilling images and longevity.

Screen size plays a major role in the price of your computer monitor, the bigger it is, the more expensive it becomes. Wider screen models have come into the market, but are a little more pricey than the traditional 4:3 ratio computer monitors that dominate. Bigger computer monitors are not necessarily bigger as there are certain tradeoffs in getting the larger screens. Flat screen monitors are usually designed for a specific purpose.

In a nutshell, 15 inches will be enough if don’t use the computer that often, and you only do web browsing, typing documents and using general work related applications. It will still be fine for watching some videos, but nothing great in terms of picture quality.

A 17 inch flat screen monitor will put you in the average range for most computers. These can offer high speeds, which will cost a little more if you get those low latency models. Computer monitors with this little extra size give a larger workspace, making a less cramped computer desktop.

19 inch flat screen monitors and above will start to cost you more money. Getting high speed models with excellent colors will start to push over the $300 mark, which is certainly beyong most entry level computers. Get this size if you want a larger workspace or have some specific requirement for the larger size.

Screen resolution comes into play here too. With computer monitors I have particular joy from a 5 year old ViewSonic p90f CRT monitor. It has a large screen and I can use 1600×1200 screen resolution which give a wonderfully large workspace. I can open two windows to what would be full size on an 800×600 screen. The resolution relates to how much can be squashed into the available space. This is limited for flat screen monitors, but is pretty much always and appropriate amount for that monitor.

Refresh rates refer to how quickly the monitor can produce a new image on the screen. As soon as all the little pixels are updated that is a single refresh. The refresh rate, measured in MegaHertz tells how many times it can do this in a minute. With CRT computer monitors 75Mhz is enough to stop screen flicker, but with flat screen monitors that only needs to be 60MHz.

Extras can make a difference too, although they might be overlooked if some other feature really stands out. They should accept DVI or VGA inputs, but at least DVI. Being able to accept an s-Video signal is a bonus for watching videos as that is quite standard amongst home entertainment equipment.

What many gamers watch out for in computer monitors is latency. If latency is slow then games will get a noticeable drag feel to them and make gameplay difficult if not impossible. There are many 17 inch monitors for this purpose and a few 19 inch ones that make it too.

Gamers will need low latency and designers will need even and accurate colors for their uses. Most other users can pick on price and performance without too much fuss.

One Response to “Choosing a Computer Monitor”

  1. jozz Says:

    I’ve found that ViewSonic Monitors are the most stable among the monitors that I’ve used. The low end ones tend to die out on me after just a year. The colors change and the display flickers. It’s quite annoying.

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