What to look for in a Monitor
Written by KingJackal
aka Sam Evans
There are many things to consider when lining up monitors. There
are the more obvious attributes such as size, but often these are
less important than people think. Less obvious characteristics such
as dot-pitch can also play a large part in the enjoyment you'll
be able to get out of your screen.
The size of the monitor is the most obvious aspect. The bigger,
the better - and the more expensive. Unless you're really trying
to go cheap, I wouldn't recommend anything less than a 15".
If you want to do a lot of gaming, programming or spreadsheet work
you should be using at least a 17". For DVDs, go for the biggest
screen your money will buy you. Otherwise, buy a large TV and a
graphics card with TV-out capability, and output to that for movies.
If you take out a tape measure and look over monitors, you'll
soon think everybody is trying to rip you off. The inches measurement
given for CRT monitors IS a diagonal measure - but of the actual
tube, not the visible area of the tube. Some of the tube is hidden
behind the bezel, hence the aparently too small screens. There is
also some difference in visible area between some models that are
the same 'size'. For example, Proview make several 17" monitor
models, one of which has a visible diagonal of 15.1", while
another model has 15.7" visible.
Why buy bigger? Just because bigger is always better - well, not
quite. Bigger screens won't strain your eyes so much, as they eliminate
squinting. The extra area also allows you to have more windows open
at once and visible. The amount of scrolling you have to do is substantially
reduced as well.
Dot pitch is far too undervalued as a monitor attribute. It is
the main reason for my having the monitor I do have. Most monitors
have a dot pitch of around 0.26. Cheaper ones may use a 0.27 or
even 0.28 dot pitch, while better monitors will have dot pitches
of 0.25 or even 0.24. I would recommend getting a monitor with a
0.26 or lower dot-pitch. Monitors with a dot pitch of 0.25 are very
clear, while those with one of 0.27 tend to be blurry when run at
higher resolutions. Bear in mind that a 21" monitor with a
0.27 dot pitch will still be far clearer than a 15" monitor
with a 0.24 dot pitch at the same resolution.
All CRTs show their pictures via a grid of dots. The distance
between the dots is known as the dot pitch. It is given in mm. The
smaller, the better - as smaller dots mean more detailed pictures
can be shown (and the same picture will show up sharper). Imagine
the monitor is a pointilistic painter - making it's images out of
thousands of tiny dots. Obviously, if the monitor only has a brush
that paints 1cm dots, it can't make very detailed images clear.
However, if it uses a 1mm brush, finer detail can easily be added.
A clearer screen will sure save your eyes from strain. It'll also
allow you to actually use all the higher resolutions that your monitor
supports. Some cheaper monitors may be blury at higher resolutions
- even ones they support. It all depends on if they have got the
dot pitch to back up the claims. Your eyes really will thank you
for getting a clearer screen.
Branding is a subjective quality of a monitor - and one that you
probably needn't consider much. Personally, if two monitors have
different length warranties, I'd ignore the brands and just notice
the warranty periods. Good brands to look out for include the following
( in NO particular order ):
There are also brands that are rather mediocre, neither an asset
nor a liability:
Good brands occasionally trip up and release bad monitors. And
sometimes poor brands manage to get a good monitor out the door.
Though with some brands you just about can't go wrong. Many good
brands (such as Illyama) are hard to come by in New Zealand, but
brands like Philips and Viewsonic are generally easy to find.
A good brand of monitor will ensure good service if anything goes
wrong. It'll also often allow easier re-sale.
An important feature to consider if you like opening lots of windows
at once. High resolution support needs to be teamed up with a good
dot pitch to keep the picture clear. A rough guide for the highest
comfortable resolution for any size screen is as follows (not all
screens can do these resolutions, and some go higher - but these
extra supported settings are often useless for humans):
- 15" - 1024x768
- 17" - 1280x1024
- 19" - 1600x1200
- 21" - 1920x1440
- 24" - 2048x1536+
These are maximums, however. You may find it much easier to look
at a screen that is running at a lower resolution.
Resolutions are measured in pixels, horizontal then vertical. Most
resolutions are in a 4:3 ratio, though monitors normally support
several 16:9 (anamorphic widescreen for DVDs etc) resolutions as
well. Some monitors will also show native TV resolutions (which
are different to normal PC resolutions).
If you're doing a lot of spreadsheet or CAD work, or just often
have lots of windows open - then high resolution monitors are a
must. Realise however, that more isn't always better. A 15"
that can do 1280x1024 is pointless - the picture will be so small
that you'll be squinting to read it, even if it is clear.
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