Buying Guide - Computer Monitors

Types

computer monitorCRT (cathode-ray tube) monitors are still being manufactured, but in far fewer numbers than the preferred LCD monitor - and for good reason: a CRT computer monitor is heavy, bulky, and has a lower resolution compared to more modern versions such as the LCD monitor.  They also display in a 4:3 aspect ratio, which is not ideal for watching movies shot in widescreen (16:9) format, unlike the preferred LCD monitor.

A computer monitor's aspect ratio is the ratio of an image's width to its height, so an LCD monitor with a 4:3 aspect ratio is almost square, while one with a ratio of 16:9 is wider than its height.  A CRT computer monitor is sometimes the preferred choice among graphic artists, movie editors and other industry professionals who want the full range of the colour palette, the wider viewing angle and the true, deep blacks that a cathode-ray tube can offer (which an LCD monitor cannot).

LCD monitor types are similar to plasma televisions, both of which have a flat-screen.  No longer will your computer monitor need to take up the entire depth of your desk; a sleek, slim LCD monitor can sit at the back of your workspace and still provide plenty of room for papers, calculators, and other desktop items.  16:9 aspect ratio displays offer an easy way of using one computer monitor big enough to display two documents or images side by side, without the expense of a dual LCD monitor setup.  The LCD monitor has become the preferred standard monitor in households and offices.

Screen size

A 15-inch LCD monitor, once the standard, is now almost impossible to buy brand new.  A 17-inch LCD monitor is usually the smallest available nowadays, and is usually inexpensive to purchase.  If you do not have a lot of money to spend and find yourself in need of a computer monitor, a decent, basic 17-inch model can be purchased at an affordable price.  However, compare prices of LCD monitor models for the next size up, as you will probably find that for a small additional expense you can have a larger computer monitor size.

A 19 to 20-inch LCD monitor is about the median size right now and can be obtained at a very reasonable price.  You can comfortably view photos and videos, enlarge text for easy reading, and work on spreadsheets to your heart's delight on this type of LCD monitor.

The largest monitors, typically 22 to 24-inch LCD monitor models, are the preferred choice among those with serious photo or video editing to perform, or for those who enjoy playing games, especially online games.  Multiple windows can be employed at the same time and fully displayed on one of these models.  A larger monitor with a 16:9 aspect ratio is perfect for watching today's high-definition, widescreen movies.

A larger choice of LCD monitor is available, but you will pay a premium for going beyond the norm.  Also, bear in mind that while flat LCD monitor screens are by their very nature lighter than CRT monitors, larger models get increasingly heavy.

Features and connections

monitorContrast ratio: this tells you the difference in intensity between the whitest white and the blackest black.  For example, an LCD monitor with a higher contrast ratio typically offers better quality, but this can also be a function of the resolution and aspect ratio.

Connections: with digital television ruling the day, and analogue clearly on its way out, any LCD monitor you consider should have all the necessary connections and ports to hand.  Analogue signals, also known as VGA (video graphics array) must be converted to digital signals before a digital monitor, like an LCD monitor, can display them.  This can be achieved via a 15-pin connexion, a DVI interface, and a graphics card, or a strictly digital input such as DisplayPort.

Resolution: when considering an LCD monitor or CRT monitor, a very important aspect is resolution.  Your LCD monitor (or any other computer monitor) will display images much more clearly, when it is run at its native resolution.  For example, a 15-inch standard (4:3) LCD monitor's native resolution is usually 1024 x 768 pixels, while a 15-inch widescreen LCD monitor's resolution is 1280 x 800.

Generally speaking, the more pixels, the more expensive the LCD monitor will be.  If you will intend working with photos, graphics or movies, pay the extra money for a good, high-resolution LCD monitor; your eyes will thank you.  Otherwise, the standard resolution for an LCD monitor nowadays should suit the vast majority of general buyers.

Observe where the connections are located on your LCD monitor.  Some models of LCD monitor have the wires and cables routed through several paths along the back of the computer monitor.  This is not normally the best solution, especially if you know you will need to carry out plenty of changes, such as when changing games consoles.  Opt for easy access to connections, with cables of ample length that will allow you to move and tilt the display without disconnecting anything.  Look for a DVI or HDMI port for hooking up to digital peripherals, a dual display, or a good quality video card.

Speakers: if you are limited for space, look for an LCD monitor with built-in speakers.  While the sound from these will never replace a good stereo or sound system, they are adequate for everyday use, especially if you will be listening at your computer desk.

USB: a modern LCD monitor will include one or more USB ports, which can come in very useful for plugging in peripherals.  Typically, an LCD monitor that features USB connections will also have a built-in memory card reader, allowing you to see photos on the card directly on your computer monitor.

TV Tuner: if you want your LCD monitor to double as a television (or your television to double as a computer monitor), consider purchasing an LCD monitor that comes with a built-in TV tuner as another space-saving convenience.

Buying tips

Before you step into any electronics retail outlet, measure the space where you plan to place your CRT or LCD monitor.  Examine the light in the room and make a note of how close you will be seated to the monitor.  Also, consider the angle at which you will be viewing the computer monitor.  For most people, straight-on viewing is the norm, but if your monitor will double as a television or if it will be used for group gaming, you will probably be better off viewing it from an angle.  In that case, look for a model that experiences less image degradation when viewed at an angle: typically these monitors have higher resolutions and better contrast ratios.

Newer LCD monitor models offer sleek-looking, glossy screens, many of which have touch screen controls.  They are typically much more reflective than the standard matte-finish monitors most people are used to, and you may find the reflections distracting.

Also, consider the warranty when purchasing your LCD monitor.  While monitors are very well made these days, every once in a while, a monitor will stop working, so it is a good idea to have your computer monitor covered in the event a replacement is required.  The industry standard is a three-year warranty.