Buying Guide to LCD Monitors

One of the best tools to improve productivity can be a larger monitor because it will allow the user to view more of the screen at one time and reduce the amount of scrolling. In the past two years, 17-inch LCD monitors have dropped to as little as $300, meaning they are no longer a luxury item. Because the old lumbering CRT monitors produce enough glare to give a user blurry vision and a headache by day’s end, most people are switching to LCDs.

Monitor size generally refers to the diagonal measurement of the screen (measure from corner to corner). Screens are typically grouped into five categories: 14 inch, 15 inch, 17 inch, 19 inch, and 20/21 inch screens.

Buyers should understand, this diagonal measurement does not translate into screen size because a significant amount of the screen is hidden behind the monitor’s plastic frame. Typically, the exposed glass is about 1/2″ to 1″ less than the advertised size.

Another important factor to consider when purchasing a monitor is resolution. The resolution refers to the amount of image you can see on a screen without scrolling. It is measured in pixels, which are the individual dots of light making up the picture. The most common standard is 640 pixels horizontally and 480 pixels vertically. While this is an adequate resolution for basic word processing, it falls short for users who work with multiple windows, complex spreadsheets or large graphics.

To accommodate these advanced users, manufacturers have developed products with resolutions ranging anywhere from 800×600 up to 1600×1280 pixels. However, the video card will need to upgraded to a “super-VGA” for this increased number of megapixels.

There are three types of flat screen monitors (LCDs) on the market. Spheroid screens are typically the least expensive. However, the middle of the screen bulges noticeably making it difficult to view close up.

Flat-square screens have become the dominant design for higher-end monitors. These screens are not really flat, but appear
to be so due to an ingenious design that hides the curvature from the eye.

The cylindrical design shaped screen is shaped like section of a cylinder just as its name suggests. This screen curves left to right, but does not curve up and down. The advantage of this design is that it tends to have less of a problem with glare, since most light comes from overhead. Trinitron and Diamondtron are two of the most common brand names for cylindrical screens.

Another important consideration is the brightness and contrast. Monitors vary widely in their ability to change brightness and contrast. These features should be tested in advance at the store if possible. No one wants a monitor that is too bright or one that will not contrast enough to see fine details.

Consumers should expect to pay $150 to $200 for a standard 14″ LCD monitor and about $50 more to upgrade to a 15″. 17″ monitors start at about $350. Although the cost of an LCD has come down, 19″ and 20″ monitors are still luxury priced at around $700. Likewise, expect to pay around $1,200 or more for a 21″ monitor. Expect to pay more for all of these models as the number of megapixels is increased. However, as higher megapixels becomes the standard, the price will drop.

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