My sister writes: I am contemplating getting a flat monitor for my computer. Did some looking on line, but found that it’s hard to tell about picture quality etc when I’m not in person. I don’t have to have anything fancy or very big, but I would like something more sleek than the mini-truck now on my desk. What advice might you have on brands, stores, or all those fancy numbers that they use to describe their machines?
OK sis, this is a big territory, so here is more than you probably wanted to know……..
It is important to be able to adjust the placement and angles of the monitor since you may be looking at the monitor for extended periods of time. Most monitors can be tilted and I would not recommend one that did not tilt.
Some of the best can also pivot. A cool feature but unless you cannot move the monitor base, not a necessary one.
A real nice feature to look for when choosing a monitor, is if the monitor can be raised or lowered, since monitor height is perhaps more important than monitor angle.
As in TVs, size is the diagonal measurement of the screen. Generally speaking, monitor sizes will be 17 inch, 19 inch, 20 inch and 22 inch.
Prices will typically increase with size. Also, with each increase in screen size, text is easier to read and there is more desktop space in which to move and display concurrent applications. So maybe a valid selection criteria could be, how much do you want to spend. It is not necessarily true that increases in size correlates to increases in resolution and picture quality.
Some monitors will come with extra features, that are simply a matter of preference.
Integrated speakers may save space if you don’t want speakers elsewhere. But integrated speakers may not be as good as ones you already have, or plan to get. Headphone jacks and USB ports could be nice if your pc unit is not placed conveniently. So don’t pay extra for features you already have in your pc.
Adjustment and power buttons are perhaps the most significant extra features decision. You might want to make a decision and the look and usability of the buttons, particularly the adjustment buttons. Yet the functionality of the power/menu buttons are going to be the so similar for most all models that differences in button design are inconsequential.
Support can be important if there are issues with the performance of your monitor.
While most all major brands will have an adequate or comparable support process, some off brands may not.
Contrast Ratio is a way of measuring dynamic range, expressed as a ratio. The ratio is found by comparing the brightness at the screen center when all the pixels are white to when the pixels are black. The contrast ratio is a good indicator as to how rich the colors will appear, generally the higher the number the better the image. You know, whites whiter, blacks blacker. An average contrast ratio would be 500:1 This is a technical measurement of a visual display, therefore a bigger number isn’t necessarily better. The better measurement is still what looks good to you.
Response Time is usually measured as the time it takes to change a pixel color from fully black to fully white, others measure gray-to-gray (color to another color). This is delineated in milliseconds. Milliseconds? Seriously, who cares? Lets just disregard response time. The time is takes for your computer to respond is an issue, not so critical for your monitor.
Brightness is measured in candelas per square meter, and again it is more technical than user relevant. Most comparable monitors will be rated the same. You should base your opinions of visual quality on your perceived standards anyway, so lets just disregard the brightness specifications.
Aspect ratio refers to size. In this case it refers to the screen dimensional measurements in number of units. For example: the 16:9 ratio refers to 16 units wide by 9 units high. It would be wider than taller. A 4:3 aspect ration would be 4 units wide and 3 units high. Still wider than higher but almost square. The 4:3 and the 16:9 are the two main aspect ratios available. The 4:3 ratio is more typical for pc applications. Most monitors of 22″ or larger will use the 16:9 ratio which may tend to require more scrolling up and down pages in order to see all of the display of a page.
Resolution is expressed in terms of the number of pixels on the horizontal axis and the number on the vertical axis. The sharpness of the image on a display depends on the resolution and the size of the monitor. The same pixel resolution will be sharper on a smaller monitor and gradually lose sharpness on larger monitors because the same number of pixels are being spread out over a larger number of inches. If enough attention is given, you may be able to tell a difference in resolution. This specification is of little importance with text applications, but gains more importance with more detailed graphic ones. Again, the higher the number may not be as important as your personal judgment of the picture quality.
A Kensington Security Slot is a small hole used for attaching a lock, in particular those from Kensington Computer Products Group. Locks are generally secured in place with a key and attached through cable to be looped around a permanent object, thus securing it in place. Kensington locks aren’t designed to be a solid protection measure as the lock can be torn out. The Kensington lock is best used in busy offices, coffee shops and libraries, as it is often used as a deterrent to prevent opportunist theft. In a home, it is not of much value for protection against theft of a monitor, so the choice is yours.
Ok then, What to do and where to go:
HP, NEC, ViewSonic, Syncmaster, Dell, LG, Samsung are among some of the most dependable monitors which are in a similar class.
Most big box stores, and computer and office supply stores will sell some of these brands.
My recommendation is that you make buying decisions based on more on price (your price range, price differences between stores, sales prices, etc), functionalities and personal visual comparisons than on technical specifications. Go to a store that has several makes, models and sizes side by side, showing the same display. Which one do you like the best? Look more at the big picture (bad pun?) , and remember that the technical specs are just the tiny details.