With their ever advancing technology, LCD computer monitors have virtually taken over the market. LCDs typically use less power than CRT monitors, save space, reduce eye strain and have better picture quality. And with prices falling as they gain in popularity, LCDs are practical for almost all users. But selecting the right model from the hundreds available can be tough. You need to know the basics and the specifications that matter most.
First, don’t spend more than you need to. If your work is art-intensive or you employ graphic designers, high-quality displays are a must. For data-intensive businesses, there are plenty of monitors that won’t dent your wallet. Monitors come in a range of sizes, but between 17 inches and 22 inches is usually the sweet spot. Only go bigger if you plan on utilizing images or presentations that will benefit from a larger screen. A majority of LCD monitors are widescreen. One benefit of these is that many flip vertically for a longer display. This can be ideal for users doing proofing work or viewing other special documents.
A potential problem with LCDs is that they can have a limited viewing angle. Manufacturers label monitors with the greatest angle, horizontal and vertical, from which a user can properly see the image. If you plan on doing group work with multiple users viewing the monitor at once, make sure you’ve got a wide viewing angle. As with many monitor features, don’t just rely on the manufacturer’s say-so; check out the monitor’s viewing angle yourself before you buy.
Several factors contribute to a display’s image quality. Resolution is the number of pixels (i.e., level of detail) in the display. LCDs operate best at their native resolution, or the maximum number of pixels they can support. Before purchasing, make sure your graphics card can support the monitor’s full resolution, too. Next, look at brightness, usually measured in candelas (cd/m2). For most tasks, 200 cd/m2 is sufficient, but videos work better at higher candelas. Contrast ratio is the difference between the display’s brightest white and deepest black. Usually higher contrast equals more clarity of picture. However, some models perform better than others, so it’s best to get a look at the screen in person. Contrast ratio is most important if you’re expecting to utilize rich, colorful visuals on your monitor. On cheaper LCDs, blacks can look grayer.
LG’s L227WTG-PF 22-inch widescreen monitor, for example, has rich blacks (perfect for at-home workers who want to play games on it, too) and a fairly modest price tag; you can find it for $300 or less. It has high resolution, 300 cd/m2, a 10000:1 contrast ratio, and 2 millisecond response time. Response time is the number of milliseconds it takes for the display’s pixels to change from one color to another and then back again. A quicker response time (8ms and under) cuts down on the likelihood of ghosting and after-images.
Finally, consider the monitor’s power consumption. Most LCD monitors that use less than 50 watts while active won’t affect your electric bill too much (or drain as much of Earth’s natural resources). Utilize sleep mode and turn monitors off while not in use; this means hitting the power button on the monitor, not just shutting down the computer. Typically monitors consume 2 watts or less while off or in standby mode. If you’re buying computers for the whole office, be especially vigilant about investigating power consumption when shopping. Low-energy monitors could save you hundreds each year. The 17-inch Hanns.G HW-173DBB monitor, for example, is EPA Energy Starcompliant and a great choice for the average office worker. Its maximum power usage is 28 watts, and it retails for $129.99.