Shopping for the right monitor involves endless perusal of geek forums and reading reviews that seem more like advertorials. Store visits mean looking at a wall with 50 monitors, all looking dazzlingly similar, which simply add to your state of confusion. Start reading this post and demystify the task, i.e., monitor shopping.
While most of us regulars happily spend hundreds of dollars on a RAM upgrade or a spanking new graphics card, we usually tend to overlook monitors. Your computer specs might be the very best, but an equally worthy monitor is necessary. Unless you happen to be a geek or a gamer, you don’t really pay too much attention to the quality of the monitor, right?
Well, not really; and if you want to get the best out of your computer, a good monitor is where you begin. So the first question to be resolved is how to distinguish among the various flat-panel display monitors that have inundated the market and pick one that is perfect for you.
Buying the Right Monitor
Flat-panel monitors now come with color-calibrating hardware and software, which put them at par with the good old CRTs in terms of color quality. They are energy-efficient, too. Here’s a list of things you need to keep in mind when you set out monitor shopping.
The screen resolution has an important role to play in the visuals. Every monitor has a preset resolution that gives you the best display possible.
If you lower the resolution from its preset value to sharpen displays, all you get is a blurred version. A standard 19-inch monitor usually has a resolution of 1280×1024 pixels, while a wider 22-inch one will support 1680×1050. Large-sized models like the 30-inch ones or bigger will support 2560×1600 pixels.
The next thing you need to consider is the viewing angle. Well, if you happen to be the only person viewing, this point can be overlooked, but if you’ve got multiple viewers, the viewing angle becomes crucial. Zero in on models that will give you a 170 degree angle, as people looking at the monitor from either corners will be able to get clear views.
The contrast ratio determines the richness of color on your screens.
The contrast ratio measures the difference between the brightest and darkest pixels on the screen, and a higher contrast will give you a richer image, in terms of color. A ratio of 1000:1 would be decent enough, followed by 500:1 or 700:1.
Monitor controls are something that we always overlook while buying; never realizing their importance until we actually have to use them. There are buttons that allow you to fiddle with the colors, contrast, brightness, menus and even the volume on models with speakers. Easy accessibility to these controls and their user-friendliness should be tested.
Size and Adjustments
Size is an important aspect, and so are physical adjustments. You’d obviously be keeping your desk space in mind, but do not buy a big monitor only because it looks good. You need to pay more attention to the width, i.e., the distance from which you’d be viewing it. Also, check if it has height adjustments and swivel features as they are useful additions.
There’s this thing called the response time and it tells you a lot about the picture quality. The response time refers to the speed at which the screen pixels react to change. Monitors with slow response times give you a blurred image or leave a trail. If you are a light browser, this will not affect the picture quality too much, but the difference will be evident when you’ll watch a video or a movie.
For regular users, a speed of 12 milliseconds should be fine, whereas for multimedia users, 8 milliseconds is the norm. Gaming fanatics are usually happy with 1.8 – 2 milliseconds or less.
Ports matter a lot, and I’m not just considering gamer here. Some of you may own computers that have a graphics card with a digital output, so make sure you pick a monitor that has a DVI input (latest models today have Display Ports).
Digital monitors do have a VGA connection, which comes in handy if you’ve got a dual-monitor plan. Movie fans should look out for composite inputs, which lets them connect their DVD/Blu-ray Disc players. HD content is all over the place, so you’ll get a lot of models with HDMI connectors and it really makes sense to go for it. Consider having a USB port too.
Warranties and Support
Never make the mistake of ignoring the terms, conditions and warranties while making your purchase. While a one-year warranty period remains the norm for smaller models, the high-end versions are usually covered up to three years. Ensure that the brand you choose will offer adequate customer support.
LED or LCD
And finally, the battle. The LED wins hands down when it comes to color quality, but there are many for whom this is absolutely immaterial.
When compared with the LCD, LED is also thinner, lighter, gives you a better contrast ratio, and maintains its color accuracy for a longer period. However, all good things come with a hefty price tag, so if you’ve got the budget, no harm in splurging.
Before You Purchase a Monitor
✔ Before you think of anything else, you need to classify your usage. Light users do not need all the frills and trimmings that video editors or gamer do.
✔ Do a little research on the Internet and fix a budget.
✔ The advantages of widescreen monitors are many, but if you think you want a standard one, buy it.
✔ Companies bank on extras to influence customers, and you need to decide which ones are more important to you. For instance, multiple video inputs may be far more useful than a USB port.
Shopping for monitors may not be as much fun as buying a new computer; nevertheless, in all the excitement of getting a new monitor, don’t forget your duty towards the environment and dump the old one. Recycling electronics may be a legal requirement in certain states, but even if it isn’t in yours, do dispose it or donate it off wisely.