7 Important Things To Know When Buying An LCD Monitor

LCD01   7 Important Things To Know When Buying An LCD MonitorAre you tired of your old computer monitor and in dire need of a new one? Maybe you should make yourself familiar with LCD computer monitors. LCD stands for liquid crystal display and are also known as flatscreens.

LCDs have been used for a while, for example in digital clocks and laptops. In recent years they have become a standard for desktop monitors. During the same time, LCDs have also conquered the TV market.

Flatscreen monitors are much thinner and lighter than CRT (cathode ray tube) monitors. They also require less energy, emit no electromagnetic radiation, and the technology enables clearer images, higher resolutions, and a flicker-free display, which is easier on the eyes.


These are only a few key arguments to finally replace the old CRT monitor. This article explains the various features of monitors in general and flatscreens in specific. It will help you understand what you should watch out for when buying a new LCD computer monitor.

Screen Size

The screen size is measured in inches, diagonally from the bottom left to the upper right corner of the display. Available sizes range from 15″ to 30″. The most common size for a desktop monitor today is 19″ to 22″, but it is not uncommon to buy larger sizes.

Bigger sizes usually means you will have more room on your desktop. You might finally be able to view multiple open windows in parallel. However, bigger monitors also take up more space on your desk and they tend to be more expensive.

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Aspect Ratio

Aspect ratio describes the relative number of horizontal to vertical pixels in a display. Standard CRT monitors were almost square with an aspect ratio of 4:3. Today, you will find widescreen monitors that have aspect ratios like movie theater screens, i.e. 16:9 or 16:10. 16:9 is also called HD (high definition).

If you’re watching DVDs on your computer, you can avoid the black bars across your screen with a widescreen display. Wide ratios are also the most convenient solution for viewing multiple windows in parallel. The only reasons to go with 4:3 is that you either prefer it for some reason or you don’t have sufficient space on your desk for a wider monitor.

Resolution

Resolution is the number of pixels displayed horizontally and vertically. Due to the nature of LCD technology, flatscreens have only one optimized or native resolution. Hence, their native resolution describes the absolute number of pixels present horizontally and vertically.

Unlike CRT monitors, using a lower than native resolution on a flatscreen, leads to fuzzy images. Hence it is important to choose the right native resolution from the start as you can not change it, unless you accept a loss of image quality.

Higher resolutions mean sharper images, higher clarity, and more desktop space. This is perfect if you multitask or enjoy to watch movies on your computer. On the other hand, text become much smaller and harder to read. Thus a high resolution is to be avoided if your eyesight is less than perfect.

Crunch Gear has produced a great comparison chart of aspect ratios and available resolutions. Click the respective links for the article or the full size image.

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Contrast Ratio

Contrast ratio describes the difference between the brightest white and the darkest black the LCD computer monitor can display. Higher contrast ratios equal whiter whites and blacker blacks, as well as a greater degree of gray values in between. The best contrast ratio you can get is 1,000 : 1.

Contrast ratio is a difficult topic. You cannot really compare the values between different manufacturers. Also, sometimes you will find the term dynamic contrast, which is not the same as contrast ratio and can be deceiving.

Brightness

LCD monitors are illuminated by several backlights. Brightness is measured in candelas per square meter (cd/m2). A higher rating of at least 300 cd/m2, i.e. higher brightness, is to be desired if you want to watch movies or play games on your computer. For office work and browsing a lower rating of 200 – 250 cd/m2 is fine.

Viewing Angle

The higher the viewing angle, the better people who look at the monitor from the side will be able to see its display. Compared to CRTs, LCDs have a limited viewing angle. However, this feature is only interesting if you expect yourself or guests to look at your monitor with an angle. You can ignore it if you’re always going to sit straight in front of your monitor.

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Ports

All this time I’ve only been talking about the display and the LCD technology. But a monitor is more than just a display. It needs to be connected to a computer and possibly other devices. Hence, you need to know what type of port you will need and then make sure the monitor has it. Most importantly, check which connector your video card supports.

Here is a brief overview of the most common ones:

  • DisplayPort
    The latest digital display interface, produced since 2008.
  • HDMI
    High-Definition Multimedia Interface, a digital audio/video interface produced since 2003.
  • DVI
    Digital Video Interface, the first digital video interface. Produced to replace VGA since 1999.
  • VGA
    Video Graphics Array, the old analog connector, first produced in 1987.

The image below shows the ports mentioned above. From left to right: DisplayPort (blue), HDMI (black), VGA (white), and DVI (white).

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In addition to these you may find component video, S-video, and composite video connectors.

I didn’t go into response time, which can be neglected, and panel technology, which basically doesn’t matter if you make up your mind about the above features.

To summarize, you should first pick a desired size, aspect ratio, and resolution. These characteristics should meet your needs. In the next step you can compare all available models for further features, most importantly contrast ratio, brightness, and available ports. Finally, the price will decide which model you can afford.

What is the most important factor for you when buying an LCD computer monitor?

Image Credits: miamiamia, hugama, Crunch Gear, somadjinn

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20 Comments -

ipad cases

Thats a lot of great infos , thanks ! the worst part was about dead pixel, i always have bad luck with those, even though you can get them exchange , but just pain the butt for the process. Thanks for sharing !

laboratory

I’m mabey missing something but isn’t that a little too late to write this kind of article right now?:))I bought my first LCD something like 6 years ago, and right then they were quite high-end LCD’s (for example Samsung SyncMaster line).Right now the price for the lower shelf of the LCD’s is more like the price of a good quality HDD, or external (usb) HDD.So my question is, how much people do you think still have got CRT monitors?And well we all know that sometimes graphics work on CRT’s for various reasons but still… :)Cheers.

Aibek

It’s actually a very relevant article. Larger sized LCD monitors are now going mainstream and lots of folks buy them. Majority of those people have no idea what things like contrast ratio, aspect ratio or HDMI mean. This article explains it.

laboratory

And I’m not questioning the part about parameters becouse I also think that everybody should be reminded about those things.

My question was why this article shows differences betwean CRT and LCD?

For me it should show the differences betwean older LCD’s from 2000 – 2004 and those used right now.

Cheers.

Aibek

Good point. That being said there are people who can not afford high quality LCD monitors and thus prefer to buy good CRT screens like those from Iiyama.

Mo

I have CRT and use it daily for almost 8 years now, I don’t buy LCD because proper ones are expensive and I’ve seen how lame colours looks on cheaper ones.

laboratory

I’m mabey missing something but isn’t that a little too late to write this kind of article right now?:))

I bought my first LCD something like 6 years ago, and right then they were quite high-end LCD’s (for example Samsung SyncMaster line).

Right now the price for the lower shelf of the LCD’s is more like the price of a good quality HDD, or external (usb) HDD.

So my question is, how much people do you think still have got CRT monitors?
And well we all know that sometimes graphics work on CRT’s for various reasons but still… :)

Cheers.

laboratory

And I’m not questioning the part about parameters becouse I also think that everybody should be reminded about those things.

My question was why this article shows differences betwean CRT and LCD?

For me it should show the differences betwean older LCD’s from 2000 – 2004 and those used right now.

Cheers.

Richard Minerich

This is noob stuff. Not even a mention of TN vs IPS…

ænon1mus

Hmm. I’ve recently did some research about buying LCD monitors and I do concur with you. TN vs IPS is very important when making a decision. That will affect the cost of the monitor as well. A lot of people won’t understand why a 27″ TN (estimated) is the same price as a 23″ IPS monitor.

SusenDeep dutta

An IPS monitor must be taken for greater angle viewing.

BrutalSpoon

It’s also worth pointing out that HD is *not* another term for 16:9. High definition simply means that there are at least 1280 pixels on one axis of the screen, or 1920 pixels for “Full HD”. It has absolutely nothing to do with aspect ratios. It just so happens that it’s used most of the time to refer to TVs and/or video content, which is most commonly found now in the 16:9 aspect ratio.

This is where 720p and 1080p come in – a screen which is 1280 pixels wide will be 720 pixels high in the 16:9 aspect ratio, just as a Full HD screen will be 1080 pixels high. The “p” stands for “progressive scan”, which you can read an explanation on here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_scan

A true cinema screen actually has a 21:9 aspect ratio – in this case, “HD” is 1280×548, and “Full HD” is 1920×823.

BrutalSpoon

It’s also worth pointing out that HD is *not* another term for 16:9. High definition simply means that there are at least 1280 pixels on one axis of the screen, or 1920 pixels for “Full HD”. It has absolutely nothing to do with aspect ratios. It just so happens that it’s used most of the time to refer to TVs and/or video content, which is most commonly found now in the 16:9 aspect ratio.

This is where 720p and 1080p come in – a screen which is 1280 pixels wide will be 720 pixels high in the 16:9 aspect ratio, just as a Full HD screen will be 1080 pixels high. The “p” stands for “progressive scan”, which you can read an explanation on here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P

A true cinema screen actually has a 21:9 aspect ratio – in this case, “HD” is 1280×548, and “Full HD” is 1920×823.

Gnklein

The most important characteristic of an LCD monitor was left out. It is the color gamut, which is the range of colors a monitor can display.

Vance Denial

No offense MUO, as your material is usually pretty solid, but this article is lacking, and as such I recommend the following AnandTech thread, which covers all the essential qualities you should be looking for in an LCD monitor:

http://forums.anandtech.com/showthread.php?t=39226

Maybe rewrite the article once you’ve read up a bit.

Vance Denial

Apologies for the double post, but “and panel technology, which basically doesn’t matter if you make up your mind about the above features” is an absolute falsity. The type of panel used in the display will directly reflect on the display’s quality in varying black levels, input lag, and as a prior commenter mentioned, colour gamut.

These are all incredibly relevant, and the fact that the author of this article not only didn’t cover them, but went as far as to state that they’re *irrelevant* shows a complete lack of understanding on the subject matter.

Vance Denial

Apologies for the double post, but “and panel technology, which basically doesn’t matter if you make up your mind about the above features” is an absolute falsity. The type of panel used in the display will directly reflect on the display’s quality in varying black levels, input lag, and as a prior commenter mentioned, colour gamut.

These are all incredibly relevant, and the fact that the author of this article not only didn’t cover them, but went as far as to state that they’re *irrelevant* shows a complete lack of understanding on the subject matter.

wphayduke

I guess some people don’t know some of that.. good to be reminded.. personally, although a little off-subject, the most useful monitor productivity trick I’ve ever used is simply to get a second monitor. PCWorld provides good up-to-date 10-best lists and I always just get two of whatever is highly rated for our office. This is lazy but quick and effective (although we do have some in our office with super-sharp eyes who demand the most expensive, the vast majority of users can’t tell the difference – and if you don’t like your monitor(s) you can always bring/mail them back). Just a suggestion..

MahdiVisual

Very nice.
I translated it to PERSIAN and post it to my site (with source)

Thank’s so much

MahdiVisual

Very nice.
I translated it to PERSIAN and post it to my site (with source)

Thank’s so much