Most computer owners probably don't think much about the technical aspects of computer monitors until they are forced to buy one on their own. Maybe the one that came with the computer unexpectedly died. Perhaps the original monitor simply isn't large enough. But regardless of the reason, every potential buyer faces the same technical questions that come with each type of computer monitor.
The first question that a potential buyer should ask themselves is whether they want to buy a traditional CRT monitor, or a more modern LCD monitor. Both have their set of pros and cons.
LCD monitors are quickly becoming the popular choice as prices are gradually coming down into affordable ranges. When compared to CRTs, LCD monitors generally provide a crisper image, take up significantly less desk space, consume far less power, emit far less radiation and are a lot easier on the eyes.
CRTs shouldn't be counted out so quickly, though. While LCDs have dropped significantly in price over the past few years, CRT screens are still generally more affordable. Moreover, because CRT screens have been on the market longer, they often have a better reliability records.
Regardless of the choice, buyers should then take a look at the rear of their computer and find out what kind of monitor plug (interface) the computer has. This is important, because not all monitors use the same plug and cable.
It will be necessary to unplug the monitor (while the computer and monitor are powered off) to determine what the plug on the computer looks like. Most monitor cables have screws on each side of the cable to keep it tight against the computer. These screws need to be unscrewed before the plug will come off the back of the computer. When you're done, carefully put it back the way it was.
There are two primary types of computer monitor interfaces, or ports (plugs on the back of the computer): VGA and DVI. VGA stands for Video Graphics Array, and DVI stands for Digital Visual Interface.
VGA ports, which are far more common in older computers than DVI, are trapezoidal in shape, typically blue, and have 15 pin holes in rows of 3.
While DVI also is trapezoidal in shape, it is wider (longer), not quite as tall as VGA and is typically beige, light tan or off-white. DVI also sports a more complex pin configuration. DVI is a newer technology primarily utilized by LCD screens and other digital displays (like plasma TVs).
Some computers have only one connector, while others have more than one. Many computers (as well as many monitors) have both connectors, so that connections aren't an issue. As DVI provides a better picture, it is suggested that buyers use DVI if the computer and new monitor both support it.
At this point, buyers can begin to look at specific monitors that are compatible with their computer. But the technicalities don't stop here. There's a lot of technical specifications that need to be reviewed with each model, like:
Maximum resolution. Resolution refers to the maximum number of pixels the monitor can fit on the screen at once. Resolution are listed in X by Y format, like 1280x1024 (1,280 pixels wide and 1,024 pixels high). The higher resolution the better.
Take note, however, that just because the monitor will be able to achieve a certain maximum resolution doesn't mean the computer will also be able to do the same. The resultant maximum resolution is the highest resolution that the computer and monitor both support.
Dot pitch (or pixel pitch). An in-depth explanation of dot pitch is outside the scope of this article, but it basically defines the distance between each "dot" or resultant pixel on the screen. However, the lower the dot pitch (measured in decimals like 0.282) the better. A lower dot pitch means a sharper, clearer visual image.
Refresh rate. This measures the frequency in which the monitor redraws the screen. Refresh rate is more of a consideration with CRT monitors, simply due to their nature. A CRT with a refresh rate lower than 85 Hz will cause eye strain, and anything under 75 Hz will cause severe eye strain.
Generally a raise in resolution causes a drop in refresh rate. Hence, a decrease in resolution will allow a higher refresh rate to be selected.
Response time. Measured in milliseconds, response time determines how fast the monitor responds to input from the computer. The lower the response time, the better. Many monitors have response times as low as a few milliseconds.
Contrast ratio. Contrast ratios are very important in the selection of LCD monitors. A higher contrast ratio means the screen is capable of generating a wider range of color tones (consider all the tones of grey between black and white, for example). Generally a higher contrast ratio is preferred.
Viewing angle. Primarily a LCD issue, the viewing angle determines at what angle the monitor the screen is visible. Most LCD screens have a horizontal viewing angle and vertical viewing angle. The wider (higher) the angle, the better.
Image brightness. The higher the rating, the better. Image brightness is primarily associated with LCD monitors.
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