There are many factors that determine what to purchase. The single, most important factor is USAGE. Think about what you will be using your new monitor for. Are you using it to do some spreadsheet work, write some letters and surf the web? Do you intend to view photos and watch videos? Or, are you a crazy gamer like me and want great colour and seamless action? Screens that are great for spreadsheet and word processor work, may not be very well suited for gaming. Screens used for gaming will be very well suited for all other uses, since gaming applications will put your screen through its paces.
After you determine what you are going to use your screen for, you will have to decide what size monitor to get. Physical SPACE should be considered. Don’t come home with a massive screen, only to realize that you don’t have the room to display it on your desk. These LCD’s are thin, but they can get quite wide. In addition, the bigger the LCD is, the further back you will have to put it on your desk in order to see the entire screen image from edge to edge. Did you consider getting two monitors and placing them side-by-side? I personally use two monitors and could never go back to using just one! You may also want to consider how tall the monitor is and if it can tilt. Will you need to adjust the height and angle? Something that may affect you depending upon your desired usage. Something else you may consider is the VIEWING ANGLE. If its just you sitting in front of your LCD, then don’t worry about this one. However, if you plan on sharing the screen (possibly for presentation purposes) get an LCD with a wide viewing angle, as close to 180 degrees as possible. The higher the degree of the viewing angle, the better you will be able to see the images on the screen when not sitting directly in front of it.
So now you know what you want and where you are going to put it. Do you have aBUDGET in mind? What are you willing to spend on your shiny new monitor? You will find two basic flavours of monitors. Your basic LCD model, and the LED (Light Emitting Diodes) model. Both are LCDs, but the images displayed vary depending upon the back-lighting. Most entry level monitors are LCDs. They have good picture quality, but are lit from behind using florescent lighting, which lessens the contrast on the screen. LED models use the LCD technology, but instead of using florescent light to light the screen, they use LED’s. This creates a better picture with more contrast. Simply put, the colours will be more vibrant, blacks will be blacker and whites will be whiter. I urge you to look more seriously at LED monitors if you plan on doing any type of graphic design, or you want to get the best look from the graphic intense games you play. Current pricing for these monitors start at around $120 for a 22″ model. Just remember that not all 22″ screens are the same. Bear in mind that you will generally get what you pay for. There must be a reason why you can find 22″ screens ranging from $120 to $350. Remember, not all screens are created equally. Don’t get me wrong, the $120 screen may be perfect for your needs!
Something to consider, but is not going to be a deal breaker, are the CONTROLSavailable on the screen. Most LCDs come with basic controls to adjust the colour and contrast. If you are going to use the monitor for graphic design work, you may want to get one that has more detailed fine-tuning controls to better allow you to adjust your screen for colour matching. Basically, you can adjust your screen colour to match the same colour when printed.
RESOLUTION! RESOLUTION! RESOLUTION! If you have started researching monitors, you will notice that different size screens have different resolutions. The numbers indicate the maximum number of dots (pixels) that will fit across and down your screen. Having more pixels allows you to fit more on your screen at one time. For instance, a 24″ screen with a resolution of 1920 x 1200 means that the width of the screen is 1920 pixels, and the height is 1200 pixels. Imagine a picture with a width of 960 pixels and a height of 600 pixels. If your screen resolution was 960 x 600, the image would fill up your screen from edge to edge. However, if your screen resolution was 1920 x 1200 and your image was 960 x 600, you would have enough space to view 4 pictures of that size all at once. Always go with a screen that supports higher resolutions.
Along with resolution, the physical screen ASPECT RATIO will play a large factor in your decision. Old style TV’s are boxy and conform to a width to height ratio of 4:3. Most monitors on the market today offer a 16:9 display. Most of the newer TV’s today come in a 16:9 ratio. Even the movie screen in one of your local movie theatres uses a ratio close to 16:9, with the exception of an IMAX screen which are squarish and are closer to a 4:3 ratio. I would suggest going with the 16:9 ratio for a couple of reasons. Firstly, movies and videos you watch will fit perfectly from edge to edge. Secondly, the extra horizontal space will give you room for extra columns for your spreadsheet, allow you to open 2 applications and view them side-by-side without getting a second monitor, and give you the extra space you need to see all the items in your email inbox and view the email reading panel to the right at the same time.
So many numbers, what do they all mean??? An important aspect you need to know about is the CONTRAST RATIO. What the heck is this? It’s the LCDs ability to show the blackest black and whitest white. Contrast ratios can range for 100:1 to 1,000,000:1. Since there are no current testing standards, manufacturers can advertise whatever number they like, because they determine this number using their own testing methods. However, to make things simple, just look for a minimum of 400:1 up to about 1000:1. The higher the ratio, the better. You many find that the LED-LCDs have better ratios that the regular NON-LED LCDs. Always keep in mind what you plan on using the monitor for. The only way to determine its actual brightness is to see the LCD in person at one of your local stores.
Ok, here is a big one. This is very important, but only applies to gamers, movie goers and sports fans. RESPONSE TIME. This is how fast the LCD pixels refresh themselves. Most LCDs have a refresh rate between 5 – 8ms (milliseconds), and would be fine for general usage. However, if you watch movies, view sports events or love gaming as much as I do, then get one with a faster response time of 2-3ms. If the response time is too high, you may end up with a slightly blurry picture when viewing high-action content.
So, you get your new monitor home and go to plug it in, only to realize that the ports don’t match. Grrrr! The video port is used to connect your monitor to your computer. PORTSare very important! Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my! VGA and HDMI and DVI, oh my! Don’t worry about what the acronyms mean. Just make sure that the port on your computer matches the port on the monitor. The more input port options you have on your monitor the better. It would be a shame to bring home a monitor that has HDMI and DVI ports, only to find out that your computer only has a VGA port. If you are not sure what type of port you have, unplug the cables from the back of the computer and take a photo of the back of the computer. Now you can show the salesperson what you have and let them find the monitors that will match your computer.
How bright is your environment? What type and how much light shines on your screen? Is it artificial light, or some of that great vitamin D sunlight? GLARE and REFLECTION can ruin the enjoyment you will derive from your screen. Some LCDs have shiny, reflective glass surfaces. If you are in an area with a bright light source, you may want to avoid screens with this type of surface, and get a matte finish instead. This will cut down on any glare or reflection. So, why do companies make shiny screens? Because they look GREAT! Colours are bolder and images appear sharper.
The last tidbit of information that I would like to impart upon you is to VISIT THE STORE! If you have this option, go see them in person. It’s a great way to compare and check out all the things to look for that I have explained. So happy hunting and enjoy your new screen.