A NEW Monitor!

I heard the other day that one of the top electronic gifts people wanted for Christmas 2007 was a new flat-panel (LCD) monitor. The cost of one of these space saving miracles has gone way down while the size and performance have gone up!

As in all things electronic, all monitors are not created equal. How do you know if you are getting the best? Here are a few tips.

First there is "Wide Screen" and all others. The size of a monitor is measured diagonally from a top corner to the opposite bottom corner. So a 19-inch monitor is not 19 inches tall or 19 inches wide. However many flat-panel monitors are labeled "Wide Screen". This means that they are much wider across than they are tall. This is so that they can show the new wide screen movies. This is great if all you are doing is watching movies on your PC, but it causes problems with how everything else looks. Computer programs do not use wide screens and neither do web pages. Web pages can look "stretched" and not at all like the author intended.

Next is Contrast Ratio. This is the difference between the blackest black and the whitest white the screen can show. A 300:1 CR means that the brightest white is 300 times brighter than the blackest black. Older LCDs often could not display a true black. The best they could do was a dark grey. The higher the contrast ratio the better so a 500:1 ratio is better than a 300:1.

Refresh Speed is also a consideration if you plan on playing games or watching action movies. Refresh speed is how fast can the monitor change images and colors. The refresh speed is measured in milliseconds (MS). Older LCDs were very slow and fast changing motion on the screen hesitated, pixilated, or skipped. Obviously the faster the refresh rate the better. I have seen rates from as high as 16MS to as low as 2MS. I would try for less than 8MS if you plan on gaming or watching movies.

Then there is DVI. DVI or Digital Video Interface is the new method of sending pictures to a monitor. The old method (Analog) is the blue plug-in on the back of your PC with three rows of holes. It is very old fashioned, slow and loses some clarity after leaving the PC. The new DVI interface is larger, white and has lots of square holes. This new method is faster and sends better quality pictures to the monitor. But not all new LCD monitors have a DVI port! If you buy a new PC that has DVI output but your monitor does not have a DVI input then you won't be able to use DVI. I have also seen DVI ready monitors but they don't come with a DVI cable! Then you pay top dollar for the missing part. Make sure your new monitor has DVI and includes a DVI cable.

Quick Tip-Bit: You can get a great 19-inch LCD monitor for under $300.00. If you want a great deal on a great monitor, call Dean Hancy at PC Bits. 763-360-2163

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