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Computer Monitor Buying Guide

Sep 9, 2008
You can have the best computer in the world, but without a monitor you can't even use it! A lot of times people can get so caught up trying to find the right computer, they forget all about the monitor that goes with it. The fact is, when using your computer; the monitor is what you'll be looking at all the time. If you have a great computer but a poor monitor, it may be time for an upgrade. The question is what do you look for in a computer monitor?

Below, you'll find a few things that our product specialists recommend our customers to look for when shopping for a computer monitor.

Screen Size: When buying a monitor, its important that you get a screen that is big enough for you to be able to see details with ease. We recommend monitors 17 inches and up, but having one slightly smaller can still work for you.

Screen Type: Generally you have two types of screens that you can choose from, CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) and LCD (Liquid Crystal Display). CRT's have traditionally given better color quality and response times, but as technology has advanced there are many LCD's that can compete. The advantages of an LCD (flat panel) monitor is that it almost always takes up less desk space and is more energy efficient than a comparable CRT monitor.

Response Time: With the older LCD models, or the base LCD models, you'll often see slow response times. The response time is how fast the pixels within the monitor turn on and off. With slower response times, you can see trails left behind of fast moving objects when watching a movie or playing a video game. We recommend getting an LCD monitor that has a response time of less than 16 ms (milliseconds). The faster the response time (the lower the number), the better results you will get as far as response time goes.

Inputs: Most monitors come with a single standard VGA style connection, but some can come with many more options. These include inputs for S-Video, Composite, Component, and even HDMI. The most important thing to consider is whether or not your computers video card will be compatible with at least one of these inputs.

Format: Most monitors come in either the 4:3 (Standard) format or the 16:9 (Widescreen) format. If you don't have a particular preference for either one, you should go with the 16:9 as this is the format used for HDTV, and it allows you to view more on the screen at once. We recommend the 16:9 format because if you upgrade your computer in the future (which might have a HD or Blu-Ray DVD Player), you won't have to upgrade your monitor as well. This will prolong the time you use your monitor and you'll get more from your investment.

Extra Features: You might want to consider a monitor that has more capabilities than just the standard features. Some of today's monitors come with USB hubs, memory card readers, and even built-in speakers. If you want to save desktop space this can be a good option for you, but note that the cost associated with these extra features will be higher.


CRT (Cathode Ray Tube): An electronic vacuum tube containing a screen on which graphic or alphanumeric information may be displayed.

LCD (Liquid Crystal Display): Refers to a flat panel technology that uses liquid crystals sandwiched between two glass plates.

Response Time: A measure of how quickly a screen can display a change in the brightness of the screen image.

VGA (Video Graphics Array): A monitor standard that has evolved into a term used to designate an image consisting of 640 pixels wide by 480 pixels tall.

S-Video (Separated Video): An analog video signal that carries the video data as two separate signals.

Composite: A single video connector that combines all the color and brightness signals into one cable using a single RCA male connector. Often color-coded yellow, it is the most common type of analog video connection between older VCRs and TVs.

Component: Video signal in which the luminance and sync information are recorded separately from the color information. Component is superior to composite.

HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface): HDMI supports standard, enhanced, or high-definition video, plus multi-channel digital audio all on a single cable.

Video Card: An adapter card used to manage the display on the monitor.

4:3 Standard Aspect Ratio: The shape of standard (non-widescreen) TVs, which simply means the picture "frame" is 4 units wide for every 3 units tall.

16:9 Widescreen Aspect Ratio: The shape of widescreen TV's, which simply means the picture "frame" is 16 units wide for every 9 units tall. This ratio is used for high definition televisions.

USB (Universal Serial Bus: Connection port on a computer that is universally compatible with many types of electronic devices.
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