The Best Computer Monitor For You

The Best Computer Monitor For You (Plus the Settings To Make It Shine)

Posted on January 28, 2010. Filed under: The Best Computer Monitor For You |

Which monitor you choose will make a difference in terms of the picture you will see on your screen, but your video graphics card (or lack of one) also plays a role.

It also matters whether or not your adapter card is analog or digital (sharper) and if you have a CRT or LCD display screen.

Note that you must use a video card that supports the type of monitor you are using.

Computer monitors today are either CRT or LCD screens.

CRT (cathode ray tube) display monitor: This is the same kind of technology as old TVs.  CRT monitors are often huge, but the newer ones are flatter and more compact.  There are two ways to measure a CRT monitor’s image quality: dot pitch and resolution.

  • Dot pitch is expressed in dots per inch- it tells how sharp the picture is. The higher the number of dots per inch, the closer together the phosphor dots are, resulting in a sharper image. An average dot pitch is 0.28mm -0.32mm (the lower the mm, the higher the dot pitch).
  • Resolution is defined by how many pixels are used to draw the screen. Higher resolutions means that more inforamtion can be displayed on the screen, but the objects and text will appear smaller . Resolution can be configured through the operating system.  Your graphics card controls what options are available on your resolution settings in your operating system.

LCD (liquid crystal displays) monitor: Like CRT, LCD accepts analog or digital graphics cards, but LCD displays a better digital image and does not require analog modulation. LCD monitors use either active matrix or passive-matrix technology. Thin LCD flat screen monitors are very popular today.

  • Active-matrix screens are made up of several individual LCD pixels, backlit by electrodes through crystals. This type of display is very crisp and easy to look at and does not require constant refreshing, but it requires large amounts of power. Even with the backlight turned off, the screen still consumes a lot of battery power. Laptops with active-matrix screens can’t operate on a battery for more than two hours. However, most LCDs today are based on this active-matrix technology.
  • Passive-matrix screens are made up of transistors that form an x and y graph. When the display is instructed to change a pixel it sends a signal to the x and y coordinates. Voltage lines from each axis intersect at the desired coordinates to find the right pixel. Because the computer takes a millisecond or two to light the coordinates the response of the screen to rapid changes is poor. This type of screen is not as sharp, so has waned in popularity as active-matrix screens got less expensive. Dual scan screens, a variation of passive-matrix is split in half to implement a dual scan display. Each half of the display is refreshed separately, leading to increased quality. However, it is still not as sharp as the active-matrix screen. Also, if you move to the side of a passive-matrix LCD screen the display will look dark to you. Active-matrix screens have a much wider viewing screen.

This is the standard VGA (Video Graphics Array) analog port that can be used with CRT or LCD monitors. This typical video/ monitor port is the DE-15 female port with the DE-15 male plug (pictured above). The VGA (analog) connection converts digital signals received from the graphics card into analog signals which it sends to the monitor. This conversion to analog creates distortions in the integrity of the signal.

Most video cards today have the superior (digital) DVI ports built into them. With only the standard VGA connection,  image quality is subpar. With a DVI interface on the video or graphics card, pure digital output can be achieved using DVI cables, resulting in a sharper picture.  To best support this superior digital DVI port on your video card your monitor needs to have either a DVI or HDMI (with DVI adapter) port, but those who do not have monitors that support DVI or HDMI can still utilize the DVI port on your video card with the right cable.

Refer to the cable descriptions below to see which one you will need for your computer and monitor:

  • DVI-D (Digital, for use with digital displays):  This cable is for LCD monitors that have DVI or HDMI ports (needs DVI adapter). These cables link DVI-graphics cards to digital displays. They transfer digital-to-digital signals, eliminate analog conversion and cannot accommodate CRT displays.
  • DVI-A (Analog, for use with analog displays): These DVI cables run from the DVI graphics card to an analog CRT display, converting digital-to-analog. Although some purity is lost in the conversion from digital to analog, using a DVI card and DVI-A cable with a CRT monitor delivers superior performance to using a VGA interface.
  • DVI-DL (Dual Link): DVI cables can be single link, or dual link. Dual link cables have the ability to provide greater speed, greater signal quality and extremely high resolutions by utilizing an additional “pipeline” when the first line has been maximized. This is especially relevant in very large-screen displays requiring high resolutions of over 2.3 million pixels. By comparison, most 17-inch to 19-inch digital displays have a native resolution of about 1.3 million pixels.
  • DVI-I (Integrated, for use with either display): These cables work as digital-to-digital or analog-to-analog, hence their designation as “integrated.” They do not convert digital-to-analog or analog-to-digital. These DVI cables can be used to connect a DVI graphics card to a digital display, or a DVI card’s VGA interface to an analog display (The picture below is a DVI-I port).

If your monitor has an HDMI (High-definition multimedia interface)  port you can connect to an HDMI-enabled video card or a DVI-enabled video card with an adapter. HDMI is an all digital technology that advances the work of DVI with higher motion-picture frame rates and digital audio on the same connector. It also supports remote control and dual-link capabilities. It is compatible with HD DVD and Blu-ray. It is not the same connector as the DVI, but they are electronically compatible. You will need to purchase a DVI to HDMI converter (adapter) to use this port with a DVI port on your PC. Make sure you get the correct DVI cable for the DVI end of the cable. HDMI are compatible with DVI-D and DVI-I cables through proper adapters, but unlike the others, only single-link is supported, and the audio and remote control features are lost (HMDI type A is standard, type B is superior and type C is for mobile devices).

Note that audio cannot be converted by a HDMI to DVI converter because DVI does not carry audio. Therefore audio will need to be carried through another connector such as TOSLINK (Optical Audio Cables) if available. If TOSLINK is not available, audio can be connected using the audio connectors from a composite or component connection.

The following are video standard terms you will come upon when shopping for a monitor and video graphics card:

VGA : These adapters (video cards or already integrated into motherboard) offer 256 colors with a resolution of 320X200 pixels. You can see VGA in action when your computer goes into Safe Mode.

SVGA (Super VGA): These adapters have a default resolution of 16 colors at resolution 800X600, but now offer 256 colors at a resolution of 1,024X768 pixels.

XGA (Extended): These adapters offer 256 colors at a resolution of 1,024X768 pixels or 65,536 colors at 800X600 pixels.

Todays video standards are  extensions of SVGA or XGA. UXGA has a standard resolution of 1600X1200. Whenever the name is preceded by the letter W it will have the same vertical resolution, but a wider horizontal resolution (for wide screens)- an example is WXSGA. If  Q is first in the name this means that the horizontal and vertical resolution are each doubled, making a final resolution four times the original (example: QXGA).

Name and Resolution

WXGA= 1680X1050

UXGA = 1600X1200

WUXGA = 1920X1200

QXGA = 2048X1536

WQXGA = 2560X1600

WQUXGA = 3840X2400

WHUXGA= 7680X4800

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There are four types of standard video connections: coaxial, composite, S-video and component that can be used on your TV and/or computer.

Coaxial (worst) can often be found on the back of old TVs for the antenna cable.

Composite (good) is a single yellow RCA jack. It is at the bottom of the analog-video barrel. If you have a three-connector cable on your home video equipment, such as a DVD player connected to a TV, odds are the tips will be yellow, red and white. The red and white are for left and right stereo audio; the yellow lead is your composite video.

S-video (better) is a component video technology. This port is usually black and looks similar to the traditional keyboard and mouse connectors (round with holes and notches). The video signal is split into two signals, giving you a better quality picture. For example, text displayed on-screen using this connection is noticeably sharper than composite or coaxial (RF).

Component (best)- This video signal is split into three signals, two color and one black and white, giving you the best picture. Use component video to take advantage of the superior picture. The component ports on your monitor may be labeled Y(green) Pb(blue) Pr(red) with a red and white R/L audio ports. That is the analog version. The digital version replaces the analog and is labeled Y Cb Cr.

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Now that you have chosen a monitor and a video graphics card, you want to know what settings to use to make the monitor work it’s best.

The first thing to know about is the refresh rate.

The larger a monitor gets, the higher the refresh rate needs to be. A small 14-16 in. screen will do well in the 60-72Hz range. Larger monitors can be set up to 85Hz or higher. This is necessary to reduce eye strain in CRT monitors. For LCD monitors, pixels are set and do not need to be refreshed, but higher refresh rates allow LCD screens to have more fluid video motion. If you are using an LCD monitor you should use the native resolution of that monitor for best results.

Be careful changing the refresh rate if using an old CRT monitor as you could damage it, but if it is fairly new you don’t need to worry because the monitor won’t operate at a rate that is too high for it or will warn you that it is the wrong setting. Your refresh rate must be supported by your graphics adapter and your monitor to work correctly. Also, be aware that raising the refresh rate might lower the monitors resolution.

Here is how to change the refresh rate in Windows Vista: Right-click in the center of the Desktop> click Personalize>click Display Settings>click Advanced Settings> click Monitor (Tab)> select the desired refresh rate.

The resolution is the next setting we will discuss. CRT monitors can display a crisp image at many resolutions within a supported range, LCD monitors can not. They have a single fixed (native) resolution. The monitor settings should reflect this resolution only, unless you have an LCD monitor laptop which can be adjusted somewhat.

Here is how to change the resolution in Windows Vista: Right-click in the center of the Desktop> click Personalize>click Display Settings> move the resolution slider to the right for higher resolutions.

Be aware that some adapter cards come with their own utilities for changing settings.

Multimonitors– Having two monitors side by side that act like one large monitor is a very cool trick.  You can drag things across to each screen like magic. You don’t have to have a special computer to do this. All you need is a video graphics card(s) that supports multimonitors and 2 monitor cables or one that splits into 2.  Microsoft calls their multimonitor feature Dual View. You can either extend your Desktop onto the second monitor or clone it onto the second monitor.  In Windows XP and Vista-  if you have more than one video graphics card they all have to use the same driver. In Windows 7 that is not necessarily the case.

Once you have the cards and cables plugged in you simply Right click in the middle of your Desktop>click on the picture of the monitor that says #2> check Extend The Desktop Onto This Monitor box> Click and drag the second monitor to the desired virtual position around the primary monitor>change the refresh rate and resolution of the 2nd monitor as desired. You are done.

What to do if your older CRT monitor has image discoloration (the rainbow effect)

You need to degauss your monitor which will reduce its magnetic field. Repeated degaussing of a monitor is not advised and can damage your monitor. Just do it periodically and not a whole bunch of times in a row. It is also not advisable to use external degaussing devices.  This is a typical way to degauss your computer:

If you don’t have a degaussing button right on your monitor, press the menu button on the front panel of your monitors display. This will give you options to adjust the screen’s orientation, brightness, etc. Using the up and down arrow keys select the Extra Controls (or something similar) menu item. Go to the submenu until you see the Deguass option and select it. You should hear a distinctive noise and the image will distort during the process.

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