Buying a new LCD monitor

I’ve just gone through a round of LCD upgrades here. On my main desktop, I now have a 24-inch Westinghouse monitor running at 1920 x 1200 (1080p) and an older, 4:3 aspect 21″ Samsung SyncMaster 214T running at 1600 x 1200. Both monitors are being driven by a Radeon HD 2600 XT video card.

I’ve got a second 24-inch monitor (from DCL) on the test bench, connected to systems running digital cable tuners and Blu-ray and HD DVD drives for testing 1080p performance. And I just replaced the nearly five-year-old SD television with a much lighter 32-inch LCD from Olevia. The 50-inch Sony in the living room and the new Olevia are both connected to Media Center extenders.

The price of 24-inch monitors has now dropped to the $350-400 level if you shop carefully. Running Vista Ultimate x64 on a quad-core Intel system with this display configuration is a real pleasure.

If you’re planning any LCD upgrades, I recommend checking. AnandTech’s LCD Thread before you buy anything. This is a huge and regularly updated resource that is a geek’s dream, doing an excellent job of demystifying and explaining how this technology works and what you should look for. Here’s a snippet from the introduction by author xtknight, who also runs the LCD Resource site :

In the confusing market of LCD monitors, The LCD Thread was created as a resource to assist users in choosing the right display for themselves. In the guide you will find a comprehensive description of the inner workings of LCD monitors, as well as recommendations for each usage category. Participation in the thread and discussion is encouraged, as is posting daily LCD headlines. Feel free to ask for LCD recommendations in the thread if you are unsure or have specific criteria. Questions about LCDs or general display technologies are also welcome. My goal is to personally respond to each one of you, and thus far I have met that goal. Thank you for taking the time to visit. I hope you enjoy your time here and I hope to keep this resource updated as much as possible.

My ZDNet colleague George Ou also has an interesting post up today on what you have to know about manufacturer’s specs for LCD viewing angles.

I do realize that my configuration is over the top for most people (and I’m planning to add a third and possibly a fourth display as soon as my new PCI HD 2400 video card arrives). If you just need one monitor and you and your eyes are over 40, the sweet spot these days might be a 22-inch monitor, which runs at a 1680 x 1050 native resolution and is much easier to read than a 20-inch monitor at the same resolution or a 24-inch display at 1920 x 1200.

10 thoughts on “Buying a new LCD monitor

  1. They’re all in use for production or testing purposes. Two monitors are in use on my main desktop in multi-mon mode. I use them all the time. The 1080p monitor is attached to two different Media Center machines. One is connected to its analog input, the other to its DVI connection, which works as a perfectly adequate switch. I have enough room for the extra keyboard and mouse, so it’s not confusing.

    I don’t need a KVM, I just need lots of bench and desk space.

  2. @Kat – On XP I found anything above 1280 x 1024 way too small too but on Vista it’s fine. The difference is that Vista is far more friendly at higher resolutions because the icons and text is bigger and clearer. My remaining XP machines are now running at 1024 x 768 because I find this the best resolution for eye health.

  3. @Ed – You running Microsoft drivers or ATi’s own drivers for that HD 2600? If you’re running ATi’s drivers, are you seeing the dreaded “Display driver atikmdag stopped responding and has successfully recovered” problem? Seems like you can have good frame rates or stability, but not both …

  4. I’m running ATI’s drivers and haven’t seen a “display driver stopped responding” message in months.

    As for native resolution, the size of the monitor and thus the number of pixels is what makes a difference. The native resolution of a 21-inch 4:3 monitor is 1600×1200 and it look just fine at that resolution. It would look ridiculous at 1024×768, way too large.

  5. Even at native resolutions, I find Vista far easier on the eye than XP.

    “I’m running ATI’s drivers and haven’t seen a “display driver stopped responding” message in months.”

    I take it you don’t game much then … it’s pretty much the only time that I see it, but when it hits, it’s annoying.

  6. I too am looking at new LCDs to upgrade my mismatched dual 17″ setup (currently a Samsung Sync Master 171P and a ViewSonic VG171 which sits on a 2.5″ box) – which takes me to frustration #1. I fail to understand why so many monitors do not come with height adjustment. My chair is adjusted so my feet sit nicely on the floor. I like the height of my monitors so I am not jerking my head up and down to line up the correct focal length in my glasses so I don’t irritate the prolapsed disks in my neck. I want a great quality 22″ with height adjustment.

    Frustration #2. It seems whenever I find a suitable candidate, I discover it has built in speakers! Is there really a big demand for built in speakers? Don’t most people have computer speakers? With subwoofers? And maybe even 5.1? What is someone with a dual (or trips or quad) setup supposed to do? And on top of that, the sound quality of those I have heard competes well with what? Laptop speakers? Woopie!

    I want a great quality 22″ LCD with height adjustment and NO speakers. Oh yeah, and thin bezels so side-by-side viewing is not hindered by a 6″ wide vertical bar. And DVI (or HDMI). Sadly, finding such a beast is proving to be a challenge.

  7. Ed: I’m late on this thread, but maybe you’ll have time to respond as you’re recovering from your flu bug.

    Is there a way to tell Vista that a widescreen monitor is in portrait mode? I’m running 2 Dell widescreen monitors from my Fujitsu T4220 via a Matrox DualHead2Go. The stand provides for pivoting one monitor, but I’m not finding a way to tell Windows that’s the config, and I’m afraid that because the Matrox works by letting Vista think I have one extrawidescreen display that this won’t work. If you have any suggestions, I’d sure appreciate it!

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