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Beginners Guide To Large Flatscreen Monitors

Updated on March 20, 2011

Anything that measures more than 20 inches diagonally is technically a large flatscreen monitor, but that definition is changing quickly as screen prices drop and users opt for more and more visual real estate. A monitor of 19 inches or smaller should not be considered as it's not worth the money when you can get a much larger model for a few extra bucks. It is quite likely that by 2010, the average screen size on a modern computer could be 22 or even 24 inches! I'm waiting for my next build to buy a monster 28 inch monitor... and I can hardly keep waiting!

Here are the basics so any computer user can master the lingo:

Resolution: The rule of thumb is that the higher the resolution, the better the image quality, therefore, most large monitors will have native resolutions of around 1600 x 1200 or more, all the way up to a dazzling 2560 x 1600. It's never a good idea to use a monitor at a different resolution than it's optimized for so make sure that your video graphics card is a good match for your screen before pulling out your credit card. Also keep in mind that using a high resolution may make the icons and standard desktop text on your screen tiny to the point of illegibility, even on huge 30 inch monitors.

Aspect Ratio: Most new monitors are arriving on the marketplace as widescreens, which is an aspect ratio of 16 to 10, (why it's not usually referred to as 8 to 5 baffles me). This shape is optimal for watching DVD movies or HDTV but can be problematic when used as a conventional computer monitor. A large widescreen is so wide that users have to turn their heads a bit to see the edges. That's just way too big. I'd be much happier with a 28 inch 4 to 3 aspect ratio flatscreen than a 16 to 10 one, but the former just doesn't seem to exist!

Panel: Most flatscreen computer monitors are TN (Twisted Nematic). There are also IPS, Super-IPS, VA, PVA, MVA and many other types and they all have their evangelists and detractors. For most general purpose work, TN is just fine.

Contrast Ratio: There are lies, damned lies, and Contrast Ratio Claims. Every manufacturer will claim a minimum of 500 to 1 contrast ratio and most fall well short. There are some outrageous four figure claims out there that are only figments of marketers' imaginations. You're well advised to check the independent reviews to determine which screens provide the best contrast, but the best judge is your own eye. Visit a store that has several different types of monitors side by side and check them out yourself!

Response Rate: Another fertile field for liars of every stripe. The faster a pixel can change colors in milliseconds, the better the image should be so fast moving images don't ghost or clip, right? That's not necessarily true, as some measurements of this benchmark are done using completely artificial transitions that have no real relevance to everyday usage. Again, check the reviews and judge on side by side monitors if you can.

Brightness: Luminance is measured in candelas (candles) per square metre (cd/m2). If you're going to be using your monitor only for general PC uses, 250 cd/m2 is fine. If you want to watch movies or TV on it, especially if you're not in a dark room, go for a higher number.

View Angle: This is only significant in the cases of monitors used to watch TV and movies, as if you're using your PC conventionally, you should be located smack dab in front of it, or Hal's Ergonomics Police will come and get you.

Beware of Fancy Junk. It's not exactly a technical lingo term, but any monitor with all sorts of strange connectors other than DVI; pivoting rotation between landscape and portrait mode; side to side swivel; and the rest of the imaginative but useless and costly features heaped upon monitors by marketing bozos are usually not worth the price.

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      Bill Watts photographer 6 years ago

      Thanks for great info.

      I am looking for info on using

      a flatscreen tv lcd or led as a monitor.

      Say a 55 in Samsung ...

      Thanks :)