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How to Buy a Refurbished LCD Monitor and Save Money

Updated on August 29, 2010

Buying Refurbished LCDs Through Amazon

Amazon's refurbished monitor page
Amazon's refurbished monitor page

Refurbished LCD Monitors

This is it. Time to buy an LCD monitor. Whether you're buying a monitor for the first time, replacing a previous one, or finally upgrading from your old CRT monitor, you're ready to take the plunge.

Before buying a new one, consider a refurbished LCD monitor. You'll save money for the same quality, or spend as much as you had planned, but get a much better monitor!

(If you're interested in seeing all the available refurbs from Amazon, click the link below.)

A few selected examples; Click the above link to see Amazons complete selection of refurbished lcd monitors

Do the Research

Most people spend the extra money only because they're afraid.  Afraid of getting stuck with a lemon, or dealing with a bad company that won't stand behind their products.  There are things that can improve your situation considerably.  First and foremost, be an informed buyer.  That holds true whether you buy new or refurb, but not everybody does their research first. 

Know Two Things Before Buying

You need to know two aspects of your transaction… what you're buying, and who you're dealing with.  When you buy a refurbished lcd monitor, research the model before spending the money.  See if it got good reviews, bad reviews, or none at all.  Check it's specs and see if they're acceptable for you.

Then do the same with the company. 

Check their guarantee:  It should have at least a 1-year warranty, spelling out what picture quality is acceptable.  Will defective items be replaced, or repaired?  Is there a trial period in which you can return it with minimal service charges?  If there's  a restocking fee, is it reasonable?

Google them.  See if they offer customer reviews.  One reason I do a lot of shopping with Amazon is because I can see what other customers experienced.  Whether it's sold by Amazon, or an affiliate merchant, either way customers can leave honest feedback without fear of retaliation.  It's great protection for me as a buyer.

Liquid Crystal Monitor

photo by Briho
photo by Briho

LIquid Crystal Display

As far as refurbished lcd monitors go, or even brand new ones, the following will give you an idea of what to look for:

Liquid Crystal Display.  LCD.  It's so much easier to use the three-letter acronym, that most of us forgot what it came from.  It's talking about the flat panel monitor, as opposed to the old-style CRT (cathode ray tube) monitor.  The difference is blindingly obvious.  CRT's sport a ton of luggage in the back of their case, making them bulky and heavy.  I've carried a 20" CRT that was over 80 pounds.  It's highly unlikely you'll ever find a 20" LCD monitor that weighs even close to 80 pounds.

LCDs versus CRTs

LCD screens have other advantages over CRT's also. Aside for the space and weight reduction, they're less expensive, longer lasting, and cause less eye strain. The measurement rating is literal, unlike CRT. If it says it's a 22" LCD, then that's exactly what your viewable area will measure. They have more screen sizes available, do not suffer burn-in, and are easier on the eyes.

For those of us worried about mutating genes, good news… LCD monitors produce much less low-frequency radiation, and use a lot less power.

If you're still not convinced to trade in your old CRT, just remember - LCD monitors are much cooler. Using decripit technology damages your credibility with the 'tech crowd.' ;^)

What is an LCD made of?

We first saw LCD monitors in popular use on laptops, in black and white.  Eventually, they improved to the point we use them for nearly everything today.  They still have some limitations, but not enough to prevent widespread acceptance. 

Physically, an lcd monitor is a thin flat electronic display.  It will have a backlight, then two panes of polarized glass, with layers of colored pixels and liquid crystal solution sandwiched between the glass.  The liquid crystal is wired to an array that can send specific charges to the x and y grid.  Each unique X-Y location can be aligned in one direction or another, allowing more or less light to pass through specifically colored (and very tiny!) pixels.  The stronger the backlight, the brighter the screen, but also the more power it consumes.  Something to consider when running your laptop off battery power.

Active and Passive Matrix

LCDs require the backlight because the glass panels and the material between them, have no intrinsic light source.  A passive matrix is not backlit, relying instead on ambient light.  A good example is Amazon's Kindle, which can only be read where there's enough light to see by, even if it's a clip-on book light.  (See review here.)

Active matrix displays generally provide backlighting, making them visible no matter how low the external lighting is.

Modern hi-res color monitors and tv's are active matrix.  Each pixel is controlled by a dedicated transistor, using technology called thin-film transistor.  TFT is an improvement over passive matrix, looking brighter, sharper, with faster response.  TFT active-matrix lcd monitors are equal to the best CRT, and typically much better than passive matrix screens.

Check the Guarantee

photo by Ned Raggett
photo by Ned Raggett

Things to look for with a refurbished LCD monitor

When shopping for a refurbished lcd monitor, the important features to look for are screen size, contrast ratio, brightness, viewing angle, and response time.

Selecting a monitor size is a very personal choice, based on the space you have to work with, what you can afford, and how much detail you'll have to look at.  For exacting detail work, you don't want to squint at a 10" screen.  My general policy is to choose the largest one I can afford and have space to put it in.

The higher the contrast ratio, the better.  You'll see a lot of lcd monitors with a ratio of 350:1, but 500:1 or higher is better.  A higher ratio results in better color, and less 'image wash'.

Brightness is described in nits.  250-300 is fine.  A higher number just means you'll be adjusting the screen darker.

View angle doesn't matter so much if it's just you, but if you'll have a lot of people staring at your screen, you can either allow them to invade your personal space to share your viewpoint, or make sure the monitor has a wider viewing angle.  An angle of at least 140 degrees horizontal, and 120 vertical is ideal for most uses. 

Response time is the speed all the pixels take to go from white, to black, to white again.  The smaller the value, the faster the response time.  If you're playing games or video, you'll need a good response time or the screen will show image trails from refreshing too slow.  For high-intensity gaming, or high resolution video, look for a response time of 16ms (milliseconds) or less.  For less critical use, up to 25ms is acceptable.

Active Matrix Variations

There are 5 (so far) variants of active matrix technology.  They are:

Twisted Nematic (TN):  This just means the liquid crystals twist and untwist relative to the amount of power applied.  TN is excellent at gray-scale depth.

In-Plane Switching (IPS):  IPS is a technique involving  two transistors for each pixel.  Requires more energy, making IPS less desirable for battery-driven screens.  The advantage is better viewing angle, and blacker blacks.

Advanced Fringe Field Switching (AFFS):  An improvement over IPS, offering wider viewing angle and better readability in sunlight.

Vertical Alignment (VA):  With no power applied, the screen shows a black display.  Detail shows only when power is being sent to the pixels.  Similar in quality to the IPS variant.

Blue Phase Mode:  A new and unique technology; very expensive so far.  Blue phase has a faster screen refresh, but not as good color or sharpness.

Even New Monitors can have flaws...

When producing LCD monitors, there are sometimes flawed transistors.  This results in the familiar 'dead pixel' that stays on or off permanently.  Some manufacturers have a zero-tolerance policy, and won't accept any amount of defects.  Others set policies for how and in what location will be considered acceptable.  ISO released an official standard, the ISO 13406-2 standard.  But it's not enforced, so not every manufacturer follows the standard, or interprets it in the same fashion.  Another potential defect is uneven luminance changes, called clouding.

Keep in mind, we're not yet talking about refurbished lcd monitors.  This is in the original production phase, with brand new machines.  It might be worth checking the manufacturer's guarantee before buying even a new lcd monitor.

So, after all that, we come to it.  The reason you're here.  To save money, and buy a refurbished LCDmonitor.  A refurbished LCD monitor is a monitor that has been returned for one reason or another.  Any reason from "changed my mind", to "needs major repairs."  After passing inspections and receiving any needed repairs, the monitors are then resold.  This is not necessarily done by the original manufacturer.  Often, independent companies provide these services.

This could be yours!

A nice Samsung monitor
A nice Samsung monitor

It's Up To You Now

Now, if I've done my job right, you can make an informed decision.  New or refurbished? 

Like I mentioned before, using a responsible umbrella company like Amazon can make the purchase safer, and give you the information to choose wisely.  If you pay attention and follow due diligence, there's no reason you can't save money and buy a great refurbished monitor!


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    • Crewman6 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      nbbatt, Thanks for the comment, I appreciate it!

    • profile image 

      8 years ago from bear, de, 19701

      Thanks for your information. nice to read it. very useful to buy refurbished LCD for the good one.

    • Crewman6 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      I hope it goes well. I've been pretty fortunate with mine. We have all kinds of computer hardware troubles, but the monitors have been great.

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Very good information - I actually have 2 monitors I need to see about refurbishing. I've been told that they are useless once they 'go' but we shall have to see!


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