Computer Parts | Computer Monitor

It might not be inside your computer, but a computer monitor is probably one of the first things you will notice if it starts to go wrong. There are some bargain cheap computer monitors that come in many shapes, sizes, but even a good value high definition computer monitor can now be bought for less than £100.

It was not that long ago that every computer was being used with an oversized, garish CRT monitor which was connected using a VGA cable. The earlier models used to flicker badly and take a long time to warm up; you would know when they were starting to fail when they took longer to show a good picture each time!

Times have moved on and LED high-definition flat screen monitors are now the norm with most computer retailers only stocking flat screens for consumer use. That does not mean I can say that one particular screen is the best computer monitor, it’s much more difficult than that!

What’s Important in a Computer Monitor?

Flat Screen Monitor

Ignoring all the rubbish around it, I use a 23-inch flat screen monitor as my main view and a 19-inch flat screen next to it for my research

The only person that will know if a computer monitor is right for you is… you. Even if you buy two identical specification displays from two different brands they are going to be different and there are considerations for when you choose your new (or next) PC monitor.

I am currently using a Hann-G 23 inch LCD monitor and a 27 inch LED monitor, both are completely different and I must admit I need a new graphics card to run them both effectively. You will find that you will notice the most minor of differences when using them side-by-side.

What does Your PC Need?

Your PC will have a limited number of connections for your computer monitor. There are three main types of physical computer connection and your computer will have at least one of them:

  • VGA (for older computers),
  • DVI (the digital progression of VGA),
  • HDMI (which is becoming the standard for HD TVs).

As you replace graphics cards or ‘graphics on-board’ motherboards, you will find HDMI outputs more common because of High Definition monitors. Digital is always going to be considered better than analogue and this means that DVI and HDMI is going to be better than VGA. I doubt that most “general” users would tell the difference though unless they spent many hours a day in front of their screen.

A DVI – VGA Adapter (male DVI Connection shown)

If you do need to buy a computer monitor with a more modern adapter then your graphics card then most of the connectors can be adapted with “transformers” from your average Maplins type retailer for a few pounds. The only thing you can not usually do cheaply is use a HDMI computer monitor with a VGA graphics connection.

What do You Need?

If you are only going to be using your computer for a few hours a week, checking e-mail or simple web browsing; then you could buy nearly any reputable budget monitor on the market and be reasonably happy. If you are going to be using it for computer gaming or watching online TV and video, you are going to want something a little more powerful with HD pictures and spending more money.

Do you also need lots of gadget extras built in to your monitor? USB ports are a common addition to mid-price range monitors but there are lots of different add-ons that can add expense to your new display such as KVM Switching and advanced image settings…

Computer Monitor 101: Basic Knowledge

If you are going to be heading to a high street retailer then you want to make sure you are not going to be fobbed off with last decades technology at sky-high prices. I have been shocked at some of the “offers” that the big names have been trying to flog and the problem is that people are actually believing them and buying old stock computer monitors at new prices.

The first thing we need to do is tell you what you should be looking for and what you should try to avoid.

Size and Ratio

Running a computer on a 7-inch tablet screen would be defeating the reason to have a computer.

Running a computer on a 7-inch tablet screen would be defeating the reason to have a computer.

They say that bigger is always better. If you have a huge monitor then it is going to cause some problems reading everything but at the same time upgrading to a widescreen monitor is always a good thing to consider. A big benefit of upgrading (or buying) a widescreen display is that movies, TV Catch-Up and pictures increasingly come in a widescreen format (16:9 or 16:10) and that means if you have a traditional square shaped screen (or 4:3 ratio) then you will see these in a letterbox effect.

When it comes to the actual size of the monitor I consider that unless you are doing in-depth and intricate work such as graphics design then anything larger than 27 inches is going to start looking too big  and this is usually around the size range that the lower-to-mid cost monitors start to filter out.

Pixel Guarantee

Lcd display dead pixel

Spot the Dead Pixel?

The worst thing that can happen to you when you get home is that you open your brand new monitor, plug it in and there are black or coloured dots in the centre of your new screen that should not be there. These are faulty pixels which may or may not have been working in the factory at manufacture or may (or may not) have been damaged between the factory and you.

Your screen is made up of millions of pixels (High Definition flat screen monitors will have over 2.1 million) and if one of them is a stuck pixel (which constantly stays one colour) or a dead pixel (which is blank) then it can get really annoying. Each manufacturer has a different policy on what they will exchange or replace because with over 2.1 million pixels it is sensible to expect a few duffers.

We could waste hours going into the logic of pixel policies and who is the best, but instead we will direct you to this article from Wired.

So why have we already wasted 5 minutes on this? Well the answer is simple, if you are going to buy from a high street retailer and they start recommending models, ask them if they know that particular monitors pixel policy… it will show you who has been properly trained rather than trained to sell.

Note: If you do have a dead or stuck pixel and your retailer or manufacturer will not help you there are programs such as Undead Pixel which might help, but no guarantees.

Screen Height

You might not consider it an issue now, but wait a few months after having your new monitor and you will find yourself trying everything to adjust it’s height. Ideally a computer display should be at around eye level to help prevent eye strain; monitors at the lower end of the cost scale will often come with a very basic stand.

You can find yourself trying to balance these on boxes or books to try and get the best angle to view, but buying a computer monitor with an adjustable stand will cost more to buy. You can also consider buying a separate mount for your computer monitor .

How Much HD?

We have already talked about pixels in the sense of they can break. We have not talked about pixels though in terms of how much better is more of them and more especially when we talk about High Definition.

Everyone touts about HD now, whether it is HD-Ready or Full HD. As display technology has developed though, the number of pixels you can fit into a square inch of screen has increased and for the Full-HD experience the magic figures you are looking for the magic figure of 1980 x 1080 to qualify as an HD computer monitor.

Not everyone is going to use HD features though. If you are not going to be watching TV or video content on your computer then you are not going to see as many benefits and if a good HD-Ready monitor comes up at a good price then it is worth considering.

A Quick Summary:

Standard “Never mention HD” – usually 576 horizontal lines of pixels
HD-Ready  – At least 720 horizontal lines of pixels
Full HD – At least 1080 horizontal lines of pixels

Optional Extras

Something that is going to be important to a lot of people is the flexibility in optional extras. Personally I do not use any and my computer monitors do not come with anything extra; but there is an obvious need for USB ports, memory card slots or speakers for those that have different layouts in their computer suite. If you need these then you will pay over the odds compared to buying them for your desktop computer.

If you are buying a monitor with USB ports though, make sure they are at least USB 2 compliant to make them worth the upgrade.

Advanced Monitors

LED vs LCD

Some say there is no real difference between LED and LCD displays but I have to disagree, having one of each attached to my computer I can safely say that there is a difference and with both being connected with DVI cables, there is the chance for a good comparison. Physically there is a big difference between the two; LCD displays are illuminated by a cold cathode tube, not too dissimilar to your old chunky CRT monitor. LED displays though use lots of tiny LED lights to the same effect; energy efficient and brighter.

The actual method of transmitting the light through the screen is the same though. Both LCD and LED monitors use a liquid crystal display technology to shutter light through the pixels and therefore making up the colours you see; we are getting very technical again though.

Pixel Rates

If you are a gamer looking for the most efficient and speedy displays then you need to know about pixel response rates. It would be nothing but confusing to go into detail here and again we would get hugely technical on it all; suffice to say that if you are going to be a massive gamer then you want a low response rate.

The fastest consumer monitors currently offer a speed of around 2 millisecond to get from black to white on an individual pixel and 5 milliseconds from one shade of grey to another. That sounds incredibly quick and it is, but are you really going to notice if that was 10 milliseconds? It is not as important a factor as it sounds unless you are a very strict gamer.

Touch-Screen Monitors

ID-10059195

credit: nuttakit / freedigitalphotos.net

Unless you have a Windows 8 computer then I say steer clear for now because there is not enough software to justify the cost of a touch screen monitor. Windows 8 touch-technology is still really new and although tablet computers have been using touch-screens for years; good touch-screen focused software is still in infancy.

The main use for a touch screen display at the moment is to remove the need for a keyboard. The question is when are you going to prefer an on-screen keyboard instead of a traditional hardware keyboard? Of course there are applications that specifically use touch screen technology such as shopping centre information kiosks; but the need for a non-physical keyboard is quite obvious for this.

So Is There A Conclusion?

There is such a wide range of monitors out there that it would be impossible to name a best computer monitor that would meet everyones needs which is a shame really because it would be much less to read. What we can say though is that there are some things that we would try to avoid:

  • Built in USB Hubs – They are currently USB 2 whereas really we should be considering USB 3 ports as standard
  • 70 inch monitors – unless we have £10,000 to spend (and if you do, please just send it to me instead)
  • Fixed height stands – Getting adjustable ones are really important if you have different users of different heights

Computer monitors are continually evolving.

 

If you want to see MY current computer build to start off your own idea to Build Your Own Computer then see my About My Computer page.