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Computer Monitor Buying Guide
by: Peter Stewart
Although a monitor makes some of the least difference in terms of your computer's speed, it can make some of the biggest differences in terms of comfort and productivity. This guide aims to give you the details you need to know to choose the best monitor for what you need it for.

LCD flap panel monitors have become all the rage, in a matter of just a few years, the old CRT monitors have nearly become obsolete, expecially on new computers. The old monitors are not bad. There is much to be liked, especially in terms of value for money, and in terms of performance. But you can't fight the change. We will focus on the LCD flat panel monitors as there is often more to be considered.

Firstly there is the connection to the computer. Older monitors utilised a VGA cable that carried the signal from the computer to the monitor. The signal that goes along there is an analogue signal and it can become slightly degraded, and is just an old technology. Many flat panel monitors support this old style, but that is usually just for backwards compatibility. The newer cable type is a digital kind which is designed to be used for LCD monitors. The performance from this newer kind is better, but if you are upgrading an old computer, make sure your computer can run that monitor.

Secondly is the screen resolution. This is how many pixels can be displayed on the monitor. The higher the resolution, the more can be fit on the screen. This means clearer images with much smoother textures, but it also means that things appear smaller as an increase in resolution does not increase the physical dimensions of the monitor. Usual nowadays is 1024 x 768 or even 1280 x 960. Computers used to have 800 x 600, but that has all but disappeared, except on very old computers or those that are not maintained properly. I run 1280 x 960 as it gives room for a lot of working space on the monitor, but with less than a 19 inch monitor, 1024 x 768 would be more suitable.

Screen refresh rate is another factor that comes into play. CRT monitors used a process of changing the pixels on the screen to show the new images, updating from top to bottom in lines, at a certain rate per second. With that old style 60MHz (60 refreshes per second) would be the minimum before the screen started to flicker. LCD monitors do not have this problem and will look fine at 60MHz.When running games a refresh rate higher than that is required, often up to 85MHz or more. Make sure the monitor you plan to use supports at least 60MHz at your desired resolution for normal use and 85MHz if you want to play games.

A specification that is new for flat panel monitors that didn't effect CRT monitors is latency. Although the refresh rate may be high, the table of little dots that make up the LCD panel take a small time to change, that change is the latency. Obviously if this latency is too high it is possible that you get shot in games before you even know it, which is no good. Latencies have improved, but only monitors claimed with 8ms latency have been really good for games. Latencies tend to be exagerated and a latency of 8ms actually averages out to 12ms. With most ratings multiply by 1.5 to get an average rating.

The actual brightness of the screen can vary from spot to spot on the screen. Certain monitors have obvious bright parts and dull parts while others are more consistent. Most have some variation, but the less, the better. Name branded monitors tend to give better results than cheaper no name brand versions.

Extras like little speakers are not worth talking about much. They have limited use and I would rather have seperate speakers and keep the monitor simple.

After considering these, you should have enough to make a good purchase decision. Remember that a little extra money spent on a monitor is a good investment, and unlike many other computer parts, upgrades are not needed that often.

About the author:
Peter Stewart is a computer enthusiast, his interest in computers and focus on practical down to earth advice inspired his two websites. - Practical buying tips - Fair and honest reviews and opinions

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