Buying Guides -- Monitor

“I've been staring at my computer for hours" is an often heard refrain, normally uttered in a zombie-like state. Of course, it's actually the monitor you are "staring" at, but for many of us the monitor is the computer. The right monitor should offer good image quality and a sizable viewing area while comfortably fitting your desktop space. Picking a monitor which combines these traits means you'll want to learn the basics about monitor features and technology. After a quick lesson, it'll be easy to choose a monitor that makes everything from spreadsheets to space aliens eye-popping and easy to read.

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General Features

Regardless of what type of monitor you're considering, size is a priority. A bigger monitor offers easier to read text, better graphics and the ability to have more and larger windows open on your desktop. All monitor sizes are measured diagonally across the screen, but that number isn't the true viewable area. The plastic frame around the monitor hides a certain amount of the screen so there is a difference between the quoted size and the actual viewable area. A monitor's viewable area should be within an inch or so of the quoted size.

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Viewing Angle
One of the main disadvantages of LCDs when compared to CRTs is their limited viewing angle. When viewing a LCD straight on it looks fine. But the screen will appear washed-out if you move your head over to the side and look at it from an extreme angle. Low-end LCDs can have viewing angles of only 100 degrees which won't give everyone crowded round your desk a clear view. For a standard 15 inch LCD try to get a 140 degree viewing angle. Up that by 20-40 degrees when shopping for an 18 inch LCD.

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Shopping Tips

Doing consumer research is easy on the internet. Sites abound with articles and reviews that evaluate price, image quality, colour, focus, viewing angle and controls. Comparative reviews look at several monitors at once and tell you which ones are the winners. Other useful tools are matching engines which let you select criteria like monitor type, size, price and dot pitch.

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