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. They will show models that fit your criteria. Often you can read user feedback as well. Buying online means you'll be dealing with shipping fees. Shipping rates can range from a few dollars to several hundred, depending on the size and weight of the monitor and how fast you want it shipped. When comparing features and prices look at the full cost of shipping and sales tax as well. Shipping charges are usually non-refundable so if you need to return or exchange a monitor you're going to be out a few dollars. Many stores offer a money back guarantee that may or may not include shipping charges.

Testing Your New Monitor

When your monitor arrives you need to check it from top to bottom. It's a bad sign if the styrofoam packing inserts are broken or dented. Damage caused during shipping can result in a cracked or skewed frame around the screen or an unstable or distorted image. The real test will be viewing the monitor under working conditions. If there is a problem, contact your vendor immediately. A mainstream manufacturer will have a customer support system you can contact.

A problem to watch out for with LCDs is dead pixels. This refers to pixels that are either always "on" or "off." After you hook your monitor up, run a totally white screen and look for stray black dots then switch to a black screen and check for white or coloured dots. You'll be able to live with a few dead pixels but you don't want to have a cluster in the middle of your screen. Warranties differ on how many dead pixels constitute a defective screen.

One of the best ways to evaluate a monitor is to run diagnostic software like DisplayMate. The software is designed to help you optimize contrast, brightness and image size. It provides test patterns like those you see on TV that test focus, colour and geometry. Running test programs will help you identify potential problems like pincushioning (lines tend to curve inward towards the center of the screen) or misconvergence (coloured halos around objects).

The monitor controls should be able to correct noticeable distortions, if not there might be a defect in the monitor or the controls. Although most monitors have the same basic panel of controls, not all monitors controls are easy to use or effectively adjust the screen. Most users won't be tinkering with the screen very often, but you can find out which models are user friendly by reading reviews.

Warranty

Take the time to find out what's covered by the warranty and shop around to find a good one. Ideally a warranty will cover parts and labor for every bit of the monitor. If the warranty is return-to-depot find out who pays for the shipping and whether you can get a short term replacement. Some stores add extras to the manufacturer's warranty. You can always buy extensions on a warranty, just keep in mind that a more inclusive warranty with a shorter term is probably better than a limited one for a longer term.

Conclusion

A monitor is an absolutely essential part of any computer system. After a bit of research, you'll be able to select a monitor with the size and image quality to suit your needs. The falling prices of conventional CRTs are making larger monitors more attractive and affordable. Now the market offers more choice than ever with the emergence of sleek, compact LCDs. A new monitor can reinvigorate your computing experience and keep you happily staring at it for years.

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