Considering that it only has one use, choosing a computer monitor for your computer can seem like a daunting task. Whether you need a VGA, DVI and HDMI connection; widescreen or 4:3, or a touch-screen there are a mass of different makes and models to choose from. It will not be complicated as long as you know know what you need and what you are going to use it for.
Digital or Analogue?
Believe it or not, computers do still produce analogue graphics. I am using an analogue LCD monitor while I write this article now, I have a similar screen for work as well; but increasingly the push is towards digital technology and it all depends on the age of your computer to decide what is the best course of action.
The first thing to do is take a look at the back of your computer. If you are not upgrading graphics cards at the same time then you need to know what your computer will accept; and more specifically you need to look at the connection that your monitor makes. There are three standards in connecting most monitors to computers; the traditional analogue connection is the VGA which all the bulky (CRT) computer monitors and many flat screen monitors use.
The second connection is almost a hybrid between analogue and digital for computer monitors. The DVI was a new standard developed by digital working groups to replace VGA, however there are many graphics cards and indeed computer monitors themselves that can support both methods.
The latest standard of connection is HDMI. If you have an Xbox 360, SkyHD or other modern digital device then you will find that these also come with the digital output format, indeed almost all new TV's on the market seem to come with them now. You will be able to tell if your monitor uses HDMI because the connector cable looks not too dissimilar from a USB cable.
To HD or Not To HD;
that is the question (of size)
With the influx of High Definition applications, the use of a HD capable monitor can be assumed to be essential for any new purchase. There are two standards of High Definition at the moment; 720p is a "lesser" HD standard in that it supports monitors up to a size of about 22 inches. The reason for this is that the 720p supports resolutions of 1280x720 (this is the size of your desktop on the screen) whereas the more detailed 1080p supports resolutions at a MINIMUM of 1920x1080, which is normally only found on computer monitors that are around 24 inches and above.
If you are looking to connect your monitor with some types of high-definition outputs such as Blu-Ray, HD computer monitors are essential as they support the copy protection technology employed within many of the HD video formats used.
My Main Monitor
Speed and Size - Response and Resolution
Two factors that are important are the response and resolution of your computer monitor. The majority of computer monitors available on the market will have similar maximum resolutions with 19 inch monitors at the moment usually ranging from 1360x768 to 1400x900 (widescreen).
Response rates show the speed that a computer monitor can respond to a change in the state of a screens pixel. The normal expectation for a reasonable monitor is between 2 milliseconds and 5 milliseconds.
The lower the number, the faster a monitor can respond and therefore better.
The size itself of your new computer screen is also something that you have to think about. When we consider the standard range of desks, a comfortable viewing range of about 9 to 12 inches would be expected and it is probably reasonably obvious that the world of 42 inch TV's will be too large for such a desktop. Experience has shown me that although my 21 inch monitor is reasonable to work with, I find that my 23 inch is also comfortable. Indeed while browsing a few of my preferred computer purchasing sites, once we start looking at 30 inches or more; the prices become prohibitive.
Another aspect of size is the screen aspect ratio. Computer monitors now fall into roughly three aspect ratios; the "traditional" 4:3, the widescreen 16:9 and 16:10. If you are working with media or watching High Definition movies, on-demand TV, etc; then a widescreen model will be better as the amount of widescreen programming increases; whether you choose 16:9 or 16:10 ratios is usually down to personal choice. Resolution wise a 16:9 computer monitor would use 1900x1080 whereas 16:10 will more likely be 1900x1200.
LCD or LED
Rather more, do you want a CCLF backlit monitor or an LED backlit computer monitor? Before we go further I have to acknowledge that although I will refer to LCD and LED monitors as such, all monitors actually use a LCD screen; it is the way that the screens are back-lit, which defines how an LED computer monitor differs.
The difference between the two is one of contrast and brightness. Without much detail; CCLF relies on a series of cathode lighting tubes to illuminate the LCD screen, whereas LED relies on a block of LED lamps to do the same job.
The Dead (or Stuck) Pixel
There is nothing more distracting than watching a dark scene of a movie and having a bright yellow blip in the centre of your monitor. This could be because of a stuck pixel which has decided that it quite likes the colour yellow and won't budge.
It's also as bad as having a nice fresh MS Word page open ready for creative influence only to see a dark speck on the computer monitor as the pixel has decided that it is going to stop working. This is known as a dead pixel.
If you don't worry about the odd faulty pixel, then that is all well and good, but different computer monitor manufacturing groups offer different levels of service for when you do finally get annoyed with that little blip. As a rule of thumb, you will pay more for a screen that is guaranteed for less failure of computer monitor pixels.
There are computer programs on the Internet that may help to "unblock" a stuck pixel on your monitor. There are some such as JScreenFix that claim to be successful against stuck pixels and because the programs will not cause any further damage to your monitor; are a reasonable first step before spending hard-earned money on a new piece of kit.
So What Do We Do?
I need a new monitor. After writing this I went and bought second computer monitor to have a dual screen layout. Hopefully if you are impulsive like me and want to order a monitor NOW; then hopefully you are now more enlightened with what you need, what you should expect and can buy in slightly more confidence.