Why monitors matter
IF ONLY you stop to think about it, the monitor is, by far, the most important part of your Personal Computer.
The processor chip may be the ticking heart of your system but the monitor is the face you stare at, day in and day out for years, the click of a button transforming the grey-black surface into a multi-coloured stage on which the drama of computing and the Internet is staged.
Yet, buyers who lavish all their knowledge and attention on such crucial decisions like "Should I go for Pentium or Celeron" or "Is a DVD rather than a CD drive worth the extra cost?" tend to leave the display decisions to the vendor.
These days, there are so many pixel-rich, graphic-intensive multimedia applications jostling for your attention, that a good monitor becomes crucial. Making the most of your monitor is not something you should leave to the PC maker's `meherbani'. Here's what you need to know, to get the maximum visual bang for your buck.
An important parameter is the resolution of the monitor the number of individual dots of colour, known as pixels, contained in the display screen.
This is typically expressed as the number of pixels on the horizontal axis (row), and the number on the vertical axis (column), such as 640 x 480 or 1024 x 768 or 1280 x 1024.
The video card that comes with the PC controls the resolution. Most colour monitors available today can be configured to any of these three resolutions. When you go in for a large-sized monitor, it makes sense to set higher resolutions.
Display sizes are still rated in inches, though most of the world has gone metric. Popular sizes of PC monitors are 15 inches and 17 inches while those with deep pockets and the need to play a lot of high-speed video games or view movies on their PC, have the choice of 19 and 21-inch monitors. The figure in inches refers to the diagonal of the visible area of the monitor.
Ever since the PC was born 21 years ago, monitors, both monochrome and colour, have tended to be built round the Cathode Ray Tube or CRT. Monochrome monitors are almost obsolete these days. The CRT is based on technology invented in the 1930s.
The cathode is an electronic gun that shoots a ray of negatively charged electrons towards the screen, which is the positive anode. A coating of phosphor on the anode lights up, and becomes the display one sees.
Colour CRTs are more complicated, since you need three guns firing electrons in three colours, which are precisely combined on the screen.
The CRT-type monitor is a major power guzzler and heat generator, making it the most vulnerable part of the PC.
Since the new millennium, a more efficient monitor based on the Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) technology has become available. LCD PC monitors currently available, are of the Thin Film Transistor (TFT) type where every pixel is controlled by three or four transistors, to provide the combination of three or four colours. LCD monitors never get hot, use less energy (about one third that of a CRT) and provide a sharper, brighter picture. That is the upside. The downside is, they are still very pricey. Where typical CRT type colour monitors available in India (Philips, Microtek, Samsung, LG, BPL, Samtel, Viewsonic, HCL) cost between Rs. 6000 to Rs. 8000 for 15 inch monitors and around Rs.10, 000 for a 17-inch monitor, a TFT LCD 15-inch monitor starts at Rs.40,000 and could go up to Rs. 75,000. However, prices are falling, albeit slowly. Five years from now, you may have no choice it will be LCD only, with CRTs consigned to the Jurassic Park of PC technology.
These days, all monitors come with clever circuitry which lets you put them into `sleep mode' when they are not being actively used. Most LCD monitors are ultra-slim and the larger-sized models can be hung on the wall, like picture screens.
Earlier this month, Samsung introduced two new 17-inch CRT monitors, which, with new technology, gives a picture as bright and sharp as an LCD monitor, at a price only slightly more than a CRT colour monitor. This can make all the difference when watching video or playing some of those ultra-realistic games.
However, the new models (763MB and 765MB), not yet released in India, cannot of course, match the energy efficiency of an LCD.
Other monitor technologies like gas plasma are still under development. The LCD flat screen monitor, however, seems to be the favoured technology in the decade to come, providing razor- sharp pictures without raising the heat (or the electricity bill).
When you look at your PC monitor tomorrow and exclaim, "Hey man, that's cool!'' it may be the temperature you are talking about, as much as the picture.
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