Shopping for an LCD monitor, Part 2

Dennis Faas's picture

Last week, I left you with some thoughts on my LCD Monitor purchasing experience. If you didn't catch the first part of the article, you can read about it here.

The article from last week signed off with a cliff-hanger, where I was about to tell about some things that I didn't like about my LCD monitor.

RE: LCD Native Resolution

While I was completely amazed out how crystal clear my LCD monitor was at 1280 x 1024 resolution*, the fact is that the LCD monitor looks crystal-clear *only* at this resolution. This is referred to as the monitor's Native Resolution.

Generally speaking, native resolution for an LCD monitor is defined by it's viewable size. For example: 12" LCD displays default to a native resolution of 800x600; 14"-15" LCD displays default to a native resolution of 1024x768; and, 17"-18" LCD displays default to a native resolution of 1280x1024.

Side note: Monitor resolution defines how much information can "fit" on the screen at once. The higher the resolution, the smaller the icons and text appear on the screen -- but the larger the Desktop appears as a whole.

Oddly enough, I don't want to use my LCD monitor in its Native Resolution.

When I tell friends that my LCD monitor does 1280 x 1024 resolution crystal clear, they are jealous that I have this much space to work with on my Desktop. The truth is that 1280 x 1024 resolution makes my Desktop icons and text incredibly small using default Windows settings. Since I'm in front of my computer 20 out of 24 hours in a day, I couldn't stand looking at such small lettering.

Initially, I intended to use my 17" LCD in 800x600 resolution. This is because most web sites on the 'net use 800 x 600 resolution as their default viewing size, since most computers today can handle (at minimum) 800 x 600 resolution. Besides that, 800 x 600 is a very comfortable resolution for reading text on a 17" screen -- and even a 19", for that matter.

Solution #1: Make the icons and text bigger.

Of course, the easiest way to overcome my dilemma was to change the size of the icons and text through the Windows Display settings in Control Panel. Unfortunately, increasing text and icon size to anything above default (12 pt [point] font, 16 or 32 size icon) just doesn't look quite right. Not to me, anyway.

For instance: viewing pages on the web which were designed specifically for a 12 pt font causes the page alignment to go "out of whack" when the font size has been increased to anything above a standard specification of 12 pts. I found that the problem of whacky alignment persisted not only on the web, but with some of the programs that I use on my system.

Solution #2: Decrease the monitor resolution to 800 x 600; leave the font and icon size as default

Recall that my 17" LCD has a native resolution of 1280 x 1024. If I use anything other than that resolution, images and text on the screen aren't as sharp. So, why is that?

The simple answer is that my LCD monitor wasn't designed to run at anything other than 1280 x 1024 for crystal clear viewing. If I decrease the resolution to anything other than the native resolution, images and text are interpolated.

Interpolated? What the heck is that?

Interpolated is a computer mumbo-jumbo term which basically means that an image (in this case, the image displayed on my screen) has to be converted into another format to compensate for a difference in size.

Changing from the native resolution of 1280 x 1024 to 800 x 600 effectively changes the size of what is being displayed on the screen. Since the native mode for my monitor is 1280 x 1024, the monitor must compensate for the change from its native resolution to anything that is not native. The end result is that images and text appear somewhat fuzzy when viewing the display in a non-native resolution.

By the way, if you want to learn more about interpolation and image resizing, you should check out this link at which explains interpolation and imagine resizing more in-depth.

Solution #3: Adjust the refresh rate to remove the fuzziness of text and images

Most users are not aware of the fact that the clarity of a display unit (CRT or LCD) can be fine tuned with a refresh rate. Have you even seen scan-lines on a monitor or television set through the eyes of a camcorder?

Scan-lines are not detectable to the human eye unless some other electronic device such as a camcorder is used to view another display device such as a monitor or television set. The scan-line that is seen moving up and down on the monitor or television coincides with its refresh rate. Generally speaking: the faster the refresh rate, the clearer and "easier on the eyes" an image is displayed.

By the way, you can change your refresh rate by clicking Start -> Control Panel, Display. Next, click the Settings Tab and then the Advanced button, and go to the Monitor tab.

RE: Adjusting my refresh rate on my LCD to improve clarity @ 800 x 600

As I mentioned above, most displays have a default refresh rate of 60 Hz.

Adjusting the refresh rate from 60 Hz to 72 Hz on my LCD made a noticeable difference to the display, but it did not drastically improve the blurriness which was caused by interpolation. Although my LCD supports up to 75 Hz refresh rate @ 800 x 600, I noticed that I could see what would appear to be scan-lines when viewing an image with a black background. Changing the refresh rate back to 72 Hz removed the noticeable "scan-line effect."

Because I didn't read the manual (who does?), I did not understand what the "auto" button on my LCD was for. I noticed that when I changed display resolutions, my LCD display appeared very distorted in one area of my LCD. Adjusting the horizontal and vertical positioning on my LCD only moved the distortion from left to right -- and I couldn't figure out why. When I used the auto button on my LCD, the distortion went away. Unfortunately, the auto button did not improve the effect caused from the interpolation.

RE: Final thoughts

My final thoughts on the pros and cons of purchasing an LCD are wrapped up in the next issue of the Gazette!

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