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Buying an LCD monitor... Things to know

They say that the 20th century has been a great scientific and technological boom of the humanity. However, I would say that the 21st century has begun impetuously its existence and has introduced a series of new technologies or has immensely improved some old ones.

A concept, invented, or started back at the end of the 19th century has found most extensive use at the end of the last century and the beginning of this century. The concept is called LCD and there is hardly a human being not to have heard about it.

LCD is an acronym for Liquid Crystal Display and it is based, respectively on liquid crystals. This fact has generated a series of advantages and some disadvantages, which will be described further. But which technology has not had its drawbacks?

Today people are buying LCD monitors more and more than the old and big-sized CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) monitors. Why? Probably the main reason for this is their size, though the size is not the only major advantage.

So what should be paid attention to when buying an LCD TFT monitor? There are already many experts in this field. But there are still people, who don't buy LCD monitors, just because they don't want to show that they don't quite understand what all those fancy words are, which describe the monitor. By the way, the acronym TFT stands for Thin Film Transistor. This is a concept on which the entire LCD monitors' manufacture is based.

So what knowledge should a person possess in order to hold a two-sided conversation with a shop assistant? There are not so many terms to know. Put them down: resolution, response time and viewing angle. Let's take these terms and some other things apart and try to analyze what they mean.

Resolution/Resolution scaling
Everyone has heard about resolution on CRT monitors for sure. This term is also used to describe the TFT monitors. However, a CRT monitor can display the image using this or that resolution (depending on its possibilities - higher or lower) with a certain frequency; an LCD monitor, at its turn, is developed for one resolution. This happens because that perfect resolution of the display is made in such a way, that each pixel of the screen has its "job". Any other resolution causes the monitor to make the image bigger or smaller, hence the quality loss. So if an LCD panel is made for a resolution of 800x600, it should be used so; though it would be OK with 1600x1200, because this is a twice resolution of the former. Any other would require rescaling and hence, once again, the quality loss.

Response Time
Response time is a term used specifically for describing LCD monitors. What does it mean?

Unlike a CRT monitor an LCD gadget doesn't need refreshing of the image some 100 times a second (that's 100Hz), but it does need time the crystal to change from transparent to opaque. This is rather noticeable with older gadgets of this type. The response time is very important when buying an LCD TFT panel and the shorter the time the better. Few will notice a difference with simple office work, but the gamers.... the gamers are another issue. Gaming needs a dynamic update of the image; that's why the gamers are very thorough and critical when buying an LCD monitor.

The good thing about LCDs is that not the whole image is being updated all the time, but only those crystals change, which update this very part of the image.

Viewing angle
Few years ago changing the angle of view would also cause some difficulties in clearly seeing the picture on the monitor, due to color inversion. Yet today this is not a major issue, because today's LCDs will show a perfect picture at a viewing angle up to 160 degrees and even higher.

LCDs have some minor disadvantages, but the ones worth mentioning are the contrast ratio and the fact that they haven't yet achieved the accuracy of color reproduction of the CRT monitors. That is why the CRTs are still extensively used in printing studios. A CRT will show a color which is closer to the one the printer would print.

The contrast ratio is, actually, also the accuracy of color showing: the LCDs have a problem with showing the black color. It is very noticeable, when working in a dark room. The black is hardly seen; it is actually not seen, as it is too light to be called black. The contrast ratio is marked by two figures: one, the first measured in hundreds and the other is 1 (one). Example: 400:1. The catch here is the higher the ratio the better.

So this is probably much about everything you should know about LCDs on a beginner's level. If you have this information in your head, you will be able leading a smart conversation with a shop-assistance, without feeling inconvenience about lacking the necessary information.




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