Honolulu Star Bulletin

Flat Screens Get Affordable

By Shakil Ahmed

Flat screen monitors are selling like crazy and with good reason. They display graphics and text so crisply and clearly, once you've used them it's hard to go back to the conventional models. The new LCD monitors don't flicker, which means less eye strain and fatigue than old fashioned CRTs (cathode-ray tube monitors).

If you've been waiting to purchase one of these items, now may be the time to do so.

Not that long ago, a decent 15" LCD monitor would run you upwards of $750. Nowadays an LCD display still costs up to two times as much as a traditional tube monitor but these slim-profiled, power and eye saving devices are an affordable luxury.

So here's what to consider if you're going to purchase one.

Even though the new LCDs are dazzlingly brighter and crisper than CRTs, they do have their own peculiarities. Given that their pixels are so sharp, the picture can appear granular or grainy. They look best at their default resolution which is generally 1280-by-1024 pixels for screens of 16 to 18 inches and 1024-by-768 for smaller ones. Note that the brightness and resolution of LCDs tend to diminish if you view the screen at a side angle. This can be an issue if there is a group of people gathered around monitor

All of the LCD monitors have standard or analog inputs but some also provide digital ports. Note that the digital connections need special video boards and special cables. These boards can often be very pricey but we found a really decent and inexpensive video board from Matrox - the G550 for about $125. It not only provides digital capabilities but allow you to run two displays at the same time.

Why go to a digital set up? The digital picture is often sharper, especially if you are dealing with text.

Another peculiarity of LCDs is that different brands will render the colors differently-much more so than CRTs which tend to be more uniform in character. The good thing is you can always adjust the monitors to fit your own taste.

What model to buy? Here are some to consider:

We've used the Viewsonic VG151 & VE150 series for some time now and really like it. When it first came out the price was close to $800 but now you can get it for between $389-408. The price is right and the quality is tough to beat. Another 15" model consider the KDS Rad-5 series, which can be purchased at Office Depot for under $399. (Both PC Magazine and CNET gave it a great review.)

At a low end price range for 17" models are the Eizo FlexScan F520 which has a street price of $300 or the Samsung SyncMaster 700NF can be had for as little as $230. The best thing to do is run down to CompUSA or your favorite computer store to figure out what looks best to you. Online prices for these products tend to be less expensive than retail stores but by the time you figure in shipping, the cost factor evens out.

On the high end, my friend Jeff Bloom, Executive director of CTA, really likes the 19" Viewsonic VG 191B which is priced at around $1100. Jeff said it wasn't until he got his Viewsonic that he realized how much clearer, sharper and brighter the flat panel technology was compared to his old 21" monitor. I think if you get the chance to check out the new LCDs out there you'll agree.

Shakil Ahmed is the founder of PDC Systems, a Honolulu networking and computer company established in 1991. Questions or comments should be addressed to askshak@pdcsystems.com

Published March 17, 2002

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