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Monday, October 29, 2001

Same monitor yet better viewing
Vipul Verma

MONITORS are one of the most ignored components of the computer system. They form an indispensable part of a computer. Just think of a computer without a monitor and you can imagine what I mean to say. However despite being so important, the monitors are one of the most under-rated hardware for the computer buyers and users. In fact, they are as important as any other critical hardware like CPU, motherboard or hard disk.

While planning to purchase a computer, the focus of the computer users and buyers is primarily on components like CPU, motherboard, hard disk, RAM and PCI cards. The monitor is nowhere in the focus. The decision of purchasing a monitor normally comes normally comes at the last.


Normally the computer buyers go by the market trend for deciding about the monitors. This may not be the right strategy as the individual needs of user differ from others. There are many types of monitors available in the market that are different in technology, resolution, size and also the price and thus a proper evaluation are very essential.

These days some of most common available types of monitors include, SVGA, XGA, TFT, LCD, plasma monitors and LCD projectors. Some other types of monitors like VGA, EGA and CGA are obsolete and are not been sold normally. Whereas some other terms used in context of monitors are active matrix, passive matrix, HPA etc. and these terms are relevant for the notebooks and laptops.

The SVGA basically refers to the computer display mode with a maximum number of colours and a maximum image resolution in pixels horizontally by pixels vertically. The SVGA is an advancement of technology over its predecessors like CGA, EGA and VGA but with substantial improvement over its predecessors. The SVGA mode is the most versatile computer mode of display today.

The SVGA or Super Video Graphics Array (SVGA) displays can support a palette of up to 1,600,0000 colours, although the amount of video memory in a particular computer may limit the actual number of displayed colors to something less than that. Recently, some new specifications have arisen that includes Super Extended Graphics Array (SXGA) and Ultra Extended Graphics Array (UXGA).

So for all practical purposes, the monitor that we use normally is a SVGA monitor. However that images resolution may differ from PC-to-PC depending upon the video memory available in a PC.

The LCD or liquid crystal display monitor use diode and gas plasma technologies to display the computer screen. The resolution in this case is sharp and clear. Normally this technology is widely used in notebook and laptops but the PC monitors with the LCD technology are also available. This technology is more popular in notebook and laptop because it consumes very less power. LCD monitors are commonly of two categories - passive matrix and active matrix. The active matrix monitors are also known as TFT or thin-film transistor (TFT) display. While the passive matrix LCD has a grid of conductors with pixels located at each intersection in the grid. Active matrix technology is now becoming popular very fast and acceptable whereas the passive matrix display is being considered as economic solution of LCD display. That active matrix or the TFT despite being expensive is also becoming a preferred choice of the PC monitors in the higher category.

Another category of monitors is the plasma display. This is a technology in which each pixel on the screen is illuminated by a tiny bit of plasma or charged gas, somewhat like a tiny neon light. Plasma displays are thinner than cathode ray tube (CRT) displays and brighter than liquid crystal displays (LCD). Plasma screens are popular for maintaining the highest quality of display. However, the monitors involving these this technology are expensive.

Now, after knowing the technology, next most important decision is regarding the size of the display or the monitor. Normally, these days 15" monitors are the basic minimum but the 17" monitors are premium choice of the lower segment. However in the higher segment, the 19" and 21" inch monitors are becoming fast popular and are worth for the money. Ideally a computer user should at least budget for a minimum 17" monitor instead of a 15 inch monitor as it offer a lot of value for the PC users.

There is also an important point to remember about monitor, no matter which monitor you buy, unless you set it up properly, you are not likely to get the best results from it. Though it is a matter of fact that the monitors are plug and play device yet you need to set the correct resolution and the refresh rate frequency for getting the best performance from your computer as well as the monitor. Setting high refresh rate may increase the imagibility but may retard the performance of the PC. Similarly, the selection of number of colours is also important. Because, if you choose higher number of colours than supported by your video card or if the video card has lower memory, then at the first place you will not be able to view more colours beyond the capacity of your video card. This way you may also end up decelerating the performance of your PC.

Unless you are a designer and the work involves using high resolution and a full rainbow of colours, you should not go for maximum number of colours. Ideally, choosing 16 million colors option is the best and you also get the best performance from your PC. Last but not the least, you should use the correct and updated driver for your VGA card and also set the correct resolution for your monitor as it is directly related to the overall performance of your PC.

Ideally for the modern computers 1024X768 resolution should be the maximum whereas the lower resolution can give even better performance. A larger resolution uses smaller pixels, making everything smaller, but gives you a larger view. Since there are more pixels, the higher the resolution, the slower the screen refresh and thus slower the performance of your PC.