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Monday, August 11, 2003

Flat future
Peeyush Agnihotri

COMPUTERS, like figure-conscious teenagers, are going anorexic. In a trend that certainly cannot be termed as the thin edge of the wedge, the PC is getting thin on the top. To put things straight, LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) monitors are phasing out the CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) ones.


If processor is the brain of a computer, monitors are its face. Ever since the birth of the PC, both monochrome and colour monitors have been built round the Cathode Ray Tube or CRT. A CRT works by moving an electron beam across the screen. Each time the beam is shot across the screen, phosphorous dots on the inside of the glass tube get lit, thereby illuminating the active portions of the screen. Images are created by drawing many such lines from the top to the bottom of the screen.

The ‘illuminating process’ has undergone a sea change. LCD monitors use a distinct technique. LCD monitors utilise two sheets of polarising material with a liquid crystal solution between them. Cholesteryl benzoate crystals form the fulcrum of this technology. An electric current is passed through the liquid that causes the crystals to align so that light is blocked and image is formed.

Thin Film Transistor (TFT) types of LCD monitors are the more advanced ones. In TFT LCDs every pixel is controlled by three or more transistors, providing a combination of colours.


Hulking CRT monitors drain a lot of power, which LCDs do not. It is the survival of the fittest. Wafer-thin LCDs are gradually pushing the CRTs out of the market.

Sales of LCD monitors will top $ 20 billion globally in 2003, overtaking revenue from sales of conventional CRT (cathode ray tube) monitors, according to IDC, a research firm. The predominant LCD size now is the 15-inch screen, but the market will shift to 17-inch screens. The switch over is expected to take place in 2005.

The US is currently the world’s largest monitor market, accounting for 34 per cent of monitors sold, followed by Asia with 25 per cent of shipments, IDC says.

The market for LCD monitors in India is estimated to increase to one lakh units during 2003, a five-fold increase from 2002. This is expected to jump to four lakh units by 2004, according to industry sources. Already big companies have set up plants in India for indigenous production of LCD monitors to cut on the export cost.

"LCD monitors are getting very popular in the finance sector, top corporates, hospitality sector and the call-center industry," says Sonal Anand from Samsung, a company that recently started LCD monitor production from Noida.

Voicing similar opinion Satpal, vice-president of Acer outlet in Chandigarh, discloses that Punjab Police headquarters recently opted for seven LCD monitors. "The demand is on the rise and organisations with a tinge of aesthetic sensibilities are going all out for such monitors," he says.

Hold ups

All this comes at a price though. The average flat LCD monitor available in India costs at least four times a CRT monitor of equivalent size. Right now, the competition is intense. However, prices are falling, albeit slowly. As the demand increase, prices are bound to come down. As the prices come to affordable levels, LCDs would become more popular.

In addition to the price, CRTs also have some performance benefits. Media reports say that LCDs suffer from poorer refresh rates and do not offer much flexibility in terms of resolution settings. Also, CRTs provide better contrast and colour saturation, without the text becoming blurred.

"Right now the market is confined to the high-end and corporate segment and it may take some time before the sales of LCD monitors achieve quantum jump. Over the years production capacity will increase and then prices may fall to sub-Rs 15, 000 level. It will be then that the home users will become interested in LCDs," says Amit Rastogi from LG Electronics. "Till then, it is CRT for them," he adds.


Poor refresh rates, hmmm, maybe! Then who bother when trendy looks combined with aesthetics flex sinews in the IT sector? LCDs, being more advanced, definitely come with a few inherent advantages. These monitors take up less space on the tabletop and are ideal for aesthetically inclined. Secondly, no radiations are emitted. Infrared rays emission is negligible. Thirdly, plasma screen ensures that in case of tube burst, glass splinters do not cause physical injury. Above all, LCD monitors consume less electricity. For example, a 19" CRT uses 120 watts of power, while a similar-sized LCD monitor would burn 60 watts.

Rajan Sharma, product manager, D-Link, an LCD monitor giant, says that sleek, space-saving designs leave more working room on the desk. They can be wall-mounted, too. "Besides this, LCD monitors have better total cost of ownership (TCO) with twice the lifespan, one-third the electricity usage and minimal heat output compared to similar-sized CRT monitor."

"Flat-screen monitors have a great future in the Indian market. Customers are increasingly getting aware of the advantages over the conventional monitors like better resolution and strain-free viewing. With the market growing, this segment is seeing a lot of innovation. Presently there is a growing popularity of 17" flat monitors in the Indian market. The target market spans across all verticals like SOHO, corporate and the government sector," says R. Manikandan, DGM, LG Electronics.

Curves are out. Get ready for straight monitors staring at you, flatly. That’s the future.