Friday, February 4, 2011

(Assembled is a series in which The Indian Geek is looking at how to choose the components for assembling your own home Desktop PC. This article is about the factors that would influence the selection of the display for an assembled PC – regardless of whether you plan on buying a monitor or a TV)


Your monitor is your window into your computer. Almost everything that your computer does for you, it brings to you through the monitor. So if you want to get the most out of your computer, you need a good monitor that can deliver. A common mistake that many people make when assembling a new PC, is not paying enough attention to the monitor. Many folks tend to spare money on a smaller monitor and instead invest the money on some other component. While this may be a less-costly choice, it need not be the sensible choice. Our advice is to not skimp on the budget for the monitor too much. A larger and better monitor can increase productivity (comparing documents side-by-side, having multiple windows open side-by-side), enhance movies and bring games to life (you know, cos it’s bigger).

So lets dive into the ocean of our knowledge to pull out a few things that you could look for when buying a monitor for your budget-oriented, mid-range assembled PC. Join us below.

Screen size
This needs little explanation. It is the diagonal length of your monitor. The most common and ideal range for the average user is 17” to 22”. The simple rule of thumb is to go for the biggest size you can afford. While large monitors are usually synonymous with gaming and movies, they can also increase office productivity. Having a larger monitor means you see and do more at once. You will not have to keep scrolling up and down as often. You could also open two widows (or even more, perhaps) side by side.

Aspect ratio
This doesn’t matter too much - but it could make a difference. Aspect ratio is the ration between the width and the hieght of your screen. Older monitors used to have a ratio of 4:3, since CRT monitors (those huge monitors that occupied so much desk space) could not effectively display images from the Cathode Tube to a ratio wider than 4:3, such as 16:9. With the death of CRT monitors, many Notebook PC (and LCD) manufacturers moved to a 15:9 resolution, which was termed “widescreen”. With the advent of HD television programming, and LCD TVs, everyone has almost universally adopted the 16:9 ratio as the preferred widescreen format. While 1280x800 and 1920x1200 used to be the standard “widescreen” resolution, they have now been replaced with 1280x720 (popularly known as 720p or HD resolution) and 1920x1080 (popularly known as 1080p or Full HD). While you don’t have to worry whether to get 16:9 or 16:10, we would recommend going for one of them and definitely not an older 4:3 non-widescreen monitor. The simultaneous work and productivity that could be accomplished on a widescreen monitor cannot be compromised upon. This makes widescreen monitors a better choice.

To put it in simple terms, a monitor’s screen is a collection of many tiny lights (pixels) that can display any color required. The more number of pixels, the more clear your picture is going to be. This number is the resolution of the monitor. Most LCD monitors today have a resolution of 1280x800, 1650x1050 or 1920x1200. While a higher resolu\tion will produce a sharper and clearer image, unless your monitor size also increases, the pixels are going to get really small. 1920x1200 will look great on a 24” monitor, but not so much on a 17” monitor. The pixels will get just too small, thereby making everything on your screen also small.

Note : We should note here that there is a correlation between screen size and screen resolution, which becomes crucial in deciding which monitor you should buy. This can be decided based on the setting in which you’ll be using your newly assembled PC. For example, a 32 inch LCD TV would provide a resolution of possibly 1366 x 768 or 1920 x 1080, but a 20 inch monitor could easily achieve a 1600 x 900 resolution, or even the 1920 x 1080 resolution. The simple rule to help you decide is : If you plan to use the computer in a living room (as a Home Theatre PC - HTPC), then you would need a larger sized monitor with a lower resolution - such as a 26 inch TV with a 1366 x 768 resolution. If you plan to use the computer at a desk, with you sitting right next to the monitor all the while - please, don’t spoil your eyes; just get a monitor with a high resolution at a lower screen size - such as a 20 inch monitor with a 1600 x 900 or a 1920 x 1080 resolution.

This is the ratio of the luminance or brightness of the darkest pixel to the brightest pixel on yout screen. The higher your contrast ratio, the richer your image will look with brilliant whites and deep blacks. The problem with contrast ratio is that there is no standard scale of measuring it; so while a monitor/TV from one manufacturer might have a higher contrast ratio, a competitor’s monitor/TV may have a superior “black”, with a lesser contrast ratio. So don’t blindly look at a higher contrast ratio as a better deal - you would need to compare the blacks in the two display units, side by side.

11971185481309677792Aquila_LCD_monitor.svg.hiA number to be even more wary of, and completely ignore, is the dynamic contrast ratio. This is completely a misleading marketing ploy. Most of today's monitors are capable of increasing and decreasing the screen backlight’s intensity automatically. However, they can only change the entire screen’s lighting at once, not individual pixels. Thus if you are watching a dark scene in a movie, the screen may decrease the backlighting giving you a deeper black. However, this will also darken every other color on the screen, sometimes making it hard to see what’s going on. Similarily, in a bright scene, the monitor will increase backlighting, making whites brilliant, but blacks no longer deep. Dynamic contrast ratio is the ratio between the brightest pixel when the backlighting is at its maximum, and the darkest pixel when the backlighting is at its minimum. Some manufacturers even use the Dynamic Contrast Ratio term to denote the darkest black possible when the monitor/TV is switched off (really!) and the brightest white possible when the monitor/TV is switched on. Thus, it is not the contrast ratio that the monitor can produce at any single moment/image/frame, but rather the overall varying capacity of the monitor - which makes no difference to you or the image that you wish to see on the monitor/TV. If you must look for a contrast ratio, look for the standard contrast ratio - it is (for want of better words) less silly.

Color Accuracy
Gauging color accuracy theoretically will require fancy equipment and complicated graphs and number. The easiest way to judge this is to to go look at the monitor. But beware, many manufacturers increase the saturation of colours, thereby making the image look bright, colourful and very vivid. But this does not mean it is the accurate color. Another good way to judge this is the look for reviews online where experts have already analysed the monitor and tell you if its good or not.

Response Time
This is the time it takes each pixel to change colors. While office users and even movie watchers don’t require a fast response time, gamers might like it (and need it, even). A faster response time (2ms) means your monitor refreshes the image quickly avoiding ghosting (blending of images/frame). However, most users cannot notice this and faster monitors can get expensive. We would not recommend paying premium for a faster monitor, though if its at the same price, go for the faster monitor.

Backlighting and power consumption
All LCD monitors have a light source that passes through a film of Liquid Crystal. The film works as many tiny doors that allow only a certain colour of light to pass through it. This the basic working of an LCD monitor. The backlighting of most monitors come from Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lamps (CCFLs). The new trend that’s catching on fast is LED backlighting, where a row of LEDs are used instead. These are smaller, brighter, more efficient and run cooler. Hence LED LCD monitors (and TVs) are thinner, lighter and use less power. While an LED LCD monitor does not provide any advantage in image quality over a regular LCD monitor, the biggest advantage is the power saving. Sadly, so far the initial price premium of an LED LCD monitor/TV is just too much to justify the marginal power savings that the monitor/TV would provide.

Multiple Monitors
Only a few years ago multi-monitors setups were something you’d find only at traffic control centers and stock exchanges. Today, many computers let you connect atleast two monitors. It used to be primarily for office and design work where you can vew many windows at once. Now AMD has made it useable for gaming as well with Eyefinity that lets you play games spanning several monitors. However, all of this is way beyond the means of most of us mortals. If you do have the cash, and want to be able to view many windows at once, you could invest in two smaller monitors. However, keep in mind that one large widescreen monitor might let you do the same (especially with Windows 7’s Aero Snap, and related features); and this would be cheaper too.


That’s about it, as far as monitors are concerned. We only have a few more items to pick out in the Assembled series – such as keyboards, mice and speakers. Most of these don’t require too much pondering to select the preferred item.

All images in this article are courtesy the website.


Other articles in our Assembled series:

Choosing the right CPU

How to choose your graphics card

Hard drives made easy

All about motherboard basics

Selecting RAM, chassis case and Power Supply Unit


dinesh gaikwad said...

i m planning to buy a Monitor Led & wish to connect the HD DTH ,Please suggest me the best combination ?

The Indian Geek said...

Hi Dinesh,

Thanks for stopping by and posting your query.

Firstly, we're guessing that you want to connect an HD DTH TV set-top-box to an LED Monitor. If so, just ensure that your HD DTH TV set-top-box comes with an HDMI output (they do - but just ensure, to be safe) and an HDMI-to-HDMI cable. Then, select an LED monitor based on your budget which has an HDMI input. This should suffice.


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