By Joel Montgomery // 8 July 2009 // Related Categories: Tips

Flat and wide is all the rage these days, but how do you know if you're buying the right model for your needs? Here is a simple checklist to following when choosing a new flat panel monitor:

  1.  Monitor Size - Usually measured in inches across the diagonal of the screen (top left to bottom right corner). 20", 22" and 24" monitors offer the best value for money because they are the most popular screen sizes.
  2.  Aspect ratio - Refers to the width and height of the monitor. Widescreen (16:9 aspect ratio) is much more popular these days compared to standard aspect (4:3 aspect ratio). Widescreen monitors make it easier to view two applications at once (e.g. word processing and an Internet browser) and you can watch widescreen movies should you ever get a little bored in the office.
  3.  Warranty - Monitor warranty is usually a good indication of product quality. Look for at least 1 year but ideally 3 years warranty. I prefer to have an engineer come on-site (the next day) to fix any problems or replace a faulty unit. I'm not a fan of returning my monitor to get serviced - never mind the cost and hassle of doing so but what good is a computer without it's screen?
  4.  Dead pixel policy - Ever noticed a small black, brown or white dot on your screen that won't go away? The dot is likely to be caused by a "dead pixel" which is a screen defect. Look for a monitor brand that offers a "Zero Dead Pixel Policy" as part of the warranty. They will be happy to replace your monitor if a pixel dies. Some brands may only replace when 4 or 5 pixels die, and some don't consider the brown or white spots to constitute a dead pixel.
  5.  Contrast ratio - Put simply, the higher the contrast ratio, the blacker your blacks and whiter your whites will be. A contrast ratio of 800:1 is fine for everyday office work, but if you want a bigger screen (24" or more) then look for at least 1000:1 contrast ratio.
  6.  Colour gamut & colour spaces (for graphic designers & the like) - A monitor with a wider "colour gamut" is able to produce a greater range of colours in the colour spectrum resulting in improved colour accuracy. If you're a colour professional who works with applications that support SGRB or Adobe RGB colour spaces then consider the percentage of the colour space your monitor can support. Also consider colour calibrators to improve colour accuracy; some monitor brands like Dell now factory tune to your desirable colour spaces.
  7.  Ergonomics - Look for a monitor with adjustable height and swivel capabilities. It's important that you position your monitor correctly so you don't end up with a bad back or eye strain, and stacking telephone books under your monitor is not the best way to go.
  8.  Two monitors - If you can afford to then buy two monitors (or more) and you won't look back (in fact you won't look anywhere else)! The ultimate in multi-tasking, having two or more monitors means you can view many applications at the same time without having to open & close windows. The more monitors you have the more you need to think about your viewing angle. I suggest looking for a monitor that offers a minimum viewing angle of 180 degrees so your images don't start to distort if you're not sitting directly in front.

Enthusiasts know that not all monitors are made equal. When looking at panel quality you should consider premium panel technologies such as IPS (In Plane Switching) & VA (Vertical Aligned) as these technologies will typically deliver better colour accuracy, higher viewing angles and greater colour depth versus the much cheaper TN (Twister Nematic) panels. Most of the time you have to do a bit of digging to locate the panel type, and sometimes even the local sales office won't know. I recommend Dell ‘s Ultrasharp range of monitors because they always showcase the latest in premium panel technologies.

Happy Shopping! 

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