HOME Technology 2003
Outside looking in

A desire to be seen with the right screen kick started the desktop liquid crystal display phenomenon but now the real benefits are clear the ‘true flat screen’ technology has become a victim of its own hype.

LCDs have been standard fare for laptops for years but since the technology was offered on the desktop and prices dropped in mid-year, demand has outstripped supply resulting in a worldwide shortage.

The shift up to 15 inch LCD screens for laptops and the ensuing demand for those products caught major monitor manufacturers by surprise, causing a slowdown in supply for PCs. The market quickly shifted to 17inch LCDs, which also caught the suppliers on the hop.

Ash Johns, product manager of PC peripherals with Philips says flat LCD screens are in demand because of the clarity, space saving and lower power use. "You get all the health benefits, a third of the power consumption, increased desk space, zero flicker which reduces eye strain and zero radiation. Its real flat technology and the benefits just go on."

LCDs as a fashion item

He says LCD screens are an attractive item to own. At first the demand was for 17-inch screens in commercial offices and reception areas now that’s moved into the consumer space. "The demand is there but the factories haven’t caught up with it."

In fact its expected the thin form factor, space saving LCD monitors will comprise 75-90 per cent of all monitors sold within three years.

At the more competitive budget level where 15 inch cathode ray tubes (CRT) have featured in computer bundles in recent years buyers will find 17 inch and a market skewing toward flat screen CRTs which are reputedly easier on the eye and give greater clarity. They still however, take up about the same space as their convex screen cousins.

Philips has continued to dominate the monitor market with about 50 per cent share according to IDC, and while Panasonic, Viewsonic, Samsung, Sony, LG, AOC, Mag, Auriga, Hyundai-ImageQuest and BenQ also sell here, the research company won’t publicly release sales-based rankings.

IDC did however says its numbers don’t take into account re-badged monitors sourced direct from the manufacturers and used by the PC vendors including HP, Dell and IBM otherwise these players would dominate.

Pitching the dots

When shopping for a CRT monitor, remember the measure is from top to bottom corners and you can shave off about one inch for the frame. You should ensure you’re getting a screen that displays a maximum resolution of about 1280 x 1024 at 0.27mm dot pitch, although mostly you will only need 1024 x 768 resolution. The smaller the dot pitch the more dots on the screen and therefore a more stable and detailed picture quality.

Judging quality of an LCD screen is more a matter of personal judgment although check the specifications will reassure you. "The refresh rate should be better than 25 m/secs, a high contrast ratio, which is the difference between black and white, and a high brightness rating which ensures clarity even at 45 degree viewing angle," says Samsung product manager John Simms.

An LCD screen typically gives you more screen space. Rather than hard plastic frames many monitor manufacturers are now moving to aluminium bezel, which is stronger and more durable. . A 17inch CRT might cost between $200-$400 while the cost of a 15-inch LCD is about $600 and a 17-inch LCD under $1000.

Also look at the front panel controls to see what access you will have to adjust your screen. Some are very basic. The better screens give you the option to easily customise brightness, contrast, adjust display size and for LCDs multiple video inputs.

A good screen should be plug and play, in other words your computer system would easily recognise it and find the drivers. Screens still have the longest warranty – expect three years.


  Back2front      General Interest Webzine