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Flat Panel Displays

-Stan Gelber

Computer display monitors have come a long way since the days when all we had were small black and white screens. In the early eighties, I used a thirteen inch black and white screen that had a display pitch of about .45 millimeters (mm) between dots which was OK but never great for text (graphics were still a ways off). Those early monitors cost about $500.00 and were quite slow.

Today because costs have come down considerably, I use different monitors for different activities. My primary monitor is a 21-inch giant that is capable of displaying 16.7 million colors at a .25 mm dot pitch. This monster meets my needs for as I have grown older and my sight has started to weaken, I need the large work area. This allows me to have a lot of on-screen information available without having to constantly switch pages. 

I bought this monitor several years ago and at that time its price was considerably more than my old 13-inch monitor, but it gave me a lot more capability (rich graphics, multimedia, full-motion video, etc.).  Not to be left in the dark ages, I also use an 18 inch flat panel display for graphics design because of the sharpness and fine detail I see with this type of technology, each has its place in my office.

If you plan on buying a new computer in the near future, I would suggest you purchase one with a minimum of 1,024 megabytes of memory (one gigabyte), and an upgradeable processor such as those found on Pentium 4 class machines. I would also suggest that any machine you purchase be designed to support the following:

  1. A good graphics board such as those from ATI or Nvidia. They come with a host of features and may include a TV tuner and recorder capability so that you can store on-the-air video for later viewing. Make sure it also has a DVI out interface so that it can talk digitally to your display.
  2. A sound board that provides Dolby 5.1  and DTS capabilities, Creative Labs makes a very good one for a reasonable price.
  3. Make sure that the new machine you get has a DVD duel layer burner. While most DVD drives will play just about any DVD, a duel layer burner allows you to store a whopping 8.7 gbytes onto a single disk.
  4. An LCD display that supports a DVI (digital interface to your graphics board).

LCDs are commonly available today at reasonable prices and the prices continue to drop. The technology is maturing and keeps getting better and better.  In fact it is becoming difficult to find picture tube type monitors now.  The advantages of flat panel displays (also known as LCD panels) are their thinness, low weight, low power consumption and the fact that there is very little distortion. If you have limited space on your desktop, the LCD is a great solution. The disadvantages are that the response time for games and full motion video can create smearing. I would suggest that you make sure response time is 16 ms or less, also look at the contrast ratio to ensure that it will be bright enough for your needs.

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