My new LCD monitor

What could be cooler than an LCD monitor? They really look sharp sitting on a desk. For years I have been using a 17″ CTX CRT at 1280×1024 resolution.

Anyone who comes into my office asks how I can stand it. The text is really tiny. But, I appreciate having all that real estate, because I often have multiple windows open.

So, why didn’t I have an LCD monitor?

Money. They were just too damned expensive and the 15″ monitors, pretty much the desktop standard, only provided 1024×768 resolution. That meant things would really be squeezed.

Why spend the money and trade down?

This past weekend, Staples put a Pixo AT700S, 17″ LCD monitor on sale for $380, minus an $80 rebate. Fat Wallet had a link to a Staples coupon which saved me another $30.

The specs show this to be somewhat below top of the line. The contrast numbers are below some I’ve seen and is the lag time. However, a recent article in one of my computer magazines said most of the published LCD monitor specs were wrong… often in the consumer’s favor!

It didn’t make much difference. I’m not quite sure what all the specs are anyway.

I bought the monitor home, hooked it up, turned on my PC and… nothing… white screen. The low res text booting screens were there, but as Windows got ready to deliver, the screen went white. Not only that, I couldn’t get the on-screen controls to work.

I knew my computer sometimes started in a weird video mode where the Windows desktop was larger than my CRT, forcing me to scroll around until I could reset it. That seemed to be the case here. So, I hooked up the old monitor and reset the video… and created a hot key to easily reset it if this problem arises again.

The first thing I noticed was the brightness. This monitor is much whiter than any CRT I’ve used. Pictures were spectacular. Actually, maybe they were too good. I started noticing the artifacts of compression on images; something I hadn’t seen before. As bright as the whites were, the darks were deeper than the old CRT.

But, there were problems as well. Text looked ragged. This was especially true with what looks to be single pixel type, most often used for utility and menu purposes. Some letters looked thicker than others too and some straight lines weren’t quite vertical.

I opened the manual… actually a manualette and read. There were less answers than an Arnold Schwarzenegger news conference (OK – shoot me, I like the line).

What do phase and pitch do? Other commands seemed fairly straightforward, but these two, who knows? And, many of the commands seemed to be intertwined, in that doing one affected another.

PassMark has developed shareware monitor testing software. I downloaded it and fired it up. I’m not sure how you get a monitor to look good, but I do know what looks good. I started to play.

Pitch seemed to be very critical. It was the only control that caused visible screen pulses as it was adjusted. But, it was able to eliminate some thickness that letters only had on parts of the screen.

Does that make sense? It makes no sense to me either, but I’m not sure how else to say it.

Anyway, long story short, using the test screens I was able to tweak the monitor much better than I would have ever been able to just using my eyes. Yes, some very tiny type is ‘too sharp’ and displeasing to look at. But, by and large, everything is very sharp. Graphics are spectacular. There doesn’t seem to be any lag or problem when I use my TV tuner in the computer.

This 17″ LCD is much larger than my 17″ CRT (they are measured differently), meaning that at the same resolution, things are larger and more easily seen with this monitor.

There’s a 14 day return policy at Staples, with no restocking fee. I haven’t yet cut off the UPC for the rebate, but after some indecision, I think I’m going to keep it.

What I don’t understand is why these monitors are limited to 1280×1024? My 15″ laptop screen is 1400×1050 and it’s a thing of beauty. If Sony put one of those on the desktop… well, no, I probably wouldn’t spring for Sony’s prices. But, if Pixo put one out, I’d absolutely consider buying it.

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