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Lesson 1- Monitor component

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In lesson 1 we'll cover LCD monitors, what features and specs to look for when shopping, and how much you can expect to pay.

When selecting a monitor for your computer you’re looking for 2 things, picture quality and screen size.
Picture quality is determined by 4 factors, resolution, brightness, contrast ratio and response time.

The image you’re looking at now is made up of hundreds of thousands of individual picture elements, or pixels for short. The sharpness or detail comes down to the number and size of the pixels a monitor can display.

Monitors use lines of resolution to make up the image on screen. Monitors have a native or fixed resolution. 1600x900 is standard for a 20" widescreen monitor. A 23” widescreen monitor will have a resolution of 1920x1080, also known as Full HD because it is the same resolution as a Blu-ray movie.   As screen size increases, so do the lines of resolution.

Brightness is measured in candles per square meter or cd/m2. 250 cd/m2 is standard. You can find brighter 300, 400, 500 cd/m2 monitors at a premium price.

Contrast Ratio
Contrast Ratio refers to the difference between light and dark a monitor can display. 700 to 1 is a good minimum and as you go up in price, you’ll find 1000 to 1, to 50,000,000 to 1 and higher contrast ratios.

Response Time
The response time of a monitor comes from how many times a second the screen is updated. If the screen isn’t updated fast enough you will see ghosting in the image.

Response times for monitors run from 2ms to 16ms and lower the better. 5ms is a good minimum.


There are two types of LCD used by the majority of manufactures. TN and IPS. There are several types of IPS panels (S-IPS, P-IPS, H-IPS, etc.) but it comes down to this. TN panels are cheaper and have faster response times. IPS panels are much more expensive and have better color with slower response times. If true color reproduction is more important to you than response time and you have the money get an IPS panel monitor. If you are more into games and watching videos save your money and get a TN panel monitor.

When you shop for your monitor if the description or the features don’t say IPS it is a TN panel monitor. If you want an IPS monitor the description or features will say the type of IPS it uses.

There are two different types of back lights used in LCD monitors, florescent and LED.  Florescent is the older type and is the same lighting used in energy efficient compact florescent bulbs for your home.  These allow contrast ratios of between 1000 to 1 and 100,000 to 1.  LED back lights allow for up to 50,000,000 to 1 contrast ratios.  These numbers are a little fudged by the manufacturers, but LED back lights do allow for much better contrast.

Screen Size
Screen sizes for monitors range from 17 to 30 inches. The larger the screen, the more you’ll pay for the monitor.

When it comes to the size of the screen we recommend at least a 19 inch display. A monitor of this size runs between 100 and 250 dollars, depending on the quality of the display. The sweet spot for size vs cost is currently a 23” monitor.  You can get a very good one for around $160.

Dead Pixels

Dead pixels are a problem common to all monitors. It means that a pixel on the screen is either always off or on and it doesn’t respond to the image being displayed. Most manufactures have a replacement policy for dead pixels. Typically, 5 or more on a display and the monitor will be replaced.

Multiple Monitors
Some monitors also have smaller outside boarders making them better for multi monitor set ups where you connect 2 or more monitors to your video card to make your desktop in Windows larger and run programs side by side. You can even mix and match regular and wide screen monitors if you like.

See the video card component lesson for more on connecting multiple monitors.


Monitor Warranties

Computer monitors are generally very reliable and will last for many years. That said, it's best to buy a monitor with at least a 3 years parts and labor warranty.

This level of warranty is standard for most manufacturers, but not all. So be sure to check the warranty coverage before buying a monitor.


Monitor Reviews

To find more reviews do a search in your favorite search engine (Google, Yahoo) for the model number of the monitor you're interested in.

Buying a Monitor


When you buy a LCD monitor there is no shortage of choices. Below are several sites that will help you find the lowest price from a reputable merchant.

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