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Reviewed by: Bryan Pizzuti [02.19.02]
Manufactured by: Microtek


More on LCD

In order to display lower resolutions, the pixels must be 'stretched' among more than one crystal, which can make other resolutions not look very good. Indeed, on older LCDs, the non-native resolution looked downright ugly. I tried to get a picture of my old Toshiba laptop in a non-native resolution, since it maxes out at only 800x600, but they were REALLY fanatical about not letting the display 'stretch' back then because it looks so ugly. I did manage to do it, but only by booting into Windows 2000 Safe Mode. Here are the minimum (640x480) and maximum (800x600) resolutions below:

Laptops have always contained the height of LCD technology, and this was the height of it at that time. The primary solution of the day (which is still implemented at times today) is to only use enough of the LCD’s display area to display the current resolution. So, on an 800x600 LCD, the computer would only use the centermost 640x480 crystals. However, as LCD technology has progressed, so has the scaling of lower-than-native resolutions. Here is a picture of my new Dell Inspiron 4100 running at 800x600. This laptop has a native resolution of 1400x1050, as shown in the second snapshot.

Quite a difference, yes? While some LCD displays still default to shrinking the image, for a desktop LCD, which tends not to be an option. However there is one other major difference between CRTs and LCDs, and that is the value of the term "refresh rate"

Most LCD monitors will give a refresh rate value, because it’s become a standard monitor specification. However, with LCDs, it’s nearly meaningless; except for showing the amount of data that the LCD’s chip can process and display (most LCDs claim a refresh of 75). Since LCDs don’t’ use physically moving guns, there tends to be no delay from moving between lines. Dot Pitch also means something different here; it’s mainly the size of the pixel crystals. However, these crystals don’t always move as fast as some others; some crystals can shift colors more readily than others. This is called "Pixel Refresh" and is the statistic with the most impact on gaming on LCD monitors. If the pixels can’t shift colors fast enough to keep up, it can make an image appear blurred on the screen, which is something many gamers won’t tolerate. This is also a figure that many LCD manufacturers do NOT provide with their LCD displays. However, if you’re researching your monitor before purchasing, then you should e-mail the manufacturer and they should be happy to provide this specification.

A couple of other things to keep in mind are the fact that an LCD is already a digital medium, meaning you can gain some clarity by using a Digital Video Interface connector. Not all LCD monitors offer this (This Microtek does not) and only offer analog connectors instead. Usually these work fine, but you have to remember that your video card is converting digital signals to analog, and then the flat panel is converting those analog signals BACK to digital.

Another thing to keep in mind is a VERY good thing, and that’s monitor size. Usually, when you buy a CRT monitor, they give two sizes... the tube size, and the viewable area. So, a 17 inch CRT might have a 17 inch tube, but only 16 inches of it will be viewable. On an LCD, 17 inches is the size of the LCD. Period. And it’s all viewable. So, even though 15 inch LCDs are comparable to the price of a 17 inch monitor (these days, they are), they will have the SAME viewable area, or maybe slightly less, no matter what the "tube size" difference is.

One final thing; LCDs have something that CRT monitors usually don’t need to worry about, and that is viewable angle. Most of us sit directly in front of our monitors and stare straight at them, but sometimes people want to look over our shoulders and watch. While this is not usually a problem with CRTs, LCDs are a different story. Some LCDs have a very narrow viewing angle (nearly straight-ahead only), so whether you can see anything is dependent on your angle in relation to the screen. Some LCDs, most notable laptop LCDs have a fairly narrow horizontal viewing angle, but desktop LCDs need a rather wider one. Vertically, they all need to be pretty flexible since most LCD displays tilt. Outside of the intended viewing angle, the display gets discolored, and eventually nears invisibility.

Oh... one other final thing. Because they contain so much less glass than a comparably sized CRT, LCDs are LIGHT. REALLY light. I barely noticed my new 15 pound Microtek after having to get my 80 pound Apple 20 inch off of my desk. But that’s also the major reason why LCDs were picked up by the notebook PC industry so quickly.

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