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June 2008
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Monitors
Like TV screens, computer monitors are continuing to go wide and get bigger

Acer P221W (22-inch)
Acer P221W
(22-inch)
Industry watchers report that the vast majority of monitors sold in the past year were lightweight, flat-panel LCD displays. They've almost entirely replaced heavy CRT displays, which took up more desk space.

The squarish 17-inch monitor is now almost obsolete, replaced by widescreen (16:9 aspect ratio) models in 19- to 24-sizes. Their wider shape and larger size allow you to view two side-by-side pages or more columns of a spreadsheet with less scrolling. They're also better, of course, if you plan to watch movies or newer TV shows on your computer screen.

Only a few squarer (4:3 aspect ratio) screens remain available, mostly 17- and 19-inch models. Some may offer good value and you might even prefer that shape—if say, you want to maximize screen area in a location where horizontal space is limited.

Prices continue to fall, even for LCDs with bigger screens. If you're buying a monitor bundled with a new computer, as many consumers do, you can often upgrade from the standard display to a larger one for a modest amount—$50 to $150 or so.


WHAT'S AVAILABLE

Apple, Dell, eMachines (which merged with Gateway in 2004), Gateway (purchased by Acer in 2007), HP (which merged with Compaq in 2002), Lenovo, and Sony all market their own monitors for their computers. Other brands of monitors, such as Acer, BenQ, Envision, KDS, LG, NEC, Philips, Planar, Preview, Princeton, Samsung, ViewSonic, Westinghouse, are sold separately. Many of those companies don't make their own monitors but buy them and put their own brand label on them.

With an LCD monitor, the nominal image size and the viewable-image size (VIS) are the same. Desktop LCDs that measure 17 or 19 inches diagonally weigh around 15 pounds. LCDs with a screen 20 inches or larger are increasingly available.

Flat-panel displays deliver a very clear image but have some quirks. Their range of color is a bit narrower than a CRT's and you have to view the screen straight on to get optimal image quality. On most models, the picture can lose contrast as you move off-center, and fine lines might appear grainy.

Price: $150 and up for a 17-inch; $200 and up for a 19-inch; $250 and up for a 20-inch; $300 and up for a 22-inch; $500 and up for a 24-inch.