Buying a TFT Monitor

Buying a TFT Monitor as an upgrade or replacement monitor

Buying the right monitor means considering your needs.  There are now a huge selection of screens with widely varying specifications and prices.

Choosing the wrong monitor could be an expensive mistake as many suppliers may not refund the entire cost of an incorrect purchase - or only offer store credit.

First, consider what you expect to spend most time doing in front of the screen..  Do you mainly use Applications such as Word processing, Email, Spreadsheets and the Internet - Or do you spend most of your time watching Movies from DVDs played on the PC?

This gives an indication as to whether you need a Widescreen format monitor - or a 'Normal' aspect ration screen.  While larger monitors (20" and above) are usually widescreen, this may not be appropriate for your needs.  If you mainly work with office type applications as listed above, a non-widescreen (4:3 aspect ratio) format monitor may be better for your intended use.

Next, you must consider one of the most misunderstood aspects of TFT displays, the pixel size - (or dot pitch) and the screen resolution.  As well as determining the overall amount of information that can be seen on the display, it also mainly determines the size of the text displayed.  While it is possible to alter font sizes in windows, this is generally inadvisable as screen layouts are usually intolerant of this and the correct formatting is often lost or compromised.  If you need the text to be as readable as possible, the largest common pixel size is 0.3 (or 0.297) mm.  Higher resolution screens may have a pixel size of 0.26mm or smaller which makes the overall text size much smaller than you would expect, leading to eye strain in many cases.  Very high resolution screens have dot sizes as small as 0.22mm, which may be completely unreadable to some people.

The larger pixel size of 0.3mm is only commonly found in 15" and 19" displays (Not wide screen versions) with resolutions of 1024x768 (for 15" displays) and 1280 x 1024 (for 19" displays)  i.e. 15" and 19" displays have the SAME pixel - and hence text size, although the larger 19" screen shows more text, as it has more dots in each direction.

With an idea of the acceptable pixel size (or dot pitch) the overall screen size comes into consideration.  15" monitors are now generally considered too low resolution for regular office application use, as they have too small a display area for modern applications with many toolbars. 17" monitors have a higher resolution (usually 1280 x 1024) but their smaller pixel size (0.26mm) is not suitable for long periods of use.  A 19" screen with 1280 x 1024 resolution is generally considered ideal for use with office applications, email, Internet use etc and should not be seen as "too big" as the extra screen size gives a good desktop resolution with the largest and clearest text size for general use.  17" monitors are an alternative if space is at a premium and they are not used for long periods - and the smaller text size is not an issue for the users of the screen.

Buying a TFT monitor for CAD or Digital Photo Editing

If the intended use of the screen if for CAD or High-end Digital Photo Editing or other work involving high resolution images or applications such as web design or programming where it is necessary to work on a full screen image on a 'normal' size screen in a window within another program - e.g. Web Page Design software then somewhat higher resolution screens are not only justified - but required to be able to work efficiently.

Each of the applications listed above typically require a large working area for the image or web page being worked on - as well as a typically large number of toolbars around the screen, which use valuable working area on the desktop.

By using a suitably high resolution monitor, the toolbars can be viewed as required, without making the working area too small (like a letterbox in the middle of the screen) allowing the image or design to be edited easily and efficiently.

Obviously, as mentioned before the higher resolution inevitably leads to smaller pixel and text sizes - but by using a suitable large screen this effect is minimised.

Currently, the 'sweet spot' for high resolution screens with acceptable pixel size is 1680x1050 resolution on a 22" display, which gives a very acceptable pixel size of 0.282mm - much better than a 20" display of the same resolution with a pixel size of around 0.252mm.

These dimensions give an excellent compromise between high resolution display, good pixel size and very reasonable cost as displays such as the Samsung 226BW (Reviewed here) only cost in the region of £230 - or less if you shop around and buy on-line.