Let Us Visualize For A Moment...
For those who donít know, I really like that Geforce 3 Titanium 500 that I purchased from Leadtek. It drives my 21Ē Viewsonic P225 monitor at 1920x1440x32 all day long, and having that much real-estate is extremely productive for me. As the image below-left shows (in 800x600 for space savings), I have a MS word window open on the left, and the web on the right so I can create my articles while I do research at the same time. Having that much space available makes everything easy. I can create large spreadsheets, complex graphics, manage screen shots, handle ICQ chats and listen to my tunes in Music Match without losing a step. Dual monitors may be a wonderful thing for many, but if you want to minimize desk space requirements, a single huge monitor is a great way to do it.
My Working Desktop
Nokia Monitor Test
Big screens, however, donít come cheap. Mine was about $900 in fact. If you are going to buy one for yourself, Iím confident that you will want to ensure that you have the best display quality you can get. To help you with that, there is a great program that I was made aware of from my hardware review days called Nokia Monitor Test. It is a small, free application that can really run your monitor through its paces. The image above-right shows the software in action at 800x600x32. With Nokia Monitor Test you can quickly examine the quality of the image, thanks to screens for focus, convergence, geometry, brightness and contrast, readability and screen regulation, among others. It is one of the most useful pieces of software that I have found, and since it fits on a floppy disk, you can take it with you to the store and test it on a series of monitors. When you find one you are really happy with, you can have them box that exact monitor up for you to take home. I actually brought my mid-tower machine over to a shop, plugged a bunch of monitors into it and ran Nokia Monitor Test until I found one that had the quality I needed for such high-resolution work. You can download a copy of the program here
To clarify my feelings on LCD displays, it is not that I donít like them. It is just that I think they are not ready for prime time yet. Geometry may be perfect, but this ďnative resolutionĒ issue can be a problem. I would normally run at the maximum, letís say 1600x1200 on an 18Ē Viewsonic LCD. However, for some applications, letís say close-in editing of bitmap or vector graphics, I may want to change to 1024x768 or even 800x600. When I do this, things can start looking a bit ugly depending on the model of LCD I have. Fonts can look very jagged, the desktop may be stretched out and unclear, etc. There are LCDís (like those on some Dell Laptops) that let you center your lower-resolution image on the screen so that it takes up only 800x600 actual pixels, for instance. The rest of the screen defaults to a black border on all 4 sides. This method actually works very well, especially for gaming. The only thing left is to make sure the ďrefresh rateĒ of the LCD is very fast, because ghosting is something we should just not have to put up with. It makes your eyes tired when you are scrolling in your browser or office programs and makes fast, first person gaming much harder. Maybe in a year or two things will be a lot better and prices will go down, but until then, Iím glad we have the CRT to fall back on.