Liquid crystal display, or LCD technology is used in laptops, monitors and TVs, but there are two main kinds and many characteristics to consider. You might just want an inexpensive screen or you may need special features. You have to consider the type of back lighting, the quality of the display, what devices you are going to connect to the monitor and what its main uses will be. Once you know what choices are available you can make an informed decision. PC Mag has additional information about monitors and how the types and models differ.
LED vs. LCD Monitors
The two main kinds of LCD screens differ in the way they are lit. Both types use LCDs to control the image, but LED monitors have light emitting diodes behind the screen while plain LCD monitors have fluorescent lights called cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFL). LED monitors are brighter, have darker blacks and produce less heat, but the CCFL type is less expensive. Your best strategy is to look at LED and CCFL monitors side-by-side in the store and compare prices. The impression of quality is subjective and depends on the models. If you can see the difference in picture quality, you can decide if the difference is worth the higher price.
Most LCD monitors now offer 1080 HD resolution. This translates as having a 16:9 aspect ratio with 1920 pixels across the screen and 1080 pixels vertically. These HD screens show HD movies and video in full-screen format and let you place two Web pages or windows with word processing documents side-by-side on the same screen. Some monitors have a 16:10 aspect ratio with a corresponding resolution of 1920 by 1200 pixels. These monitors are slightly larger vertically and allow you to display full HD video with extra space at the bottom for more text, a menu bar or video player controls. Manufacturers recommend the 16:10 screens for people who use their computers only occasionally for HD video.
While the older CRT monitors started out with a 14-inch size and eventually most such screens were 17 inches, 17-inch LCD monitors are the smallest common size. You measure the size diagonally and you can get up to 30-inch monitors are reasonable prices. Most people have limitations imposed by the size of their desk space and the amount they want to spend, but text on the larger monitors is easier to read and the finer details in images are more easily visible. If you spend a lot of time on your computer, getting the largest screen that will fit and that you can afford will reduce fatigue and increase your productivity.
The stand of the monitor may be a key factor in your purchase if your desk is unusually high or low or if you find the standard monitor height several inches above the desk does not suit your needs. Inexpensive monitors only allow you to adjust the tilt up or down while more expensive models have height adjustments and can rotate to let you view documents lengthwise on the monitor.
Audio and Video
If you often use Skype or a similar services, such as Google hangouts, you need a web cam to transmit your picture, a microphone to pick up sound and speakers so you can hear the other parties. Some monitors have these items integrated into the frame of the display. The web cam and microphone are the most important because you otherwise have to mount separate units on or near the monitor.
Speakers in the monitor frame are often of poor quality and you may be better off with PC speakers plugged into your computer. If you get a web cam integrated into the top of the display frame, check the specifications to ensure it produces a good image. A web cam with 1 megapixel or more and a frame rate of 30 frames per second can record good-quality video.
Before making your purchase, check that the monitor has connectors for all the devices you intend to plug in. Most computers still have the old VGA sockets but newer connectors, for DVD and Blu-ray players, HD TV signals and other video devices such as cameras are becoming more common. The digital video interface (DVI) and the high definition multimedia interface (HDMI) are two connectors found on many high definition video devices but many have only one or the other.
USB ports are convenient if you have photographs or video on memory sticks and want to display the images without transferring them to your computer. Memory card slots on the monitor are useful for the same purpose, as long as your camera has the kind of memory card that fits the slots.
An inexpensive LCD monitor of the size you want will satisfy your basic display requirements but will not have any additional functions, features or characteristics. If you want higher image quality and are willing to pay more, check out LED monitors. If you need an adjustable stand, a web cam or specific connectors, make sure the monitor has them before finalizing the purchase.
If you identify what is essential for you and then work your way through the type of monitor, the size and the resolution, you should be able to get the LCD model you need.