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Monitors are what you look at when ever interacting with your computer, so you’ll want it to be one of the best components that you have. Questions often asked about monitors include:

  • What types of monitors are out there?
  • What size is the best?
  • What is resolution and which should I use?
  • What’s a refresh rate and what effect does it have?
  • I’ve decided on an LCD monitor…What exactly is a response time?


Monitors come in several varieties: CRT, LCD, Projectors, and eventually OLED. Each type of monitor has its advantages and disadvantages, which I’ll discuss now.

CRT or Cathode Ray Tube monitors are the large bulky monitors that you see with most computers today. They are great for gaming as they usually have fairly high refresh rates and very little ‘ghosting.’ They are also cheap with a 15” CRT costing around $120. A major issue with CRTs is the amount of desk space they take up and their weight. My 20” CRT weighs over 60 lbs and takes up a good deal of precious desk space. A few companies that make good CRTs include NEC, Sony, Samsung, Hitachi and Viewsonic.

LCD or Liquid Crystal Display monitors are ‘flat’ monitors that are becoming quite popular, but are still quite expensive. These monitors are awesome for office work as they take up a very small amount of desk space and are easy on the eyes, but for gaming, they generally have a condition called “ghosting” – it’s where the previous few frames are still up on the screen in a ‘faded’ fashion because the screen is unable to keep up with the fast movement of a game or movie. While a lot of LCDs have the ghosting issue, quite a few new LCDs are combating the response time (what will effect ghosting the most) and are proving themselves with response times of lower than 20-25ms.


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Two monitors, the one on the left being an LCD and the one on the right being a CRT. LCDs are much thinner than CRTs and therefore, they take up much less deskspace.

Companies that make good LCDs include NEC, Hitachi, Iiyama, Samsung, and Sony. I don’t suggest Sony for gaming, especially their X** series of LCDs as I’ve found they have very bad response times. Personally, while expensive, I’m looking at an Iiyama 17” LCD to replace my 20” CRT – because it takes up too much space.

Projectors are kind of the ‘outcast’ and ‘exclusive’ type of monitors – well, they’re can’t really be classified as monitors. Projectors “project” the image up on a wall or similar. They produce huge images, and at a fairly decent quality to be so large. The first downside to projectors that drives 95% of the people away from them is the price. Projectors usually start at around $1000 and go up from there. A good XGA (1024×768) projector will probably cost you in the range of $1800-2500. Now you’re probably saying to yourself, “I could build a whole system with a nice 17” LCD for that price.” Well, I thought the same thing (and still do).

Projectors are not built for gaming, but I played a tournament of UT2003 on an NEC projector and it actually went pretty well. While at only a resolution of 800×600, the image was about 48 inches wide or so and made everything seem about right. If you plan on traveling a lot and giving presentations, look into projectors – otherwise, I feel it’s just too expensive.

What size is the best?

Monitor sizes generally vary from 15” to 22”. I feel the ideal monitor for most people today would be either a 17” LCD or a 19” CRT. If you’re a gamer, the bigger the CRT, the better but in the LCD arena, most quality 17” LCDs have well enough response times to minimize ghosting. One thing I have to personally say about monitors, don’t skimp on it and buy the $99 special at Wal-Mart. Buy a quality monitor and your eyes will thank you.

What is resolution and which should I use?

Resolution is defined as the amount of pixels across the screen and down the screen. It basically determines how small everything is on the screen. Your best bet is to hunt around and find which resolution suits you best but still allows for a decent refresh rate.

What is refresh rate and what effect does it have?

A refresh rate is a number (in Hz or Hertz) that determines the amount of times your monitor refreshes per second. The default refresh rate is usually 60Hz. I can’t stand 60Hz (unless it’s on an LCD…then the story changes). Because of the way the human eye works, at 60Hz, subconsciously (and sometimes you can just see it period…if your eyes are fast enough) you can see the monitor refresh and this causes eye strain. Eye strain is bad, very bad. After a few hours of looking at a computer screen, your eyes will begin to hurt or you may develop headaches and you will have to step away for a while. On a CRT, I recommend no less than a 75Hz refresh rate. Personally, I use an 85Hz refresh rate as it ‘feels’ right to me. LCDs are quite a bit different in their design and most are limited to a 70Hz or 60Hz refresh rate, but that’s not a bad thing. I can sit at my laptop (60Hz refresh rate) for hours on end and never encounter eye strain.

I’ve decided on an LCD monitor, what exactly is response time?

Response times on an LCD monitor indicate how fast the pixels can rise and fall. If an LCD has a slow response time, you will experience a lot of ghosting. A slow response time could be considered as anything above 40ms or so. For gamers, you should look at 10-25ms response times so that it doesn’t distract from your gaming.


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