Help me screen my next monitor
March 12, 2011 9:40 AM   Subscribe

I am going to buy a new computer soon. As a migraineur, I’m concerned about the kind of display I get.

I have read that LCD screens have no flicker rate and are good for migraine sufferers. I’ve also read that LCD screens are backlit with fluorescent lights and are terrible for migraine sufferers. I have found varying statements about TFT monitors. I found this post about monitors, but it’s six years old and technology has, presumably, moved on. (I’m presently using an old CRT with both the brightness and contrast turned way down.)

So knowing that MMMV, give me your data, anec- and otherwise, about the best screen choice for me. Thanks!
posted by bryon to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Get an LED monitor - no flicker rate. It's an LCD panel backlit with diodes instead of CFL tubes. Pricy, but hey, this is your health we're talking about.
posted by jedrek at 9:55 AM on March 12, 2011

I don't get migraines, thankfully, but am headache prone. The shiny screen coating (that I think macs all have, and some PCs) reflects a lot of light, causes a lot of glare, and in addition to what's going on on-screen you can also see what's going on around you. That's enough to give me a headache. The matte screen (I don't know what the technical term is) on, for instance, my ThinkPad doesn't cause this problem.

Something to keep in mind.
posted by phunniemee at 9:56 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

The shiny screen coating (that I think macs all have...

There is a matte display option on many (not all) apple machines.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:59 AM on March 12, 2011

Personally, I've found that, no matter what screen you use, it helps enormously to have a small desk lamp nearby. This seems to help diffuse the effect of staring into a bright light that comes from monitor use (and, in my case, engenders headaches).

I, too, have a shiny-screen iMac and hate the glare. I try to attenuate the glare by making sure the rest of my room is relatively un-lit and the windows directly behind me are shuttered. This cuts-down on what reflects into the screen.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:00 AM on March 12, 2011

I'm 99% sure that all LCD monitors are TFT these days, so you're not going to get one that isn't.

I get occasional migraines, but my LCD screen has never been a factor in that. I noticed subliminal flicker in an old CRT and had to get rid of it immediately. Every LCD I've used has been absolutely stable in that sense.

I agree about the glare issue with glossy screens, including my iMac. I need to keep the blinds at half-mast in my office to prevent glare.

Here's an interesting passage from the Wikipedia article on LCD backlights:
LED backlights are often dimmed by applying pulse-width modulation to the supply current, switching the backlight off and on again like a fast strobe light. If the frequency of the pulse-width modulation is too low and or the user is very sensitive to flicker, this may cause discomfort and eye-strain, similar to the flicker of CRT displays[5]. This can be tested by a user simply by waving a hand or object in front of the screen. If the object appears to have sharply-defined edges as it moves, the backlight is strobing on and off at a fairly low frequency. If the object appears blurry, the display either has a continuously-illuminated backlight or it is operating at a frequency that is too high for the brain to perceive. The flicker can be reduced or eliminated by setting the display to full brightness, though this has a negative impact on image quality and battery life due to increased power consumption.
I can confirm that I do not get that sharp-edge effect when I wave my hand in front of my screen.
posted by adamrice at 11:16 AM on March 12, 2011

PWM is used for brightness control in LEDs, generally. It would take a real amateur to design a PWM dimmer with a frequency that is detectable to a human, given that there is no penalty for bumping up the base frequency to very high levels. Certainly, you're not going to see a 1 KHz PWM signal, when motion pictures and TV are based on sub-100 Hz frame rates.

A real amateur would not be designing a monitor, methinks.

The intelligence (content) appearing on the screen is way more relevant than PWM flicker.

Florescent backlighting also has no particular reason to operate at 60 Hz, but I do confess to not knowing if it does or not. Never had to check.
posted by FauxScot at 3:00 PM on March 12, 2011

Also prone to migrane here: go for an LED + IPS monitor with a matte finish and have a white (Bias/6500K) light behind your monitor if you're working in a dimly lit environment.


* LED backlit monitors don't have have the flicker problem, and seem to have a better range of available brightnesses.

* IPS monitors have generally better viewing angles

* Matte screens have lower chance of glare and consequently reduce the need to squint or focus eyes unnaturally

* A bias light behind the monitor makes more comfortable to look in the direction of your screen as your eyes aren't switching from "ooh bright thing" to "ooh dark thing" mode when looking around. Try to match it with the colour temperature of the LED/CFL light-source on the TFT.

There are actually other reasons to chose all the above options - anybody doing high end graphics work is likely to consider the same setup. The only downside is the cost. IPS screens until recently were still pretty expensive. The IPS + LED screens I've used in the past cost £1000+ although I believe LG have released something for < £200.

Finally, with all that said and done, take breaks!
posted by tkbarbarian at 12:43 AM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

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