Problem with LCD monitors & native resolution
January 7, 2009 9:25 PM   Subscribe

Problem finding lower resolution LCD monitor.


I do web design & dev all day on a PC. My current setup is one 20" LCD as primary monitor, and a cheap 17" CRT as secondary.

Though the LCD's native resolution is 1600X1200, I run it at 1024X768 and it looks pretty good. No eyestrain. This allows me to fit a 960pixel-wide Photoshop image on the screen and work on it comfortably.

I just bought a 24" monitor, but its native resolution is 1900X1200. Running it that high makes everything TINY. I know I can change font sizes and edit other Windows settings, increase font sizes in Firefox, etc., but image editing and menu sizes are all WAY too small. For example, the File menu of applications is really tiny.

Two questions:

-Can I even find a 20" LCD monitor that has a 1024X768 native resolution?

-If not, what's the best solution here? I suppose I could just buy another 20" like I've got.

I have read through previous ask metafilter posts, but didn't quite find the answer.
posted by 4midori to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If I right click on the desktop, and go to properties, Then go to the appearange tab, there is a dropdown that says "font size" and has normal, large and extra large. Changing this changes text in a lot of stuff (dialogs, etc) but also in File menu etc. Possibly photoshop ignores that kind of thing? Nope, just tried it, it seems to honor it just fine.

As far as the images being too small, can you work with them blown up to 200%? That should make most things look pretty good (no jaggies) but be big enough to work on?

Aside from that I don't think you're going to find a lot of large displays with low resolutions. Most people just wouldn't buy that.

You can probably lower the res on your LCD screen but LCDs in non-native resolution mostly look like blurry crap.
posted by RustyBrooks at 9:42 PM on January 7, 2009

Best answer: Your old 20"-diagonal 1600x1200 panel's native resolution is 100 dpi. You're running that comfortably at 1024x768, which works out to 64 dpi. Windows is most likely set to 96 dpi (the default). So your panel is 50% bigger than Windows thinks it is.

The new 24"-diagonal 1920x1200 panel's native resolution is 94 dpi. If you want Windows to look the same on that as it does on your old panel, you can run it at a non-native resolution as you're doing with your existing 20" panel. 1280x800 will get you 63 dpi, which is about what you're using now. Your new panel's native resolution is only 6% lower than your old panel's, so the blurring effect of running a non-native resolution should be about the same.

Alternatively, you can run the panel at its native resolution and lie to Windows about how big it is. If you tell Windows to use 144 dpi (150% of normal size) under Display Properties -> Settings -> Advanced, then in theory everything (fonts, graphics, menus, everything) will be scaled up to suit.

The trouble with messing with the Windows dpi setting is that (a) not everything respects it and (b) the font scaling is OK but the graphic scaling looks like arse. In general, your panel will do a far better job at scaling an entire non-native display than Windows will do of scaling individual graphic elements to make them fit a native one.

You're not going to find a PC-compatible LCD panel with 64 dpi native resolution; as far as I know they're just not made. If you insist on sticking with Windows* applications, then running non-native is probably your least bad option.

*This is the part of the answer where I find myself unable to suppress an urge to point out that any modern Linux distro not only works correctly with any dpi setting, but automatically sets the dpi from information provided by the monitor hardware at startup. Unfortunately, all extant methods of providing Windows compatibility for Linux also provide Windows-compatible broken dpi behaviour, so running Photoshop in Wine or in a VM doesn't help here. All of which is probably why so many graphic designers use Macs.
posted by flabdablet at 11:23 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

You might want to consider buying an LCD TV with PC inputs, something that runs at 720p HD resolution. I had an NEC LCD2335WXM that was a 23" with a native resolution of 1280x768. The pixels were quite large and it was very easy to read. This was a few years ago, though, and it may be tougher to find lower resolutions these days now that LCDs are so much cheaper and more widespread.
posted by camcgee at 11:29 PM on January 7, 2009

For 1024x768, you'll need a 3:4 aspect ratio monitor. Any widescreeen display is going to mis-display that resolution. These should be the right orientation and be various sizes. Unfortunately, 1024x768 is only "recommended" for 15" monitors, so it's unlikely you'll find a 20" that's running natively at that resolution.
posted by JuiceBoxHero at 7:50 AM on January 8, 2009

Oops, I meant 4:3, not 3:4.
posted by JuiceBoxHero at 7:51 AM on January 8, 2009

I don't understand exactly why you'd buy another 20 just to run it at non-native when you could just run your 24 at non-native, something like 1280 x 800. (Which is damn close to your 20 at 1024 x 768 but still keeps your pixels square.)

For more money you could consider going to a TV some sort of 30-something inch 1920x1080 LCD.
posted by Wood at 8:59 AM on January 8, 2009

Response by poster: Interesting. Thanks, all. I guess I'll check out LCD TVs. I hope I can find one that's as sharp as a monitor, regardless of # of pixels.
posted by 4midori at 9:42 AM on January 8, 2009

You'll find that there's always a tradeoff between various aspects of visual quality.

The native resolution of the 23" 1280x768 LCD TV that camcgee mentioned is 65 dots per inch* which is what you want; but you may well find that the jaggies you will see when you use that panel at native resolution are more visually intrusive than the blur caused by running your existing 24" panel at 1280x800.

You'd need to go to 34" to get 65 dots per inch in a 1920x1080 TV. So now we're talking quite large amounts of money spent on bringing jaggies to your desktop at closer-than-comfortable viewing distances :-)

If I absolutely had to run Windows and I wanted to do that on a nice big display, and I already had a 24" display that did 94 dpi, I would not fartarse around with televisions. I'd pick native resolution under Display Properties -> Settings, Extra Large fonts under Display Properties -> Appearance and Large Icons under Display Properties -> Appearance -> Advanced; then I'd give myself a couple of days to get used to that; and if those settings broke the display layouts of my main apps in a way that I found bothersome, I'd just run it at 1280x800.

Really, the blur isn't as bad as the purists make it out to be. The scaling hardware built into modern LCD monitors does at least as good a job of mapping input pixels to panel pixels as does the analog process of spraying scan lines through a CRT's shadow mask. A resolution of 94 pixels per inch translates to a pixel pitch of 0.27mm. The dot pitch on CRT displays ranges from about 0.22 to about 0.30 mm. I'd expect a 1280x800 image to look as good on your 24" panel as it would on a CRT with comparable dot pitch.

I would also expect it to look better than a native 1280x800 image on an LCD panel with 65 dpi pixels. On such a panel, you'd have nice sharp edges on horizontal and vertical lines, but you'd get noticeable jaggies on anything else. Also, at normal desktop viewing distances, you'd be more likely to notice the red, green and blue subpixels that make up each pixel than you would on a native 100 dpi display, and see more color fringing if you used ClearType to try to get rid of the font jaggies.

If you're happy with the look of your 20" panel running non-native, I don't see why your 24" panel should be significantly different. You just need to pick a display setting with the same aspect ratio as the panel.

*The formula I'm using to work these out assumes that the native pixels are square, and that the entire imaging region is included in the diagonal measurement: pixels per inch = sqrt((pixels across)2 + (pixels up)2) / diagonal inches
posted by flabdablet at 5:47 PM on January 9, 2009

You could also buy another CRT in whatever size you'd like and not worry about native resolutions at all.
posted by hootch at 3:44 PM on January 10, 2009

This idea that CRT displays don't have a native resolution is actually a bit of a furphy. In fact they do, and it's defined by the pitch of the RGB phosphor dot array on the surface of the picture tube.

However, there is no practical way to send a video signal to a CRT such that one input pixel corresponds exactly to one RGB phosphor dot triplet; in effect, CRT displays are always run at below-native resolution. The electron beam that activates the phosphors is focussed to a slightly fuzzy-edged dot about as big as an input pixel, and this, combined with the fact that the beam isn't turned off between horizontal pixels, ends up doing an analog version of the interpolated image scaling that modern LCD panels do digitally.

The reason CRT displays are generally reckoned to look better than LCD panels at lower display resolutions is not because there's anything magic about CRT technology - it's just that the typical computer-grade CRT has very small dot clusters: 0.2mm is typical for good ones.

The 1600x1200 15" panel in the laptop I'm using right now has 133 dpi (0.19mm) pixels, which means its native resolution is better than that of most CRT displays. And, unsurprisingly, it looks at least as sharp as a good CRT when operated at below-native resolution, and quite significantly sharper at 1600x1200.
posted by flabdablet at 5:14 PM on January 10, 2009

Response by poster: I ended up buying a 26" LCD television, running at 1360 X 768. Works great. Thanks all.
posted by 4midori at 10:12 PM on November 10, 2009

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