Good LCD monitor for reading?
January 21, 2006 11:37 AM   Subscribe

What should I look for in an LCD monitor primarily for programming and web-surfing? (i.e. reading text.)

I don't care about gaming and although I'd like it to display images decently, I'm not going to be doing serious photography or anything with it. Do some monitors have exceptionally good (crisp and easy on the eyes) text?

I generally prefer to use big resolutions so the text is bigger. (I currently have a 19" CRT, 17.5" viewable that I use at 800x600.) I use the computer all-the-livelong-day. Probably don't want to spend more than about 500$ unless there's something truly exceptional.

Related: I live in an old house with dodgy power. Will this be bad for my LCD? Sometimes my CRT flickers.
posted by callmejay to Computers & Internet (23 answers total)
Best answer: You want to look for high brightness and high contrast LCDs. The higher the better. Brightness will make it easy to read in a lit room, and contrast will make things appear sharper and easier to read.

As for resolution, what I recommend is that you use a high resolution and adjust your DPI so your font size is bigger. You will have a clearer picture with easy to read text. You can fool around with this on your current monitor to see if it is an option by going to the Display menu in windows and looking for the DPI setting.

Also, getting a UPS of sorts will do a world of good for evening out your power as that flickering is bad for both your computer and monitor.
posted by Loto at 11:50 AM on January 21, 2006

You will be using a much higher res. with a new LCD.

The Apple Cinema displays are amazing quality LCDs. Supposedly Dell sells the exact same displays in different cases at a significant discount.

I'd go that route.

If your PC has a digital connection ( DVI ), it will look much better if you get an LCD that supports DVI. If your computer does not have DVI, I'd seriously consider getting a new video card with a DVI. I've seen the difference side-by-side, and it's pretty big.

But that said, I've got a 19" Sony that is great with an analog connection. It is nowhere near as good as my 17" iMac display (which is average by modern standards). But even that older Sony LCD is a very nice, easy to read display.

I bet you'd be better off than you are now as long as you don't go completely bargain basement.
posted by teece at 12:15 PM on January 21, 2006

Best answer: If you want high-res you might want to take a look at a Dell LCD. My current is a the Dell 2001 FP - a 20" 1600x1200. $503 instead of the usual $625 due to a big sale right now and it's pretty exceptional. The Dell 2405 24" widescreen with 1920x1200 resolution is also on sale for a mere $879. Both of those have a response time of 16ms which is the make-or-break point for gaming (anything higher is unsuitable) as well.

Tom's Hardware Guide happens to have a pretty good displays guide as well, if you're up for a bit of personal research. Viewsonic, Samsung, and BenQ (in order of preference) all make good 19" 1280x1024 LCDs with 8ms response times that you can catch on Newegg for $300, sometimes as low as $250 if you spot a sale. Check Tom's a bit to find out what exact model number to go with as quality varies.
posted by Ryvar at 12:45 PM on January 21, 2006

Some other points I forgot to note: the Dell monitors are shipped straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak, so you avoid the issue common to Newegg where they take monitors that have a dead pixel or two that have been returned to them within the first fourteen days, and turn around and point them back on the shelves. That fact has bitten me in the ass, but I get the impression I'm the exception.

As a new LCD owner you should probably be advised not to use cleaning agents on your new display - that will strip the coating right off it. Use a microfiber cloth like you'll find in an eyeglasses store (or often the glasses care department of your local pharmacy).

LCDs are always going to have much crisper display of text, and assuming you're using Windows you can try with Cleartype fonts enabled and without - this smooths out the fonts for you, some people like it but personally I can't stand it. Also, if you like your fonts large do the following under Windows - right-click anywhere on the desktop, and select Properties from the context menu. Under the 'Display Properties' dialogue click on the 'Appearance' tab. There you'll find a 'Font Size' selection box.

I've no idea about the power issue, but the Dell monitors have seperate external power supplies (similar to what a laptop has) so that might mitigate the issue somewhat. Your CRT might have been flickering because you had it at 60Hz refresh rate, which can cause a strobing effect when paired with lightbulbs which also operate at 60Hz. While LCDs operate at 60Hz usually, they only change pixels when the image on the screen changes unlikes CRTs which redraw every 60th of a second, so there is no strobe effect.
posted by Ryvar at 12:56 PM on January 21, 2006

Best answer: I got my Dell 2005FPW (20" Widescreen 1600x1024) for like $370. And it's like sex for the eyes. (Except first thing in the morning. Then it's like staring into the sun.)
posted by keswick at 12:56 PM on January 21, 2006

Out of interest, I'm guessing that laptop displays are digital rather than analogue by default, no?
posted by holgate at 1:01 PM on January 21, 2006

Best answer: I got a 2005FPW last week to replace my 19" CRT, and WOW, the difference is amazing. I do a lot of coding, and the screen real estate available at 1680 x 1050 really is great.

Search eBay for "dell coupon", and you can pick up a Home Electronics coupon (I got $40 off $400) for a couple bucks. Dell regularly has sales (one just ended, natch), so I got mine for about $450 delivered the next day to my door.
posted by mkultra at 1:39 PM on January 21, 2006

Holgate, you are correct.
posted by zsazsa at 1:40 PM on January 21, 2006

I also just got a Dell2005FPW. It really is a great monitor. I replaced a samsung 19" lcd I had that was analogue. The DVI connection is alot better.
posted by meta87 at 2:03 PM on January 21, 2006

Ditto everyone else. I'm thrilled with my Dell 1905FP, and if I wanted to drop $500 on a monitor, it'd be a 2005FP.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 2:38 PM on January 21, 2006

Looking at the Dell 2005FPW, it appears to be the monitor to beat once the price goes back down.
posted by Ryvar at 2:45 PM on January 21, 2006

get a UPS for the power. I moved into a place with dodgy power and it killed a server machine, destroying a very important database. You can get a UPS for like $50, maybe less.
posted by delmoi at 3:01 PM on January 21, 2006

I got a Dell 2405FPW, and it's pretty amazing. It does, however, have a slight but noticeable whine/hum. On the good side, it also is a capable TV and HDTV, and the TV can be watched picture-in-picture while using the rest of the monitor as, uh, well, a monitor.
posted by orthogonality at 4:02 PM on January 21, 2006

don't choose a monitor by just comparing the brightness or contrast or pixel response speed numbers (they are baloney)

take a look at the resolution you need cos lcds run only one resolution (their physical number of pixels that is)
19" is 1280x1024, 21" is 1600x1200
take a look at widescreen models, they're more ergonomic and come cheap at 19" and 20")

you should read lots of reviews and compare units in a store with your own eyes

you definitely need a dvi-port (cheaper models often don't have them) and you should avoid lcds with tn-panels (they have a reduced color space)
posted by suni at 4:06 PM on January 21, 2006

Just to explain the comments about LCD resolutions:

What is the Native Resolution on a LCD and why is it important?

So like Loto said, you want to keep the LCD at its max/native resolution and just adjust the display settings to enlarge fonts and such. I myself have a 17" CRT (a very nice one) set to 1280x960 with similarly adjusted settings that's perfectly comfortable to read from.
posted by Pryde at 5:45 PM on January 21, 2006

the most important thing in a monitor as far as it being easy on your eyes is the refresh rate, 60hz and lower can cause headaches, try and find something that will do like 80-90hz+ if possible, your graphics card and monitor have to both support this and you have to enable it in the advanced settings.

Also if you are running windoze XP with either LCD or CRT make sure to turn on Cleartype, under the display properties effects on the apperance tab, and possibly bump the font size up to large or extra large. Antialiased fonts are so much more readable.

lastly, UPS's are cheap these days, I'm happy with the one I got on newegg (powercom ebk-350s). From what I hear LCD's use less power than CRT's (not sure if its true about the big ones) you might be able to get away with plugging the lcd, computer, and router/modem on a single backup.
posted by psychobum at 9:10 PM on January 21, 2006

I know this is outside of the scope of the original question but all the praise for the Dell LCDs has piqued my interest.

How does the 2405FPW and the 2005FPW fare when playing games? I hear that that all LCDs look bad when not running at their native resolutions and I can't imagine being able to run Half-Life 2 or the latest shooters at 1920x1200 and still get a decent framerate.
posted by rks404 at 10:18 PM on January 21, 2006

Refresh rate doesn't apply to LCDs--each pixel is updated independently, there's no scanline. Also Cleartype should only be used on LCD monitors. It will not work on CRT monitors; anti-aliasing will, but that's not quite the same thing.
posted by Khalad at 10:21 PM on January 21, 2006

according to lcd's will look blurry when used at a resolution smaller or bigger than they are meant to so definetly check out what you want before hand. and cleartype is not an LCD only thing, it will make a CRT look nicer as well. Microsoft site says "Readability on CRT screens can also be somewhat improved." which is bupkiss meant to make you think you have to upgrade. turning cleartype on a CRT greatly improves readability and I consider it about the only compelling reason to upgrade to xp. its just that LCD's will look god awful if you don't turn it on.
I got a used 21" crt several years ago for $150, I'd imagine you can get a used 21-24" CRT for a fraction of an LCD but they are huge
posted by psychobum at 12:45 AM on January 22, 2006

How does the 2405FPW and the 2005FPW fare when playing games? I hear that that all LCDs look bad when not running at their native resolutions and I can't imagine being able to run Half-Life 2 or the latest shooters at 1920x1200 and still get a decent framerate.
posted by rks404 at 12:18 AM CST on January 22 [!]

If you have a very current video card HL2 will have a decent framerate. I only have a Radeon x600 and have to crank it down to 1600x1000, which is still VERY nice, and the resampling isn't very noticeable. However, on some maps during deathmatch, I get slight ghosting. But only at that resolution. It's not enough to be unplayable, just a minor distraction.

Also ditto what b1tr0t said about the whine/hum. I don't have one.

All in all, the 900 bucks of debt I racked up for the 2405fpw was veeeeeeeeery worth it.
posted by cellphone at 7:37 AM on January 22, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks, everybody!
posted by callmejay at 10:59 AM on January 22, 2006

Note a $50 UPS isn't going to be up to much; for that you'll get a cheap 'n' cheerful offline one where if your mains isn't completely screwed you'll just get what amounts to a $15 surge protector, with a battery and cheapo inverter for short brownouts and cuts.

Line-interactive would be a better choice, since they generally have better filtering and can better cope with dips and surges; a fully fledged online UPS would of course be even better if your power supply is very dirty. At the very least, spend $20 on a reasonable surge protector.

TFT wise, stick with those that claim 16.7m colours; quite a few use cheaper panels with lower colour depths and use temporal dithering so they can claim 16.2 million by rapidly flickering between a much smaller number. And as what others have said, you really, *really* want DVI.

Personally I'm running a pair of NEC 2070NX's; very nice 20" 1600*1200 panels, having upgraded from a pair of 17" LG L1710B's. If I had to choose between one bigger display and a pair of smaller ones for browsing and programming I'd probably go with the dual monitors. Not only does it give you more window space, it gives you redundancy in the event of a failure, which can be quite important if it's your job.
posted by Freaky at 1:40 PM on January 22, 2006

That's three votes for a DVI port. So is this this 2004 CNet article out to lunch? It says analog connections do a fine job: "The advantage of digital signals for LCDs is of somewhat less importance now than it was a few years ago. Analog signal processing has improved to the point where major differences in image quality can be difficult to detect. "

I just ordered an LCD monitor and would have to pay $30 (10 percent) to upgrade, if it's not too late. Not a huge amount of money, but I hadn't seen this urgency for DVI elsewhere. Now I'm a bit worried.
posted by Yogurt at 1:57 PM on January 22, 2006

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