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Bigger and Faster - Why It Might Be Time to Upgrade Your LCD Display

Improvements in response time, display quality and size make replacing early LCD displays with the latest models a wise choice
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Bigger and Faster - Why It Might Be Time to Upgrade Your LCD Display

Improvements in response time, display quality and size make replacing early LCD displays with the latest models a wise choice


In the last three years or so, LCD displays have become mainstream. No longer limited to niche applications such as secondary monitors or space-saving installations, LCD displays are now bundled with many desktop systems as well as becoming the most common type of add-on monitor.

In this article, you learn how recent improvements in LCD design and performance make upgrading an early LCD display to a newer model worth your time and money.

Response Time

One of the biggest improvements in LCD design is response time (also known as 'video response time'), the amount of time in milliseconds (ms) which it takes for an LCD monitor to respond to changes in screen display. LCD displays traditionally have featured slow response time compared to CRT displays, resulting in blurry displays when playing full-motion videos and 3D games, temporary loss of a fast-moving mouse pointer, and similar visual problems.

If you use your computer to play movie trailers or other types of full-motion video, play 3D games, edit digital video, or other tasks which involve rapid changes in screen display, it's time to consider changing to an LCD display with a response time of less than 25ms. The fastest LCD displays now feature 12ms response time, and many models feature 16ms response time. Many older LCD displays don't list response time in their specifications. Typically, this indicates a very slow response time (30ms or greater).

Contrast Ratio and Brightness

A second major improvement in recent LCD displays is their improved contrast ratio and brightness ratings. Older LCD displays often featured contrast ratios of 300:1 or lower, while many of the latest displays have contrast ratios as high as 400:1 or 450:1. A higher contrast ratio makes working with digital video or photos easier because the display is able to output a wider range of colors.

Working hand-in-hand with the contrast ratio is display brightness, usually measured in nits or candelas. Older displays typically feature brightness ratings of 200-250 nits, while newer displays might feature ratings as high as 400 to 600 nits.

Ideally, a new LCD display should feature a balance of high contrast rating (over 300:1) and high brightness (300 nits or greater).

Viewing Angle

A third major improvement in recent LCD displays is in viewing angle. Older displays often featured horizontal viewing angles of around 100 degrees, while newer displays feature viewing angles of 150-160 degrees or wider. Wider viewing angles make it easier to show co-workers or family members information on-screen without needing to swing or pivot the display.

DVI Input

A fourth major improvement is the increase in DVI input support. The digital video interface (DVI) connector has become a staple of mid-range and high-end graphics cards in recent years, providing an all-digital connection between PC and LCD display, but most older LCD displays don't support it.

Although low-end LCD displays continue to use the older 15-pin VGA display interface, an increasing number of mid-range and high-end LCD displays offer DVI interfacing, often in conjunction with VGA.

Some LCD displays, primarily 20-inch diagonal and higher, support inputs from multiple PCs, enabling you to choose which PC runs the display at the flick of a switch.

Display Size and Resolution

Many older LCD displays have a diagonal measurement of 15 inches and a native resolution of 1024x768. With the more stable multitasking available with Windows XP, this is not enough screen real estate from a single monitor. Most LCD displays on the market now feature 17-inch to 18.1-inch diagonal measurements, and many 19-inch and larger LCD displays are now available. These displays not only offer a greater display size, but increase effective screen display size even more through their use of higher native screen resolutions, such as 1280x1024 or greater. Some widescreen models can also double as LCD TVs, offering built-in tuners.

Recycling Your Older LCD Display

If you decide it's time to move to a faster, brighter, larger LCD display, you don't need to throw out your older 15-inch LCD display. This type of display works very well as a secondary monitor for email, web browsing, floating menus from a program running in the primary display, and so forth. With the recent flood of dual-display-compatible high-performance AGP and PCI-Express graphics cards, you can put an older LCD display to good use in a secondary display role.


Today's LCD displays are so much better than their predecessors that it's time to switch. And, if you've been sticking with CRTs, the improvements in LCD display quality and performance make it possible for you to save space on your desktop without sacrificing display quality.

For Further Research

Major LCD display vendors include

LG Electronics http://us.lge.com/index.do

Samsung http://www.samsungusa.com

Sony http://www.sonystyle.com

Viewsonic http://www.viewsonic.com

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