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Dude! You're Getting an LCD: What to Consider When Shopping for a Flat Screen

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You know it's time to get a new monitor, but you can't decide between an LCD or CRT screen. Buck up, because you're not facing this dilemma alone. Bryan Hoff compares the Dell UltraSharp 2405FPW 24-inch LCD to his aging high-end Sony CRT. Find out which one emerges as the winner — at least in Bryan's heart.
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When the telltale flickering started again, I knew my Sony CRT was on its way out. I'd been through this three times already, exchanging somewhere in the neighborhood of five monitors since 1999, starting with a 19" Sony GDM-F400 and ending with my second (or is it third?) 21" GDM-F520. Back in 1999, the Sony was the end-all-be-all in monitors. It had a flat screen, .22mm dot pitch, and used enough electricity to power a small town (OK, maybe not that much electricity). A CRT of that class was prohibitively expensive, but I justified purchasing one because of the design work I was doing. Of course, back then LCDs started at around $1100 for a 15" display, and 17" LCDs weighed in at around $2000 as recently as 2001. So, as you can see, $2000 for a 21" CRT seemed like a no-brainer.

Once the time came to replace my aging CRT, Dell's series of wide aspect ratio LCD monitors seemed like another no-brainer. I'd heard all about them through a mailing list I belong to, and drooled over them from the first time I clicked on the accompanying link. I did a lot of research on the 24" UltraSharp 2405FPW model, and read lots of reviews, both online and in print. Then came the hard part: convincing my wife that I needed a new monitor when the old one was still putting out a picture. I'm not sure whether she's getting soft or my arguments are getting better, but I had my order in with Dell the same night I saw the 2405FPW on sale. I also managed to talk the agent into giving me a better price than the one they were advertising. The important questions to consider are whether it's worth the price, and how today's LCDs compare to CRTs, many of which are going for a song these days.

Figure 1

Figure 1 The Dell UltraSharp 2405FPW

Like Apples and Oranges

Obviously, it's difficult to do a direct comparison between an LCD display and a CRT, but I'll do my best to point out the advantages and disadvantages of each. (Just to clarify, CRT stands for cathode ray tube, those big picture tubes in older style televisions and monitors.) The two major differences between a CRT and LCD are price and physical size. My Sony GDM-F520 CRT monitor took up a huge amount of real estate on my desk, with the back of the monitor being mere inches from the wall. But now that I've switched to the Dell LCD, I've been able to add a shelf on behind it, which adds even more desk space.

While my Sony isn't typical, it did cost me a small fortune to buy. It's a little depressing to think that for what I paid for the Sony, I could have not one but two 24" Dell LCDs. The UltraSharp 2405FPW has a retail price of $1199, but Dell and its partners often offer it on sale for under $1000.

Figure 2

Figure 2 The Sony GDM-F520

It's possible to purchase a 22" CRT from ViewSonic or NEC for about $600 or $700, but the truth is that these 22" CRTs only offer a 20" viewable area. So what about Sony's 24" wide-aspect model CRT? Sony has discontinued most of its CRT-based displays (including my GDM-F520, and the 24" GDM-FW900), but you can still find them for sale online, albeit often in refurbished form. However, the GDM-FW900 probably makes a fairer comparison between a CRT and this particular LCD.

Figure 3

Figure 3 Sony's wide aspect GDM-FW900. Presumably the "FW" stands for "Freakin' Wide"

The Sony GDMFW900 24" CRT has a 22.5" viewable screen size, a .23mm aperture grille pitch and retails for $1,928.99 or thereabouts. Weighing in at 92.6 pounds and drawing a maximum of 170 Watts power, there's nothing slim about it. The Dell UltraSharp 2405FPW, on the other hand, weighs only 22.1 pounds and draws a maximum of 80 Watts power. It has a dot pitch (technically pixel pitch) of .270 mm. For your reference, the GDM-F520 has a 0.22mm aperture grille pitch, costs approximately $1,631.99 online, weighs 67.4 pounds, has a 19.8" viewable area and draws a maximum 145 Watts power. Both of these Sony models include a powered 4-port USB 1.1 hub. The 2405FPW includes a 9-in-1 flash card reader, 4-port USB 2.0 hub, a plethora of video connectors and ships with both digital and analog video cables.

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