Display options

Should I get an LCD or a CRT?

At last, an easy question.  LCDs displays used to be a luxury item, selected for desktop computers only when saving space was a priority, and saving money was not.  LCD displays have fallen dramatically in cost in the last few years, so much so that their lower power consumption alone justifies their purchase.  The space-saving is just a bonus.  

We now recommend LCDs for almost every application.  Only certain rare graphics uses, which require true "deep blacks" and other color renderings difficult for an LCD, might lead one to consider a CRT.  (For laptops, of course, your only option is an LCD.)

How big should the display be, and should I have more than one?

For a laptop computer, you are forced into a tradeoff between display size and laptop weight (with price and power as other variables).  If you travel around with your laptop a lot, you may want to opt for a smaller display (12").  If your laptop doesn't move very much, get a larger display (15" or even 17") if you can afford the system to which it is attached.

For a desktop, a 19" or 20" monitor is the minimum recommended size.  A 22", 23" or 24" is better, and the marginal cost is suprisingly modest.  Go larger if you can afford it.  Get a wide-aspect display (similar to the newer wide-aspect televisions) if you prefer that.  

Productivity studies suggest that having at least two monitors (or one very large monitor) can improve productivity by 9 to 50 percent for users whose work requires use of multiple computer applications simultaneously.  Even if the low-end estimate is correct, that more than justifies a second monitor if you have space for it.

What should the resolution be?

CRTs have the advantage that they can be used with any display resolution and will look the same.  LCDs can display any resolution up to their maximum, but will look best in the "native" resolution for which they were designed.  Try to take a look at a display of the size you are contemplating, in the resolution you are contemplating, before you buy. 

Some laptops offer the option of picking from a range of LCD resolutions for a given screen size.  A higher resolution may not be the best choice if it results in text and other page elements that you find hard to decipher.