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See also our other guides:
PC buying guide
Laptop buying guide

Monitor buying guide


monitorResolution is the number of graphics elements displayed on a screen. Known as pixels, they are generated by your graphics card. In any TFT or LCD, each pixel is
composed of three sub-pixels coloured red, green and blue. In a CRT the pixels are spread in a grid across the screen separated by a distance called the dot pitch. The smaller the dot pitch, the sharper the image.


With TFTs, each pixel is composed of three rectangular thin-film transistors. The number of pixels equals the ‘native’ resolution; a 1,024 x 768 TFT will have exactly that number of pixels horizontally and vertically.


CRTs usually have a higher resolution than a TFT of the same size and work perfectly at any standard resolution up to the quoted maximum. Running a TFT
below its native resolution can result in a poor picture.


monitor 2Check your TFT’s native resolution meets your needs – gamers wanting 1,600 x 1,200 will probably need an expensive 20in model – most 19in panels are currently limited to 1,280 x 1,024 and budget 14/15in models might only support 800 x 600.


Modern TFTs can be viewed from a wide range of angles vertically and horizontally, but anything over +/- 45º makes no difference in normal use.


Response time is the time taken for a pixel to reach maximum brightness – 12-25ms
is typical – faster is better. Some newer monitors now have response times of 4ms or 8ms.


TFTs have high quoted contrast ratios, but this is often a maximum figure. Evenness of lighting is more important than the overall brightness specification.


The ISO 13406-2 standard specifies minimum requirements for display contrast, viewing angle, brightness, reflections, flicker, contrast and defective pixels.
You may see the standard incorporated in a TUV label with the words ‘Ergonomics Approved’ or ‘ISO 13406-certified’.


The TCO’ 95 and ’03 standards cover electromagnetic emissions, noise and ergonomics – ensure the monitor has at least one of these. ISO 13406-2 has stringent standards for defective pixels. Only Class I TFTs are guaranteed no defective pixels – most consumer models are Class II. Some manufacturers offer some dead pixel guarantees with Class II TFTs.