LCDs are no longer an item only the upper caste can afford: a good, 19-inch LCD can be had for about $250 to $300. When shopping for an LCD, some specifications and features are more important than others. Here are a few of the biggies.
When buying a monitor, you have two technology choices: CRT and LCD. But not for long. CRTs, the large, bulky units that have graced desktops since the advent of the computer age, are slowly but surely being replaced by slim and bright LCDs.
Even though some gamers and graphics pros are clinging to CRTs, the majority of mainstream PC users find LCDs more appealing--a trend that monitor manufacturers have noticed. Mainstream CRTs have become more and more difficult to find on store shelves and online, and most major manufacturers have discontinued their CRT lines altogether.
Despite their dwindling market share, CRT monitors still beat out LCDs in a few performance categories: color fidelity, viewing angles, and contrast. Where LCDs are often able to produce a limited number of colors (usually 16.7 million), CRTs are capable of displaying an infinite range, an advantage for exacting graphic artists. CRTs also offer unlimited viewing angles, while the brightness and contrast on most LCDs will drop off when viewed at large angles.
Other than the obvious benefit of size, LCDs offer significant advantages over CRTs. They provide a brighter screen, which really helps in brightly lit office environments; offer clearer, crisper text; and have no geometric distortion or flicker--problems often found on CRTs that cause eye fatigue. And LCDs have even caught up to CRTs in the area of displaying moving images; CRTs were once far superior, but the playing field is now nearly level, with many manufacturers offering faster response times, meaning that on most LCDs, moving images will be free of ghosting and distortion.
LCDs are still slightly more expensive than CRTs--a decent 19-inch LCD will cost approximately $250 to $300 compared to a 19-inch CRT's $150 to $200. However, a 19-inch LCD offers as much screen real estate as a 21-inch CRT, which would cost about the same $250. (Of course, those prices vary among manufacturers and resellers.)
New technologies, such as LED-backlit LCD panels, are slowly emerging on the market, as well, but the only ones we've seen thus far are too expensive for the average consumer--upward of $6,000. While LED-backlist displays are starting to show up on some select laptop models, we've yet to see a consumer LCD monitor feature the technology.
Due to the changing market and LCDs growing closer to matching the performance of CRTs, we've focused our attention and this buying guide on purchasing the LCD to fit your needs. In today's market, LCDs are the most relevant and widely available technology, though if you insist on buying a CRT, technology has advanced to the point where there is very little difference in performance among brands. In other words, unless you buy the absolute cheapest CRT, you should be happy with whatever you choose.