LCD displays versus older CRT displays

Sometimes I find that people are surprised that you could replace just the monitor (the display) of your computer without replacing the tower (the part that holds the CPU and drives). You can though and it’s a pretty easy thing to swap. There are however some choices out on the market and a bit of confusing marketing. LCD’s have the coolness factor to them and for good reason, they take up less space, use less power and are usually easier on the eyes than traditional CRT monitors. There are a few things worth knowing when you go out to buy a new monitor though.

17″, 19″, 15″…. Well, we’ve seen these numbers in relation to TV sizes (well, actually it’s usually larger, 32″, 40″, etc.) The same concept is in use here though. Now, older CRT monitors are rated much like TV’s are. This size number (17-inch) gives the diagonal size of the display. There is a catch though. With traditional CRT’s (and tv’s) that 17-inches doesn’t cover JUST the glass, it usually goes around 1/2 inch to an 1 into the plastic frame on either end. So, you’re 17″ CRT may actually have only 16 viewable inches (or 15 and 1/2).

The newer LCD’s are measured differently though. The panel itself is measured (again corner to corner.) So, a 17″ LCD has 17 viewable inches or just a shade more than it’s similarly rated CRT monitor.

One thing that’s worth thinking about at this point is this question. Do you play games or videos on your computer that require fairly good rendering of motion? Given that LCD’s are a bit slower at “painting” the screen than CRT’s, you might want to stick with the older CRT technology. If you’re not terribly interested in gaming or videos on the computer, but do occasionaly display that content, you might consider keeping the LCD size to 17″. (Larger displays typically have lower, slower rates of “painting” the picture…)

There is one more area to consider though. Digital or Analog. These days digital is the big marketing buzzword. I wouldn’t be surprised to see digital gloves advertised. Anyway, traditional monitor connections have been through an older, analog plug. This is called a VGA plug and is a “trapezoid” in shape with three rows of pins. The newer Digital plugs (DVI plugs) are rectangular and have three rows of pins. (They’re a bit larger than the older plugs.) Most monitors now will have both the old analog and new digitial plugs for compatibility. Most of the newest video cards have the ability to support either output. If you’re in doubt get a monitor that has both digital and analog inputs. It could be that your monitor will outlast the computer you’re attaching it to. That way, the next upgrade cycle you can use the same monitor with the new digital plug.

As far as the actual replacement. The monitor plugs into power and into the computer. Usually monitor cables are the thickest going to the PC, it should be possible to trace the cable from one to the other. It can be swapped while the computer is on, but to help your operating system make a good guess at the best display resolution, power down before swapping the two.

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