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Big is beautiful, say LCD monitors

"Taller, wider, sharper" is the motto for the successors to the old heavy cathode tube monitor.

india Updated: Apr 04, 2006 18:27 IST

In the world of electronics, where tiny is usually king, monitors are the exception. "Taller, wider, sharper" is the motto for the successors to the old heavy cathode tube monitor.

"It always depends on how much information you need to see simultaneously on the screen," says Martin Roger Jones, editor at the Munich-based magazine PC Welt. He cites stock traders and railway control centres as examples of users with special needs.

Yet not everything is a matter of screen size. The size of the visible pixels is also crucial. And that depends on resolution. Hence while a 20-inch monitor would seem to be better than a 19-inch one, the experts would in fact tend to view it negatively.

This is because its images have a larger resolution than a 19-inch device but because of its size ratio, the pixels - text and lines - are correspondingly smaller. Twenty-one inch monitors, by contrast, have an inherently good ratio.

As with televisions, the letterbox format appears to be the future. Yet few applications can currently make good use of that extra monitor space, Jones says.

So these large monitors tend to be of more interest to film buffs, digital photographers and amateur filmmakers. For these users, the PC monitor is no longer a pure work appliance but rather part of a multimedia machine.

LCD monitors are not as well suited for viewing movies as comparably sized LCD televisions.

"The technical requirements for computer monitors are different from those for a television," says Peter Knaak, technology expert for the German consumer testing organisation Stiftung Warentest in Berlin.

When working on a computer, the highest priority is making even tiny symbols appear sharp. The higher the contrast and the resolution of the monitor, the more pleasant it is to work on the machine.

When playing back videos, however, a good deep dimension picture is important, particularly in the black areas. It's a question of fine brightness gradations. Otherwise dark figures on dark backgrounds will seem to disappear into a single black surface.

A broad range of colours and quick reaction times are also considered desirable factors. Finding one device to fill both of these needs is a bit of a hopeless challenge.

Companies like monitor specialist NEC offer gamers and multimedia fans a special series of displays with a reflective glossy surface.

"The benefit of this surface is a more brilliant image and better contrast," says NEC spokeswoman Kathrin Schwabe.

This is particularly noticeable if you play in a dark room or look at videos or photos in the evening. The devices are not intended for office applications, she says.

Yet large LCD devices are increasingly making inroads into one of the last bastions of tube monitors: many designers, image editors and printers have until now relied only on tube monitors because the older technology is better at depicting a broader colour spectrum than LCD monitors.

The NEC SpectraView Reference 21, available since the summer of 2005, is the first LCD monitor on the market capable of depicting the entire Adobe RGB colour range at a price of roughly $7,280 (6,000 euros).

First Published: Apr 03, 2006 11:00 IST