It may be time for a new monitor…

My 18″-viewable CRT (NEC Accusync 90) is about to give up the ghost. In order for it to be bright enough for movie viewing or game play (not that I do much of either) I have to crank the contrast and brightness all the way up. In that mode, though, the display of large white areas (like a document editing screen, for instance) starts to fuzz out badly. That, and the screen just doesn’t seem as sharp as it did three years ago when I got it.

I’ve been looking at possible replacements. For around $400 I can get a digital flat-panel that’s about the same size, but that has less actual screen real-estate to offer. I’d love to have a full 1600 pixels (or more!) of width, because that would allow me to do my coloring at 25% zoom (a comfortably non-distorted factor of two) without having to scroll left or right. But that’s a convenience I’d be paying an extra $400 for.

The FIRST $400 was over budget. The second one, well… let’s just say that the cartoonist doesn’t get to splurge so wantonly as the product manager (may he rest in peace for effing-ever, please) did.

I’m not asking for donations. I’m just musing aloud on my computer needs. If any of you out there have experience with large TFT/DVI displays, feel free to post your horror stories. I could use a big bushel o’ them sour grapes right now.


43 thoughts on “It may be time for a new monitor…”

  1. I’ve been using a 19 inch Walmart-special (Balance) LCD I purchased for $300 almost a year ago. It hasn’t really had any significant failings other than the less than stellar contrast and the odd pattern to the plastic you can only see when its turned off. It does have two tiny dark pixels in the upper right corner that I only notice when looking directly at them. It is only 1280×1024 however. If you want 1600×1200 you’ll have to get a 20 inch LCD. The cheapest I’ve found one of these on is $475.

  2. CRTs tend to have better color accuracy and are cheaper, the only downside is dealing with the size and mass of a large CRT. I tend to like the trinitron-based larger CRTs, which there are plenty of on eBay (though shipping for a 21″ beast of a trinitron like the search linked will probably be a bummer). The only thing to watch out for on those monitors is that tube series got used for a lot of workstation monitors, not all of which used DB15 vid connectors. (If it says Sun or SGI be wary, Dell’s are ok, etc.)

    LCDs are nice from a space standpoint but honestly I don’t see enough of an improvement with them visually to warrant the extra cost (which can be a very large delta as screen size increases). (I work as a computer programmer, so I spend all day looking at monitors, and my team has a healthy mix of both types.)

    1. I’ve got small flat-panel as my 2nd monitor. It’s not bad — it’s crisp, and easy to look at, and the colors don’t seem inaccurate. I can compare them side-by-side with the CRT. Granted, I’ve adjusted the color balance a bit in order to get it to that point, but that’s the sort of thing I think I’d have to do with ANY new monitor.

      I don’t think I’ve used true DVI yet. It’s possible that true digital color will be more accurate — at least that’s what some of the manufacturers seem to be claiming.


      1. It’s possible, but I doubt it. On my LCD, it looked exactly the same (except a touch of the fuzzies going away) when I switched from the 15-pin cable and the old video card to the DVI cable and the new video card.

        What I’ve found, though, is that a lot of laptop flat-panel screens display incredibly weak greens — on one vacation, I had all sorts of trouble getting my digital camera to register the Incredible! Vibrant! Greenness! of Virginia mountain spring foliage after a rain shower, until I got back home and looked at the pictures on my desktop computer, and realized that the camera was doing reasonably ok, but the laptop screen on the computer I was downloading it to simply couldn’t show it.

        I don’t know how common that problem is with desktop flat-panel screens, but it seems likely to happen to at least some of them.

      1. Pretty much all of this tech (and the usage patterns evolving around it) is still too new for strong medical conclusions to be drawn from, imho. I haven’t been able to tell a difference between the two (and with a work set up that consists of a 12″ powerbook doing desktop spanning onto a 19″ crt, there’s quite a bit of A/B switching between the two types).

        Or at least, the headache I leave work with every day is probably more due to our clients, our code, and my coworkers than the monitors I use. 😉

        1. LCDs are much better for my eyes, for reasons unrelated to the quality of image coming out of them. The smaller footprint of an LCD allows me to push the monitor farther back on the desk. Farther away means less eyestrain* trying to focus and pan different parts of the image, and thus better for my eyes. The trade-off is that I need a 19″ to 20″ to give me the same visual field of a 17″ up close.

          *Assuming you’re not nearsighted, that is

  3. you want the hot deals forum.
    1280×1024 for $159:

    or do what I did: get a dell 2001fp 20″ (1600×1200) off of the “for sale/trade” forum. One just sold the other day for $400.

    Here’s one for $425, he hasn’t updated the thread in awhile though.

    they’re out there howard, keep hunting!

    1. The dell one’s rock, I used to have 2 of these 20″ in the office and heck it looked pretty with extended desktop. The dell displays have superb contrast, good colors and are quite high quality. If not going for Dell I suggest Viewsonic.

      1. They do

        I’ll second the vote on those dell ones, they’re just co-branded, and the company behind them changes by model. However the current 20″ ones rock.

        One nice thing, if you know anybody (there are many of us) who can get the dell ’employee purchase’ pricing, they are closer to $400. Great quality, 1600×1200, and the price is worth it.

    2. Again, a vote for the Dell LCDs. If you have the means, look at the Dell 2005FPW. 20″ Widescreen LCD, 1680×1050, using the same LCD panel that’s in the Apple 20″ Cinema Display. Check fatwallet and slickdeals for Dell coupon codes. Every now and then it’s possible to get this monitor in the range of $350-$400.

      The screen is tremendous, has DVI, VGA, Composite AND S-Video inputs, a USB hub, and seems to be very accurate color-wise once you tweak it properly.

  4. I fixed a similar issue with my monitor by turning gamma correction up to 120% in my video card’s colour settings. If your card offers the same options, you might want to experiment with them a bit before shelling out for new hardware.

    1. While that alleviates the symptoms better than bumping up the contrast/brightness, it still won’t “fix” anything… however it may keep the monitor more usable before the inevitable fade-out whilst monitor shopping.

      I had to do the same for quite some time meself.

      1. Excellent. I just found the control for that, and sure enough, I can crank the brightness/contrast WAAAAY up, and do so much faster than I can with the controls on the monitor.


        1. Or even better

          Living in Romania as a computer geek always meant I had to make due with crappy hardware. And spending most of my days (and nights) in front of a monitor meant I had to get it right or get blind 😉
          I have a weakness for various old/used 19″-21″ CRT flatscreen monitors from 1999-2001. They’re the best when it comes to “screwdriver tweakability”.

          First thing you want to do is take the covers off, place it on a non-metallic flat surface and re-connect it to your PC. Then locate the potentiometer area and start fiddling with them.
          There you can usually re-focus what used to be a very blurry monitor, you can turn a pretty dark monitor into a flashlight (if you really want to) or anything like that. Unless the tube is really toasted, you can make it look like brand new.

          The best thing about those bulky 21″ 120+ pounders is that you can usually run on them 1600×1200@75Hz, and they only cost about 100$ (or less). Buy two of them and use a dual-monitor video card (extend desktop on 2nd monitor) for insane desktop sizes.
          That is, if your table can handle the weight 😀

          1. Re: Or even better

            Isn’t fiddling with monitors excessively dangerous because of the charge they build up during use, and can keep for long after they’re turned off? I’m sure that if you really want to fiddle with your monitor, you can, but I’d make sure that you’ve got a safety switch installed for your house to minimize the chance of electrocution.

          2. Re: Or even better

            I’ve been fiddling inside powered-up monitors (and other electronic equipment) since 1992 (9th grade) and I’m still around to tell the story 😉
            Worst case scenario, you get a limp hand for a few seconds. But then again, unplugging a hair-dryer can cause the same problem (heck, it happened to me and then to my sister yesterday, within a time frame of 10 minutes… and no, that was one appliance I never fiddled with).

            Unless you have a pacemaker or a history of heart problems, you don’t have anything to fear (and maybe not even then). True, the voltages in a running monitor can be pretty high, but the amperage is minimal.

            Besides, if you use an insulated screwdriver, the chance of actually getting a jolt is close to zero : the potentiometer area surface is insulated, and the potentiometer dials are usually made out of plastic-like materials. You’d have to *try* to get shocked or be pretty drunk at the time…

          3. Re: Or even better

            Back when TVs were brand new and required as much tinkering as personalizing a Linux box, Grampa had turned the beast off and opened up the back. He accidentally touched the capacitor and got knocked off his feet. Everyone rushed over, and when he came to, they asked what had happened. “All I did was touch that–” and tapped the capacitor again, which still had enough charge in it to give him another nasty shock.

  5. I’m looking myself for a new monitor — the greens are going on mine, and it has a contrast “swing” depending on how bright the overall screen is at any one time. Give me 1920×1440 anyday.

    1. Same here- the 21″ Trinitron tube occupying my desk has this loverly issue where it’ll blink. (i.e., the it’ll power off, and then back on a half second later)

      Please, let us know what you find.

  6. I can tell you now, your chance of finding 1600×1200 resolution in an LCD flat-panel monitor less than 20″ is close to nil. Anything 19″ or less is likely to top out at 1280×1024 — and my experience is that an LCD display running at anything other than its full native physical resolution, or a power-of-two divisor thereof, looks terrible.

    Try this URL:

    That is for auctions of a TRUE flat screen Sony 21″ CRT monitor, their GDM-5410, at prices from $94 to $198, Buy It Now (no bidding). I can strongly recommend the GDM-5410; I have one myself (in Sun Microsystems livery) and it’s an truly excellent monitor. True, measured, usable, corner-to-corner displayable image size on mine is 19.8″.

  7. I recently bought a 21 inch CRT, and set it up beside my old 19 inch CRT with a dual monitor graphics card.

    I love it!

    But, I did hurt my back trying to adjust the 21 inch on my desk.
    (Hauling it to the desk, I could use my knees to lift. Once on the desk, I used my back, and that went ouch.)

    CRTs take up a lot of space, but, they’re cheaper, and I gather the colors tend to be more reliable.

    I gather that Sony Trinatron picture tubes are the best. I was able to get a floor model for pretty cheap.

    1. 22″ CRT here. Apparently it’s 80 pounds.

      I don’t think I’ve moved it for a year.

      Sure is pretty. Viewsonic P225f. Surprisingly cheap, as I remember, even including shipping.

      1. I’d agree with you. But, as you know, your mother switched to an LCD (an absurdly expensive LCD, at your behest) because she wanted a monitor she could actually lift. And now that I’m packing to move, I’m glad I did.

  8. Coincidence at work: Just spent close to three weeks digging through LCDs and every possible article on TomsHardware and AnandTech. I’m now the proud owner of a yet-to-be-delivered Hyundai L90D+. This may or may not be the monitor for you.

    LCDs are struggling to balance three factors while keeping the price as low as possible:
    1) Colour correctness and stability
    2) Response time
    3) resolution/refresh rate

    The main question is, what are you going to use this monitor for? If this will be strictly a work machine, get a 25ms response time high-fidelity monitor, and you’re set. Some that fall into this category are the BenQ FP767-12, or the Samsung SyncMaster 172X. Both, unfortunately, are only 19″.

    If you’re planning on watching movies on the computer, you don’t want response latency of more than 12ms, and even that is iffy, since the advertised response rate is most frequently the *best* achieved, and in reality may vary greatly.

    The problem is that anything over 19″ is really hard to produce today. LCDs are manufactured in basically the same way processors are. The problem is that while a processor can have some of its transistors fail, and still operate, when an LCD suffers from partial failure, you end up with dead pixels. The larger the screen area, the higher the chance of partial failure, the higher the price for anything reasonable.

    While we’re on the topic, I imagine that a dead pixel in mid-screen will be excruciatingly annoying to a graphic artist. Since a large number of companies set their return policies at 7 dead pixels, for example, be sure to check for it. TigerDirect (where I got my L90) claims to have no such minimum, but that was over the phone, so we’ll see…

    I should probably stop now. This is getting rambly 🙂

    1. Oh yeah: If weight/size is not an issue, I’d suggest you go with a large CRT from a high-quality company. The color representation is still at the very least equivalent to, and frequently better than LCDs. And you can get a high-grade CRT for $200.

  9. You make your living with your computer, be careful trying to low-budget it! If I were doing graphics, and wanted something similar I’d go for a CRT Triniton, and skip LCD. You can get a gorgeous widescreen CRT for close to the same price!

    Not associated with the company, but found this really nice price for a widescreen, 24″ CRT. It’s the 24″ Sony Trinitron GDM-FW900.

  10. For 1600xN resolution … you’re probably best off staying behind the technology curve for a bit longer. If you can afford the space, a 20-21″ CRT will be far cheaper and can be just as good to look at (Trinitron or equivalent quality).

    (I have a 17″ LCD currently – before I moved to Scotland from Australia a year ago, though, I had a 17″ CRT, and a 19″ Sony CRT, and they were both great – just a little too large/heavy to ship over here, alas).

  11. Maybe not quite what you’re looking for, but a great place to go is computer trade shows – don’t know if they get to Salt Lake City or those environs, but there was one in North Jersey where I managed to find a good-condition used 20″ Dell-branded Trinitron CRT, 1600×1200, for sixty bucks.

    That was not a typo.

  12. If you’ve got a Sam’s Club membership, I’d suggest browsing their selection. They tend to have good monitors at decent prices. Well, good prices for a new monitor, anyway. If you’re going used, I’d suggest (like everyone else) a secondhand Dell monitor. Besides, the larger Dell monitors have a rather good *ominous hummmmm* when powering on.

  13. DO NOT buy a monitor without looking at it first. You’re going to be staring at the thing for hours on end, so this is the one place where you should spend every last penny you can afford.

    With that said, I recommend you do not go look at the Apple Cinema Displays. My 20-inch one is drop-dead gorgeous, and it will spoil you. It’s also $800.

  14. I (usually, my expensive video card is awaiting replacement by manufacturer) personally use a pair of 17″ Compaq P710s which I got separately ($35 & $40), and run at 1600×1200@75 (3200×1200 for both). Admittedly, I’m going to have to look for a replacement as the green is dying in one.

    If there are any used computer shops, I’d suggest looking around in them. I’ve found locally, that generally the price on 17″-inch monitors is $50, 21″ seem to be around $150. (Don’t recall the pricing on 19s off the top of my head.)

    I’m going to go against the grain and express my dislike of Dell Trinitrons. We’ve got a 17″ one and it can’t do 1600×1200@65Hz without nasty nasty looking waves. (Meaning: “Oh god, my eyes!” has been muttered by numerous people looking at it.)

    And the best advice, I’ve seen has already been given: Look at it before you buy it. (Preferably hooked up to a computer, and at the resolution/refresh that you want to use.)

    1. Have you had similar experiences with other Dell Trinitrons? And is 65Hz a viable refresh rate? (I use a 20″ Dell Trinitron at 1600×1200@70Hz and it’s rock solid.)

  15. In my personal, much-biased opinion, the only flat-panel displays that’re worth anything for any kind of artist are the huge, and hugely expensive, Apple Cinema displays. Personally, I would get a good 19 or 21″ CRT, if you’ve got the space.

  16. LCDs

    I moved from two old CRTs to a CRT & LCD, and then to two LCDs. I found a distinct difference between the LCDs and CRTs to my eye, 8hrs of CRT would give me horrible eyestrain, the LCDs would not bug me much at all.
    Oddly, all 19″ LCDs are the same res as 17″ LCDs, yet cost more, so I find them pointless. I have the Samsung 710T and Dell 2001FP, both acquired for their relative color accuracy and dual inputs. I then calibrated both with a colorimeter, and was disappointed in the Samsung, as its whitepoint cannot be tweaked well and is far too blue. The Dell works great, even though it pains me to hook up a dell to a macintosh, and I have recommended them to 4 friends, who were all very happy with them. Wait for one of their crazy sales.

    1. Re: LCDs

      The thing about having the same resolution on a 19″ monitor as on a 17″ monitor is that the larger monitor makes it easier to read, making tighter resolutions more viable. At home I have a 20″ monitor, on which 1600×1200 is perfectly feasible given my eyesight. At work, I use a 17″ monitor, which I have to restrict to 1024×768.

  17. I ran a cheap 17 inch no name monitor for a long time, with a old 19 inch visible HP workstation monitor as the secondary. Nothing beats a 80+ pound, full shilded, 5 bnc input monitor, IF you need a boat anchor. My current setup is a 9600XT-128mb pushing a 19 inch KDS trinitron primary and a NEC XE21 secondary. I got the card, monitors, and all for under 200. Check local college/state surplus places if there are any in driving distance of you. They often have loads of workstation and graphics/cad type monitors for dirt cheap, you jsut need a 5 bnc-15 pin d shell adaptor, wich can be found cheap. Mine used a home made one that cost about $5 to make. The problem with online purchase is you pay more to ship than you pay for the monitor on these.

    1. University Surplus

      The University of Utah has a very nice surplus store with a very large number of monitors, which all *should* work, but you will need to bring something to test them.

  18. I have two monitors right now. The left one is a Mitsubishi DiamondPoint SB70, which is very sharp. I’ve had it for two or three years now, and the only flaw is that it’s one of those monitors with the two superthin wires going through the top and bottom half of the monitor. It’s a 17″ though, and the frequency timings only go up to 1280×1024.

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