May 19 2008

Are You Ready to Convert?

Seven tips for making the transition to LCDs.

Photo: Pixland/Jupiter Images

Liquid crystal displays (LCDs) are quickly overtaking the computer monitor marketplace. But does it make sense to join the revolution? When you decide to replace your cathode ray tubes (CRTs) with LCDs, what should you be looking for?


Unless they die catastrophically, CRT displays last quite a long time, which is why companies tend to hang on to them. Inexpensive to begin with, CRTs are even more affordable now as more companies switch to LCDs. And CRTs offer better color matching, which is important for professional photographers and graphic artists. One benefit of LCDs is that they use significantly less power; companies can expect to save about $45 per monitor, per year, on electricity. At an average price of about $250, an LCD display can pay for itself in five years.

Here are seven tips for converting your office to LCDs:

Choose a respected manufacturer. Go with a company that has been making monitors for a long time, such as Samsung or ViewSonic. You’ll find the higher price (in most cases just a few dollars more per hundred) is well worth the added quality.


What percentage of your company's monitors are LCDs, as opposed to CRTs?

44% All LCDs
35% Mostly LCDs with some CRTs
11% An even mix of LCDs and CRTs
10% Mostly CRTs with some LCDs
0% All CRTs

Source: CDW poll of 377 BizTech readers

Check the native resolution. Make sure you can live with the screen’s native resolution. Remember, LCD monitors have a preferred resolution; changing it could lead to a slightly distorted picture.


Select the right connectors for your PC. CRTs use analog video graphics array (VGA) connectors, which are familiar 15-pin connectors that are usually blue in color. LCDs can use either a VGA connector or a digital video interface (DVI) connector (the DVI provides enhanced quality). However, if your PC’s video card has only VGA output, there’s not much use in buying an LCD monitor with DVI input.

Try setting the viewing angle as wide as possible. You’ll want to do this, especially if you often look at the screen from the side. For most office workers, this isn’t a big deal. LCD monitors have come a long way in this area in the past five years.

Go for higher contrast. The contrast measures the screen’s ability to vary brightness between foreground and background colors, and is usually expressed as a ratio (for example, 400:1). The higher the ratio, the better bright colors will look next to dark colors.

Look for extra USB ports. You may find it convenient to have additional USB ports close to your keyboard: one for USB flash drives, another for an iPod.

Think about color matching. This is very important if you work in graphic arts or photography, which require stringent color matching in the display. Look for CRTs to satisfy such requirements, though some LCDs may measure up. If you need professional-quality color matching, it might not be wise to trade up.

Dr. Jeffrey Sheen is the lead enterprise analyst for Grange Insurance of Columbus, Ohio.