Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Infrared, Inside Out • From CRT To LCD, And Even LED • 2X Or Not 2X • Separate The Pros From The ConsFrom CRT To LCD, And Even LED
Q I’m seeking to replace my CRT monitor with a big, flat LCD model. Is “hi-def” for viewing Photoshop on my computer as big an improvement as it is for football on my TV? How will I know if my “old” computer (Dell Dimension 8300) with a 128 MB DDR ATI Radeon 9800 Pro video card can deliver hi-def images to the monitor? How do I know which monitors I can successfully use? (A Dell 30-inch Ultra Sharp requires, according to the Dell website, “dual link DVI-D compatible graphics card supporting 2560x1600 resolution.”)
Via the Internet
A Most photographers have already replaced the old TV-type CRT monitors with flat-screen LCD models. They offer substantial improvements in color, resolution and contrast that will change the way you see your images; it takes some getting used to, but trust me, it’s better, much better. The resolution of an LCD computer monitor is considerably higher than the flat screen you’re watching football on.
The age of your computer will possibly constrain your options for a new high-resolution LCD monitor, but the most limiting factor is your graphics card. The ATI Radeon card in your computer was introduced in 2003. My research was unable to turn up the precise capabilities of that card, but based on my experience (I replace computers about every two years), your card is probably not compatible with a new LCD monitor’s DVI connection (which carries a full digital signal versus the analog signal you’re currently using). You can put an adapter on the computer/card to receive the cable from the monitor, but your computer still won’t be transmitting all the information the new monitor is capable of receiving and displaying. So you’re going to need to replace your graphics card with an option that will work with your computer and support the size and resolution of the monitor you have in mind.
The things to look for when buying a new LCD monitor are size, resolution and contrast ratio. An LCD monitor maintains its color far better than a CRT, but it can be helpful to purchase one with the controls that allow you to make color corrections; not all of them do. My Apple displays have few controls and work very well. A higher contrast ratio gives deeper blacks and a sharper-looking image, but each manufacturer seems to express this differently, so make these comparisons within brands.
For photographers, the size of the monitor really matters because you want to see as much of the image as possible when you’re zoomed in to the details. On my Mac system, I use an Apple 30-inch monitor to display the image and a second 24-inch monitor to hold my Photoshop palettes. But if you want to use two LCD monitors, you’ll need a graphics card that supports dual DVI outputs. I’m still maintaining a Dell Precision 670 computer and 30-inch Dell Ultra Sharp monitor from my Windows days. Both 30-inch monitors have a native resolution of 2560x1600.
A few LCD manufacturers (especially Apple) are now using LEDs for backlighting in their monitors versus the fluorescents that are more typically used. They use less power, render better color and offer more consistent brightness evenly displayed across the screen. Expect a higher price.
So, get the most capable graphics card your computer can handle. Then, choose the largest compatible monitor you can afford with the highest resolution and contrast available for that size. Then, sit back and gaze in amazement at your brighter, sharper images.
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