Flat is Where It's At

...but flat-screen monitors are too expensive, right? Check out the latest CRTs for a pleasant surprise.

If you yearn for a skinny Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) flat-panel monitor but can't justify spending the big bucks, how about settling for a standard Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) monitor with one of the best features of a high-ticket LCD: a flat screen?

For less than half the price of a 15-inch LCD ($1,100 average street), you can get a 17-inch CRT with a virtually flat display starting at $299 (street). No tiny footprint here, but you will get flat-screen technology at an affordable price.

In basic terms, flat-screen CRT technology incorporates a flat glass display with a flat aperture wire grill as part of the tube. The benefit? It eliminates the "fishbowl effect" found on curved viewing surfaces and yields a richer, brighter picture.

"Every CRT manufacturer has switched to flat-panel technology for most of its models, while LCDs are a mere 3 percent of the total monitor market," explains Bob O'Donnell, displays research manager for IDC. "Why pay a lot of money if you can get something a lot bigger at a third of the price?"

Although flat CRTs are just as bulky as their curved-glass predecessors, some now feature smaller depths. Panasonic is among the few manufacturers who've successfully shaved a few inches off their monitors; the PanaSync SL75 is only 15 inches deep (compared to the 17-inch average). The new CRTs are just as heavy, too, with the average flat model weighing in at a hefty 40 pounds. (Contrast that with the typical 8-pound LCD.) CRTs are also unable to match the flicker-free performance of LCDs. But the high refresh rates of the newest models have largely solved this problem-most CRTs now have refresh rates exceeding 70Hz, the minimum for a solid image.

The bigger displays of the new CRTs mean multitaskers can now have more windows open simultaneously and see them better. You can chat online, read your e-mail and have a spreadsheet open off to the side all at the same time. You also won't need to scroll up and down a 17-inch screen as frequently as with a smaller screen, and today's flat-screens reduce almost all reflection. That's worth noting, because a good portion of eye fatigue-one of the most common workplace complaints-results from the reflections on monitor screens. "If you wear glasses, any kind of glare contributes to stress, and any kind of stress in the eye area makes you squint, contracting your muscles," says Mark Dziekan, a product manager for NEC, whose entire line of 17- , 19- and 22-inch CRTs is now flat-screen. "This contraction moves along to the back of the head and then to the neck and into the back, sending you home one awful mess."

Reading from a flat panel is more natural than reading from a curved surface, because your eyes don't have to compensate for the curving. "A straight line is actually a straight line on a flat CRT, unlike curved glass, which can give a bowing effect," says Alan Petersburg, global manager for IBM's visual products. Petersburg considers a 17-inch monitor a good choice for entrepreneurs with space considerations because a typical 19-inch monitor is larger and requires more desk space. Case in point: Although IBM's 19-inch G96 CRT has a smaller depth from front to back than most competitors, it's also wider and taller.

When it comes to the flat CRT technology, keep in mind that FD Trinitron, DiamondTron and DynaFlat are among the top tube designs for ensuring images remain uniformly bright and clear. "If you're working on fairly complex applications, you need clarity, an exact replication and crisp definition, not something that's fuzzy in the corners," says Fred Garcia, director of marketing for Samsung. Samsung's 17-inch SyncMaster 700IFT flat CRT monitor, which features an exceptionally short DynaFlat tube, takes up less space than most other 17-inch CRTs.

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This article was originally published in the April 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Flat is Where It's At.

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