Flat is Where It's At

Details, Details

Built-in speakers are available on some models but aren't especially popular, according to some analysts, because they add to the monitor's width. Audiophiles and teleconferencers seem to prefer detachable speakers that can be unplugged and put away when not in use.

On the other hand, ViewSonic says its multimedia M70 with built-in speakers is popular with entrepreneurs who conduct frequent videoconferencing sessions, play music at work or need onboard speakers for educational use. The M70 has a flicker-free resolution of 1,024 x 768, an 87Hz refresh rate, and connectors that include video in, audio in, microphone in/out and headphone out.

Other factors to consider when buying a flat CRT monitor:

  • Depending on the amount of time you spend in front of your PC, buy the best quality monitor you can afford.
  • Use on-screen menus and controls to fine-tune colors when working with graphics. For instance, Sony's MultiScan CPD-E200 has more than 20 controls, including horizontal and vertical convergence, zoom and pincushion, which corrects any bowing-in distortion. If your office lighting changes with the sun's position, on-screen menus make it easy to alter brightness and contrast.
  • An adjustable tilt and swivel base is useful if others share your computer.
  • Those who produce graphics should consider high-resolution models. (Resolution is expressed as the number of pixels horizontally and lines vertically that you see on-screen.)
  • Check out refresh rates, which affect flicker. The rates are measured in the number of Hz at which the monitor and video adaptor pass the electron guns of the tube from the top of the display to the boom. A refresh rate of 75Hz is considered average and adequate for a resolution of 1,280 x 1,024.
  • Don't waste money on extended warranties. If your new monitor is up and running, there's hardly anything that can go wrong with it. If one fails right out of the box due to shipping damage, a bad tube or poor picture quality, the standard warranty provides you with a replacement. When the monitor eventually dies, you may as well bury it. Also, check for ongoing support in the form of new versions of video drivers.
  • Plug-and-Play (PnP) is a favorite feature because it saves time and effort. No fussing with jumper settings, switches or video drivers-PnP software does it all for you. A high-speed USB port for peripherals is a common extra and is usually free on high-end models.
  • Some flat CRTs have a display without a flat aperture grill, so check the specs. Although Princeton's AGX740 costs only $299 (street), it does use a Trinitron aperture grill. These grills are composed of vertical wires as part of the tube and produce ultra-high resolutions and pristine color. Other manufacturers use "shadow masks," metal screens inside the tube that determine color. Ask the salesperson to give you a demo so you can see if there's any distortion.
  • Specifications don't always translate into reality. Monitors with the exact same specs can display different images on-screen. Again, since a monitor is your main interface into your computer, ask for a test of the monitor-take it out of the box in the store, hook it up and compare it to others.

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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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