When it comes to upgrading a computer, many people simply go for more RAM or swap out a desktop for a laptop. Inexplicably, the screen is often one of the last features to be considered, even though it's the key component for optimum web experience, document editing or video chats. Today's monitors, with their LED backlighting, HD resolutions and wide-angle viewing, are more than just eye candy. They'll change the way you look at your computer--literally.
Apple Thunderbolt Display
(27 inches, $999)
Apple's 2560 x 1440 resolution LCD display connects to a computer via Intel's Thunderbolt port technology, which allows it to act as a discrete hub for your digital goodies. On the back are three USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire 800 output and a slot for a gigabit Ethernet line. Its webcam captures sharp 1280 x 720 resolution video, and built-in speakers turn it into an entertainment portal. The downside: Thunderbolt tech is mostly limited to Mac products.
Acer S Series S235HLbii
(23 inches, $200)
With resolution of 1920 x 1080, an astounding 100,000,000-to-1 contrast ratio for darkest darks and whitest whites and LED backlighting for brightness, Acer's widescreen S Series has it all, plus one thing its competitors don't: a killer price. Thanks to a pair of HDMI inputs, this flat-screen can do double-duty as an HD TV. The off-center stand, smart cable routing, angular base and piano-black casing make it suitable for high-visibility areas, such as a reception area or storefront.
LG Cloud Monitor
(23 inches, $710)
This LED-backlit LCD monitor looks simple, but on the back you'll find an Ethernet port that turns the 1920 x 1080 resolution LG into a fully functional LAN/Net-connected workstation that can access programs in the cloud. Built-in speakers, a pair of USB ports for a keyboard and a mouse, plus the ability to flip the screen into portrait mode, can almost make this feel like an all-in-one desktop, minus the memory and power-sucking disk drive.
Samsung Series 9 SB970
(27 inches, $1,199)
With a quad high-definition resolution maxing out at 2560 x 1440 and a brushed-metal pedestal that makes the screen seemingly float on air, this edge-to-edge glass display is a looker. Ideal for designers and videographers, the LED backlit screen has a grippable stem that allows for easy, ergonomic adjustments. The unit's base houses an array of jacks for impressive extra abilities, such as Android handheld connectivity through the MHL (mobile high-definition link) input.
The 3-D revolution: We're still waiting
Ever since Tom Cruise flipped through a hologram file folder in 2002's Minority Report, people have been giddy over the future of computer displays. And while touchscreens and 3-D monitors have gone mainstream with games and movies, the workplace still hasn't caught up. Pre-release demos of Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system made reference to "stereoscopic displays," but we're still a long way from seeing PowerPoint leap off the screen. Until then, businesses would be wise to keep equipment costs flat by staying in two dimensions, despite the 3-D hype.