Liquid crystal displays (LCDs) are fast nudging old-fashioned CRT monitors off business desktops everywhere. What you see are mostly cost-effective 15- and 17-inch displays that duplicate the viewing area of traditional monitors and are suited to regular business applications like word processing, Web browsing and e-mail.
But there are times when a still-larger LCD can spell enhanced productivity for an information worker. Not every entrepreneur and employee needs a 19- or 21-inch or larger display, but certain computing activities are a lot easier- can be completed more quickly- you can see more. Anyone dealing with legal-size documents or jumbo spreadsheets, or workers who need to tile two or more applications in separate windows, can benefit from the extra viewing room a large-size LCD provides. So can anyone in the graphic arts, where resolution is crucial. If that fits a job description or two around your organization, it may be time to start looking at larger displays.
One distinguishing feature that will make a big difference when you're shopping is the pivot capability. Monitors that pivot can be turned to allow both vertical and horizontal viewing. This is especially important to minimize scrolling when working with legal-size documents and long spreadsheets. The pivoting $699 (all prices street) BenQ FP991 19-inch monitor has an attractive, slim silver-bezel design and a straightforward setup. Plug and play lived up to its billing, and we had this monitor working immediately.
Yet another pivot-ready LCD monitor to compare is the $649 Samsung SyncMaster 191N. It has a similar silver-and-black slim-bezel design that minimizes distractions in situations that require setting up more than one monitor side-by-side. The 191N is analog only (as opposed to digital). The screen image was askew when we started it up, but one push of the auto-adjust button aligned it perfectly.
Speaking of convenience, Princeton Graphics places the input and power plugs on the side of its 19-inch SENergy 981 for sweat-free installation. One drawback is the anemic speakers. The digital input on this monitor makes it appealing for high-end graphics and video work. Most new computers come equipped with a compatible digital video card. The payoff is in clearer images. We also saw this feature on the BenQ, Sony and ViewSonic models.
Sony's SDM-X93 business display boasts solid sound quality with a well-placed headphone jack on the side of the monitor. That's handy for video work involving sound. It has no pivot capabilities, but the height control is easily adjustable. The SDM-X93 also uses Sony's power-saving ErgoBright technology, which adjusts the display's output according to ambient light.
On the no-frills end is the 19-inch, analog-only NEC-Mitsubishi AccuSync LCD9V. Again, setup was quick and painless. Though it lacks pivot capability, the height range is good-but be careful with the over-springy neck. If you're looking for a more value-oriented model, check into this $649 display.
On the other end of the spectrum, ViewSonic's high-performance $1,199 VP201b, at 20.1 inches, is noticeably larger than the 19-inch displays. For the price, you get advanced features like digital and analog input, pivoting, a high 1,600 x 1,200 resolution and a built-in USB 2.0 hub. Those USB ports are convenient for attaching peripherals like a mouse, a keyboard or even high-speed devices like DVD writers. This monitor is oriented for graphics and video work.
Don't let the greater-than-$600 price tags get you down. Strategic investment in a large LCD monitor can pay off many times over in improved productivity.
Research editor Steve Cooper contributed to this article.
Is bigger really better when it comes to monitor size? Find out for yourself with our top LCD picks.
|19 inches||Digital and analog||1,280 x 1,024||Pivot, auto calibration, slim-bezel design||$699|
|19 inches||Analog||1,280 x 1,024||Built-in 2-watt stereo speakers,500:1 contrast ratio, black bezel||$649|
|19 inches||Analog||1,280 x 1,024||XtraView wide-angle viewing technology, available in white or black||$649|
|19 inches||Digital and analog||1,280 x 1,024||Pivot, anti-glare screen||$899|
|19 inches||Analog||1,280 x 1,024 Pivot, slim-bezel design||Pivot, slim-bezel design||$649|
|19 inches||Digital and analog||1,280 x 1,024||ErgoBright power management,anti-glare screen||$800|
|20.1 inches||Digital and analog||1,600 x 1,200||Pivot, built-in USB 2.0||$1,199|