Get More From Your LCD Monitor

Published Date
01 - Jun - 2006
| Last Updated
01 - Jun - 2006
 
Get More From Your LCD Monitor
The bulkiest, most power hungry component of your computer, the monitor, has undergone a change of many sorts with the coming of the LCD versions. While the LCD technology is not new in itself (remember the LCD display on watches?), it was not perfected enough for monitors until quite recently. LCD monitors are very thin in comparison to their older cousins, the CRTs. They consume just about one third the power and offer a flicker free viewing experience. This makes them ideal for office use where energy conservation, space and of course reducing employee fatigue is a prime concern.

Video On Your Monitor
If you have just bought an LCD monitor for your home that has a composite or S-video input, here is how you can get to watch movies from your DVD player on it.

5-Video connector
composite, component or S-video ports. Get a suitable cable and connect it from the video out of the DVD / VCD player to the video in of the LCD monitor. Keep the monitor powered on with its power cable just as you normally would. If your monitor as well as the player supports S-video, it is better to use it rather than composite input for better picture clarity.

A composite video connector

LCD monitors can offer hours of flicker free viewing that will make your eyes heave a sigh of relief. So far so good. But most LCD monitors are not suitable for viewing fast paced videos such as formula 1 racing or most music videos today. Thankfully, many manufacturers are making efforts to bring LCDs closer to CRTs in terms of viewing experience. Already there are LCD monitors with on-off time as low as 6 ms which is good enough for most movies.

Innovations!
3D On Your LCD Monitor
Making a device do more than just what it was originally intended for brings out some amazing innovations. One such innovation is a plastic strip that can be clipped onto LCD monitors to render 3D viewing experience. A 3D kit for laptops and LCD monitors includes a strip of plastic that has special optical properties and software, which creates perspective views that makes normal 2D images appear as 3D.

Using ClearType Fonts In Windows XP 
By turning on ClearType in Windows XP, you can make your text look smoother and more pleasing to the eye. This is more noticeable with LCD monitors than with CRTs. To enable ClearType, just right-click on the Desktop, choose Properties > Advanced > Effects, and check "Use the following method to smooth edges…". In the drop-down menu, choose "ClearType." For more fine tuning, download the Microsoft ClearType PowerToy from www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/downloads/powertoys/xppowertoys.mspx. This application shows you a bunch of screens, and you select which one appears best-thus ensuring you're seeing what you want to see! 

The plastic strip that is used consists of small polarised prisms that diverts light from alternate pixels in opposite directions. For example, all even pixels would be diverted to the left eye and odd pixels to the right. This gives a feeling of being surrounded by the object from the sides, rather than simply viewing it straight on. The software that is bundled with the kit creates certain number of perspectives (viewing angles) horizontally and vertically. Accordingly the add-on plastic sheet will contain polarized areas such that each perspective is rendered in a slightly different angle.

Thus if we have 8 horizontal and 4 vertical views on a standard 1024 X 768 resolution, a 3D of 128 X 192 (1024/8 and 768/4) resolution. The software generates display such that every 8th horizontal pixel is same and similarly every 4th vertical pixel is same.

These 3D kits are not yet available commonly in India, but it is only a matter of time before you can pick one up from your neighborhood store.

Manufacturers like Sharp are making LCDs with inbuilt 3D capability. Another innovation is that of the switching viewing angle developed by Sharp. There is an on/off control by which you can narrow or broaden the viewing angle. 
 
Caring For Your LCD Monitor
LCD screens are delicate in comparison with the CRTs. Hence you need to be more careful in cleaning them. When wiping dust off, use a dry cloth first and then, if need be, wet a cloth, squeeze out excess water then use it. Do not press too hard on the screen as you may create 'stuck pixels'. Alcohol and Ammonia based cleaning agents are a strict no-no. Many monitors contain an anti glare coating which can easily get damaged when washing agents are applied on them.

LCDs use proprietary power supply. In case of the adaptor not functioning use the manufacturer recommended spare. If that is not available use only those adaptors which meet the voltage requirement exactly and a current ratings that is at least equal to rating of the original.

Room Lighting 
Ambient lighting can make or mar the LCD experience. The best image quality on LCD monitors is attained under dim lighting. This is not practical if the room is being used by others; in such a case, it is best to have the lights to the side of the monitor. Bulbs meant for TV viewing are the best to use here-such bulbs have a reflective coating at the bottom so that there's no directed light, but the room appears well-illuminated. The downside is the higher power consumption of these bulbs, as they are tungsten based. In place of the bulbs, you can use low-wattage CFL tubes, which can give you nearly as good lighting.

Lights behind the monitor (this applies even to CRTs) are to be avoided-they can distract your vision. They can also cause eye strain and mental fatigue, since you unconsciously try to avoid the more intense bulb or tube and concentrate on the monitor.

In the same way, lights behind you are also a strict no-no. They get reflected on your screen and not only spoil the viewing experience, but also cause eye strain.
 

If you ever come across a stuck pixel (a dot whose colour does not change), try and gently rub on the spot where the pixel is stuck. Do not apply too much force as you will risk damaging adjacent pixels. If a couple of tries don't work, then just let go! Note that while stuck pixels may be corrected, dead pixels cannot be revived. A dead pixel appears black always while a stuck pixel stays on with a single colour.

A Buying Guide
In spite of the nice aesthetics, fatigue free viewing and power saving, LCD monitors have certain drawbacks and you must look out for specifications pertaining to the drawbacks before making an investment. They don't come cheap after all.

Response Time
This is the time taken by the monitor to change the colour and / or brightness of a pixel. It is measured in milliseconds and the values generally are 10, 12, 16 ms. Some LCD monitors offer a very quick response of 8 and even 6 ms. The lower this value is, the better the LCD is for viewing fast moving graphics such as games or action movies. With some entry level LCDs that offer a dismal 25ms response time, a ghosting effect becomes very noticeable. So look for LCDs with a response time of 10ms or lower.

Viewing Angle
Unlike CRTs, which can be viewed from pretty much any angle, images on LCDs will appear dull and even colour distorted when viewed from beyond a certain angle. Their best quality appears when viewed head on (perpendicular to the monitor). As you move sideways the display appears more and more distorted. Viewing angle is the maximum angle at which you can see the display with no noticible change in quality. Obviously, the greater this angle, the better the LCD is!

Native Resolution
LCDs have to be run at their native resolution which is the number of pixels that make up the display. Usually using a resolution that is lesser or greater will result in distorted display. Make sure that the native resolution of the LCD is something you are comfortable with.

Go for Goodies!
Speakers-Some CRT models of the bygone era (ok, say 8 years ago) tried bundling speakers in the monitor box. But not many of these 2-in-1 models were made owing to mutual interference between the speakers magnets and the high voltage, electromagnetic radiation of the monitor itself. With the coming of the LCD monitors there is no problem of interference, meaning it is much easier for manufacturers to bundle in speakers inside the monitor cabinet. These speakers don't need any extra power supply as they draw their power from the monitor's main DC supply.

USB Hub-How often do you have to try positions of yoga to hook up a digicam to the USB port at the back panel of your cabinet? If you are buying a LCD monitor, spend a little more and get one which has a USB hub. The monitor will have one cable that connects to the USB port on the back panel. On the monitor itself you will find USB ports (usually 4) to which you can connect USB devices. You not only get more USB ports, but also the ease of connecting the cables right at your desk. 



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