Getting to Know Your Computer Monitor

By Joel Hilton
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Shopping for a computer monitor can be an intimidating experience. There are many different terms, numbers and specifications involved with monitors, and it all can get very overwhelming if you aren't familiar with the lingo. Whether you're looking for a monitor, HDMI cable, VGA cable or computer, here are few defined terms to help you better understand image display technology.

  • Display Resolution – The display resolution is a measurement of how many pixels can fit on a screen, such as on a computer monitor. This specification is represented by two numbers. The first number usually represents the number of pixels left to right and the second number normally is the number of pixels up and down. So, for example, a monitor that has a display resolution of 1600 x 1200 pixels features 1600 horizontal pixels and 1200 vertical pixels. As a general rule, the more pixels the better. More pixels mean that you'll get more detail on your computer monitor screen. Computer monitors today can support display resolutions of WXGA (1280 x 768 pixels), UXGA (1600 x 1200 pixels), WUXGA (1680 x 1050 pixels), QXGA (2048 x 1536 pixels) and higher.
  • Contrast Ratio – This term refers to how much contrast there can be on your computer monitor. It is represented in a ratio, such as 5000:1. The bigger the difference between these two numbers, the better. A larger difference means that you'll be able to see bright whites and deep blacks on your screen. However, be advised that sometimes manufacturer's will list the "dynamic contrast ratio," which is the results of a test given in the best possible conditions. This number is usually much higher than the "static contrast ratio," which is a representation of how you would normally use a television or computer monitor.
  • Brightness – You've probably had the unfortunate experience where the sun is too bright to see the screen on your computer. Brightness, or luminance as it is sometimes called, is a measurement of how much light the screen can produce. This specification is usually represented by a number in candelas (cd/m2). Once again, a higher number is usually preferred in this section, so you can be sure to see the screen, even in the sunlight.
  • Aspect Ratio – The most common aspect ratios you will see out there are 4:3 and 16:9. The aspect ratio of a computer monitor is basically a measurement of the width versus the height of the screen. The 4:3 aspect ratio is nearly square and used to be the standard for televisions and computer monitors. However, nowadays 16:9, or widescreen, is much more common.

There are many other terms we could discuss, but this should give you a good head start on finding the computer monitor that is right for you. Hopefully this will help you feel a little more confident the next time you're looking at a list of specifications. At TopTenREVIEWS We Do the Research So You Don’t Have To.™

 
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