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Introduction

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The monitor is probably the single most important component in any computer set up as it’s the piece of hardware that the end user interacts with the most. We stare at it for hours on end because it’s the window to our operating systems and software, and the visual interface for users of the Internet and gamers alike. We even watch movies on it. Take it away and what do you have? Nothing, apart from a box full of components.

So let’s cut to the chase. If you’re in the market for a new monitor you have a choice between two main display technologies, namely TFT LCD or CRT. But which type of monitor technology should you go for?

Several years ago, TFT LCDs were only available to those that could afford them, but due to the massive drop in price, largely a consequence of mass production and better yields, it is now possible for someone even on a modest budget to have a flat-panel display on their desk. One can also fully understand their appeal. Aesthetically, a flat panel LCD tends to be much more pleasing to the eye than its large and boxy CRT counterpart. Their popularity is growing too because not only do they weigh less, they also take up less room on your desk than a CRT, produce less heat and emissions, are geometrically flawless, and keep your electricity bills down. What's more, many are now available with DVI inputs that can receive a crisper, cleaner digital signal providing that your graphics card is suitably equipped.

That said, the humble CRT still has some advantages over of a flat panel. First, it has been with us ever since its first inception at the end of the 19th century, giving the technology time to evolve and improve, while still offering the end user a significant financial saving. Colour representation is usually much better too, so if your usage is more geared toward graphics intensive applications like photographic editing, printing, gaming and home entertainment, then the smoother, more realistic colour definition of a CRT is the preferred choice. Furthermore, limited viewing angles, the thorn in the side of all TFT manufacturers, as well as fixed native resolutions, are issues that keep CRT technology alive.

With the pros and cons of each display type in mind, let’s forget processor speeds, graphics performance, hard disk capacities and memory sizes for a moment and imagine using any type of PC with a screen that is dull, can’t display colours correctly, distorts the picture, and is out of focus. Horrible thought isn’t it?

Therefore, a monitor should be of the highest quality that your budget will allow, but which type of display technology to go for is of course down to you. Ideally, the best test is for you to compare them both with your own eyes, but to help you make a decision we’ve gathered together a selection from both camps and taken a closer look at the most popular screen sizes, namely 19in CRTs and 17in TFT-LCDs.

So, if you’re in the market for a new monitor or just want to see what the market has to offer, read on as we separate the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

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