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How To Buy
Monitor prices have dropped dramatically, putting a 17-inch screen into the realm of affordability. Although many 17-inch monitors list for $700 to $800, street prices can be as low as $600 to $700. A price that is significantly lower could indicate the vendor has cut corners on tube quality, resolution or other key features.
The refresh rate, measured in Hertz, tells you how many times per second the monitor redraws the image. Look for a monitor that offers a refresh rate of at least 75Hz at 1024x768. A slower rate results in flicker, which can cause eye strain and headaches.
Measured in millimeters, dot pitch is the amount of space between same-colored phosphors in the screen. A shorter distance means a sharper image. Dot pitches generally range from 0.25mm to 0.51mm. Aperture grille tubes use stripe pitch (or aperture-grille pitch), which is the measure of the horizontal distance between phosphor stripes. A given aperture grille pitch is roughly equivalent to a slightly larger dot pitch.
The recommended resolution for a 17-inch monitor is 1024x768, meaning there are 1,024 pixels on each of 768 lines, for a total of 786,432 pixels. At a lower resolution, you'll view less information on the screen, but images will be larger and easier to see.
There are three types of CRTs: aperture grille, invar shadow mask and now CromaClear, introduced by NEC. The aperture grille displays a brighter, richer image, but the shadow mask monitor provides a finer, more detailed image. The CromaClear provides vertical crispness and excellent horizontal focus.
Just because a monitor calls itself a 17-inch doesn't mean it gives you 17 inches of viewable image. Viewing areas (measured diagonally from corner to corner) on 17-inch monitors are usually in the 15-inch to 16-inch range.
If you've been trying to juggle word processing, spreadsheet, PIM, Internet browser and e-mail programs, you may be feeling a little cramped for space. Upgrading to a 17-inch monitor is an affordable way to gain elbow room.
Finding the right monitor is often a matter of weighing the specs outlined above. But there are other important features to consider, such as a tilt-and-swivel base, an on-screen display (OSD) for adjusting settings and antiglare/antistatic coating. Other things to look for include Plug-and-Play compatibility, EPA Energy Star compliance and adherence to MPRII or TCO standards for emissions. If you want multimedia functionality but desk space is an issue, consider a monitor that integrates a microphone and speakers.
The warranty is another important consideration. Some warranties exclude labor costs. You should also weigh the cost of an on-site service contract, because at 50 pounds or more, a 17-inch monitor is going to weigh heavily on your wallet if you have to ship it-or your back if you have to carry it in.