Recently, I started shopping for a couple of new monitors. I wanted to replace the five year-old plasma screen monitors I have been using. There is nothing really wrong with them mechanically, but they are starting to show signs of age and use. Also, I have a small home office and two large plasma screen monitors tend to generate a lot of heat, particularly compared to LCD and LED monitors of today. So, my first recommendation in the search for a new monitor is to not purchase any plasma screen monitors.
Why so many monitors?
I utilize a dual-monitor system with the display extended from the left screen to the right screen. For those of you who have done this, you know there is no going back from this. For those of you who have not utilized dual-displays, you really need to know what you are missing. Consider that your display area is now effectively doubled. How often have you bounced back and forth between open windows when on one display? Now think about how nice it would be to have one application/window open on one screen while another application is open on another screen. For instance, I have Word in full screen on the left monitor as I type this and on the right monitor my e-mail and browser are open without the windows overlapping or being compressed. I am off topic, but I wanted people to know what they may have been missing. These days, almost any system can handle dual monitors and it is not difficult to set up. For those systems that do not have two display ports built-in, you can easily add one through a USB Display Adapter which can cost as little as $30. That does not include the second monitor that you still may need to purchase. There are other ways to achieve the same goal. Of course, the more money you put into the right solution, the better results will be.
Seeing through the sales terms
So, here I am looking for two new monitors. Long in the past, active-matrix or TFT used to be the monitor buzzwords, lately the popular buzzword in monitor advertising is IPS. I have been seeing many monitors on sale from various sources like electronics stores, office supply stores, and online stores touting that they are IPS monitors. Go into an Apple Store or look into Dell offerings and IPS will be touted all over the place. So what is this wonderful new IPS technology? IPS stands for In-Plane Switching. This brand-new, revolutionary display technology has only been around since Hitachi introduced it, around 1996. Wait… how can this wonderful new technology have been around for almost two decades? Well you can thank the world of marketing and advertising for that confusion. Remember, I said it was a buzzword. The latest buzzword does not always imply the latest fashion (or technology). IPS is a form of an LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) monitor. There are, in fact, several different types of IPS technologies. They were all developed to improve mainstream display technologies of the past. If you look on the internet, you can find many technical write-ups on IPS, so I will not go into it here. What makes today’s IPS monitors great, is the fact that they can produce beautiful contrast and black levels at relatively inexpensive costs. The picture in an IPS display can be distinct and vibrant. So, if that is the case, shouldn’t we see more flat screen TVs using this technology? No. IPS is a great technology for displaying a still image or one that has relatively low movement. However, IPS loses its edge as a display technology when you introduce motion graphics. IPS still suffers from ghosting issues when displaying motion. Also, response time from IPS is still not as fast as other LCD technologies.
What does this mean for you?
If you are looking to buy a monitor whose main function is to do business related tasks, home-office tasks, or graphics that do not involve a lot of motion, then IPS technology can offer you a fantastic display. However, if you are someone like me who also uses his PC for entertainment, then an IPS monitor will not make you happy. The ghosting or response from an IPS monitor will be disappointing if you play video games, watch streaming video, or play blu-rays and DVDs directly on your PC. From someone who likes to play World of WarCraft on one monitor while the other monitor is showing something from Netflix, IPS is not the buzzword for me.
Craig R. Kalty (CCIA, CCEE, CCA, MCITP:EA, MCITP:SA, VCP)
Sr. Network Consultant
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