monitor price wave
Friday, April 13 2007
Good LCD monitors continue to undergo an impressive price decline, finally bringing 1600 X 1200 monitors into my 300 dollar price range about a year ago. (With monitors I intend to use with my computer, I only care about pixel dimensions; the physical size of the monitor is secondary.) Since this summer my main computer has been equipped with four screens, three of which are 1600 X 1200 and one of which is 1280 X 1024. I only use two of them for most things, using the two backburner monitors for music software, FTP programs, and the display of things I need to consult as I work. Normally I'd be the kind who says that one can never have enough screen real estate, but in reality, I probably have too much given that I occasionally use other computers, and I've developed a suite of habits that don't work in more confining visual environments. My need for screen real estate is probably an overreaction to the claustrophobic visual universe of my first computer, a Commodore VIC-20 that could only display screens of 176 X 184 pixels (and for the first couple weeks of owning it I didn't have either or a television or a monitor, so I wrote sound effect programs in BASIC blind).
As cheap as LCDs have become, one of my four monitors is still a CRT, the refurbished 19 inch ViewSonic I bought back in early 2001. At some point I'd like to swap it for an LCD if only for power conservation reasons, but I've found that its ability to render fine differences in colors is much better than my otherwise-perfect large LCDs (Samsung SyncMaster 204Bs). For example, often on the LCDs I cannot discern the subtle changes of colors between rows of information displayed on certain websites.
Despite the drop in LCD prices, it's interesting that small (8 inch or less) LCD displays remain expensive, often costing twice the price of 19 inch LCDs. There would be lots of uses for small VGA monitors if they ever became inexpensive, because they would make it easy to bolt a small low-power computer motherboard onto the side of something to control it. For example, I have a low-power motherboard based on the VIA Samual processor. I've tried to get it to work with video cards having composite-out so I could attach it to a tiny black and white television, but had no luck. So now I just want the smallest VGA display possible. Unfortunately, such monitors all out of my price range. I didn't know how lucky I was several years ago when I picked up a fixable black and white nine inch CRT-based VGA monitor from P&T Surplus, but it's just a little too big for my purposes. I still have a dream of making a 60s-styled MP3-playing stereo component for the living room. I'm holding out the hope that some day I'll stumble across a Windows-based point-of-sale terminal stacked up on a gutted restaurant's curb. The little screen from a moderately-fancy restaurant's POS system would be perfect.
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