LCD monitors, like PCs, are a pretty much a commodity item. Sure, you'll find very high-end models aimed at power users and graphics workers, but monitors for the average small business employee tend to get scant attention in the computer buying process.
And that's too bad, because a good LCD monitor can make a huge difference in your daily computing experience. Case in point: the LG Flatron E2350V 23-inch widescreen LCD monitor. Its available from online vendors for as little as $275, which is cheaper than many monitors with similar features and specifications.
Two Monitors in One
A new LCD monitor can do more than just improve your SMB computing experience. Models such as the E2350V also double as HDTV monitors, delivering a full 1080p (1920x1080 pixels) resolution, the highest level of high-definition television.
If you need to screen business videos in the boardroom or give presentations to prospective clients, the dual functionality works very well. Or if you work in a home office, it means the LCD monitor can also function as a second (or third) TV in the home.
Note that it wont function as well as the best purpose-built TVs, but it works well enough in most environments for most types of programming.
We replaced a five-year-old 19-inch Dell monitor with the E2350V and used it for a couple of weeks with our main desktop computer connected through the DVI (digital computer) interface. We also tested it with a laptop connected through the HDMI (high-definition TV) interface.
The E2350V supports an appealing range of connection options. Besides DVI and HDMI, there is also a standard VGA connector. You can connect multiple devices -- cable or satellite TV receiver, iPad or AppleTV -- and cycle among them using the touch sensitive controls on the front of the unit.
Our Dell laptop, like many models now, has HDMI as well as VGA output to facilitate connection to digital monitors and HDTVs. But you could also use the E2350Vs HDMI interface to connect an HDTV source such as cable or satellite adapter or Blu-ray disc player.
After using a five-year-old monitor that had doubtless degraded since it was new, we may have been easy to impress on the basics of clarity, contrast and brightness -- the main factors that determine how easy the monitor is to view for extended periods. But the E2350Vs specifications mean it competes well with other current monitors in its class.
Brightness is rated at 250 cd/m2 (candela per square meter). This spec is important because the higher the brightness rating (also referred to as luminance), the easier it is to view the screen in bright conditions.
LG Flatron E2350V
(Click for larger image).
The 250 cd/m2 rating is typical of products in this price range. If you need to use the monitor in a very brightly lit area -- by a large window, for example, or outside -- you may want to consider a more expensive model with a brightness rating of 400 cd/m2 or higher. But for most office situations, this is perfectly adequate.
LG claims a contrast ratio of 5,000,000:1 for the E2350V monitor. This is a measure of the dynamic range from light to dark that the monitor can display. The higher the contrast ratio, in general, the more realistic the image and the blacker the blacks, which is especially important when viewing images or video.
If you last looked at LCD monitors (or TVs) a few years ago, the contrast ratio specification may seem astronomically high. Its partly a measure of the difference that new LED (light-emitting diode) backlighting for LCD screens makes.
LED backlighting replaces fluorescent backlighting used in the past. As well as producing a better picture, it consumes less power.
Response time is another key specification, especially if youre going to use the E2350V as a video or TV monitor). This is a measure of how fast the LCD monitor refreshes individual picture elements or pixels, and it determines how well it reproduces fast motion. The faster the response time, the smoother motion will appear.
The LG monitor is rated at 5 milliseconds (ms). The best HDTVs have response times faster than this, but only a few years ago, 8 ms was considered adequate for watching the most demanding -- e.g., fastest motion -- TV programming. As a full-time computer monitor that will be used occasionally for viewing video, this is more than adequate performance.
The E2350V is very easy to look at for long sessions, or it was once we adjusted the brightness control downward. With the monitors default settings -- including brightness set at 100 percent -- the image looked over-bright and washed out, and would have been harder on the eyes. But after the adjustment, the experience was very good, and we sometimes worked eight or more hours at a stretch looking at the screen.
Expanded Screen Real Estate
The screen dimension also made some unexpected differences. The E2350V has a 16:9 aspect ratio (ratio of width to height), compared to the 4:3 of our old monitor and most traditional PC monitors. The 16:9 ratio accommodates HDTV images, but it also turns out to be a boon for computing.
Screen size in monitors is measured diagonally. So most of the difference between this 23-inch screen and our old 19-inch monitor is in the width. (The 4:3 19-inch monitor was an inch higher than the viewing area of the E2350V.)
The additional horizontal real estate meant that it makes sense to have multiple open windows un-maximized and overlapping rather than maximized and stacked one on top of each other, which was our old way of working.
Its easier now to switch to a new window by simply mouse clicking on a visible part of it, rather than selecting the application on the task bar below and then clicking again to reveal the selected window. And this is without compromising on the size of windows in which critical applications such as Word, Outlook and browser appear.
Included software provides additional functionality for automatically sizing windows to fit together on the screen. We found it easier to move windows around manually.
The greater viewing width also made room for more full-size icons on the Windows taskbar and for more buttons on the action bar at the top of our screen (created using a third-party product called Advanced Launcher from Alentum). And it was also possible to leave enough of the desktop uncovered so that Windows 7 gadgets at the far right of the screen are always visible.
Setting up the LG E2350V was a breeze. The integrated stand can be installed in one of two ways, either to hold the screen upright on a table or attach it to a wall.
With the last couple of monitors weve used for any length of time, the connectors were positioned in such a way that you had to lay the monitor flat to get access to them or even turn it upside down. On the E2350V the connectors are on the back panel about two-thirds of the way down -- not obtrusive but reasonably easy to access.
Installing the hardware driver was problem free, and it worked well with the display settings utility in Windows 7.
The E2350V wont deliver the most accurate color, so its not ideal for graphics workers. It doesnt have a lot of extras, such as a built-in USB hub or integrated speakers, but it does deliver good performance for the money, making it an excellent choice for small businesses.
Gerry Blackwell is a freelance technology writer based in London, Canada. Read his blog, AfterByte
|Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!|