IntroductionLast month we looked at large CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) screens that cost up to a grand. This month, we examine 17-inch and 19-inch monitors, with prices ranging from £179 to £350. These smaller models aren’t more popular merely because of their lower price – there are plenty of practical reasons to choose a smaller screen. Compactness, of the box as well as the screen, is important. A 22-inch monitor will hog most desks, and, if you’re pushed for space, it’s unlikely such a behemoth will be a welcome addition to your home or office. The 17- and 19-inch models on test are far less intrusive, as well as being half the weight of their bulkier counterparts. Technology
The 17-inch and 19-inch ranges use much the same technology as the bigger models, with most having aperture-grille screens, and just a handful using the shadow-mask approach. An aperture-grille allows more light through than a shadow-mask. The importance of this is that it allows the glass to be tinted, meaning that the screen renders blacks as blacks, rather than the dark greys often seen on shadow mask screens. As well as the black-rendering issue, aperture-grille screens are flatter – which reduces reflection – whereas shadow-mask screens are bowed, although nowhere near as rounded as the versions of old. Colour
For the large monitors last month, one of the factors we awarded extra marks for was colour-correction capability. Because the smaller models are less likely to be used by graphics professionals for colour-critical work, this is less important with the smaller models. Macs offer perfectly acceptable colour-calibration technology. As well as ColorSync, Apple bundles monitor colour-calibration software called Monitor Calibration Assistant. In Mac OS 8 through 9.1 this is called Monitor Calibration Assistant, and is found in the Monitors control panel. In Mac OS X, it’s named Display Calibrator, and lives in the System Preferences folder. All of the monitors tested are capable of producing a good-quality screen image, but it’s important that the screens perform well out of the box. Regular attention to colour calibration can keep a monitor colour-accurate for years. However, if it requires much adjusting when new, this bodes ill for its longevity. Competition
In the past, LCD displays were so expensive that few people considered using them unless space was at a premium. Now, of course, LCD prices are eminently affordable, and companies including Apple have dropped stand-alone CRTs from their product line-ups altogether. In his recent Macworld Expo keynote in San Francisco, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said the new flat-panel iMacs will mean the “official death of the CRT”. With this in mind, does it still make sense to buy a CRT monitor? (See “CRT: does it have a future?”). Although less so now, price remains an issue, because you’ll pay £150 more for a flat-panel display than you will for the CRT equivalent. There are other factors, too. Although colour accuracy may not be mission-critical to many owners of 17-inch and 19-inch CRT monitors, the colour performance of CRTs remains superior to that of LCDs. This is because on LCDs, colours change when viewed from different angles. This may be fine if all you’re doing is playing games, but if you happen to be working on a newsletter, or maybe a magazine, it’s not ideal. Another point worth considering when choosing between LCD and CRT displays is pixel resolution. You get more for your money with LCDs than you do with CRTs. Basically, you can get on a 15-inch LCD (such as that of the new iMac) the same-sized picture as you would on a 17-inch CRT (recommended 1,024-x-768 pixels). And you can get a 19-inch CRT’s picture on a 17-inch LCD (1,280-x-1,024). See the sidebar, “Resolution” (page 82) for more details. Connections
In the past, Macs used a funky Mac-only monitor connection that required an adaptor for almost every screen available. However, since the dawn of the G3, Apple has taken to using third-party cards in its machines, which has negated the need for an adaptor. The more eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that the latest Macs have two monitor connections: there’s the industry-standard VGA connection, plus the ADC (Apple Display Connector) port. If you’re using a CRT monitor, you don’t need the ADC port, which uses a digital signal designed to support LCD screens, so that the signal isn’t turned into analogue and then back to digital. CRT monitors, though, need to convert digital signals to analogue, so you must use the analogue VGA output. Size
For ages, the screen-size stated on the box bore little resemblance to actual viewable image. This is because, in a fit of over-competitive advertising, the standard for measuring screens was the size of the tube. Thankfully, monitor manufacturers now quote the honest-to-goodness viewable image.