Keyboard Tray

Mouse / Trackball

• Monitor

Glare Filter


Document Holder





• Consultants


An Overview: Monitors & Accessories

Because the monitor is the primary visual component of the computer, it is one of the most important elements of your workstation. When purchasing a computer system, it is important to note that the monitor included in that package may not be the best one for you. Ultimately, the determination of whether a monitor is good or not rests in the eyes of the beholder. Here are some factors to consider when making your purchase:


Display Quality


Flat Panel Display

Color quality: Notice how accurately the monitor reproduces colors. The weight given to this factor depends on the purpose for which the monitor is being used. If it is primarily used for word processing or similar functions, this factor may be relatively unimportant; if it is used primarily for graphic design, this factor may be relatively important.

Image quality: Observe whether the image displayed on the monitor appears well focused. A distortion-free image is very important.

Ergonomics: Adjustment controls (such as the brightness and contrast buttons) should well-placed and easy to use. The monitor should have a range of motion that permits relatively effortless tilting and swiveling. Make sure that there is sufficient room within your workspace to accommodate the monitor and its base.

Power conservation: With the rising costs of electricity, it is worth investigating how much power the unit consumes.

Back to Top

Cost, desk space, and type of use are the most important factors in determining which size is best for you. Your choices for monitor size are generally 14, 15, 17, or 21-inch. Bigger screens come in bigger boxes, so make sure you've got the desk space to accommodate the size you choose. Another point to remember: while a monitor may be labeled a 15- or 17-inch unit, the actual image size ("viewable area") may be an inch or two smaller. Make sure to note the "viewable screen area" measurement (which is the distance from the top left corner to the bottom right corner of the screen).

Fourteen-inch monitors were the standard a few years ago but the technology has advanced (and the price has declined) so that your minimum purchase should probably be a 15-inch monitor. If you spend most of your time working at resolutions no higher than 800x600, a 15-inch monitor should provide you with enough room for applications such as word processing and database entry. If you work at resolutions of 1024x768 or higher, you're probably better off with a 17-inch monitor. A monitor of this size also offers advantages at lower resolutions-the extra screen real estate gives you more room to work with multiple windows, applications minimized to icons, and large spreadsheets. If you use desktop publishing, graphics or CAD applications, a top-of-the-line 17-inch model offers a viable alternative to a 21-inch model. Also, working on a 21 inch monitor at 1280x1024 will require a minimum of 75Hz.

Back to Top

Refresh rates: High refresh rates help eliminate screen flicker. For most people, a rate of 72Hz to 75Hz is enough to achieve the desired results; a rate less than 70Hz will result in obvious flicker and can lead to eyestrain and headaches. Some cards support refresh rates of up to 120Hz; if you need this kind of rate to provide an extremely clear and stable image, make sure that your monitor can support it. Before you rush to the store to buy a graphics accelerator card, look carefully at your current system and how you use it. Consider your color depth and resolution requirements. If you have a 14- or 15-inch monitor, you'll probably use 800x600 resolution; the preferred resolution for a 17-inch monitor is 1024x768. Power users with a 21-inch display will want 1280x1024. The higher the resolution you want, the more video memory you'll need.

When choosing a monitor, also make sure that it supports the same refresh rates as your video card. If your video card supports DPMS (Device Power Management Standard), look for a DPMS-compliant monitor (most monitors that meet the EPA's Energy Star guidelines are DPMS-compliant.) When paired, the two will power down after a period of inactivity.

Color and Display: If possible, don't buy a monitor sight unseen. Find a store where you can test and compare a number of models. Check for margins of black around the screen edges. Ideally, the image should fill the screen from top to bottom and left to right, and should be adjustable. Also keep an eye out for bowed and pinched edges-see if you can fix the problem by using the "pincushion" or "barrel" controls. Check for color distortion and poor convergence on the edges of the screen, and see if the controls improve what you see.

You might try this little test: Fill the entire screen with many letter "E's." Check to see that the image covers the entire area, including the corners. Now make sure that the letters in the corners are as focused and bright as the ones in the center. Also, put up a white background on each monitor and adjust the brightness and contrast. This will help you judge each screens overall brightness. Pick one or two basic images and put the same picture up on each monitor. Compare the color contrast, the brightness intensity, and the picture crispness and quality. Finally, put up white text on a dark screen from the C: prompt. Look at the text closely to make sure that the convergence (when red, blue and green rays come together to create white) is good and that no colors are bleeding out at the characters' edges.

Back to Top

Today, the LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) flat-panel display is gaining in popularity, though the traditional, CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) display is still the most popular. Although there are several advantages to the LCD of display, there are also some drawbacks. Use the chart below to evaluate the differences between the types of displays and choose the one that best suits your needs:


LCD (Flat Panel))

CRT (Traditional)

Retail Price

Moderate to expensive

Inexpensive to moderate

Average viewable screen area

Up to 18 inches

Up to 27 inches

Viewing angles

Varies, mostly wide range

Wide range


Lower glare, diffuse

Highly reflective even with coatings, diffuse glare

Screen problems

Flicker-free in small sizes, prone to jitter

Jitter-free, prone to flicker


Can work in multiple settings, but text may become "garbled" at some settings

Can work in multiple settings

Design style




Under 15 pounds

Up to 100 pounds or more

Power usage

Significantly lower electromagnetic emissions

Varies by manufacture and model

Color-calibration and color-temperature control

Available by models

User-interface controls


No convergence or focus problems

Clarity makes it easier to view higher resolutions at smaller screen sizes

Non-flat screens have convergence and focus issues

High resolution may result in very small images

Graphic cards

Digital, giving more accurate color information and pixel placement

Limited digital

Back to Top

Office Ergonomics | Your Health | Mobile Ergonomics | For Kids | For Ergonomists | For Office Administrators

Company | Advertise | Training | Contact

© 1999 -™ • All Rights Reserved
Privacy Policy | Terms of Use