Size really does matter

OK, so you have just purchased your new PC. It has a huge hard drive, loads of memory, fast processor, CD-Rom drive but an embarrassingly small monitor. You see, if you go splashing out a fortune on your PC and neglect your monitor you have made a big mistake. Most of us spend more time looking at the monitor of our computer at work than we do with our loved ones. It is also a piece of equipment that can affect our health. So it is important to choose the right monitor and this means checking that it has the right specifications as well as considering how big you want it.

The bad news is that if you are trying to cram too much on your monitor screen you are not doing your eyes or your productivity any favours. Eye strain caused by poor focus, misconvergence and the glare from low-quality screens can lead to headaches, and loss of concentration. It can also lead to permanent eye strain. The good news is that buying a good quality monitor has never been easier.

One of the most important considerations is size, because here, it really does matter. Traditionally, most computers came with 14in or 15in monitors, but now 17in models are becoming more prominent. However, the larger beasts, 21in monitors, have been for the most part restricted to niche markets such as computer-aided design (CAD) and graphics. This is now changing because the way we use our computers is changing.

The 21in monitor market has been steadily growing and prices have fallen considerably over the past few years. In 1992 you couldn't buy one for less than pounds 2,000, but by 1996 the average price was pounds 1,500 and today the majority of 21in monitors are around pounds 1,000.

In the October edition of PC Magazine, which is on sale now, 19 21in monitors are put through their paces. Despite rigorous testing, the performance scores for the overall picture quality on all the monitors was good. The results from the tests also showed that each of the monitors had its own strengths and weaknesses. Some that did well in the brightness tests lost out in terms of colour purity, while some that did well in the colour purity tests are let down by poor misconvergence.

The two monitors that achieved the highest performance scores were the Iiyama VisionMaster Pro550 MT-9221 (pounds 1,059 ex VAT) and the Philips 201B (pounds 1,049 ex VAT). Philips just edged out Iiyama to get PC Magazine's Editors Choice award on the basis of its clear bright image, wide range of power- saving features and its ease of use

Susan Rundle