5 Dynamite Displays

31 Aug, 2003 By: Ron LaFon

Now’s the Time to Upgrade your Monitor

To paraphrase the old saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” the theme of this month’s roundup of big monitors for CAD is “The more things change, the more they become like one another.” Most of the monitors in this roundup are based on the same tube technology—the excellent flat Trinitron display that Sony has produced in prodigious numbers for the past few months. That picture is changing, if you’ll excuse the expression. Sony recently announced that it won’t produce as many of these tubes. This resulted in one monitor being pulled from the review because it won’t be available by the time you read this.


Now’s an excellent time to purchase CRT monitors—prices have never been lower, and we expect to see them rise again soon.

When selecting a CRT monitor, look for the highest resolution possible with the highest refresh rate. The higher the refresh rate, the better the image, and in turn, the fewer the headaches after a long day at the office. You’ll want a refresh rate of at least 70Hz to avoid image flicker. A smaller dot pitch may indicate a sharper image, but small differences in dot pitch likely aren’t discernible.

Make sure you pick a screen size large enough to do your job. Actual screen size is usually an inch or so smaller than the nominal tube size. Large CRT monitors take up a good deal of space, so make sure your selected model fits your desktop. The ultimate test of monitor quality is how well it suits your eyes. Whenever possible, try before you buy. Remember that a good monitor lasts for many years.

All of the monitors reviewed here are of excellent quality, and there’s little variation in options and warranty coverage. The exception is Cornerstone, which tacks on two additional years to the industry-standard three-year warranty. IBM enhances its three-year coverage by paying for back-and-forth shipping and sending a replacement unit.

We’re often asked which is better: LCD or CRT. CRTs offer higher resolutions, truer colors, and lower prices. LCDs produce a crisp image at their native resolution, take up less space, and use less power. Again, your eyes are the best judge of which type works for you.

The display characteristics and scores for the evaluated monitors are quite similar to one another. Because display quality is so high, we must look elsewhere for distinguishing characteristics with which to evaluate the monitors. Certainly there are differences between the displays, but most can be attributed to each vendor’s manufacturing and adjustment practices.

There are differences in connectivity, warranty, and pricing, and it is largely these differences that determine the individual ratings. There is little variation in options, but the quality level is so remarkably high (and the prices so low) that this is a great time to spring for that big monitor you’ve wanted. Prices are likely to rise in the near term.

The mass production of CRT monitors is part of the reason why they are currently so reasonably priced. The other reason is the increased popularity of flat-panel digital displays. Though the overall display quality of flat-panel displays generally is lower than that of large CRTs, flat-panel monitors are convenient and flexible in that they rotate orientation. They also have a certain high-tech allure. But new is not necessarily better.

Aside from the individual components that make up these big displays, the features they offer are generally fewer than found in previous roundups. For example, only one of the monitors reviewed here offers a USB connector. One has a BNC connection, and one has a DVI/D connection. Also, software bundles are either absent or minimal. The availability of all these features affects the final pricing, so low prices generally mean fewer options.

With one exception, warranties cover a standard three years for parts, labor, and the tube. The only exception is Cornerstone, which offers a remarkable five years of coverage on its P1750 monitor.

Testing vs. Buying
To test, I let each monitor warm up for at least an hour, and then run the test sequences using DisplayMate software, our standard for testing display quality. For more information on DisplayMate, go to I tested navigation through the on-screen menu to determine which adjustment features are available and how easy they are to comprehend and adjust.

Cadalyst Labs tests what you look for when buying a new monitor. Is the image bright? Are the colors true? Are the controls (and menu) easy to use? Is the focus good? Does it offer the kinds of connections you need or expect to need? Once you determine these things, other considerations come into play. Does the warranty offer good coverage? Is the pricing in line with other similar displays?

Whichever model you choose, now is the time to get a good deal on a large CRT display.

Reviewer’s Report Card
Price Connec-
Warranty Image
Star Rating
(36) (34) (32) (32) (31)
A- A A- A A 5 stars

HP P1130 A- A A- A B+ 5 stars

IBM P270,
A B- A A B+ 4 stars

A B A A B+ 4.5 stars

A- A A A B+ 4.5 stars

About the Author: Ron LaFon

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