Your manager will stare at your facility's PC monitor for at least a few hours on a daily basis. A hard-to-read screen will result in a noticeable reduction of productivity and may cause headaches.
CRT vs. LCD
For everyday use, 19-inch CRT (cathode ray tube) monitors give you the best bang for the buck. You can buy one for less than $500, which is only slightly more than the smaller 17-inch version. Yet the 19 inch provides 30 percent more screen area than its 17-inch counterpart. This extra screen area makes it easier to read text-heavy management screens and spreadsheets.
The images on a CRT monitor are made of rows and columns of small colored dots. Collectively, they produce the picture you see. The distance between these dots is called the dot pitch. In general, the smaller the dot pitch, the sharper the image. For clarity, the dot pitch should be no more than 0.25mm horizontal or 0.29mm when listed diagonally.
Monitor sizes are listed by their diagonal screen size, not their actual viewable area. As such, a 17-inch LCD (liquid crystal display) monitor provides a viewable screen area approximately equal to an 18-inch CRT monitor. Seventeen-inch LCD monitors are only about an inch thick, weigh 10 percent of a CRT version, and can fit on almost any desk space. They use less electricity; and since a 17-inch LCD costs about $600, they are usually the best monitor choice.
Both CRT and LCD monitors are available in white or black. Other colors are available, but only on the more expensive models. The most common screen resolution is 1024x768 at 24-bit. In nongeek speak, that means your computer's graphics card needs to have 3MB or more of onboard memory. Personally, I have seen the best performance from G-force enabled video cards, especially the nVideo brand.
If I were writing this column just three years ago, I would have devoted much of it to describing which on-screen image controls to seek. However, all of the models I researched had everything that once was reserved for high-end systems.
Monitors can connect to your computer through a variety of methods. By far, the most common method is a short cord that plugs directly into a video port behind your computer. There is nothing technologically superior to this method. The popularity stems from the fact this is how all monitors have attached to computers since the 1970s when TV ceased being the monitor screen.
Today's faster computers can eliminate the need for a special video card by connecting through a USB port. USB-equipped monitors usually include a USB hub so other devices can be easily connected to your expanding computer. You might also want to consider dual inputs so two computers can share the same monitor and, for LCD screens, the ability to switch between portrait and landscape modes. (I do not recommend built-in speakers, as the sound quality is usually inferior to a basic subwoofer system.)
There are hundreds of monitor models from dozens of companies, and the available versions change every few months. Anything I could recommend today may be discontinued by the time you read this column. However, one model was so unique I could not help myself from writing about it.
The ViewSonic Airpanel Smart Display V110 breaks all the rules. It is a wireless LCD monitor weighing less than 3 pounds. It has a touch-panel display that can function on its own as a portable organizer. The 10.4-inch screen (15 inches on the V150 model) was bright and viewable from almost any angle. I was able to get five hours of use at 1024x768 (the maximum resolution).
The manufacturer's documentation warned me wireless household items might interfere with the monitor. This was never an issue. I found the Airpanel communicated without a hitch at distances of almost 50 feet through several interior house walls. Beyond that, the signal was lost. Once I came back in range, the monitor automatically reestablished the connection.
I did like the idea of having my wireless keyboard and Airpanel monitor to do office work in my livingroom. However, with an $1100 street price, once the novelty of the Airpanel wore off, I went back to my wireless laptop computer to accomplish the same mobility.
Doug Carner is on the Western-region board of directors for the Self Storage Association. He is also the vice president of QuikStor Security & Software, a California-based company specializing in access control, management software, digital video surveillance and corporate products for the self-storage industry. For more information, call 800.321.1987; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; visit www.quikstor.com.