Articles: Monitors

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Workplace Ergonomics and Monitor Setup

Although this topic isn’t directly related to monitors’ parameters, I want to end this review with it since practice suggests that many people, especially those that have got used to CRT monitors, find it problematic to set up their LCD monitor.

First, the positioning in space. The monitor should be placed at a distance of your stretched-out arm, or even farther if the monitor has a long screen diagonal. You shouldn’t put the monitor too close to you, so if you are considering a model with a small pixel size (17” monitors with a resolution of 1280x1024, 20” models with a resolution of 1600x1200 or 1680x1050, and 23” models with a resolution of 1920x1200), make sure the image isn’t too small and illegible for you. If you’ve got any apprehensions, consider monitors with the same resolution, but a longer diagonal because there’s in fact only one solution left – selecting larger fonts and interface elements in Windows (or the OS you are using). This doesn’t look pretty in some programs.

The monitor’s height should be such that the top edge of the screen was at your eye level. In this case your sight is directed downwards at work and the eyes are half covered with the lids, which prevents them from drying (it is a fact that we are blinking too rarely while working). Many low-end models, even with diagonals of 20” and 22”, have stands without height adjustment. If you can choose, try to avoid such models. In monitors that offer screen height adjustment, check out the range of this adjustment. Almost all modern monitors allow to replace their native stand with a standard VESA mount. You may want to use this option because such a mount allows you to place the screen anywhere and also set its height just as you like.

An important thing is the lighting of the workplace. It is unadvisable to work in full darkness. The sudden transition between a bright screen and a dark background strains the eyes. Some background lighting like a desk or a wall lamp should be enough for watching movies and playing games, but for work a normal lighting of the workplace should be organized. You can use incandescent or fluorescent lamps with an electronic ballast (compact lamps for an E14 or E27 socket, or an ordinary “tube”), but you should avoid daylight lamps with an electromechanical ballast. Such lamps are flickering at a double frequency of the mains voltage (i.e. at 100Hz if you’ve got 50Hz in the mains) and this flickering may interfere with the monitor’s refresh rate or the flickering of the backlight lamps, which results in very unpleasant effects. In large office rooms they use blocks of daylight lamps in which the lamps are flickering in different phases (this is achieved by connecting the lamps to different phases of the mains supply or by using phase-shifting circuits), which greatly reduces the flicker. In the home, there is usually only one such lamp, so there’s one way to avoid the flicker – use a modern lamp with an electronic ballast.

Having placed your monitor in physical space, you should now configure it.

As opposed to a CRT, an LCD monitor has only one resolution in which it works well. In other resolutions the LCD monitor works poorly, so you should select its native resolution in the graphics card’s settings right away. That’s why you should make sure before the purchase that the native resolution of the monitor is not too large or too small for you. Otherwise, you may want to choose a model with a different screen diagonal or resolution.

Today’s LCD monitors have in fact only one refresh rate, 60Hz. Although 75Hz or even 85Hz may be declared for many models, the monitor’s matrix still works at 60Hz if you select those settings. The monitor’s electronics discards the “extra” frames. But there is actually no sense in selecting high frequencies because there is no flickering with LCD monitors, as opposed to CRT ones.

If your monitor offers two inputs, a digital DVI-D and an analog D-Sub, you should prefer the former. It provides a higher-quality picture at high resolutions and simplifies the setup procedure. If your monitor only has an analog interface, you should turn it on and select the native resolution and then open some sharp, high-contrast image on it, for example a page with text. Make sure there are no artifacts like flickering, waves, noise, shadowing around symbols, etc. If there is something like that, press the auto-adjustment button. This feature works automatically on many models as you change the resolution, but the smooth low-contrast picture on the Windows Desktop may not be enough for a successful setup, so you have to start the procedure manually once again. There are no such problems with DVI-D, that’s why this connection is preferable.

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