Almost all modern monitors have too much brightness, like 200 candelas per sq. m, at their default settings. This brightness suits for work at bright daylight or for watching movies, but is too high for work in an office room. For comparison, the typical brightness of a CRT monitor is 80-100 candelas per sq. m. So, the first thing you should do after you purchase your new monitor is to select an acceptable brightness. Don’t hurry up and try to do everything in a moment. And don’t try to make everything look “exactly as on the old monitor” because your old monitor was pleasing for your eyes not because your eyes had got used to it, not because it was perfectly set up or provided a high image quality. A person who has transitioned to a new LCD monitor from an old CRT that yielded a dull image is going to complain about excessive brightness and sharpness. But if you put his old CRT before him after a month, he won’t be able to bear it because its image is too dull and dark.
So, if your eyes feel any discomfort, try to adjust the monitor’s settings smoothly and in relation to each other. Lower the brightness and contrast settings a little and try to work. If you still feel discomfort, lower them a little more. Give your eyes some time to get used to the picture after each change of the settings.
There is one good trick of quickly selecting an acceptable level of brightness on an LCD monitor. Just put a sheet of white paper next to the monitor and adjust the monitor’s brightness and contrast settings in such a way that the white color on the screen looked as bright as the paper. This trick only works if your workplace is properly lit.
You should also experiment with the color temperature. Ideally, it should be set up in such a way that white on the monitor’s screen looked indeed white rather than bluish or reddish. But this perception depends on the type of ambient lighting whereas monitors are initially set up for some averaged conditions (and many models are even set up inaccurately). Try to choose a warmer or colder color temperature and move the RGB level sliders in the monitor’s menu. This may produce a positive effect, especially if the monitor’s default color temperature is too high. The eyes react worse to cold colors than to warm ones.
Unfortunately, many uses don’t follow even these simple recommendations. This leads to multi-page forum threads like “Help me find a monitor that wouldn’t strain my eyes”. And they even compile long lists of monitors that don’t strain the eyes. I personally have worked at dozens of monitors and my eyes have never been hurt by any of them, except for a couple of super-inexpensive models which had problems with image sharpness or had a very poor color reproduction setup. Your eyes are hurt by incorrectly selected settings, not by the monitor as such!
But Web discussions may go totally absurd. They discuss the influence of the flicker of backlight lamps (it’s usually 200-250Hz in today’s monitors – the eye can’t perceive that), the influence of the polarized light, the influence of too-low or too-high (tastes differ!) contrast of today’s LCD monitors. I even met one thread somewhere which was concerned with the influence of the line spectrum of the backlight lamps on the eyes. But that’s rather a topic for another article – I will perhaps write for the next Fools’ Day. :)