I’m doing my bit to reduce the impact of the global financial crisis. Yesterday, I went out and bought a couple of new 24″ monitors to replace my perfectly functional pair of 19″ LCDs. It now looks like I’m facing a huge wall of pixels and I don’t quite know where to look, but I felt like that after moving from my old 19″ CRT to the pair of 19″ LCDs, so I’m sure I will get used to it soon enough. The 19″ LCDs haven’t gone to waste, they are now adorning an older PC which was previously attached to the old and now slowly-dying 19″ CRT.
Why was it a good time for me to buy new monitors? Because of the way monitor aspect ratios are going. The “sweet spot” for monitors right now is 22″ or 23″, where a serious number of pixels are available for very little cash. Trouble is, the pixels are in the wrong place. Almost all monitors of that size have a resolution of 1920 x 1080, a ratio of 16:9, same as a full HD TV. A vertical resolution of 1080 doesn’t provide a significant advantage over an old 19″ 1280 x 1024 (4:3 ratio) monitor.
When I’m not doing CAD or image manipulation, I’m generally doing things that involve lots of vertical scrolling; word processing, reading web pages, that sort of thing. Often, those web pages have a fixed-width design (e.g. AutoCAD Exchange), so adding extra screen width gains me nothing but extra wide stripes on each side. With more and more software having a deep horizontal stripe dedicated to user interface elements, there’s not much point investing in only 56 extra pixels (5.4%) of height.
From my point of view it’s better to pay a bit extra and go for an extra 176 pixels (17.1%) of height: a 1920 x 1200 (16:10 ratio) monitor. These are available in various sizes, but the cheapest ones, and the ones that will fit side-by-side on my desk, are 24″. But these are becoming less common. Even as I’ve been looking over the past few weeks, the number of 24″ 1920 x 1200 monitor models available in my area has dropped off significantly. Unless you’re very careful, if you buy a 24″ monitor it’s likely to be 1920 x 1080.
Why? Many of these monitors are now being used for games consoles; 1920 x 1080 is all they will use. Same with HD TVs; 16:9 is the current fashion in LCD panel ratios, and it looks likely to stay that way. It makes sense for manufacturers to make 16:9 panels, so 16:10 panels are only going to get rarer.
That may make sense for the manufacturers, but it doesn’t help me as a vertical-pixel-hungry customer. Unless I’m prepared to go for much bigger, desk-hogging and expensive monitors, all I’m going to gain with a 16:9 screen is a bunch of width. Even a 27″ monitor I considered, at roughly twice the price of a 24″, offered “only” 2048 X 1152.
I made the decision. I bought a pair of 24″ 1920 x 1200 monitors while I still could. I found a good-value model I could view in the store, with a small enough bezel (important if you’re using them side by side), a height-adjustable stand, and an excellent warranty (3 years pixel-perfect). For me, it was the right time. Maybe it is for you, too?