What Is A Monitor?

(I know, I know…) Lots of people know what a monitor is, but bear with me here, maybe you have never heard of the term in your life and are just curious to know what it is.


A monitor is a computer screen/display that shows pictures in pixelated form. It is usually used with a PC (yes it’s not the Computer itself, it’s a separate system), camera system or other depending what the need is, sometimes even as a regular television if the monitor has the capabilities.

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Types of Monitors

CRT Monitor

Old white monitor against a transparent background.

The oldest of the old, remember those big tubes that you played all those old games on? Yes they are actually called tubes, cathode ray tubes to be more accurate.

They are bulky, heavy and they hurt your eyes however they were useful due to their:

  • High Refresh Rates
  • Multi sync capabilities which could change resolutions all the while keeping the quality as it is.
  • High Image Quality/Colour Quality.
  • More Durability than LCD and LED Screens, so being bulky might be a good thing for CRT Monitors.
  • They are cheaper than their counterpart LCDs and LEDs.
  • A Downside would be that these monitors tend to generate more heat than the rest and also use more power to run.

LCD Monitor

Showing a LCD Monitor on a wonderfully organized desk.
LCD Monitor

You’re probably using one of these right now.

The Liquid Crystal Display seen everywhere is the Modern Tube if you could call it that, uses a layer of Liquid between two sets of polarized glass to block and allow light which in turn gives you light on screen.
Soft on the eyes and wonderful, almost like that crush everyone has in highschool.

Please don’t stare at the screen too long. It still has quite a strain on the eyes if stared at for hours on end.

The Advantages of an LCD includes:

  • It leaves more space on your desk than you care to worry about being lighter and sleeker than a CRT.
  • More affordable than LED Screens.
  • Needs less power to run. Uses about 1/3 less power then a CRT monitor.
  • LCD screens have a smaller footprint giving off less heat and emissions.
  • Wider screen size than most CRT monitors could provide you with.
  • They are adjustable for different viewing angles, being better than LEDs in this case.

LCD screens are great, but there are some disadvantages like:

  • The fixed resolution. It can’t be set higher than what is recommended.
  • If you try to set it higher, your screen might read something in the line of; ‘Not Supported’ or your screen might even turn black
  • The image could become distorted or might even decline in Quality.

Plasma

Plasma Monitor against a transparent background.

Also outdated, but way newer when compared to CRT monitors. Similar to LED and LCD monitors with their flat panel display (thin and flat).
The difference would be that Plasma monitors use plasma or energized gas to emit the light on screen.

It gets a whole lot more complicated, but I won’t rack your brain with all that info so let’s go to the advantages shall we:

  • Better and sharper image quality than CRT monitors due to plasma monitors having more Pixels per Inch.(Means that it’ll have a better resolution.)
  • Higher Refresh Rate.
  • Lighter and Sleeker as well.
  • Again wider screen than CRT monitors.
  • Deeper colours and deeper blacks however some monitors have even deeper colours than plasma monitors due to a better Contrast Ratio.
  • Offers a wider viewing angle.

Although Plasma monitors have good image quality there are newer LCDs and LEDs which exceed even that. Plasma Monitor/TVs have ceased being produced in 2014, however are still being still in some markets.

There are Disadvantages as well such as:

  • Screen burn-in occurs when a stationary image is displayed too long on the display, this results in a ‘ghost’ image being left behind. This could result in a permanent image being left behind on the screen.
  • They are bulkier and heavier than LCDs and LEDs.
  • More expensive than CRT monitors and even a little more expensive than LCDs.
  • Need more energy/power to run.
  • Shorter Life Span than other monitors.

LED

Monitor with a pink light emanating from behind it all while placed on a neatly organized desk.

LED monitors use Light Emitting Diodes as the backlight to give the display life.(And yes the LEDs in monitors are the same as light bulb LEDs and other LEDs.)

Light Emitting Diodes are actually used in LCDs as well, most LEDs use liquid crystal displays.

Here are the advantages:

  • Not as strenuous on the eyes when put in comparison with other screens.
  • Higher refresh rates than LCDs
  • Available in most stores.
  • They consume less energy than LCD and Plasma displays. On average the power saved would be 20% to 30%, but could even be up to 70%
  • Brighter and better image quality with its LED technology.
  • Longer Lifespan Then LCD and Plasma Screens.
  • Doesn’t produce as much heat.
  • Thinner and Lighter than most displays.

Disadvantages would be:

That they are expensive. That’s about the biggest disadvantage, other than that LEDs are great to use.The other would be that it is more likely to have image retention than LCD (image burn-in.)

There are more Types of Displays, but I’ve bombarded you guys and gals with lots of information. So… I’ll be leaving OLED and QLED for another post.

More To Know About Monitors.

So, if you are still reading… I will have a little more info for you.

Different Inputs:

By the way, if you are buying a new monitor for your PC, please make sure both the monitor and the screen has the same input.

VGA:

VGA Cables against a white background.
VGA

The VGA (Video Graphics Array) refers to the connector that gives your display video only.

It is being replaced by modern technologies such as HDMI which gives both video and audio signals. So you could possibly say that VGA has been outdated for a while now.

They are still used in monitors, TVs and projectors though.
There is a Male Cable and a Female Cable. The Male cable has connections sticking out of the cable while the Female cable has connections which allow the Cale cable to connect to it *cough cough.

Male VGA Cable against an orange backdrop.
Male VGA
Blue female VGA port above a white one, against a transparent background.
Female VGA

HDMI:

HDMI cable rolled up against a plain background.
HDMI

Like I mentioned before HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) provides your display with both video and audio signals. HDMI is replacing old analog video standards that were used such as VGA.

You are most likely to be using this with your High Definition TV or Monitor.

There are different versions of HDMI due to newer technology being developed each year. The later the year, the better the technology.

  • The latest would be version 2.1 which supports higher resolutions up to 10K.

*(10K would be a resolution that is 10240×4320. I’ll explain further down on what these numbers mean in my resolution explanation.)

  • Dynamic HDR is also supported with this version.
  • It also provides low EMI which is Electro-Magnetic-Interference. The low EMI ensures that wireless devices close by would not cause a disturbance with the display.
  • Later Versions of HDMI are backwards compatible with older devices. Meaning that they will still work with older devices, but the features are limited to the version that is supported on your device.

Different Resolutions:

The resolution of a screen refers to how clear an image on the screen is. It is measured by the amount of pixels shown on screen. The higher the resolution, the clearer the picture.

Your screen might support different resolutions, but cannot go over its limit. The resolution could be set lower, but by setting it higher than what is supports, it might cause a problem.

The problem might be a black screen, but don’t worry if you have set it higher. It will usually reset after a couple of seconds.

Beware of doing this in games though, as I have encountered something similar where I had to edit the games file so that I could play the game at it’s regular resolution.

I’ll give you a couple examples of resolutions that you might see below:

  • Standard Definition – 640×480(480p)
  • HD/HD Ready – 1280×720(720p)
  • Full HD (2k) – 1920×1080(1080p,1080i)
  • QHD/Quad HD – 2560×1440(1440p)
  • Ultra HD (4k) – 3840×2160(2160p)
  • (8k) – 7680×4320(4320p)

Now.. I would like to state that even though higher is better, it does not mean that you guys and gals should buy the first monitor you see with the highest resolution.

Your PC has to be able to handle all those pixels on screen, meaning that the more pixels are on screen the more resources are needed from your PC. So only head for higher resolutions and Ultra HD if you know that your PC can handle it.

Contrast Ratio:

Contrast Ratio is the comparison between the lightest white and the darkest black. That is about as simple as I can explain it.

Aspect Ratio:

Basically comparing the width and height of a screen. The most common aspect ratios that you’ll see are standard definition monitors, which have an aspect ratio of 4:3 (Fullscreen) where as newer monitors use a wider aspect ratio of 16:9 (Widescreen).

Refresh Rates:

Refresh rates mean that the monitor shows a certain amount of images per second. For example, if it has a refresh rate of 120Hz it means that it is showing 120 images per second resulting in a smoother image to the eye.
If the refresh rate is too low, let’s say below 60hz (which is standard), it would look as if it is flickering.

HDR:

High Dynamic Range is a technology that boasts more colours and contrasts. Basically colours are more colourful and the difference between light and dark is more noticeable. This provides a more realistic display. Both monitors and the program that is being run need to support HDR.

An example of this would be if you’re running a game and both your PC and the game supports HDR then the colours in the game would look more realistic.

Here are a Few Images that use High Dynamic Range:

Bridge lighting up with a show of the night sky in High Dynamic Range.
View of the ocean in a High Dynamic Range Setting.
Jar buried in sand with a view of the ocean and sunset being shown with High Dynamic Range.

I hope I covered enough and helped whoever read this, thank you for taking the time to read through all this. I know it was a bit much.
If you need more help with your PC check out our other posts:
How to Clean Your PC.
What Is Thermal Paste.

Your friend,
@Shay
Co-Founder of ComputeeZA
(EDITED BY @Aly.)

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