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Despite the high number of hours of my life that I've spent in front of my computer, I've actually spent much of that time on the so-called "trailing edge." What is the trailing edge, you ask? Well, while some people like to be on the cutting edge with the most recent components for their computer, those of us on the trailing edge are content with computers barely able to keep up with anything but outdated software.
If there's an advantage to being on the trailing edge, it's that it's cheap. Those us of who have been putting together our own computers for most of our lives have found that by shopping in the clearance bin of computer parts, we can keep a computer running semi-recent software without spending much money. Sometimes an upgrade might even let us max out the settings on one of the older games that we've been playing for years. That way, we can experience the game the way its designers and developers intended -- a scant five years or so after others have!
I admit that being on the trailing edge isn't glamorous. But there's one part of a computer system where I was happy to stay away from the cutting edge for quite a while: the monitor.
I remember the first time I saw an NEC MultiSync monitor, circa 1990 or so. The picture was crisp. The colors were vivid. It was an experience far beyond what I was getting from the monitors that I had grown accustomed to as a boy. Eventually, I splurged on an NEC Multisync of my own. I enjoyed that little 14" monitor right up to the day that "someone" left a drink on top of it, and the condensation on the outside of the glass dripped into the monitor and ended its life. (Yes, that someone was me. Live and learn, I suppose.)
Few things show off a monitor's image quality like a simulated image.
For years after that, I was content with less expensive monitors. Then, one day, I was perusing monitors at an electronics store and I noticed that many of the monitors had some variant of "sync" in their name. What's more, they were only a couple hundred dollars, so I bought myself the largest monitor that I'd ever owned at 21 inches. It was big; it was heavy; and the picture quality was excellent, with a bright screen and extremely vivid color.
It was about this time that LCD monitors were coming down in price to the point where many people were buying them, but they were still a few hundred dollars for a 15" monitor with washed-out color. As the years went by, the price of the LCD monitors went down; the screen sizes went up; and the picture quality of every LCD monitor got better. And, in time, the quality of these monitors made me wonder if the 70-pound behemoth sitting on my desk was still necessary. My CRT monitor started to seem like more of a burden that it was worth, especially when the time came to move to a new apartment.
Then, one day, a friend spent a chunk of money on a 22" widescreen LCD monitor. When I first saw the picture quality, I realized that LCD monitors really could produce a picture as good as any CRT I'd ever seen. Given how little desk space these LCD monitors took up, I figured it was time to go LCD.
So, for just a couple hundred dollars, I bought a 21" widescreen LCD monitor. The picture quality was as good as anything I'd ever owned, although it was debatable whether it was actually better than the picture quality of the CRT monitor that it was replacing. One thing was for sure: This LCD monitor took up a lot less space, and that sealed the deal for me.
No CRT monitor ever had a slender profile like this LCD beauty.
Nowadays, you probably won't find many new CRT monitors on sale anywhere, but when any LCD monitor has picture quality as good as (or better than) any CRT monitor, will anyone miss the bulky, heavy CRT monitor? I'm pretty sure I won't.
Which way do you swing when it comes to buying monitors? Cutting edge, so you play Crysis 2 on a monitor so big you have to turn your head to see both edges of the screen? Or are you content to live on the trailing edge, only upgrading your monitor when it won't cost much but still feels like a big step up from what you currently have?
Posted by Steve Brown
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