The Wide World of Monitors

What's the Right Size?

Buy too small a monitor, and you'll have trouble cramming everything you need to see on your screen; purchase a display that's too large, and you may run out of space on your desk, or you might have to crane your neck to take it all in. We'll start with 19-inch wide-screen models and make our way up to the 30-inch monsters.

The most recent forecast from research firm IDC predicts that U.S. shipments of 19-inch wide-screen LCD monitors will finally edge out those of long-dominant standard-aspect 17-inch and 19-inch units in the second quarter of 2008. At the time of writing, a search on PC World's Shopping and Price Comparison Center showed 19-inch wide-screen displays ranging in price from about $130 to $400; we found models with great quality for a little more than $200. The $220 LG Electronics L196WTY-BF, the least expensive of our test group, offers finely rendered text and consistently strong performance, which helped the monitor earn our Best Buy award.

On 19-inch units you can also get some (but not a lot) of the high-end features common on larger models. Two examples: While many rival 19-inchers and some bigger units offer tilt only, Dell's third-ranked, $259 UltraSharp 1908WFP provides easy height, swivel, and pivot adjustments. And AG Neovo's $399 E-W19 boasts hardened scratch-resistant glass; though it's pricey, you get top-notch performance.

The next step up is a 20-inch display: Such monitors offer features and prices very similar to those of 19-inch models, but their typically higher native resolution (1680 by 1050 versus 1440 by 900) lets you fit more on screen.

And because 22-inch wide-screen LCDs--like the seven we first tested for our story "22-Inch LCDs: More Screen for Less Green"--have the same native resolution as most 20-inch LCDs, PC World now scores the two screen sizes against each other for the same chart. Interestingly, IDC expects sales of 22-inch wide-screen flat-panel displays to ramp up to about 19 percent of all U.S. monitor shipments by the end of 2008, second only to the popularity of 19-inch wide-screen displays, which stands at just over 30 percent.

The least expensive model to make our chart of 20- and 22-inch LCD monitors is the $239, 20-inch Samsung SyncMaster 205BW, which placed second behind the $260 HP w2007. The latter is a praiseworthy 20.1-inch display that delivers razor-sharp text and lusciously deep colors, despite some problems producing discernible darker shades of color or readable text against a dark background.

The top 22-inch wide-screen LCD in our tests was the pivot-capable, $330 HP w2207--it reached third place overall, largely because of its comparatively higher price.

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