Technology

Much More Monitor for the Buck


With LCD computer screens bigger and cheaper than ever, it's time to consider an upgrade to one of these impressive displays

Consumers are packing more photos, videos, and movies onto laptops. The trouble is, many find the screens too small to enjoy all that newly stored digital entertainment. That's where liquid-crystal display monitors come in. And best of all, thanks to increased competition and technological innovation, LCD computer monitors are now larger and cheaper than ever.

A year ago, 17-in. LCD monitors, on average, were selling for upward of $300, says Stephen Baker of researcher NPD. Today, 20-in. LCD monitors carry an average sale price of $190. Folks looking for screens at the higher end, such as high-resolution, 24-in. LCD offerings from the likes of Dell (DELL) and Gateway (GTW), can expect to pay more, but still less than $750 in some cases.

And as prices have fallen, average screen sizes are on the rise. In 2005, the average monitor was between 17 and 19 inches. Today, the average monitor tops out somewhere between 19 and 22 inches. The reason? Companies are able to produce high-quality monitors more efficiently than ever thanks to technological advances in how they're produced. And computer makers are plenty eager to bundle their PCs with monitors and other add-ons.

All that competition means manufacturers are increasingly looking for ways to set apart their wares. Gateway's FPD2485W, for example, boasts crisp picture quality and sleek design, but you'll need to buy speakers separately. Apple's (AAPL) 30-in. Cinema HD Display draws a rave review on size, brightness, and overall smart design—but quality comes at a price. NEC's MultiSync 20WMGX2 is easy to set up and has a built-in speaker system that helps reduce clutter. Not all monitors, of course, automatically are compatible with all computers, so buyers are advised to do a little homework before taking the plunge.

Click here for a rundown of BusinessWeek.com editors' reviews of the most notable LCD computer monitors.

Sager writes about technology in New York.

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