An LCD monitor for retro computing

Purists prefer CRT monitors for a more authentic experience, but if you don’t mind an LCD, here’s a good LCD monitor for retro computing. Look for a Dell 2001fp manufactured in June 2005 or before. For bonus points, try to find one with a soundbar.

With any luck, you should be able to find one for under $60. Sometimes well under $60.

Here’s a Dell 2001fp monitor from early 2005 displaying the Kickstart boot prompt off an Amiga 500 that dates to around 1990.

The Dell 2001fp is nearly ideal for several reasons. One, it has composite and s-video connectors so you can connect computers like a Commodore 64 or VIC-20 to it. Secondly, it’s old enough that it still has the old-school 4:3 aspect ratio of CRTs. But thirdly, this monitor is able to sync down to 15 kHz, so a stock Amiga works with it. Yes, this means a cheap and common LCD 20″ monitor can substitute for a rare and expensive Amiga monitor. Commodore’s Amiga monitors all had design flaws that made them prone to unreliability as they aged, so this is a good thing. A decade-old Dell LCD stands a much better chance of having a long service life. Plus, there are still dozens of them for sale at any given time and nobody wants them for modern computers.

Why do I say nearly ideal? Well, especially with Amigas, sometimes you have to power-cycle the monitor to get it to sync up. Once it displays you’ll probably have to adjust the picture with the on-screen controls. But it will work. Most of the surviving Commodore monitors I’ve worked with require some fiddling to make them work too.

Post-June 2005 Dell 2001fp monitors will still work with a 64, but the results aren’t as good. They will not work with Amigas in VGA mode. Dell changed suppliers around that time and the newer panels don’t sync down to 15 kHz.

To recap: Look for a Dell 2001fp from June 2005 or earlier. And for Amiga use, get an Amiga-to-VGA adapter. This allows you to plug your Amiga straight into the Dell’s VGA port. No flicker fixer or scan doubler required. If your Amiga goes into a reboot loop with the monitor connected, power it on without the monitor and then hot-plug the monitor once the computer boots.

You’ll also want to get a 3.5mm female to RCA adapter to plug your computer’s audio into the speakers. Be sure the 3.5mm end has a female connector. Get male connectors on the RCA end for Amiga use; female for C-64 use.

For a C-64 video cable, you’ll get the best results with a Commodore-to-s-video cable. Be sure to examine the picture carefully to ensure it has the 8-pin DIN connector on one end and the mini-DIN s-video connector on the other end, along with an RCA plug for audio.

Many other monitors from the same era will work, both Dell and otherwise. So if you already have a source of these older monitors on hand, try them before you buy a 2001fp.

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