I don’t have any strong opinions about monitors. None at all. I don’t have strong opinions about anything, but I especially don’t have strong opinions about monitors.
The reason for my overwhelmingly weak opinions about monitors is twofold. For one, I very rarely have hardware fail. When I do, it’s almost always a monitor, and it’s rarely cost-effective to repair one. The parts are costly, the hourly rates are costly, and in my experience, a monitor that’s failed once is likely to fail again anyway. So it pays to get it right the first time.
Second, your choice of memory type or CPU type or case design won’t affect your health. Low-quality keyboards and monitors will. Get a good monitor you don’t mind looking at. Your eyes will thank you for it.
I’ve seen some cheap monitors live long lives, but in my experience, the longest-lasting monitors come from NEC, Mitsubishi, and Hitachi. NEC and Mitsubishi use the same tubes these days, but I usually like the color on Mitsubishis a little better. Take the opportunity to go see the monitor in action. And then, when you get it home and unbox it, the first thing you need to do is check all the controls. Set your brightness and contrast to 50%. Ideally, the picture should look best when everything’s set to 50%. That never happens. But if you have to drift very far from 50% to get a good picture, especially on brightness and contrast, exchange it. That’s an indication of a weak tube. A concave picture is indicative of a failing power supply; you won’t see that very frequently in new monitors. If you do see it, get rid of it. When the power supply goes, you don’t want to have to deal with the smell.
Avoid supercheap monitors. The superstores sometimes offer no-name monitors at unbelievable prices. The picture may be acceptable, but the failure rate on them is usually fairly high, and in some cases, by the time the monitor dies, the manufacturer is out of business, so you’re out of luck on the warranty. That’s happened to several of my coworkers. A $149 19-inch monitor is no bargain if it fails in a few months and you can’t get it repaired under warranty. And even if you can, it’s an inconvenience you probably don’t need. You can buy an extended warranty, but by the time you pay for that, you might as well have bought an NEC.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any experience to share about flat panels. I find the flat panels on my laptop at work and my laptop at home easier on my eyes than a tube. The last time I bought a monitor, I could get a cheap 15-inch flat panel or a high-end 19-inch CRT for about the same price. I went with the CRT. That was about 15 months ago. Flat panel prices are comparable today to what they were then. CRT prices have dropped even more. Next time I’ll probably get the flat panel. I don’t know if it’s a wise choice or not, but I’ll probably buy a flat panel from NEC or Hitachi, since they make good conventional monitors. I don’t know if either company makes its own screens anymore, but at least I know the likelihood of the rest of the electronics being high-quality is good.
The appeal of a panel is undeniable. They don’t take up much space, they look fantastic, they don’t use much power, and they don’t give off much heat. One day I will give in.