Last Updated on July 27, 2022 by Dave Farquhar
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.
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.
Caveats with the Dell 2001fp
Time marches on, and time hasn’t always been kind to the Dell 2001fp. When these monitors work, they’re great, but they’re getting harder to find and they don’t always age well.
Some of them can develop an issue where an internal cable degrades, and that causes a vertical stripe down the center of the display that can cause shimmering or other discoloration. Once that happens, there’s no known fix.
The 2001FP was especially nice because of its generous 20-inch size, 4×3 aspect ratio, and ability to accept composite inputs, not just RGB analog. Finding something newer that’s just as good is a tall order. Fortunately a number of lower end VGA only panels produced over the past decade or so can be made to work. I’ve been investigating some of those. The Dell E1912HF is one more recent example.
David Farquhar is a computer security professional, entrepreneur, and author. He started his career as a part-time computer technician in 1994, worked his way up to system administrator by 1997, and has specialized in vulnerability management since 2013. He invests in real estate on the side and his hobbies include O gauge trains, baseball cards, and retro computers and video games. A University of Missouri graduate, he holds CISSP and Security+ certifications. He lives in St. Louis with his family.
4 thoughts on “An LCD monitor for retro computing”
I realize this is an old post, but I have a clarifying question for you. What do you mean by this comment:
“Post-June 2005 Dell 2001fp monitors will still work with a 64, but the results aren’t as good.”
I purchased what I thought was a 2004 model and the seller sent me a July 2005 model. What differences might I see with respect to using this monitor with a C64?
From what I understand, the later model just doesn’t give as sharp of a picture. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a picture of a 64 with the later model so I can’t really describe the difference. I hope that helps?
I have some new information that may be of use to the next person to find this blog. I recently purchased a Dell 2001FP. I was initially told that it was a 2004 model, but they sent me a July 2005 model by mistake. They exchanged the unit once I told them of the mistake. As a result I had an opportunity to test both the 2004 and 2005 back-to-back.
With respect to the differences, I made two observations. The 2004 model had a crisper image. This was especially noticeable when increasing the “Sharpness” setting. A checkerboard pattern, which was visible on both monitors was also more noticeable on the 2005 model. Perhaps this has something to do with the 15 kHz synchronization you mentioned above.
Secondly, and more importantly, the “Scaling” setting (Settings > Image Setting > Scaling) on the 2005 model did not properly display the image when using either “1:1” or “Aspect” mode. In both cases, those options stretched the image into a panoramic view, in the latter case the full width of the screen.
On the 2004 model, the “Aspect” displayed the C64 image in a perfect 4:3 ratio, with black bands at the top and bottom. It’s possible that there may have been some defect with this pre-owned monitor that accounts for the discrepancies, but I think it’s more likely the result of the changes to the internal components.
Thank you. I expect many people will find your observations incredibly helpful.
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