A monitor or display (sometimes called a visual display unit) is an electronic visual display for computers. The monitor comprises the display device, circuitry, and an enclosure. The display device in modern monitors is typically a thin film transistor liquid crystal display (TFT-LCD) thin panel, while older monitors use a cathodic ray tube about as deep as the screen size (Dell XPS M1210 Battery) .
Originally computer monitors were used for data processing and television receivers for entertainment; increasingly computers are being used both for data processing and entertainment. Displays exclusively for data use tend to have an aspect ratio of 4:3; those used also (or solely) for entertainment are usually 16:9 widescreen, Sometimes a compromise is used, e.g. 16:10 (Dell Studio XPS 1340 Battery) .
Main articles: Viewable image size and Computer display standard
For any rectangular section on a round tube, the diagonal measurement is also the diameter of the tube
The area of displays with identical diagonal measurements can vary substantially (Dell Studio XPS 1640 Battery)
The size of an approximately rectangular display is usually given as the distance between two opposite screen corners, that is, the diagonal of the rectangle. One problem with this method is that it does not take into account the display aspect ratio, so that for example a 16:9 21 in (53 cm) widescreen display is far less high, and has less area, than a 21 in (53 cm) 4:3 screen. The 4:3 screen has dimensions of 16.8 × 12.6 in (43 × 32 cm) and area 211 sq in (1,360 cm2), while the widescreen is 18.3 × 10.3 in (46 × 26 cm), 188 sq in (1,210 cm2) (Dell Vostro 1710 Battery) .
For many purposes the height of the display is the main parameter; a 16:9 display needs a diagonal 22% larger than a 4:3 display for the same height.
This method of measurement is inherited from the method used for the first generation of CRT television, when picture tubes with circular faces were in common use. Being circular, only their diameter was needed to describe their size (ASUS EEE PC900 battery) .
Since these circular tubes were used to display rectangular images, the diagonal measurement of the rectangle was equivalent to the diameter of the tube's face. This method continued even when cathode ray tubes were manufactured as rounded rectangles; it had the advantage of being a single number specifying the size, and was not confusing when the aspect ratio was universally 4:3 (Dell RM791 battery) .
A problematic practice was the use of the size of a monitor's imaging element, rather than the size of its viewable image, when describing its size in publicity and advertising materials. On CRT displays a substantial portion of the CRT's screen is concealed behind the case's bezel or shroud in order to hide areas outside the monitor's "safe area" due to overscan. These practices were seen as deceptive, and widespread consumer objection and lawsuits eventually forced most manufacturers to instead measure viewable size (Sony VGP-BPS13 battery) .
The performance of a monitor is measured by the following parameters:
Luminance is measured in candelas per square meter (cd/m2 also called a Nit).
Viewable image size is measured diagonally. For CRTs, the viewable size is typically 1 in (25 mm) smaller than the tube itself (sony vgp-bpl9 battery) .
Aspect ratios is the ratio of the horizontal length to the vertical length. 4:3 is the standard aspect ratio, for example, so that a screen with a width of 1024 pixels will have a height of 768 pixels. If a widescreen display has an aspect ratio of 16:9, a display that is 1024 pixels wide will have a height of 576 pixels (Sony VGP-BPL11 battery) .
Display resolution is the number of distinct pixels in each dimension that can be displayed. Maximum resolution is limited by dot pitch.
Dot pitch is the distance between subpixels of the same color in millimeters. In general, the smaller the dot pitch, the sharper the picture will appear (Sony VGP-BPL15 battery) .
Refresh rate is the number of times in a second that a display is illuminated. Maximum refresh rate is limited by response time.
Response time is the time a pixel in a monitor takes to go from active (black) to inactive (white) and back to active (black) again, measured in milliseconds. Lower numbers mean faster transitions and therefore fewer visible image artifacts.
Contrast ratio is the ratio of the luminosity of the brightest color (white) to that of the darkest color (black) that the monitor is capable of producing (Dell Inspiron E1505 battery ) .
Power consumption is measured in watts.
Viewing angle is the maximum angle at which images on the monitor can be viewed, without excessive degradation to the image. It is measured in degrees horizontally and vertically (Dell Latitude E6400 battery) .
High dynamic range (up to around 15,000:1), excellent color, wide gamut and low black level.
Can display natively in almost any resolution and refresh rate (HP Pavilion dv6000 Battery)
No input lag
Sub-millisecond response times
Near zero color, saturation, contrast or brightness distortion. Excellent viewing angle.
Usually much cheaper than LCD or Plasma screens.
Allows the use of light guns/pens (Hp Pavilion dv3-1000 battery)
Large size and weight, especially for bigger screens (a 20-inch unit weighs about 50 lb (23 kg))
High power consumption
Generates a considerable amount of heat when running
Geometric distortion caused by variable beam travel distances (Dell Precision M70 Battery)
Can suffer screen burn-in
Produces noticeable flicker at low refresh rates
Normally only produced in 4:3 aspect ratio
Hazardous to repair/service
Effective vertical resolution limited to 1024 scan lines (Acer Aspire One battery) .
Color displays cannot be made in sizes smaller than 7 inches (5 inches for monochrome). Maximum size is 21 inches (for computer monitors; televisions run up to 40 inches).
Very compact and light (Toshiba Satellite L305 Battery)
Low power consumption
No geometric distortion
Little or no flicker depending on backlight technology
Not affected by screen burn-in
No high voltage or other hazards present during repair/service (Toshiba Satellite Pro M15 Battery)
More reliable than CRTs
Can be made in almost any size or shape
No theoretical resolution limit
Limited viewing angle, causing color, saturation, contrast and brightness to vary, even within the intended viewing angle, by variations in posture (Toshiba Satellite M65 battery) .
Bleeding and uneven backlighting in some monitors, causing brightness distortion, especially toward the edges.
Slow response times, which cause smearing and ghosting artifacts. Modern LCDs have response times of 8 ms or less.
Only one native resolution. Displaying resolutions either requires a video scaler, lowering perceptual quality, or display at 1:1 pixel mapping, in which images will be physically too large or won't fill the whole screen (Toshiba Satellite T4900 Battery) .
Fixed bit depth, many cheaper LCDs are only able to display 262,000 colors. 8-bit S-IPS panels can display 16 million colors and have significantly better black level, but are expensive and have slower response time
Dead pixels may occur either during manufacturing or through use (Toshiba PA3399U-2BRS battery) .
In a constant on situation, thermalization may occur, which is when only part of the screen has overheated and therefore looks discolored compared to the rest of the screen.
Not all LCD displays are designed to allow easy replacement of the backlight
Cannot be used with light guns/pens (Toshiba Satellite A200 Battery)
Main article: Plasma display
High contrast ratios (10,000:1 or greater,) excellent color, wide gamut and low black level.
High speed response.
Near zero color, saturation, contrast or brightness distortion. Excellent viewing angle.
No geometric distortion (Toshiba Satellite 1200 Battery) .
Softer and less blocky-looking picture than LCDs
Highly scalable, with less weight gain per increase in size (from less than 30 in (760 mm) wide to the world's largest at 150 in (3,800 mm)).
Large pixel pitch, meaning either low resolution or a large screen (Toshiba NB100 Battery) .
Color plasma displays cannot be made in sizes under 32 inches
Noticeable flicker when viewed at close range
Glass screen can induce glare and reflections
High operating temperature and power consumption (Toshiba Satellite M300 Battery)
Only has one native resolution. Displaying other resolutions requires a video scaler, which degrades image quality at lower resolutions.
Fixed bit depth
Can suffer image burn-in. This was a severe problem on early plasma displays, but much less on newer ones
Cannot be used with light guns/pens (Dell INSPIRON 1525 battery)
Dead pixels are possible during manufacturing
Phosphor burn-in is localized aging of the phosphor layer of a CRT screen where it has displayed a static image for long periods of time. This results in a faint permanent image on the screen, even when turned off. In severe cases, it can even be possible to read some of the text, though this only occurs where the displayed text remained the same for years (SONY VAIO VGN-FZ280E Battery) .
Burn-in is most commonly seen in the following applications:
Security monitors (SONY VAIO VGN-FZ410 Battery)
Screen savers were developed as a means to avoid burn-in, which was a widespread problem on IBM Personal Computer monochrome monitors in the 1980s. Monochrome displays are generally more vulnerable to burn-in because the phosphor is directly exposed to the electron beam while in color displays, the shadow mask provides some protection. Although still found on newer computers, screen savers are not necessary on LCD monitors (SONY VAIO VGN-FZ160 Battery) .
Phosphor burn-in can be "fixed" by running a CRT with the brightness at 100% for several hours, but this merely hides the damage by burning all the phosphor evenly. CRT rebuilders can repair monochrome displays by cutting the front of the picture tube off, scraping out the damaged phosphor, replacing it, and resealing the tube. Color displays cannot be repaired (SONY VAIO VGN-FZ38M Battery) .
Burn-in re-emerged as an issue with early plasma displays, which are more vulnerable to this than CRTs. Screen savers with moving images may be used with these to minimize localized burn. Periodic change of the color scheme in use also helps (SONY VAIO VGN-FZ21m Battery) .
Glare is a problem caused by the relationship between lighting and screen or by using monitors in bright sunlight. Matte finish LCDs and flat screen CRTs are less prone to reflected glare than conventional curved CRTs or glossy LCDs, and aperture grille CRTs, which are curved on one axis only and are less prone to it than other CRTs curved on both axes (SONY VAIO VGN-FZ18m Battery) .
If the problem persists despite moving the monitor or adjusting lighting, a filter using a mesh of very fine black wires may be placed on the screen to reduce glare and improve contrast. These filters were popular in the late 1980s. They do also reduce light output.
A filter above will only work against reflective glare; direct glare (such as sunlight) will completely wash out most monitors' internal lighting, and can only be dealt with by use of a hood or transreflective LCD (SONY VAIO VGN-FZ11m Battery) .
With exceptions of correctly aligned video projectors and stacked LEDs, most display technologies, especially LCD, have an inherent misregistration of the color channels, that is, the centers of the red, green, and blue dots do not line up perfectly. Sub-pixel rendering depends on this misalignment; technologies making use of this include the Apple II from 1976 , and more recently Microsoft (ClearType, 1998) and XFree86 (X Rendering Extension) (SONY VAIO VGN-FZ11z Battery) .
RGB displays produce most of the visible color spectrum, but not all. This can be a problem where good color matching to non-RGB images is needed. This issue is common to all monitor technologies with three color channels (SONY VAIO VGN-FZ11l Battery) .
Main article: Computer terminal
Early CRT-based VDUs (Visual Display Units) such as the DEC VT05 without graphics capabilities gained the label glass teletypes, because of the functional similarity to their electromechanical predecessors (SONY VAIO VGN-FZ31z Battery) .
Some historic computers had no screen display, using a teletype, modified electric typewriter, or printer instead.
Early home computers such as the Apple II and the Commodore 64 used a composite signal output to drive a TV or color composite monitor (a TV with no tuner). This resulted in degraded resolution due to compromises in the broadcast TV standards used. This method is still used with video game consoles. The Commodore monitor had S-Video input to improve resolution, but this was not common on televisions until the event of HDTV (Sony VGN-FW11S Battery) .
Early digital monitors are sometimes known as TTLs because the voltages on the red, green, and blue inputs are compatible with TTL logic chips. Later digital monitors support LVDS, or TMDS protocols (Sony VGP-BPS13B/B Battery) .
IBM PC with green monochrome display.
Monitors used with the MDA, Hercules, CGA, and EGA graphics adapters used in early IBM PC's (Personal Computer) and clones were controlled via TTL logic. Such monitors can usually be identified by a male DB-9 connector used on the video cable (Toshiba Satellite P10 Battery) .
The disadvantage of TTL monitors was the limited number of colors available due to the low number of digital bits used for video signaling .
Modern monochrome monitors use the same 15-pin SVGA connector as standard color monitors. They are capable of displaying 32-bit grayscale at 1024x768 resolution, making them able to interface with modern computers (SONY VAIO VGN-FZ210CE Battery) .
TTL Monochrome monitors only made use of five out of the nine pins. One pin was used as a ground, and two pins were used for horizontal/vertical synchronization. The electron gun was controlled by two separate digital signals, a video bit, and an intensity bit to control the brightness of the drawn pixels. Only four shades were possible; black, dim, medium or bright (Hp pavilion dv6000 battery) .
CGA monitors used four digital signals to control the three electron guns used in color CRTs, in a signaling method known as RGBI, or Red Green and Blue, plus Intensity. Each of the three RGB colors can be switched on or off independently. The intensity bit increases the brightness of all guns that are switched on, or if no colors are switched on the intensity bit will switch on all guns at a very low brightness to produce a dark grey (Sony VGN-FW11S Battery_) .
A CGA monitor is only capable of rendering 16 colors. The CGA monitor was not exclusively used by PC based hardware. The Commodore 128 could also utilize CGA monitors. Many CGA monitors were capable of displaying composite video via a separate jack.
EGA monitors used six digital signals to control the three electron guns in a signaling method known as RrGgBb. Unlike CGA, each gun is allocated its own intensity bit. This allowed each of the three primary colors to have four different states (off, soft, medium, and bright) resulting in 64 colors (Dell Studio 1555 Battery) .
Although not supported in the original IBM specification, many vendors of clone graphics adapters have implemented backwards monitor compatibility and auto detection. For example, EGA cards produced by Paradise could operate as an MDA, or CGA adapter if a monochrome or CGA monitor was used in place of an EGA monitor. Many CGA cards were also capable of operating as MDA or Hercules card if a monochrome monitor was used (Dell Vostro 1720 Battery) .
Single color screens
Green and amber phosphors were used on most monochrome displays in the 1970s and 1980s. White was uncommon because it was more expensive to manufacture, although Apple used it on the Lisa and early Macintoshes (Dell Vostro 1500 Battery) .
Most modern computer displays can show the various colors of the RGB color space by changing red, green, and blue analog video signals in continuously variable intensities. These are almost exclusively progressive scan. Although televisions used an interlaced picture, this was too flickery for computer use. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, some VGA-compatible video cards in PCs used interlacing to achieve higher resolution, but the event of SVGA quickly put an end to them (Dell Latitude D830 Battery) .
While many early plasma and liquid crystal displays have exclusively analog connections, all signals in such monitors pass through a completely digital section prior to display.
While many similar connectors (13W3, BNC, etc…) were used on other platforms, the IBM PC and compatible systems standardized on the VGA connector in 1987 (Dell Latitude D620 Battery) .
CRTs remained the standard for computer monitors through the 1990s. The first standalone LCD displays appeared in the early 2000s and over the next few years, they gradually displaced CRTs for most applications. First-generation LCD monitors were only produced in 4:3 aspect ratios, but current models are generally 16:9. The older 4:3 monitors have been largely relegated to point-of-service and some other applications where widescreen is not required (SONY VAIO VGN-FZ150E Battery) .
Digital and analog combination
The first popular external digital monitor connectors, such as DVI-I and the various breakout connectors based on it, included both analog signals compatible with VGA and digital signals compatible with new flat-screen displays in the same connector. Older 4:3 LCD monitors had only VGA inputs, but the newer 16:9 models have added DVI (Dell Studio 1735 Battery) .
Monitors are being made which have only a digital video interface. Some digital display standards, such as HDMI and DisplayPort, also specify integrated audio and data connections. Many of these standards enforce DRM, a system intended to deter copying of entertainment content (Dell Inspiron 300M Battery) .
Configuration and usage
Main article: Multi-monitor
More than one monitor can be attached to the same device. Each display can operate in two basic configurations (Dell Studio 1737 battery) :
The simpler of the two is mirroring (sometimes cloning,) in which at least two displays are showing the same image. It is commonly used for presentations. Hardware with only one video output can be tricked into doing this with an external splitter device, commonly built into many video projectors as a pass through connection (Dell XPS M1530 battery) .
The more sophisticated of the two, extension allows each monitor to display a different image, so as to form a contiguous area of arbitrary shape. This requires software support and extra hardware, and may be locked out on "low end" products by crippleware.
Primitive software is incapable of recognizing multiple displays, so spanning must be used, in which case a very large virtual display is created, and then pieces are split into multiple video outputs for separate monitors (Dell XPS M2010 battery) .
Hardware with only one video output can be made to do this with an expensive external splitter device, this is most often used for very large composite displays made from many smaller monitors placed edge to edge (Dell Vostro 1000 battery) .
Multiple video sources
Multiple devices can be connected to the same monitor using a video switch. In the case of computers, this usually takes the form of a "Keyboard Video Mouse switch" (KVM) switch, which is designed to switch all of the user interface devices for a workstation between different computers at once (HP Pavilion dv9000 battery) .
Main article: Virtual desktop
Screenshot of workspaces layed out by Compiz
Much software and video hardware supports the ability to create additional, virtual pieces of desktop, commonly known as workspaces. Spaces is Apple's implementation of virtual displays (Hp 520 battery) .
Most modern monitors will switch to a power-saving mode if no video-input signal is received. This allows modern operating systems to turn off a monitor after a specified period of inactivity. This also extends the monitor's service life (SONY VGP-BPS13 Battery) .
Some monitors will also switch themselves off after a time period on standby.
Most modern laptops provide a method of screen dimming after periods of inactivity or when the battery is in use. This extends battery life and reduces wear (SONY VAIO VGN-FZ Battery) .
Many monitors have other accessories (or connections for them) integrated. This places standard ports within easy reach and eliminates the need for another separate hub, camera, microphone, or set of speakers (Dell RM791 battery) .
Main article: Glossy display
Some displays, especially newer LCD monitors, replace the traditional anti-glare matte finish with a glossy one. This increases saturation and sharpness but reflections from lights and windows are very visible (Toshiba Portege R200 Battery) .
Narrow viewing angle screens are used in some security conscious applications.
Main article: Autostereoscopy
A directional screen which generates 3D images without headgear (Toshiba Satellite M60 battery) .
These monitors use touching of the screen as an input method. Items can be selected or moved with a finger, and finger gestures may be used to convey commands. The screen will need frequent cleaning due to image degradation from fingerprints.
Tablet screens (Dell Vostro 1400 Battery)
Main article: Graphics tablet/screen hybrid
A combination of a monitor with a graphics tablet. Such devices are typically unresponsive to touch without the use of one or more special tools' pressure. Newer models however are now able to detect touch from any pressure and often have the ability to detect tilt and rotation as well.
Touch and tablet screens are used on LCD displays as a substitute for the light pen, which can only work on CRTs (HP Pavilion DV7 Battery) .