Get the most out of your computer's LCD
May 17, 2008, 11:36 GMT
Washington - You spend a lot of time staring at your computer's liquid crystal display (LCD). That's why you owe it to yourself to ensure that your LCD is giving you the best picture that it can. There's no reason to put up with inaccurate colour, stuck or dead pixels, and glare - all fairly common problems with LCDs. With some know-how and a few widely available tools, you can address or eliminate these issues and increase your enjoyment of your LCD.
--- Make the connection
Before making any adjustments to your LCD, make sure that your computer is sending it the very best signal that it can. Most LCDs today can hook up to a computer using either of two different connectors: a digital video interface (DVI) cable or a standard VGA cable. Always choose the DVI cable, when you have a choice, because with a VGA connection the digital signal from your graphics card gets converted into an analog signal for display on your LCD. With a DVI connection, no conversion takes place. The result is better performance and potentially a clearer image. You'll also be able to take advantage of image-enhancing technologies built in to software that are available only to those who are using a DVI connection.
Also, if your graphics card happens to be the older AGP type, you can make sure it's operating at its peak by ensuring that its speed is properly accounted for in your computer's setup program, typically known as the BIOS. You can usually access your PC's BIOS by pressing a key - often Del or F2 - when you computer first boots up.
In the BIOS, you'll see an option called AGP Mode. Adjust this so that it matches your AGP graphics card's speed value - designated as 2X, 4X, or 8X. Be sure you know the card's 'x' factor before you change any values in the BIOS. Most AGP cards sold today are either 4X, 8X, or 4X/8X. In the case of the latter two, you could use the '8X' value. Also, if you have an AGP Fast Write option, be sure this is enabled if your graphics card is not overclocked. Fast Write speeds up the graphics card's communication with your computer. Be careful when digging around in the BIOS, though, as changing the wrong setting could cause trouble.
--- Adjust the settings
Many people never make any adjustments to their LCD monitor's brightness, contrast, or colour settings. That's a mistake, especially if the monitor will be used for any work that depends upon the accuracy of colour representation - such as editing digital images or videos.
Contrast and brightness are the easiest settings to adjust. Most LCDs today come with the contrast set to 50 per cent and the brightness at 100 per cent. The result is a tremendously bright display that looks good in the showroom but is way too bright - and inaccurate - for most of the lighting conditions under which people tend to work.
To accurately adjust contrast and brightness, you need some kind of chart or tool that allows you to adjust your LCD settings for optimum viewing. The free Monitor Tester for Windows (http://winsite.com/bin/Info?9500000036202) provides a test pattern as well as instructions for adjusting your image so you see images accurately. DisplayMate (http://www.displaymate.com/products.html) offers a similar product that provides more hand-holding, but it costs about 69 dollars.
If you plan to edit digital photographs or video on your LCD, skip the two products mentioned above and go directly to a calibration tool, such as XRite's EyeOne Display (http://www.xrite.com/product_overview.aspx?ID=846) or the Spyder colour calibration system (http://spyder.datacolour.com/product-mc-s3elite.php). Both products include a hardware device that sits on your monitor during calibration and communicates with testing software, providing you with the most accurate way of arriving at a perfect monitor adjustment using objective colour standards. Both products are around 100 dollars.
--- Fix dead or stuck pixels
A dead pixel is one that doesn't light. The colour of a stuck pixel never changes. Both are defects that are fairly common on LCD displays. Even worse, most manufacturers have a 'stuck pixel' policy, which usually states that a monitor cannot be returned because of stuck or dead pixels unless those pixels reach a certain number.
But if your LCD has dead or stuck pixels, there are free utilities that you can turn to that might help. Most of these work on the principal that bad pixels can occasionally be shocked back into action by having your graphics card repeatedly send a signal to them in rapid succession. The flashing pattern on Killdeadpixel.com (http://www.killdeadpixel.com), for example, is intended to be placed in the area where a dead or stuck pixel exists. You let the pattern sit in that area for an hour or more to see whether the bad pixel can be jumpstarted.
Installable programs that work in a similar way are also available. Try Dead Pixel Repair (http://udpix.free.fr/index.php?p=dl), which works under all recent versions of Windows.
If you have the opportunity to try out an LCD before buying it or keeping it, it's a good idea to run a pixel tester on the screen. LCD PixelsOK is a free testing tool that will enable you easily to see stuck or dead pixels.
--- Got glare?
Glossy LCDs are common these days. While these screens are great for watching videos, those who just want to get some work done often complain that they enhance glare, which can be distracting and cause eye strain. If you have such an LCD, consider using an anti-glare filter or screen. Now widely available at computer stores from manufacturers such as 3M and Fellowes, these anti-glare screens are lightweight, inexpensive, and easy to clip on the front of your monitor. They can not only reduce glare but also enhance the quality of the images displayed on your LCD.© Deutsche Presse-Agentur