"Switched to Widescreen" by Troy H. Cheek on Feb 05, 2007
As you may remember from last week, I ordered a new computer monitor on a Friday, expecting it to arrive the following Monday or Tuesday as the website said that ground shipping taking 2-3 business days. But it seemed that the order came in too late Friday and Saturday isn't a business day, so it wasn't shipped until Tuesday when the website said that ground shipping takes 3-5 business days. I naturally wrote an article on Thursday saying that I was upset about the whole thing.
The monitor arrived on Friday.
To recap, my old $300 19" CRT monitor was getting fuzzy (and not in a good way) which caused me to squint a lot (bad for my eyes) and move in closer (bad for my posture), so I replaced it with a $300 BenQ 1920B 19" LCD monitor. This thing has a native resolution of 1280x1024. I immediately cranked it down to 1024x768 because the fonts and icons were so small that I couldn't see them. I know, that kills the whole idea of a high resolution LCD monitor right there. What can I say? I was young and foolish then. (I'm old and foolish now.)
Well, after years of faithful service, occasionally backed up by the 19" CRT in glorious nVidia Dualview action, the BenQ started getting a little dim. I'm guessing it was the backlight wearing out. There was also one (1) dead pixel. Sure, it took me months to notice it, but once I did, I kept noticing it all the time. It got so I was moving windows around all the time so the little dark spot wouldn't have a white background behind it.
It was time for a change. Enter the $300 KDS K22mdwb 22-inch LCD Multimedia Monitor, Black. 'K' because it's made by KDS. '22' for 22 inches. 'm' is multimedia. 'd' is display. That 'w' means that it's w_i_d_e_s_c_r_e_e_n or, in computer terms, a 16:10 aspect ratio. The native resolution is 1680x1050, which seems really weird to me, but a quick internet search reveals it is fairly common. 'b' means it's black. Sure, all my other components are white, grey, off-white, or a shade of "used to be white but I'll never get it that clean again so we'll just pretend that's the original color" white, but black monitors look cool anyway.
The K22mdwb comes complete with a FedEd-damaged box (I took pictures before opening as a precaution), monitor, stand, audio patch cord, analog VGA video cable, and a skimpy little manual.
The first thing that irked me was that it shipped with an analog monitor cable and not a digital one. I'm no expert, but I do know that I paid extra for a video card ("Bloody Monster" nVidia GeForce FX 5700LE) with digital output just so I could later match it up with a digital display. Of course, by the time I got around to buying my first digital display, I'd forgotten the video card had that capability, so I made sure the BenQ LCD had analog input. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw a second set of connectors, digital connectors, that matched up. I bought the KDS widescreen knowing that it had digital input but hardly noticing that it accepted analog as well. I figured that it would ship with a cable or cables, but it never occurred to me that if it shipped with only one cable, it would be analog instead of digital.
Luckily, I had a couple of extra DVI-D (DVI Digital) Single Link cables laying around. A guy at work was throwing them away because he couldn't figure out what they connected to. I didn't tell him.
The second thing that irked me was that the monitor had a little sticker on the bezel telling me that it was HDCP compatible or something like that. I don't remember. I barely read it before pulling it off.
I do not exaggerate when I say that I worked for four (4) hours trying to get my video card and my two monitors (old 19" LCD and new 22" widescreen LCD) to cooperate. The nVidia GeForce FX 5700LE has two video outputs, a digital and an analog, which I had been using to run my 19" LCD on the digital and my 19" CRT on the analog. Now, I was trying to run the 22" widescreen LCD on the digital and the 19" LCD on the analog. This mostly worked straight off the bat, in that I could get video on at least one of the monitors. But it was like pulling teeth to convince Windows that the new 22" monitor was monitor 1 and the main monitor, while the old 19" was monitor 2 and off to the right.
First time I thought I had it right, I booted up and got no video on either monitor. That was fun.
However, I eventually got it to the point where every time I booted, Windows popped up on the new monitor, newly opened windows defaulted to the new monitor, and I could extend my desktop to the old monitor or not at my discretion. The only persistent problem I seem to have now is that when I try to play video on the secondary monitor, it gets mirrored on the primary one. With the old setup, I'd leave video running on the secondary while I "worked" on the primary. Of course, with the widescreen, I've got room to leave video running on the primary.
Initial impression of the 22" widescreen LCD monitor? Everything is too damned small at 1680x1050! I, of course, immediately tried to crank down the resolution and was faced with an excess of choices. None looked very good. The only other resolution with a 16:10 aspect ration I could find was 1440x900, which wasn't small enough to do me much good, and none of the scaling options worked very well. Okay, so native resolution it is.
I had never really paid much attention to the Appearance tab in Display Properties, but apparently you can do a lot more than just pick a disgusting color scheme. After a few hours of playing around, I found High Contrast Black. After a few minor tweaks with font sizes, I had something I could live with. I'm sure I'll change it again by the time you read this.
One of the reasons I hadn't switched to a widescreen monitor before was that I didn't want to give up any screen height. My 19" LCD monitor has a display that measures very roughly 15"x12". The 19" widescreen monitors I looked at were smaller vertically, something like 10". This 22" widescreen LCD, however, has a display something like 19"x12". That gives me a couple extra inches on each side compared to the old monitor, so I don't feel like I'm giving anything up to get the widescreen.
The backlight, by the way, works fine. I can light up the whole room with it.
Gaming is a bit problematical, as most of the games I like to play apparently just use 640x480 resolution which is scaled up to fill the monitor. 640x480 is a 4:3 resolution, so things look a little squashed on a 16:10 screen. I haven't figured out a combination of monitor and video card settings which will scaled the image while leaving the aspect ration the same. I have been able to get OpenArena to run in widescreen, which gives me a little bit of an advantage when people try to sneak up on me.
The final test, of course, was widescreen video. After all, I'd be perfectly happy with plain old 4:3 monitors if the TV shows, movies, and internet video I was watching all the time was also 4:3. But, nooooo, somebody decided that everything has to be 16:9 or wider nowadays. Widescreen video looks wonderful, but only if the original video looked good. Between the scaling of the old monitor and the scaling of the video player, I was averaging out a lot of the faults in the videos I was watching. With the monitor at full resolution and in the proper aspect ratio, I can see every individual pixel of the video. A lot of famous Hollywood faces have warts that I never noticed before. But, still, if the video was good when it started, it's great on my new widescreen monitor.
Now, to figure out why the icons in the system tray look like impressionist paintings.