"Unblinded By The Black" by Troy H. Cheek on Sep 14, 2009
As I mentioned the other day, my KDS K22mdwb 22-inch LCD Multimedia Monitor died on me. Actually, it's still working (for suitably small values of 'working') in that it powers up, plays sounds out the speakers, the backlight comes on, and sometimes it displays images on the screen. Other times, it displays pure (or mostly pure) white, indicating that the LCD part isn't actually LCDing. Based on my research, this is due to the driver circuitry which can probably be fixed for not all that much more than the cost of a new monitor.
It's also been suggested that this can be caused by a failing power supply. I was told that all I needed to do is buy a new power brick and my monitor would be as good as new. Unfortunately, this monitor doesn't have an external power brick. The AC power cord runs straight from the wall to the back of the monitor. I could probably cut that part out and wire up a power brick, but again we're talking about spending lots of money (not to mention time and effort) on something that may not work anyway.
Instead, I ordered a Synaps 11010230Y3 24" Widescreen LCD Monitor with Speakers. This will hereafter be referred to as the new monitor, whereas the KDS will be referred to as the old monitor.
Both monitors have DVI (Digital Video Interface, maybe?) connectors, so I'm always getting a nice, sharp picture. Not that VGA on a LCD screen is all that bad, but once you're used to full digital, the tiniest little flaws tend to jump out at you. My 19" backup LCD has only VGA input and I could really tell the difference, what with the occasional colored fringe and all.
The old monitor was 22" at 1680x1050, which is 16:10. The new monitor is 24" at 1920x1080, which is 16:9. My previous monitor was 19" at something that was about 4:3. I'd put off going to widescreen until I found the 22" 16:10 monitor because it was as tall as the 19" 4:3. That way, I didn't feel like I was losing anything. I could imagine I still had the old 4:3 I was used to with a little extra on each side. Likewise, the new monitor is a little larger than the old one, so it's again just as tall and just a little bit wider than what I'm used to. 1920 is, by the way, three times as wide as 640, which was how wide my first monitor was. The 1080 is more than twice the 480 height of my first monitor.
And since most programs are still designed to operate at a minimum of 640x480, that means I can line up six windows (2 rows of 3) and multitask with the best of them. Usually, though, I'll have video playing in the leftmost third of the screen with a web browser on the right two thirds, or maybe video on the left half and a windowed game on the right half.
I've also got that backup monitor. The theory was that I'd put video on it and use the main screen for work, or whatever, but the huge real estate of the widescreen monitors is such that I never seem to need to.
Once I got the new monitor, I installed it. Thanks to recent experience in switching from the old monitor to the backup and back a few times, it wasn't too hard at all to convince Windows XP that the new monitor existed, that I actually wanted to use it, and that I wanted it to be my primary monitor. Why Windows actually needs convinced of these things, I don't know. For some reason, the defaults are always the exact opposite of whatever I'm trying to do. If I have an existing monitor and want to add another as a secondary, Windows always assumes the new one is primary. If I want to add a new one as primary, Windows always considers it secondary. Go figure.
I was also lucky enough to remember which port my video card believes is primary, so my main monitor will show the boot sequence and other stuff prior to Windows taking over. Sometimes, if the monitor connected to this port isn't powered on when the computer is, the video card never seems to send video to either port and I end up rebooting.
The next step was the dreaded "update the video drivers" portion of the show. We are all, of course, encouraged to update drivers early and often. I tend to only update mine if something goes wrong or, in this case, if I add new hardware. Typically, I buy new hardware, locate the latest drivers, install them, find that they don't work, then reinstall the old drivers. In fact, I keep two or three sets of older drivers on hand just in case.
This time, I installed the newest drivers and, wonder of wonders, the computer actually booted into Windows without an endless crash and reboot cycle. I was even able to play a few of my newer graphics-intensive games. Most importantly, I was able to fire up the DVR software and watch recorded video. That was pretty much always the show stopper with previous versions. I can still blue screen the sucker by trying to watch video as it's being recorded, but I hardly ever do that anyway. I mean, the whole point of a DVR is recording stuff to watch later.
The speakers on the old monitor were never quite loud enough, even at maximum settings according to the onscreen display. I'd have to crank all the volume controls up to maximum. Even then, I was telling the audio drivers to amplify, gain, and pump up the volume. I was beginning to think I had a problem with the audio coming from the computer.
With the new monitor, the first thing I had to do was tell the audio drivers to knock it off. I then had to dial back most of the volume controls. Even then, I ended up turning the volume on the monitor itself down to 20%.
An additional problem was that while the sound from the old monitor always seemed a little bit tinny, the sound from the new monitor was basso profundo. You could feel the table shaking. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing, but the total lack of high end made everything seem dull and muffled. I was just about to crate up the new monitor and ship it back when I remembered the audio drivers. Telling the equalizer that I wanted "treble" brought all the sounds back to normal. I have no idea why this was necessary, but it worked, so I'm happy.
Ideally, some day I'm going to dig out my old amplified speakers and hook them up. Once I dig all the pecans out of the subwoofer. Stupid mice.
In the mean time, I'm enjoying Firefox's "zoom" feature, as the smallest fonts on most websites are now too small for my tired old eyes. Every time in the past, when I've gotten a monitor with finer pixels, I've eventually adjusted and grown to love the higher resolution. We shall see if that happens again.