What Is A Monitor? Types Of Monitors Explained


This article aims to demystify the world of monitors by providing a concise overview of their functions, features, and the distinct categories that cater to different preferences and applications. Understanding the diverse array of monitors available is crucial for making informed decisions when selecting the right display for specific needs.

What Is A Monitor?

A monitor is an electronic that displays information on a screen or other display device. It’s an output peripheral that graphically displays the computer’s processed data, making it easier for users to interact with the system.

It’s essentially a vital communication link between the user and the computer, acting as an electronic output device that displays video content. Whether viewing photos, watching movies, or playing games, the monitor greatly enriches our digital life, making it a key component of modern technology.

This lets you view the display interface to interact with the computer using various peripherals like a mouse or keyboard from output devices like graphics cards.

Types of monitors and what a monitor is.

Different types of monitors and how they work

Knowing about the different ones is beneficial to understand better what a monitor is.

Now that we know that a monitor is an output peripheral that graphically displays the computer’s data or processed output video signal, we can see how they differ.

Display technology in various applications has evolved, sharing the same base technology.

Both the television and computer screen started using the vacuum CRT (Cathode Ray Tube).

CRT

An example of a CRT computer monitor.

This type of monitor requires more power and electronics to operate. A lot of the analog circuitry was cumbersome and took up a lot of space with a small screen by today’s standards.

How they work depends on the type of CRT components and how they work together to deliver a similar result.

The complete outline of how a CRT monitor works would be a full article, so I will try to keep this as brief as possible.

A CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) monitor takes the information from the various electronic PCBs that have processed the incoming signal from the computer’s display card.

From there, processing and splitting up the colors with a signal sent to the CRT tube base board connected to the back of the CRT tube.

Electron guns for each color fire electrons onto a phosphorous area for the specific color related to it.

Impractical aspects

The CRT requires a certain distance between the screen area and the electron guns at the end of the neck, leading to a part of the heavy space requirements.

So, apart from being heavy, bulky, and harsh on your eyes, they have a decent viewing angle.

The other obvious downfall is that they couldn’t be used for a laptop.

Common CRT resolutions

Here are some of the common resolutions for CRT monitors based on display size:

CRT Monitor SizeCommon Resolution in Pixels
17 Inch (4:3 Aspect Ratio)800 x 600
19 Inch (4:3 Aspect Ratio)1280 x 1024
20 Inch (4:3 Aspect Ratio)1600 x 1200
20 – 22 Inch Widescreen (16:10 Aspect Ratio)1680 x 1050
24 Inch Widescreen (16:10 Aspect Ratio)1920 x 1200

Computer monitor burn

CRTs are well known to have fixed display elements from the computer that burn into the phosphor coating inside it eventually.

Some LCD screens aren’t impervious to it but are far less common than CRTs. This inspired the birth of the screen saver back in the day.

The screen saver displayed graphics that moved around on the monitor to avoid screen burn-in.

LCD or TFT

An LCD monitor rendering.

LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) Monitors replaced the CRT. Initially, they had performance issues with response times, but eventually, those problems were solved.

Liquid crystal molecules are placed between two electrodes. The electrical charge applied to the electrodes determines the amount of light that can pass through the liquid crystal molecules.

LCD Monitors require backlighting to illuminate the image for us to see. This backlighting technology has also undergone some revolutionary changes.

In the beginning, CFL(Compact Fluorescent Lamps) was used. Inverters were used to step up the voltage to power them up and became a common component that failed over time.

Thankfully, the CFLs were replaced with LEDs. This made LCDs way more reliable.

We will go into the various backlight technologies further down in this article.

Common Active Matrix LCD monitor panel types:

IPS Panels

In-plane switching panels were created to solve the poor viewing angles and low-quality color of the TN panels.

They are more commonly used in professional environments because of the refresh rates, but this monitor panel type isn’t best for gaming.

But when it comes to image quality, it delivers great results. And, it comes with a little extra on the price.

The response times are faster than VA panels but slower than TN panels.

TN Panels

Twisted Nematic panels are the most commonly purchased by consumers. They deliver reasonable response times at a reasonable price.

Common LCD monitor styles

There are different styles of LCD monitors that are designed for use in different industries.

  • Rackmount: Designed to mount onto standard 19-inch racks, they can be done as fold away or fixed rackmount style, depending on your needs.
  • Desktop: A standard computer monitor that uses the default stand provided by the manufacturer.
  • VESA Mount: A standard mount of either 75mm x 75mm, 100mm x 100mm, or 200mm x 200mm for mounting brackets for swiveling or wall mounts. Many standard displays have these mounts built into the back of them.
  • Panel mount: A flat mounting style with a flange designed to be mounted in a cut-out of some kind, like a wall, to mention one example.
  • Open frame: These are designed with multiple mounting options on a metal or aluminum frame. These are ideal for kiosks, arcade video games, or interactive music systems.

As you may have noted, monitors come in various application designs.

Common LCD monitor resolutions for desktops

Here is a list of common native resolutions for LCD panels of various sizes and aspect ratios:

LCD Monitor Size and Aspect RatioCommon Native Resolution (Pixels)
15 Inch (4:3)1024 x 768
17 Inch (5:4)1280 x 1024
19 Inch (5:4)1280 x 1024
20 Inch (4:3)1600 x 1200
17 Inch Widescreen (15:9)1280 x 768
19 Inch Widescreen (16:10)1440 x 900
21 – 28 Inch Widescreens (16:9)1920 x 1080
29 Inch Ultrawide (21:9)2560 x 1080
30 Inch Widescreen (16:10)2560 x 1600
32 Inch Widescreen (16:9)3840 x 2160
34 Inch Ultrawide (21:9)3440 x 1440
38 Inch Ultrawide (12:5)3840 x 1600
49 Inch Ultrawide (32:9)5120 x 1440

LED Monitor

LED (Light Emitting Diode) monitors are essentially LCD displays with LED backlighting to illuminate the LCD image.

Personally, I’m not a fan of this name for this type of product. If it is truly an LED monitor, shouldn’t the pixels themselves be produced by an LED itself?

When we further discuss an OLED monitor, you will see that its name is better suited than this common general term.

QLED Monitor

QLEDs or Quantum Dot Displays convert the backlight to emit pure basic colors.

These semiconductor nanocrystals are placed in a Quantum Dot layer to help RGB color filters by reducing light losses and color crosstalk.

Electro-emissive versions are in their experimentation stages. Applying an electric current to inorganic nanoparticles forms a pixel by a Quantum-Dot Light Emitting Diode (QD-LED).

This would allow for great color ranges and near-perfect black levels on the monitor.

OLED Monitor

Instead of being a transmissive technology where the light source comes from an array of LEDs, this emissive technology uses organic light-emitting diodes as the light source and displays each pixel independently.

These OLEDs are produced as an emissive electroluminescent film of organic compound that lights up when it receives an electric current.

These OLED matrices can be driven either with an active matrix (AMOLED) or via a passive matrix (PMOLED). Active matrices allow independent control over each OLED, whereas a passive matrix is controlled in rows and columns.

Other types of monitors

Of course, the list extends past what has been mentioned. They aren’t widely used or have been passed over with other technologies.

However, here is a list of some other monitor technologies:

  • Plasma Monitor.
  • DLP or Digital Light Processing Monitor.

Different types of video connectors

Here are some typical video input connectors on the back of them.

These connections allow your monitor to display information on your computer’s graphics card.

VGA

A VGA connector or plug for monitor.

Video Graphics Array, or more simply, 14 or 15-pin VGA, is an obsolete technology. It has been around long, but an analog video signal is no longer the desired standard. It is not able to carry an audio signal.

DVI

A male DVI plug.

Digital Visual Interface is a digital video signal connector used not only in monitors but in other consumer electronics, too.

Dual-link DVI (29 pins) carries twice the data rate compared to single-link DVI (23 pins). This has allowed for higher resolutions and refresh rates.

Dual-link has a maximum data of 9.90Gbit/s @ 165 MHz.

No audio signal can be carried over this connection.

HDMI

An HDMI plug.

There are 5 types of High-Definition Multimedia Interface connectors:

  • Standard (A)
  • Dual-Link (B)
  • Mini (C)
  • Micro (D)
  • Automotive (E).

This replaces analog video standards and can transmit uncompressed video data and compressed/uncompressed audio data.

Incremental versions have arrived over time with improvements.

HDMI (a 19-pin connector) is used in a wide variety of consumer electronics, even when it comes to computers.

Version 2.1a is capable of delivering a maximum total data rate of 42.5Gbit/s.

DisplayPort

DisplayPort Plug.

DisplayPort is more commonly used in the computer market than general consumer electronics.

The latest version, 2.1, has a maximum total data rate of 77.37Gbits/s.

Commonly, DisplayPort comes in two sizes, the standard size and a Mini DisplayPort.

Thunderbolt

A Thunderbolt plug.

The previous versions (v1 and v2) use the same connector as a Mini DisplayPort.

The latest Thunderbolt version 3 & 4 uses a standard USB-C connector.

Thunderbolt combines PCI Express and DisplayPort into 2 serial signals and provides DC power.

USB C

A USB type C connector.

USB C Monitors are quite new to the market and are a popular mobile display trend.

For example, you will likely need a cable connecting your monitor from USB C to Display Port or HDMI.

Two different styles of power connectors

A power brick or power supply for a monitor.
External Brick Power Supply
A standard IEC power plug is connected to a monitor.
Internal Power Supply Using An IEC Mains Cable

Some have internal power supplies, while others rely on external power bricks.

Those with an internal power supply usually require a power cable that goes straight from the mains power to an IEC plug directly into the back of the monitor.

Power goes from the wall socket into the power brick for displays that require an external power supply.

The power brick steps down and converts the mains supply to DC. It is very common for the monitor to run off 12 Volts DC.

While the external power brick makes life a bit harder regarding cable management or tidying things, it has one major advantage.

Quite often, monitors go faulty because of a fault in the power supply. It’s way easier and cheaper to replace a common power brick than to get the whole screen repaired or replaced.

The advantage is that the internal operating temperature should be reduced by cramming components inside them.

Aspect Ratios

The aspect ratio is the horizontal width of the display concerning the vertical height.

Different aspect ratios are used for different applications.

Multi-Monitor Arrangements

Computer graphics cards can output to multiple monitors simultaneously and span the display across them to treat them as a single one.

This is particularly nice for gaming.

Orientation

For some professionals, monitors are physically rotated 90 degrees so that the screen is vertically taller than wide.

One example is to help computer programmers see more code at once. Not all programmers do this. I just thought I’d mention that.

Some monitor models have this capability built into them, so no modifications are necessary.

Resolution

The resolution is specified by the number of pixels, starting with horizontal and followed by vertical.

For example, 1024×768 means that the resolution contains 1024 pixels in width and 768 pixels in height.

Pixel pitch

Pixel pitch is the amount of space between each pixel. This greatly impacts the quality of an image on a screen.

If the pixel pitch is too large, it won’t matter how high the resolution of your monitor is. The image will be poor.

Refresh rate

The refresh rate is the number of times the entire screen can be updated per second.

For example, if the screen has a 60Hz refresh rate, the screen can be fully drawn 60 times in one second.

Nowadays, a 144Hz monitor is more common and doesn’t affect the overall price as much anymore.

Response Time

This is the rate at which a pixel can be changed from black to white or from one shade of grey to another.

While you can count the rate at which other color shades of pixels change, black, grey, and white are mostly the extreme opposites in contrast concerning each other.

Therefore, they will be noticed first.

Response time is usually written on the millisecond scale.

Desirable response times are anything starting at 5ms or lower.

Touch screen monitors

Touch screen monitors are used in many commercial and industrial sectors and for personal use.

From point-of-sale devices to laptops and desktop displays, touchscreen monitors offer a different way to interact with a computer.

It can sometimes replace the need for a mouse but requires a larger DPI for a user interface if no stylus is available.

Touch screens are essentially standard LCD displays with a touch screen glass panel mounted over them.

These glass overlay panels have a few different types of touchscreen technologies. We will cover the different ones and some advantages and disadvantages.

Resistive

Simply put, resistive touch screen panels are glass panels with two striped electrode plastic sheets and a center separation sheet with a grid of holes, allowing the two out sheets to make contact through the holes when the panel is touched.

This is the least robust out of all the panels, as wearing it eventually makes it unreliable. The quality of the display can also be affected as the plastic surface develops scratches over time. One advantage is that it will work with gloves.

Capacitive

There are four common kinds of capacitive touchscreen technologies. Here is an outline of each one. All capacitive technologies are quite robust and will offer a good, long-lasting product.

Surface Capacitance

Capacitance is formed from a finger that touches an uncoated surface with a conductive layer on the other side of the glass panel.

Good finger contact is required for best results. These panels must be properly calibrated and can be sensitive to improper grounding, background noise, and temperature fluctuations.

Projected Capacitance

PCAP capacitive panels with an etched single conductive layer form a grid pattern of electrodes that processes touch using a more sophisticated firmware program to decode the touches.

Moisture or dirt particles can interfere with the operation, so it is not always the best choice for some applications.

Mutual Capacitance

A grid is laid out with a voltage applied to the rows or columns to detect a conductive element such as your finger or conductive stylus.

The detection works by picking up a change in the conductive field in the grid.

This kind of panel is good for multi-touch purposes, where it can simultaneously detect two or more contact points.

Self Capacitance

Self-capacitance panels are laid out very similarly to mutual capacitance panels. However the X and Y parts of the grid can operate independently.

The capacitive load is measured on each column or row using a current meter or an RC oscillator to detect a change in frequency.

This panel is very sensitive to touch and is great for multitouch applications like tablets and smartphones.

Infrared

An array of sending and receiving infrared LEDs is placed along the inside of the frame or bezel of a monitor to detect a disruption between them.

However, this is not a very reliable technology and is highly sensitive to dirt blocking the path of the infrared light, causing false positive touches.

Optical imaging

With optical imaging touch screen panels, image sensors are placed in the corners at the edges of the screen, and a touch blocks the infrared backlight’s light in the sensor’s field of view.

These types of touch screens are becoming more popular for larger displays.

In conclusion, touch screens and more technologies are available on the market, and the list is growing.

Curved displays

An example of a curved computer monitor.

There are pros and cons to curved displays. You need to try one out to see if it’s something for you.

These curved displays can offer a slightly more immersive experience when it comes to gaming but can be a bit more expensive compared to traditional flat panels.

Computer monitor energy consumption

Power consumption has been reduced considerably since CRT displays have fallen away.

A common desktop computer monitor now consumes between 60 and 250 watts of power. In standby mode, roughly between 1 and 6 watts.