Review: Four 24-in. LCDs widen your view

Wide desktop displays aren't just for artists anymore -- everyone can benefit.

Big displays aren't just for professional designers, graphic artists, and video editors anymore. Anyone with a computer can benefit from a desktop that stretches even further. As found in at least one study, a 24-in. display can boost your productivity and change the way you work (and play).

The basic advantages of larger displays have always been evident. For instance, you can see much more spreadsheet data at once, making data analysis easier. However, 24-in. displays break new territory that 20- or even 22-in. ones can't handle.

Multi-taskers can keep their word processors and Web browsers running side by side with zero compromise in the viewing area. Even better, 24-inchers let document writers and editors view two full 8.5-by-11-in. pages side by side -- ideal for comparing different document versions or viewing the facing pages of a book layout.

The larger displays also have some sweet features for home users, video mavens and gamers. For example, more than a few manufacturers have included options like HDMI video inputs. In addition, most large monitors have a 16-9 aspect ratio, letting a 24-in. monitor do double duty as an HDTV.

With the ever-tumbling prices of LCDs, there has never been a better time to look at a 24-in. monitor to replace a smaller single LCD or a clunky two-display setup. However, even though prices have fallen rapidly and will continue to do so, 24-in. LCDs can still cost more than, say, a basic computer. But while it is tempting to put more money into a faster CPU or more RAM, the increase in productivity a 24-in. monitor can provide might prove to be a better investment.

Can you handle 24 inches?

Moving up to a large 24-in. display isn't without its drawbacks. For one, you need to have enough clear desk area to set one up comfortably. And if you opt for a display that can rotate to portrait mode, you also need to make sure that there's plenty of overhead clearance.

Of course, you also need to check if your current graphics card is capable of running a 24-in. display at the typical native resolution of 1920 by 1200 pixels. You'll want a card that can run the full resolution and the maximum color depth, usually 24- or 32-bit, depending on the card manufacturer and model. Full-color depth isn't important just for graphics pros -- a full color spectrum can make Web and document viewing easier on your eyes and can help you match printer output much more easily.

For this roundup, we selected four displays from some of the top monitor manufacturers: Gateway, NEC, Samsung, and ViewSonic. We tested each using DisplayMate Multimedia Edition 2.1 and Pantone Huey Pro. (For more details, see "How We Tested" at the end of these reviews.)

While there is a bit of diversity in their rated specs, our comprehensive tests showed some interesting performance and character differences among the four displays that should make your purchasing decision easier.

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