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What to Consider When Buying an External Computer Monitor

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By Mark Wilson, Esq. on April 30, 2015 12:10 PM

Most of the world is running on laptop computers now, and for good reason. They're the least expensive they've ever been, they're the most portable they've ever been, and for what they are, they're the most powerful they've ever been.

Did we mention portability?

But you'll need a host of accessories to make your laptop useful, and no peripheral is more important to a lawyer than an external monitor (or two). When you're trying to paste from a deposition into a brief, or have five different windows open, that 13-inch laptop screen just isn't going to cut it. Here are three things to take into account when looking at external monitors.

Size Doesn't Matter

It's tempting to want to get huge monitors, but the combination of your precious desk space, along with pretty good resolution, means you don't need a 32" behemoth. Most, if not all, modern LCD/LED monitors have a resolution of 1,920 pixels across by 1,080 pixels high. That's a lot of screen real estate, which means you probably don't need anything larger than 24 inches to be productive (and that's pushing it: 21-22 inches is good, too.)

Betcha Can't Buy Just One

If three 30-inch monitors is good enough for Al Gore, it should be good enough for you, right?

Nope. More monitors may not be better. As the number of monitors increases, the computer has to process more pixels, meaning it could slow down considerably by the third monitor (assuming the graphics card even allows for that). Two monitors is more than enough, but they take up a lot of desk space. First try for one big one (about 24 inches) and then see how you feel.

VGA? DVI? HDMI? ASAP!

Like we said, most modern monitors will have a resolution in the neighborhood of 1920x1080. You'll also want an LED monitor; this means the display is lit by LEDs instead of cold-cathode fluorescent tubes. The former provide more brightness, greater power efficiency, and longer life. They're ubiquitous now, so they're not as expensive as they once were.

Your monitor should interface with the computer through a modern, digital connection like HDMI (or in the case of some Apple displays, Thunderbolt). You'll also want a few USB ports tucked into your monitor so you can plug in thumb drives.

Pain in the Neck

There are fewer things worse than having an ergonomic problem with a monitor: If your neck hurts after a day at the office, it could be a reason why. Make sure the monitor you want to buy moves in all directions and can tilt backward and forward. You can also invest in a monitor stand that will not only make your neck feel better but will allow you to recover some of the otherwise-wasted space your monitor takes up.

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