2012-2013 Display and Graphics Guide
For nine years, Information Systems & Computing (ISC) recommended a 17-inch cathode ray tube (CRT) monitor as the desktop standard. Beginning in 2007-2008 desktop recommendations the standard was changed to a 19-inch liquid crystal display (LCD) and for the 2011-2012 desktop recommendations a range of 19 to 20 inches was specified. While ISC believes that the 19/20-inch LCD display standard will suit the needs of most users, it's important to be aware of special considerations that may influence your specific requirements.
Some older LCDs and certain professional displays fall victim to a phenomenon known as "ghosting" where the images on the screen appear to streak or blur during fast motion. This is a result of slow response times and input lag. Response times are the rate at which a display updates the image it is showing. Input lag is a delay of video signal traveling from the graphics processor to the display. The ghosting phenomenon can distract or cause headaches for certain individuals. ISC recommends purchasing displays that specify a 16ms or lower response time and using a digital video input, such as DVI, DisplayPort, or Thunderbolt, to reduce the effects of input lag.
Depending on its usage, purchasers may also wish to consider the quality of the LCD panel. Most display manufacturers use either TN (twisted nematic) or IPS (in-plane switching) panels. TN panels have the advantage of being less expensive to manufacture, as well as typically having lower response times. They often are found in business and consumer-oriented displays. IPS displays are often regarded as having significantly better color reproduction capabilities, and are generally geared towards users who work in visual media where accuracy is paramount. Some IPS and older TN displays, however, suffer from higher response times and exhibit instances of "ghosting". ISC suggests carefully weighing the importance of color accuracy when making a display purchase.
ISC strongly recommends purchasing LCDs toward the higher end of the market, especially since it is common practice at the University to keep the same display for two system life cycles. In particular, displays with an LED backlight are highly recommended, as LED backlights keep usable brightness for a longer period and typically use less electrical power in use and in standby. ISC has had good experiences with Apple's displays and Dell's UltraSharp and Professional displays.
For many years, ISC has recommended purchasing a desktop system with a discrete graphics card. Discrete graphics cards continue to provide significantly higher performance than most integrated graphics solutions, but Intel's latest high-end integrated graphics (designated HD 3000 and HD 4000) have substantially closed or in some cases eliminated this advantage. Thus, for FY2013 the recommendation is for a discrete video card or Intel integrated graphics (HD 3000 and above). This recommendation does not apply to lower-end integrated graphics such as HD 2000, which are insufficient for University use.
Since discrete graphics cards have their own processor and memory, they offer more power and do not need to share the system's main memory. This provides a better user experience and support for graphics-intensive applications such as AutoCAD and LightWave 3D. Furthermore, it "future-proofs" them - over time, ISC has found that systems with discrete graphics are far more usable toward the end of their life cycles.
For most adminstrative systems, ISC believes that the discrete graphics cards available on the Apple iMac, Dell OptiPlex 790, the Dell OptiPlex 990, and the Lenovo ThinkCentre M91 are appropriate choices.
The Computer Connection offers displays by Apple, Dell, and Viewsonic. Apple and Dell displays are also available in build-to-order configurations.
Apple's display web site.
Dell's monitors web site.
Viewsonic's monitors web site.
Information Systems and Computing
University of Pennsylvania
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