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Tweaking Your LCD Monitor's Settings

written by: John Lister•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 6/8/2009

Many computer users have switched to space-saving LCD flatscreen monitors. However, these work differently to traditional monitors. We explain how to tweak an LCD screen to get the best performance.

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    Tweaking the monitor itself

    Check any set-up disk which came with the monitor. This may include special software to make sure you have the best possible settings for the particular screen you have bought.

    Make sure you have the latest driver. Unlike most hardware, you can’t usually get the best drivers for LCD monitors through Windows’ Device Manager. Instead you should go to the website of the manufacturer and check for updated drivers.

    When changing settings on an on-screen menu, you’ll probably find the default brightness is too high. Many manufacturers set it this way so that the screen stands out more when it is displayed in a brightly-lit store.

    If you have any DVDs of movies produced by Lucasfilms (such as the Star Wars or Indiana Jones series), you should be able to click on the THX logo in the set-up menus to access a series of tests to make sure the brightness, color and contrast on your screen are set to their most effective levels. These test are designed for TVs but can work well on a monitor if you play the disc on your computer.

    If you find you have a jittery picture when watching animations or video, it may be due to your monitor having a slow refresh rate. (This is a figure measured in milliseconds which tells you how long it takes a pixel to change from black to white and back again). There’s no way to change this, but it may be worth looking into and then considering when you come to replace the computer. Generally slow refresh rates aren’t a major problem unless you play a lot of fast-moving games.

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    Tweaking settings in Windows

    You should set Windows to the highest resolution available (through the Display settings in the Control Panel). Unlike old-style monitors, an LCD screen has a fixed number of pixels. The number does not scale up and down proportionally between screens which have a different physical size. This means that displaying the wrong resolution can give a poor quality picture.

    Don’t be tempted to use a lower resolution on an LCD screen to increase the size of text as this will leave the characters blurry and strain your eyes. Instead, go into the Display menu and choose the Appearance tab and change the Font size setting to Large or Extra Large. From the same tab, you can also click on Effects and choose Clear Type from the drop-down menu titled ‘Use the following method to smooth edges of screen fonts’; this will give you text which is better suited to an LCD screen.

    Windows has a setting (also in Display) for a refresh rate: how often the picture on the screen is updated. The standard setting of 72hz is designed for old-style monitors and is unnecessary for LCD screens where each pixel can refresh individually. Try setting the rate between 40hz and 60hz to see if you get a smoother picture.

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    Display settings in WindowsChanging font size and using Clear Type