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The world is flat!

Thin and flat is the way to go with PC and TV monitors. Here's why...


NO, WE are not about to reverse the march of science and go back to a time when people thought they would fall off the edge of the world if they walked far enough.

But yes, it's a flat world all right when it comes to computer monitors and TV screens.

Think about all the things you hate about your conventional Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) PC screen - the huge space-hogging size, the heat oozing out of the air vents driven by a noisy fan inside, the constant strain-inducing flicker... and now think about the new generation Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) flat screens that have become available this year.

Most flat screens are not more than two centimetres thick - so an LCD monitor is at least 60 per cent less volume than the CRT type.

There is no flicker, the image is sharper, the colours are more brilliant, the monitor is icy-cool and silent, it does not require a fan, and yes, if you are really hard up on space, you can hang it on your wall like a painting. So, what took them so long to decide that thin is in?

Complex technology for one thing - the LCD flat screen monitors usually sport the letters TFT, which means they are based on Thin Film Transistors.

Instead of high voltage electronics, which steered three beams (red, green and blue) in the cathode ray-type of display, today's flat screens use a thin film of semiconductor transistors just below the glass plate.

There is one transistor for every pixel or coloured dot on the screen.

A lot of clever electronics shoot voltages into this matrix of transistors, which makes them glow in a combination of colours.

The average 15 inch flat screen monitor is a rectangle displaying between 1,000 and 1,200 dots in each direction and they could display over 2,50,000 colour combinations.

Because the screen is flat, a 15-inch flat monitor (15 inches is the length of the diagonal) has a larger viewing area than the curved 15-inch screen of a CRT monitor.

The best flat screen displays today are of the reflective type - in other words you can see a clear picture even when there is a lot of glare in the room.

Yet, all this comes at a price. The average flat LCD monitor available in India costs at least twice that of a CRT monitor of equivalent size. Competition is intense, particularly among the Korean companies - Samsung, Acer and LG, who seem to be the most aggressive players in this field.

Acer is best known for its range of PCs and notebooks, but it also has a full range of LCD monitors - the AL 500, 700 and 900 series.

This allows PC buyers to go in for an LCD monitor of their choice in the 15, 17 or 19 inches range. Samsung too, offers PC buyers the option to flatten.

Indeed, many of their LCD monitor have already bridged the PC-TV divide and can be used for either applications.

Samsung has also been aggressively promoting its jumbo SyncMaster 241 MP/211 MP, claimed to be the world's biggest (24 inches) PC monitor.

In recent weeks, entry-level flat screen LCD PC monitors in India (15 inches) are being offered for anything between Rs. 19,000 and Rs. 22,000.

That may look like a lot of money in relation to the total cost of a PC - but like it or lump it, flat is the flavour of the day - and flat out is how you will have to go to stay ahead in the PC-TV stakes.

A. VISHNU

vishnua@hotmail.com

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