Whether you're shopping for the home or the office, there's one trend in displays that can't be ignored: the world is going flat. LCDs offer many advantages over traditional CRT monitors. They are much smaller, making them an excellent choice for small desks and offices. They can display crisp, legible text and images at higher resolutions, meaning that you can fit more information in the same-size display: for example, a 17in. LCD has about the same viewable area as a 19in. CRT display. They require less electricity and emit little heat. Finally, they are easier on the eyes because LCDs don't need to refresh or redraw the images many times each second the way CRTs do, creating a barely perceptible screen flicker.
LCDs now affordable
Not long ago, the sky-high prices of LCDs kept them mainly in the boss's office, as well as in high-profile places, such as reception areas and conference rooms. But prices have dropped so quickly that flat panels are now a viable option even for small businesses. Although there are many companies selling LCDs -- Dell, Samsung, HP and NEC-Mitsubishi are the biggest -- the actual panels themselves all come from a handful of manufacturers, including LG.Philips and Samsung. That means you can shop for a vendor based partly on the best price for the size you need, with 17in. and 18in. LCDs representing the sweet spot in the market. Look for an LCD that has both analogue and digital (DVI) inputs, a wide viewing angle, and a high contrast ratio. Some pricier models include multimedia extras such as wide-aspect screens, picture-in-picture, built-in speakers plus composite and S-Video inputs. However, most small businesses will have little need for these.
CRTs still an option
Although LCDs are fantastic, CRTs still make up the bulk of the business market for several reasons. Despite price cuts, LCDs are remain far more expensive than CRTs, especially at larger sizes. A 21in. flat panel will cost you some £1,500 (perhaps twice the cost of your PC); by comparison you can find 21in. CRTs for under £500. And CRTs are still a better choice for graphic design or digital-video editing because they represent colours more accurately and are better at keeping up with fast-moving footage. As long as you can squeeze it into your budget, though, a flat panel is a worthwhile investment for most small businesses.