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Large Computer Displays

More information on the screen, or a large pretty picture?

©2004 by Charles A. Plesums, Austin, Texas, USA

If you have bought a new computer recently, you probably got a large monitor, or a laptop with a relatively large display. Hopefully you have read the paper on resolution and setting up your display on this site, and are expert on resolution. But things may not have worked out like I described in that paper. This is why and how to fix it.

If you got the large monitor because you have bad eyesight, and need a large screen to read your data, then I am sorry for your problem, and the computer vendors have probably helped you. But if you bought a large monitor because you need more window open at a time - because you want more data on the screen - this explains what the computer vendors may have done to you and how to "take back" the advantage of a large monitor!

Flat Panel vs. CRT

In a CRT display, the image is projected onto the screen, and that screen can support "any" display resolution. You can set a lower resolution to get a larger image (fewer pixels fill the screen), or a higher resolution for more detail - normally limited only the the display adapter in the computer. A CRT with a flat screen is still a CRT using this technology.

A flat panel display (like portable computers) has a tiny circuit directly on the screen that electronically generates each pixel. Therefore if the computer sends more or fewer pixels than the display is built for, the display will either not work at all, or more likely will distort the image to "do the best it can." A flat panel display should be used at the one resolution that it is designed for.

I learned the hard way when I got a new computer and display.

My new flat panel display is designed for 1280 x 1024 pixels, so that is THE resolution I should use - the one resolution that will give a clear image on that display. A 19 inch LCD display is about 12 inches high, and a 17 inch display is just under 11 inches high. At that resolution this is 85 to 95 pixels per inch, pretty close to the "100 pixels per inch" rule of thumb for displays.

The laptop computer that is driving this system has a display that is about 8 1/2 inches high, and supports a resolution of 1400 x 1050. 1050 pixels over 8 1/2 inches is just over 123 pixels per inch. The computer vendor assumed that I wanted a prettier image, so they changed the fonts in Windows assuming 120 rather than 96 or 100 pixels per inch. The image is really nice. The "10 point font" used for email now has more pixels in each character, but my email still fills the screen - with a slightly prettier text. Some web pages and many programs no longer displayed correctly. The new "Windows Fonts" had more pixels so took more space, so no longer had the same formatting, or no longer fit in the window generated by the program. Some displays became unreadable. Other pages took on a new format that did not make sense.

I was especially upset because I bought the high resolution to show more data - more windows - even if I had to sit close to the screen to see the image (such as when using the laptop on an airplane). I did not pay more so that I could have prettier text when reading my e-mails.

I finally found where they had made the change and how to fix it. Go to Display properties (right click on the desktop, or approach from the "Start Menu - Settings - Control Panel - Display." Under the "Settings" tab, click the "Advanced" button. This brings up the screen for your display driver - the format will depend on the hardware of your system, but mine has an option for Display Font Size - Large (120 dpi) or Small (96 dpi). It was set to Large. When I selected Small, it warned me that it would install new fonts and restart my computer (scary, huh?). Once I said ok, the computer was back to what I wanted - more data on the high resolution screen, and all the screens worked again, not just prettier text on a larger image.

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©2004 by Charles A. Plesums, Austin, Texas USA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. If you would like to make or distribute copies of this document, a nominal royalty payment is required, as specified on www.plesums.com.