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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | Monitors | Monitor Construction and Operation ]

Controls and Internal Electronics

The monitor is controlled by a special dedicated circuit board inside the case. It contains the "smarts" for reading the input from the video card and controlling the display of information on the CRT. It also interfaces with (and is controlled by) the controls on the front of the monitor.

The controls on the front of the monitor generally come in one of two styles: analog or digital. (Note by the way that this has nothing to do with whether the monitor itself is analog or digital, since that refers to the type of signal the monitor takes as input.) Each of these has its advantages and disadvantages.

Analog controls (usually dials on the front of the monitor) provide fine control over settings such as brightness and contrast, and are simple and intuitive to use. Digital controls generally involve the use of push-buttons that control the settings using an on-screen display. These can either be easy to use or difficult, depending on how they are implemented. Some monitors--in a grand attempt to save money on buttons? I don't get it--use one button to select which feature you want to change (brightness, contrast, horizontal position etc.) and then two buttons for "up" and "down". These can be confusing to use. Others use more buttons and are more intuitive. It is mostly a matter of personal taste, though the digital controls seem "spiffier".

There is one major advantage associated with certain monitors that use digital controls. Very often when using multiple resolutions (say, 640x480 and 800x600), the position and size of the screen will change when changing resolutions. Many newer monitors with digital controls will save the position and size settings associated with each resolution that the monitor supports. This "memory" feature will save you from having to adjust the screen settings whenever you change the resolution on the monitor.

Finally, the more controls you have on the outside of the monitor, the better! Virtually all monitors include adjustments for brightness, contrast, vertical size and position, and horizontal size and position. Some stop there, while others add controls for focus, pincushioning and other image factors. This is beneficial because for safety reasons, you should not open up your monitor to make adjustments.

There is now in fact, a new type of control that attempts to marry the simplicity of analog instruments with the precision, "memory" features and adjustability of digital controls. Some monitors now have a control that is simply a finger-operated dial with a push button. Pressing the button brings up an on-screen menu, and the dial is used to select different adjustments from the menu, and to change their values. I have used this type of control and find it easier to operate than digital controls that use up/down buttons, although it does take a bit of getting used to. It can still be confusing to operate compared to separate controls for each function. On the other hand, you gain by this method control over many more monitor parameters than older analog-instrumentation monitors typically had.

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