CRT is out and LCD monitors are taking their place in home and business environments. An improved viewing experience, sleek design and drop in price have increased the LCD's appeal. Users are also being given ever more choice as larger formats (including 19-, 22- and even 28-inch monitors) emerge – which is creating some confusion.
Bruce Byrne, visual communications specialist at distributor Drive Control Corporation (DCC), explains: "To protect their investments and make more informed choices, users want to know why these new formats are becoming available, which are more suitable for which applications, which monitors are more popular and which may be phased out.
"The answers they are looking for can be found in a mix of factors, namely the advancement of technology and manufacturing processes, changing business environments and new lifestyle demands."
Brendon Land, country manager of ViewSonic South Africa, adds: "CRT monitors are being phased out and replaced by LCD solutions for a very simple reason: CRTs are no longer profitable to make. Uptake of LCDs has increased due to their obvious advantages and, as demand has increased, they have become cheaper to produce, delivering economy of scale.
"Ongoing innovations in LCD technology and manufacture have also contributed to lower pricing, however, also introducing some changes, most notably in LCD screen sizes.
"Simply put, LCD manufacturers intent on maximising profits and output are getting more economical panel cuts from the substrate using the larger formats. They are driven by the fact that 19- and 22-inch monitor formats are at present the most popular purchase choices. However, which format users select depends on what they are going to use the monitor for."
Byrne notes: "All LCDs offer standard advantages over CRTs – they are slimmer, taking up less space; they are more ergonomically designed and offer an better viewing experience, contributing to comfort and health; and they use less energy and produce less heat, minimising use of aircons and lowering utility costs. All of this makes them ideal in business and home environments where space is at a premium and costs (utility, energy, maintenance and support) must be conserved.
"However, the wider screen formats, which are proving more popular, also let business users see more (eg, more of an Excel document, or multiple applications), easing their daily tasks by not having to switch between applications or manually scroll through the page, so improving productivity. In the home environment where a monitor must now do double duty, enabling business and entertainment applications (eg, video, high definition DVDs, gaming), the wider format LCD also fits the bill. Nonetheless, many organisations remain budget conscious.
Land points out: "As the price gap between CRTs and LCDs narrows, the greater benefits delivered by the LCDs tip the scale in their favour. However, ongoing technology advances and the discovery of new economies in manufacture and production have produced a plethora of formats.
"It all comes down to the applications in use and what corporates have standardised on. For example, a bank that requires 10 000 LCDs will start at the most economical point, which would be the 17-inch LCD monitor. The application is also key. Many applications for banks, with the exception of financial software, are written for smaller monitors (4 x 3 format) rather than the 16 x 10 widescreen formats.
"Price also plays a large role in emerging markets where the current predominant seller is CRT. While these markets will migrate to LCDs, they will go with the cheapest solution, which is 15-inch. It will be based on the swiftness of the CRT monitor being made unavailable and a halt on production. Once this happens there will be a drive to adopt 15- or 17-inch LCDs. Given the price erosion of technology and the pace at which this happens, sales of 17-inch LCD monitors as the CRT replacement is not unrealistic.
"However, if customers can't justify the price gap between the 15- and 17-inch LCD, the trend will be to go for the 15-inch. If this happens, the 15-inch will be adopted in the SA PC assemblers market and we will see standardisation on entry level PCs."
Another looming issue is that the 20-inch LCD monitor may well become obsolete. Says Land: "The choice is now between the 19 and 22-inch monitor. The difference between the two is a half an inch on either side. As the price point between the 19- and 22-inch has narrowed significantly in the last six months, the 20-inch has become almost redundant. People will stay at 19-inch or will jump to 22-inch.
Byrne and Land define the markets, and most beneficial application of the standard formats as follows:
* 15-inch – CRT replacement, entry level PCs for price conscious consumers
* 17-inch – ideal for home users and SMEs 19-inch – moving quickly into the major large corporates; almost becoming the de facto due to cost
* 22-inch – used by financial and senior management in corporate environments and by consumers for entertainment, gaming applications; this format works well in dealer rooms where users run many spreadsheets and applications at the same time.
* 28-inch – ideal for graphics, software development, gamers, home users' entertainment; can be used as a TV.
Concludes Byrne: "It's inevitable that LCD screens will replace CRTs and businesses and consumers are well aware of this trend. LCD technologies are sufficiently advanced that users can make their purchases with confidence. DCC has carefully selected its suppliers in the LCD monitor sector, notably ViewSonic, for the combination of quality, reliability and cost efficiency their products deliver."
ViewSonic recently appointed Drive Control Corporation as part of its channel model restructuring efforts and renewed commitment to the local market.