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by Ray DeCosta

Q. My computer monitor is getting old and I'm considering replacing it soon. Is this a difficult procedure and what should I look for in a new monitor?

A. The actual process of replacing a monitor is usually not difficult. However, choosing the correct one can be a daunting and confusing experience. The first step is to determine what video outputs your computer currently offers. Typically these will be some combination of VGA, DVI and HDMI (on newer computers and video cards) connectors. Here is a visual guide to video connectors.

Unless you are using an older or outdated connector, the monitor you choose should have at least the same input connector you are presently using. VGA is currently considered the minimum acceptable level of image quality with DVI providing an even better viewing experience. Assuming you have the proper cable, installing a new monitor can be as simple as connecting it to your computer.

If you have an older or stripped-down computer, you may not have a separate video card but are relying on "on-board" video instead. In this case, you might benefit from installing a new and capable video card. You should check your product documentation and/or consult with a computer professional to see if a new card can be installed.

Because there are so many different manufacturers of monitors, each with different specifications, it's advisable to check out current rankings online. Any major computer magazine website will have all the information you could want to read on this subject. You should draw up your own list of "must-haves" including what type of connectors you have available, the maximum size available, budget, etc. Do not anticipate that the tiny speakers included as a feature on some monitors will be at all useful to you.

Almost all monitor manufacturers have different lines available for sale and, although the names vary, they fall into the general categories of Value, Pro and Medical grades. The Pro grades are perhaps 10%-15% higher in cost than the Value line, but may very well prove to be a sound investment if you spend long periods of time on the computer.

Published: Courier 11/4/12 - Page 4C