Monthly Archives: April 2008

30″ Monitor Thoughts

I’ve always been a fan of large monitors, and until recently my experience has always been that bigger is better.

I’ve had a Dell 2405FPW (24″) for several years now, and it’s a big improvement for me, even over the 20″ screen of my old iMac.

With the recent release of Dell’s new 3008WFP (more features than just about any monitor out there), I was recently tempted into upgrading to a 30″ monitor. 30″ monitors are still very expensive, but as someone who stares at his computer screen for about 10 hours a day, I’d be prepared to pay the premium, if I got a similar improvement to previous size increases.

Once the monitor arrived, I was simultaneously impressed with physical build quality, and disappointed with a couple of faults in my particular unit. Having had a couple of hours to test it out, the monitor is being returned for a refund, rather than a replacement; partly for the faults, but mostly because it’s not the improvement I hoped for. Key to this is the fact that the pixels are significantly smaller on the 30″ screen than a 24″ ( 100.63 pixels per inch vs 94.34 pixels per inch). That makes standard sized font somewhat uncomfortable to read. Use this helpful calculator to compute the pixels per inch for different screen sizes.

I do really like the extra screen pixels, but as most of my usage is text oriented (surfing, reading and coding), I can’t compromised on reading comfort.

Where a 30″ is better:

  • Photos – they look gorgeous
  • Google Earth – again, gorgeous
  • HD video editing – didn’t try this, but the extra screen area allows for 1080p videos plus toolbars etc
  • People with much better than average vision. My eyes are slightly better than 20:20 with glasses (confirmed by an optician two weeks ago). If you’re a fighter pilot, or a bird of prey, buy a 30″ screen. If you’ve got the vision for it, large spreadsheets and long documents will look much better

Where a 24″ is better (for those with normal vision):

  • Anything text based – most user interfaces assume a certain size of text, and whilst you can usually up the font size, things rarely scale without compromise (buttons, graphics not scaling etc)
  • Web development – Scaling up the fonts for readability usually distorts the layout of web pages to some degree, as images don’t normally scale. Whilst I do test the impact of larger fonts on my site, it seems like bad practice to develop at font sizes other than the browser default
  • Gaming – Much more support for 1920×1200 than 2560×1600, and less strain on graphics cards too

It’s a pity there are no commonly used resolutions between 1920×1200, and 2560×1600. Something like 2160×1350 in a 27″ or 28″ screen would probably be perfect for me. Extra resolution, without having to squint, or pretend you’re in an IMAX cinema.

Alternatively, I need to wait for the world to move to resolution independent user interfaces, but that doesn’t look like it’s happening any time soon.