Cheap Computer Monitors are Just Fine

by Guest Contributor · 10 comments

Fortunately, we are a long way from the day that purchasing an inexpensive computer monitor meant that you were getting a dud. If you have been around to watch the progress of computers from the days before monitors, to orange and green screens that were as large as a small fridge and on up to the LCD screens of today, then you can really appreciate the progress. I remember when a machine with 128K – yes K – cost a couple thousand dollars. Needless to say, things have processed but best of all, prices have dropped.

CRT Monitors

In general, CRT monitors, if you can still find them, are going to be cheaper. Some users prefer them because they don’t look quite as pixelated as LCD monitors, especially when the screens get larger. On the other hand, they take up a lot of space and consume more energy than other screens.

David’s Note: I left it in there, but I do not believe that the “pixel” ated issue is still a concern. All professional grade monitors are now in LCD form, as you probably won’t find another new CRT monitor anymore in this day and age. However, I’m no expert in this, and if you are looking for used, this of course can still apply.

The best deals are for monitors in the 17” size range, as that is the most popular.

LCD Monitors

Lighter and brighter than their CRT cousins, LCD monitors have stepped off the laptop platform and are now commonly used with desktop models. While still more expensive than CRT monitors, the prices have dropped a great deal in the past few years, bringing them into the reach of most computer owners. As quickly as technology changes, getting a low end LCD monitor may be the lease expensive way to enjoy this technology without breaking the bank.

Size Matters

The larger the screen, the more you will end up paying for it so think it through. If you play multiplayer online games or write computer programs, you may require a larger screen; if, however, all you do is keep your financial records, write e-mail, and surf, you can get by with a 15-17” screen with ease. Once you move beyond standard-sized screens, prices go up quickly.

David’s Note: I’ve read studies where they’ve shown that larger screens increase productivity, and in my personal experience, this is definitely the case. However, I sit in front of my computer all day and every little minute I save counts. Whether saving what may only amount to a few minutes a day for the average user is worth the extra cost is a personal decision that only you can answer.

Consider Refurbished

If you are looking at the LCD monitors and really don’t want to pay full price, consider refurbished models. These are usually models that had some minor defect out of the box. Once they return to the manufacturer, the monitor was repaired and made available once more. Wondering how much you can save? I have seen deals of 30-90% off the original price.

Wait for Year End Sales

In computer monitors, just like in every other retail product, model years come and go. When a newer product replaces the old version, the price will drop. The monitor doesn’t have an expiration date, trust me, and you can get a much better deal on a monitor when the new ones make it to the shelves. As a case in point, I just got a Netbook that was last year’s model, exact same features and size, for $50 less then the current model, a savings of 20%. I’m sure monitors reflect similar savings, and as with everything that is computer related, it pays to wait.

Avoid Packages

Packages may seem like a good deal, but you are usually being offered whatever the store has to move. Most models are cheaply made and aren’t worth the price you end up paying for them. Instead, go online and purchase what you need by the component instead. There are plenty of reliable vendors who offer CPUs, computer monitors, wires and everything else you could possibly need to get your system up and running.

This is yet another piece taken from the How to Save Money on Everything ebook. Check out the free frugal newsletter and sign up to get the free ebook too.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Joe says:

    One of my old jobs was upgrading all their computers to the LCD monitors, so they literally had a graveyard-like room full of old CRT monitors. I was strapped for cash, so I carried the thing home on the NYC subway.

  • GoYanks says:

    When the screen of one of our laptops died, I got a 17″ LCD monitor from craigslist for $15 and turned in into a desktop.

  • Jane Sanders says:

    I experimented by connecting my computer to my HDTV. It looked great and I knew that I would save a lot of time by using a larger screen. I purchased a refurbished 21″ LCD monitor and I’m really pleased. The resolution is not that great but it does the job.

  • Randy Addison says:

    I think large screens are for programmers, animators, website makers, freelancers, gamers and everyone who do their work on the computer. Like me, I like large screens because it gives me the larger view of my designs. great job on this article. Really useful.

    • Scott Hedrick says:

      There may be a certain truth to that, but I recall seeing a picture of Al Gore sitting in front of 3 30″ monitors. With all that screen, how do you find anything?

      A lot of it also depend, as you suggested, on what you are doing. I visited a mapper for the county property assessor. He had a 20″ CRT and a 42″ LCD screen. Both screens were showing Outlook at the time, and the smaller screen actually had more information. The CRT was using a 4:3 ratio and the LCD was widescreen. On both monitors Outlook filled the screen at the same resolution, but the larger one had less vertical space and thus could not show as much as the smaller monitor. The big one was great for mapping but not as good for email.

  • Holly says:

    Business and university sales or give-away events present a great opportunity to get used computer parts for a fraction of the cost.

    The public university where I live gives away old computer parts when they upgrade to newer hardware. My household got a free CRT monitor from them. All it took was filling out a form verifying we were taking responsibility for the monitor.

  • Scott Hedrick says:

    I once bought 2 21″ CRTs from a city surplus auction for $20 each. One had a small scratch on the glass, the other had the color alignment off by about 2 pixels. I kept the one with the scratch and gave the other to my dad, who only used Word and Excel so the color wasn’t a problem. I discovered I had to reinforce my desk, and my UPS rating for a 21″ CRT was only about 30 seconds or so. Still, when I bought a new system I went with the 17″ CRT that came with it and discovered I really missed the screen real estate. Now I have 2 19″ LCDs. I recently tried a netbook, but I just couldn’t get anything done on a 10″ screen. Size does matter 🙂

  • KM says:

    The problem I found with some monitors (could be age or price related) is that the brightness/colors are different. I myself use an old LCD monitor that was quite cheap even I bought it new maybe 7 years ago. I don’t see any problems until I test a website that I designed on another computer and the colors are way off from what I originally thought it to be. I can tweak the “temperature appearance” a bit (how warm or cool the colors look), but it’s still different.

  • I haven’t seen a CRT monitor in ages, you can usually get a pretty inexpensive LCD these days and it takes up far less space (and is much lighter) than a clunky CRT. It’s also easier to transport so you probably won’t drop it.

  • indio says:

    I was so happy to move away from the CRT monitors, because they took up too much real estate on my desk and when you recycled them there was always a surcharge for the hazardous gases in them. I’m a laptop user now and I love it. The only problem is that when the screen breaks on my laptop, it is $900 to fix it. This only happened once in 8 years of laptop use. I usually opt for the biggest screen size I can get when I pick a laptop. Weight isn’t only an issue 4-5 times a year when i travel with it.

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