Display and Graphics Guide


For nine years, Information Systems & Computing (ISC) recommended a 17-inch cathode ray tube (CRT) monitor as the desktop standard. Beginning in 2007-2008 desktop recommendations the standard was changed to a 19-inch liquid crystal display (LCD) and for the 2016-2017 desktop recommendations a 20-inch to 24-inch display range is specified. While ISC believes that the 20-inch to 24-inch LCD display standard will suit the needs of most users, it's important to be aware of special considerations that may influence your specific requirements.

Purchasing Advice

Some older LCDs fall victim to a phenomenon known as "ghosting" where the images on the screen appear to streak or blur during fast motion. This is a result of slow response times and input lag. Response times are the rate at which a display updates the image it is showing. Input lag is a delay of video signal traveling from the graphics processor to the display. The ghosting phenomenon can distract or cause headaches for certain individuals. ISC recommends purchasing displays that specify a 16ms or lower response time and using a digital video input, such as DVI, DisplayPort, Thunderbolt, or USB-C, to reduce the effects of input lag.

Depending on its usage, purchasers may also wish to consider the quality of the LCD panel. Most display manufacturers use TN (twisted nematic), VA (vertical alignment), or IPS/PLS (in-plane switching) panels.

TN panels have the advantage of being less expensive to manufacture, as well as typically having lower response times but sometimes have issues with off-axis display accuracy. They often are found in business and consumer-oriented displays. VA occupy a middle ground between TN and IPS displays. IPS and PLS displays are often regarded as having significantly better color reproduction capabilities, and are generally geared towards users who work in visual media where accuracy is paramount. Some IPS and older TN displays, however, suffer from higher response times and exhibit instances of "ghosting". ISC suggests carefully weighing the importance of color accuracy when making a display purchase.

ISC strongly recommends purchasing LCDs toward the higher end of the market, especially since it is common practice at the University to keep the same display for two system life cycles. In particular, displays with an LED backlight are highly recommended, as LED backlights keep usable brightness for a longer period and typically use less electrical power in use and in standby. Displays should support at least Full HD resolution. ISC has had good experiences with Dell's UltraSharp and Professional displays.


For many years, ISC recommended purchasing desktop systems with discrete graphics cards. Discrete graphics cards continue to provide significantly higher performance than most integrated graphics solutions, but Intel's recent mid-range to high-end integrated graphics (designated HD 515 and above) have substantially closed or in some cases eliminated this advantage. Thus, for FY2017 the recommendation is for a discrete video card or Intel integrated graphics (HD 515 and above). This recommendation does not apply to lower-end integrated graphics such as HD 510, which are insufficient for University use.

Since discrete graphics cards have their own processor and memory, they can offer more power and do not need to share the system's main memory. This provides a better user experience and support for graphics-intensive applications such as AutoCAD, Lightroom, LightWave 3D, and Photoshop. Furthermore, it "future-proofs" them—over time, ISC has found that systems with discrete graphics are far more usable toward the end of their life cycles.

Purchasing Advice

For most administrative systems, ISC believes that the integrated graphics available on the Apple iMac, the Dell OptiPlex 7040, and the Lenovo ThinkCentre M900 are appropriate choices.

Additional Information

The Computer Connection offers displays by Apple and Dell. Apple and Dell displays are also available in build-to-order configurations.

Apple's display web site.

Dell's monitors web site.

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Date Posted: June 27, 2013 Tags: Purchasing Guide, Technical Info, Supported Product, Essentials

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