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I can see clearly now

Monitor quest is complete, and I like the way it ended. I had pretty much given up on the idea of a good 19-inch monitor. I tried models from all of the following: NEC, KDS, Viewsonic, Samsung, and Philips, and I tapped out the local resources for monitor purchasing. The monitors I tried weren’t bad, exactly, but they weren’t what I was looking for: Limited resolution, low refresh rates, or fuzzy text prevented any of them from being a winner. So I downgraded my expectations. I could live with a good 17-inch monitor. After all, my trusty old ADI had never given me any problems whatsoever. Armed with a new appreciation for good product return policies, Heather and I struck out to Circuit City. In the middle of comparing resolutions, prices, and clarity, Heather expressed some frustration with this multi-week process, and said, “Have you thought about flat panels?”

This is when the monitor buying experience starting to resemble the Circuit City ad: “We could go bigger,” says a woman to her husband, referring to the new TV he has just purchased. “Bigger?” he says, not daring to hope. “Yeah. Go bigger,” she tells him. Heather reiterated that she was determined to finish this already too-time-consuming process by buying a monitor that would satisfy us, even if it cost more. “Sure, good idea,” I’m thinking, turning to check out the 15-inch flat panels. Heather, however, turns right around, picks out a 17-inch flat panel monitor, and says, “What about this one?” Who is this person, and what has she done with my wife?

So I’ll be incrementally paying off this latest hit to my Mastercard bill, but I have a beautiful, crisp and clear 17-inch NEC flat panel. (MultiSync 1700v) I don’t like to gush, but it’s extraordinary: Almost as much viewable space as a 19-incher, but with perfect clarity all the way to the edges. LCDs have a lower refresh rate than CRT monitors, but the refresh is only ever noticable when you push into high frame rates — when gaming, for example. Just to test it, I gave Q3 a quick game, and the refresh never even bothered me (at least, not nearly so badly as my poor gaming skill). So yeah, I’ve found a monitor, and it’s really, really good.

In following up on my earlier note about the Viewsonic, I unfortunately have to take a jab at one of our local retailers — Ultramedia —, whose tech support staff was exceedingly rude when I returned the monitor because I was unable to run it at the resolution and refresh rate recommended on the box. They suggested that I was encountering a limitation of the video card, and that video cards worth “four bills” couldn’t even do what I wanted. Both of these accusations were patently untrue, as both video cards I tried with the monitor (a TNT2 card well over three years old and a brand new GeForce2) specify the desired resolution as being well within their capabilities — In fact, I had run it successfully with my aging v770 card just two days before, with a different monitor. The tech repeatedly ignored my questions, suggested that I was ignorant about monitors’ capabilities (again, inexplicably ignoring the resolution advertised on the box he was carrying, and, when I was at the counter in the next room processing my refund, openly mocked me! Shithead. Here’s one motto for customer service: Do not mock customers while they are still in the store. I should, however, also note that the sales guys who talked with me were always friendly and helpful. But that’s not really any kind of excuse for treating customers like idiots on the service end.