PC Hardware

Lesson 3: Choosing and Troubleshooting Display Systems

Matching the components of the display system to the needs of the computer owner is critical to user satisfaction when upgrading or purchasing a system. Knowing the basic steps to troubleshooting a display is key to effecting a quick repair when a component fails to operate properly. This lesson sets out the basic steps to follow in selecting the right class of display hardware for a client, proper care, and troubleshooting common problems.

After this lesson, you will be able to:
  • Understand the basic criteria used to advise a customer about display-system options.

  • Troubleshoot common display problems.

Estimated lesson time: 10 minutes

Helping a user pick the right display is relatively simple, despite the variety of monitors and adapters on the market.

The display is the part of the system the user interacts with and "sees" the most, and is a major factor in overall performance. Within limits, the buyer needs to get the best display possible.

The CRT size determines the maximum viewable area. For users who will work in only one program at a time, or who don't need high-resolution, a basic monitor should suffice. Graphics intensive applications and multitasking call for larger monitors with faster refresh rates, and display cards to match.

Users who will be using graphics-intensive applications designed for drawing and painting or for CAD and games, will prefer a fast graphics adapter, usually with VRAM or WRAM and high resolution and refresh rates.

Multimedia systems can benefit from cards that offer TV out (usually in the form of an RCA jack that lets the signal be displayed on a regular TV set using the NSTC format), TV tuner, and hardware DVD acceleration.

The usual trade-offs between cost and performance apply, but less than in the days of $3,000 high-end cards. Today, a user can purchase a fast, high-quality adapter for $250 to $300, and can purchase acceptable speed with true-color display for $150 without the extras and expensive memory types.

In recommending a display system, start with your customers' needs, followed by their preferences, and match the two as closely as possible to the available budget. Keep in mind that the display adapter is only part of the equation. Cost can be contained by using a smaller monitor or by accepting slower refresh rates. Cutting the cost excessively can leave clients with a display that does not support the tasks they perform, or that might lead to user eyestrain from the flicker that occurs at slower-than-acceptable refresh rates for the selected resolution.