16.5 Our Picks
Here are the displays we recommend. For our latest recommendations, detailed by brand and model, visit our web site, which is listed below.
- 15" and 17" budget CRT displays
NEC AccuSync. NEC is a first-tier maker that happens to have some very aggressively priced low-end models. Image quality and build quality are a step above monitors from second- and third-tier makers that sell for only a bit less. NEC provides a three-year warranty on their low-end models, which is a good indication in itself of their quality. (http://www.necmitsubishi.com)
- 19" and larger CRT displays
Hitachi. We've used hundreds of first-tier monitors over the last fifteen years, and of that group we prefer Hitachi monitors. They're extremely reliable, priced competitively, and have simply superb image quality. Comparable NEC/Mitsubishi and Sony monitors are excellent products, but when we have a choice we specify Hitachi. If you want a rugged, reliable CRT with top-notch image quality, we recommend you do the same. (http://www.hitachidisplays.com)
- Flat-panel displays
Hitachi. We consider Hitachi and Fujitsu the first tier in FPD manufacturers, with Samsung a step behind. Whether you're looking for an entry-level or professional FPD of any size, we think a Hitachi model is the best bet. Fujitsu also produces excellent FPDs, but they are more difficult to find at retail than Hitachi models. (http://www.hitachidisplays.com)
In case you're wondering, Hitachi has never given us so much as a free mousepad or coffee cup. We just really like their monitors and FPDs.
If you work with multiple computers on your desk, buying a monitor for each is expensive and you soon run out of desktop real estate. Using a KVM (keyboard-video-mouse) switch allows you to share one keyboard, monitor, and mouse among multiple systems. For example, Robert works surrounded by nine computers. His main system has a dedicated 19" Hitachi monitor, but the other eight computers share two keyboards, two mice, and two monitors among them, in two groups of four. Here are the KVM switches we recommend:
- Basic KVM switch
Belkin OmniCube. We've used a lot of KVM switches, both manual and electronic, and this is our favorite for home and small business users. The Belkin OmniCube switch comes in 2-port ($85) and 4-port ($95) versions. Yes, you can buy a manual KVM switch for $25 or so, but these provide very poor video quality, particularly when used with the cheap cables usually sold with them, and in some cases may actually damage the monitor. The Belkin OmniCube works well for us. Robert uses a Belkin OmniCube (with premium Belkin cables) on his desk to share his secondary monitor among four secondary computers.
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Like any electronic KVM switch, the OmniCube may be sensitive to the mouse you use (the Belkin didn't like our Microsoft Explorer oversized "red-light" mouse), so if you have problems be sure to try a different mouse before concluding that the unit is at fault.
- Enhanced KVM switch
Belkin OmniView. The OmniCube is perfect for homes and small businesses, but if you need more features or more ports look at the Belkin OmniView series. The OmniView SE is available in 2-port ($100) and 4-port ($125) models, which are expandable by stacking units to 8 ports and 16 ports respectively. The OmniView Pro is available in 4-port ($240), 8-port ($325), and 16-port ($550) models, which are expandable by stacking units to 64 ports, 128 ports, and 256 ports respectively. The Pro models also add on-screen display and other features that are useful to someone who manages many computers from one console. Robert uses a 4-port OmniView Pro on his test bench.
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Whatever type of KVM switch you buy, plan to spend a fair amount on cables as well. You'll need one cable set for each connected computer. Those $8 "3-in-1" KVM cable sets sold by many computer stores almost guarantee poor performance, which is to say distorted, flickering, blurred images. Get name-brand cables. A basic Belkin set in a 10-foot length should cost $15 or so. A premium-grade Belkin set, with better shielding, gold-plated connectors, and so on, should cost $30 or so.
For updated recommendations, detailed by brand names and model numbers, visit: