For the past 30 years, cathode-ray tube (CRT) technology has dominated the PC monitor market. With LCD prices falling and screen sizes growing, however, a major shift to LCD displays may be around the corner. We recently surveyed 1,350 TechRepublic members to find out what types of displays they support. While CRTs are still the most common PC display, the number of respondents who support LCD displays was surprising. Combining our findings and those of a Gartner study, we’ll examine the imminent changes in the monitor industry.

The performance/price barrier
Maybe it’s just me, but I refuse to pay more than $500 for a monitor. Personally, I work on a 19-inch Compaq S910 that fits my needs and can be purchased for around $350. Sure I’d love to have a 40-inch plasma display or even a 17-inch LCD monitor sitting on my desk, but let’s be realistic. Unless I win the lottery or am suddenly promoted to CEO, it’s not going to happen. If given the choice between a 17-inch LCD and a 17-inch CRT, I would choose the LCD in a heartbeat if not for the $1,000 price tag. LCDs have come a long way in price and size, but they are still too expensive and too small to successfully compete with the CRT. This, however, could change over the next several years.

According to Mostafa Maarouf’s Gartner article “Liquid Crystal Displays: The Price Puzzle,” three factors will increase demand for LCD monitors over the next five years. First, LCD supply increases will result in lower prices. Second, improvements in performance of LCD monitors will narrow the price/performance gap between LCD and CRT monitors, resulting in greater demand for LCD monitors. Third, PC system price excluding the monitor will continue to fall. This will allow consumers to spend more on the display.

TechRepublic members support a variety of displays
Here’s what TechRepublic members had to say about the types of monitors they are supporting. First, the survey respondents were fairly evenly divided in the number of monitors they support, as shown in Figure A. The two highest categories were 101 to 500 and More than 1,000, shown in red.

Figure A

Figure A also shows that CRTs were by far the most widely used monitor type, with 95 percent of respondents supporting them. It’s interesting, though, that 652 respondents, or 48 percent, reported supporting LCDs. Although it is unclear whether these displays are on laptop or desktop computers, this still shows a broad acceptance of LCD technology.

In terms of size, the results were not surprising. Figure B shows how the majority of CRT monitors are between 15 and 18 inches, while the majority of LCDs were less than 16 inches. For those lucky few who get to play with plasma displays, most suffer with a mere 40 to 50 inches.

Figure B

Members plan to purchase LCDs
When we asked TechRepublic members how much they plan to spend on monitors over the next six months, we found that the majority, 66 percent, will spend $5,000 or less (see Figure C).

Figure C

When we asked what this money will be spent on, we found that 451 respondents, or 33 percent, plan to purchase LCD displays within the next 12 months. While more than twice as many respondents plan to purchase CRTs, this is still a significant number of LCD displays. Again, it is unclear whether these LCD displays will be tied to laptop or desktop systems.

Finally, we asked members to tell us what one feature is most important for a general-use workstation monitor. Figure C shows that image resolution and price come out on top.

An emerging trend?
While these results in no way offer definitive proof that LCDs will soon overtake CRTs as the dominant computer display, they do illustrate widespread acceptance for LCD technology. As LCD prices drop and performance increases, I believe consumers will come around to the flat-panel display’s benefits. I’ll have one on my desk, just as soon as I find a 17-inch monitor for less than $500.


What’s you opinion of today’s flat-panel LCD displays? Are they as good as CRTs for general office work? How about gaming or CAD work? Post a comment or send us a note and share your opinion.