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-- Choosing a Panel
-- Page: 1 2 3 4

   Choosing the right panel for your needs is the most difficult part. How many colors does it display? What is its native resolution? Is the LCD active or passive matrix? How big is the screen? How many inputs does it have? All of these questions should cross your mind when searching. I will attempt to explain the benefits and detriments of different choices and how to know which panels sport which options.

   Usually the first specification listed in a description of a panel is the resolution. While 640x480 will suffice for TV, movies, and game consoles, higher resolution panels are more appropriate for general computer use, such as surfing the Internet and computer gaming. If you don't plan on using a computer with the panel, save some money and purchase a 640x480 panel.

   Color depth is a very important factor in choosing a panel also. 24-bit color translates into approximately 16.7 million colors. A panel with this color depth is ideal, but not always practical. The panel I have displays 1.4 million colors and the color quality difference is not very noticeable when compared to 24 or 32-bit color. Generally I would suggest 1.4 million colors minimum.

   I will try to explain the difference between active and passive matrix LCDs very briefly. Basically, DO NOT PURCHASE A PASSIVE MATRIX LCD. Passive-matrix is older technology that changes pixels more slowly than active-matrix LCD technology. Old laptops, such as 486's, most likely have passive-matrix screens on them. The end result is a "ghosting" of moving figures, like a mouse cursor. For displaying graphs, slides, and charts, the speed of a panel did not matter to a business when they purchased it. For displaying TV, games, and movies, however, it does. If you are unsure of the type of LCD used in the panel, try searching Google (or whichever search engine you prefer) for the make and model of the panel in question for information. If information can't be found, try emailing the manufacturer for information. If you have any doubt about the type of a panel you find, wait until another panel comes along; it’s not worth the risk.

   Screen size is important but not overly important. A 10.4" diagonal LCD is going to create better image quality than that of an 8" screen, but resolution, color depth, and LCD quality are of much higher importance.

   Most panels have VGA inputs, but some have various other inputs as well. If this panel will have no interaction with your computer, you will obviously want a panel that has either a composite or RCA input to connect to a VCR, DVD player, or game console. Keep in mind; you will only really need one or the other because adapters can be purchased if needed.

   I listed a lot of specifications for good panels, but no panels themselves! Below are some panels with decent reputations. The best place to search for these is on eBay. Some of you swear by it, some hate it, but unless you have access to business auctions this is most likely your best bet. I will ONLY list active-matrix panels. There are of course other panels available, but these are a few with good reputations.

            Model:                                   Resolution                    Color Depth            Screen Size

            Sharp QA-1750                     640x480                       16.7 million                  10.4”

            Sharp QA-1800                     800x600                        16.7 million                  10.4”

            Sharp QA-2500                     1024x768                      16.7 million                  10.4”

            nView Spectra C                   640x480                        1.4 million                    9” (?)

            nView Z350                           1024x768                      1.4 million                    9” (?)

            Infocus Powerview 950       1024x768                      1.4 million                    10.4”

            Proxima Ovation 820            640x480                        1.4 million                    ?

            Proxima Ovation 840            640x480                        16.7 million                  ?

   This is of course a small list and there are plenty more panels out there, but these are some of the more common ones found on eBay. Remember to double-check my information if you are really interested in a panel. I looked at various auctions and company websites but everybody makes mistakes.

   While the Sharp Panels are probably the best, they are in turn the most expensive. A QA-2500 can be expected to be found for appx $300-$350 on eBay. A 640x480 panel can be found for anywhere from $50 and up. A good one may run about $100. With patience and ingenuity, a panel may be found for much cheaper. I found my Infocus Powerview 950 for $100.

what it might look like

Nice and snug in the case

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