damn computers

damn computers

Prologue: Three months ago I bought a 21” refurbished Dell monitor (I probably posted about this…) at Frys for $256. I decided to do this because the two 19” were starting to annoy me and I needed a solid “good” monitor to work on. I didn’t consider LCDs as I was a hardline “CRTs are better for graphic design” kinda guy. I also had already bought a dual VGA video card in January when I discovered the Dell “integrated” graphics card on my new computer did not have two VGA ports or even two ports at all (yet they still described it as “dual monitor capable” for some reason in the tech specs). Having the dual VGA card meant I had a total of three VGA ports… so why not have three monitors. The video card cost me about $150. It sells for $99 currently.

Now, back to the present:

As some of you know, I embarked on a journey to replace my triple-monitor CRT setup with a dual LCD configuration. I had many reasons for this that I won’t go into here. I had to buckle and reconsider LCDs quality after using two 19” Samsung 910Ts at work for the past three months. Originally I wanted the new dell 24” wide aspect LCD. I read about smooth talkers who convinced Dell reps to sell it for $850 out the door. Keeping my fingers crossed I began contacting these same salesmen (and women). To my chagrin they would go no lower than 999. A decent second monitor (I would not be satisfied with a a paltry 20” wide screen in front of me after getting used to seeing over 3000 pixels from left to right) was going to run at least $400. That made the price approach $1500. I took one last look at the dimensions of the 2405fpw and the 2005fpw and concluded the difference was not that great. Then I started to wonder how cheap I could get the 2005fpw for. The reps were still sticklers for near-retail prices. However, I found a “dell small business” short term coupon for 40% off on the 2005fpw. I decided to end my endless internal debate and order two 20” wide aspect dells late Monday night. The price with shipping and tax was just shy of $990. A hair less than the price of ONE 24” with a “great deal” from the reps I was talking to.

I knew I needed a dual DVI video card to power these puppies, so I headed over to Newegg and ordered one for $160. The monitors and video card came Thursday night. Technically I had go up to Van Nuys for the monitors but Selwyn was home to take delivery of the video card. I tried to pick up the monitors on my way home from work Thursday but the driver hadn’t brought his truck back in yet. I decided to go home and install the video card, then pick up the monitors. I carefully unwrapped the card and proceeded to install it…. Er… proceeded to …. Proceed… damn..it isn’t going in… hmm…slot A doesn’t seem to match tab B… hmmm… -turns out my board’s slots are all PCI, and the card I ordered was PCI-Express. Now Newegg doesn’t pay for return shipping, doesn’t refund original shipping, and charges a 15% “restocking fee.” So I slowly came to the realization that I just flushed $40 down the toilet and would have to go elsewhere for a video card. I looked online only to find that PCI dual DVI cards are rare and expensive to the tune of $2000 for the average and $700 for bargain basement. No good.

I thought I had a DVI port on my Dell integrated video card so I thought I’d pick up another video card with a single DVI port on my way back from picking up the monitors at UPS. I did that and found a Circuit City in Van Nuys. I bought a fairly cheap ATI with a DVI port. When I got home and looked at my integrated video card I realized that it DIDN’T have a DVI port. So I installed the ATI card and ran the 2nd monitor off of the VGA connection. The difference in clarity between the two was obvious and I knew I had to get another card to have both monitors in DVI. However, the DVI side was troubling. Windows would jerk around when dragged across the screen, scrolling on web pages was impossible, and DVDs refused to play until the color bit setting was set back to 16. This was only on the DVI connection though, the VGA did all these tasks fine. I was extremely flustered, but it was getting quite late so I decided to go to bed.

Friday night Amy came over and wasn’t feeling good, so we stayed in and watched movies on the new monitor/s. (Recall the DVDs wouldn’t play on the DVI monitor, but would on the VGA connection) The colors of the DVDs were very bright, but dark scenes suffered as black looked gray and dark tonal values were just washed out completely. It didn’t seem to bother Amy that much (although she did say she noticed it) but it really bothered me.

Saturday night we headed to Frys and I bought two (identical) ATI video cards with DVI out, hydravision dual monitor support, and 256 DDR of onboard RAM. After much configuring I was able to get both monitors to run in sparkling DVI clarity with no jerky movement. I had to plug one into the Dell VGA port first..then get the ATI drivers installed, then put one and then the other monitors on the VGA ports on the new video cards…then one and then the other onto the DVI ports. So, technically now my system recognized five separate monitor connections – 3 VGA and 2 DVI. An Ironic twist considering that means I could run this setup AND my CRT setup at the same time if I wanted (which I don’t). I’m happy with the setup, but I’m anxious to watch another DVD to see if the dark tones improved at all with the use of a DVI connection. The monitors have a 600:1 contrast ratio. Not the best, but not the worst. The 24” dells have a ratio of 1000:1…is that worth another grand?

Epilogue: So, in January through April I spent approximately $400 upgrading my monitor setup. Now I have to try to sell all of that “old” stuff. I will probably get less than half that amount back and now I have $40 down the drain on the newegg video card return as well. Was it worth it? Why don’t you come for a visit, take a look, and let me know what you think?


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