Get the most out of your new flat screen monitor

November 7th, 2007 by

So, you just bought a new flat screen monitor. You get home, you unpack it, you connect the cables, you turn on your computer and you’re expecting to see a crystal clear picture but instead you’re presented with a blurred and fuzzy picture of your desktop – far from the quality you had expected.

The reason this is happening might be because your screen resolution is not set to your new flat screen monitor’s native resolution – fortunately this is very easy to fix…

What’s a native resolution?

Where CRT monitors (you know, the old bulky ones) were able to run several resolutions, a flat screen display (TFT LCD) is locked to one native resolution. This resolution differs from monitor to monitor and can be everything from 800 x 600, 1024 x 768, 1280 x 1024 to 2560 x 1600 where the first number represents the amount of horizontal pixels it can display and the second number represents the vertical pixels.

So, why is it blurred?

If your operating system is sending the wrong amount of pixels to your monitor, the monitor will usually try to make sure the picture fits the monitor. This means that if your operating system is set to run in a resolution of 800 x 600 and your flat screen display has a native resolution of 1024×768 it will stretch the pixels so it fills the entire screen thereby causing the image to become blurred.

How can it be fixed?

As stated previously fixing it is quite simple – all you have to do is find out what your monitor’s native screen resolution is and then ensure that your operating system is set to the same resolution.

To make it a bit easier for you I’ve made a quick step-by-step guide on how to do it in Windows XP:

  1. Find out what your monitor’s native resolution is. Usually you can find this information on the back of the display or in the manual that came with it. It should say something like “Resolution: 1440×900” (numbers might differ).
  2. If your monitor came with a driver CD I recommend you install the drivers and reboot your computer before proceeding.
  3. Once you’ve found your monitor’s native resolution and installed your monitor drivers (if you had any) you right-click on your desktop and select “Properties”.
    Desktop Properties
  4. Click the “Settings” tab.
    Display Properties
  5. Drag the “Screen Resolution” slider till you find the resolution that matches your monitor’s native resolution.
    Display Properties
  6. Click “Apply” and wait for the monitor to switch resolution.
  7. Click “Yes” in the dialogue box if everything looks as it should.
    Display Properties Dialogue

If your screen turns black after you hit “Apply”, don’t worry – just wait 15 seconds and it will return to the previous selected resolution. Usually this happens if you have selected a resolution or a refresh rate that is too high, so try lowering either of these and see if it helps.

Analogue vs. digital

Many flat screen monitors come with both analogue (VGA) and digital (DVI) connectors and if you have the option of using a digital connector you can end up with a much crisper image quality than if you used an analogue connector. The analogue connector is usually coloured blue where the digital is white. If your monitor came with two cables, one with white connectors and one with blue connectors, you can be pretty sure your monitor supports digital input.

Not all video cards supports digital output though. If there are only blue connectors on the back of your video card you’ll only be able to use analogue output, but if you have a white connector, usually labelled DVI-I or DVI-D, I recommend you use that and connect it to the digital input of your monitor.

Auto calibrating your monitor

Most flat screen monitors come with an auto calibration feature that, as the name says, will try and calibrate your monitor for the best output possible. This feature is however only needed if you have connected your monitor using the analogue connector. Usually there’ll be a button labelled “Auto” on the front of your display for this, but in some cases you have to go into the on-screen display and find it. Look in the manual that came with your flat screen if you can’t find it.

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# 8th November, 2007

hehe, Esben, this post wouldn’t have anything to do with those 2 new large Samsung monitors on your desk huh?


Esben Kvorning
# 8th November, 2007

Haha, they might have sparked my interest 🙂 (I’m a sucker for new hardware)

But the main reason behind it is that I’ve often been visiting friends and family and noticed how bad the image on their, otherwise good, flatscreen monitor looked simply due to a simple misconfiguration of their monitor/OS.

# 8th November, 2007

I’ve fixed a few home pc’s like this. Normally windows does resolve this itself as long as you connect the monitor whilst the pc is powered off, or your display is using the plug and play driver. Where I usually see it fail to correct itself is usually where the display is listed as ‘Default monitor’

I notice you have multiple monitors. I wonder how long it will be before it becomes to norm to have more than one monitor as a desktop, it’s certainly one of the best things I did at work, so useful.

# 8th November, 2007

Wrote this that long ago that you put in two replies before i got to click submit. I also have two rather nice 19″ samsung monitors, highly recommended 🙂

David Precious
# 8th November, 2007

Aye, it’s so much nicer to work with multiple monitors, the extra screen space is *really* useful!

# 8th November, 2007

Now I’m not one of these “Homie don’t right click” Apple-lovers but the ‘Apple Spaces’ function on the new Leopard OS is genius – provides pretty much the same functionality as multiple monitors but without the need to sacrifice desk space/power.

# 8th November, 2007

getting my Leopard today – (where the €#&/€&# is that UPS guy)

Esben Kvorning
# 8th November, 2007

“Apple Spaces’ or ‘Virtual Desktops’ as they’ve been known as for years are quite nice but it doesn’t beat a multi monitor setup. To me a multi monitor setup does the same as the old document holders. It enables me to have documentation, or something similar, on one screen while I’m doing my work on the other – virtual desktops will never be able to replace that.

What I do like about virtual desktops though is that you can have a “work desktop” where you only have the necessary applications open you need in order to do your work, a “communication desktop” where you have outlook, messenger etc. open and perhaps a “leisure desktop” for timewasters like Engadget, Digg and so on. To me nothing is more distracting than IMs and E-mails that pops up while I’m working on something which is the reason I usualy, when in a multi desktop environment, use that setup.

# 8th November, 2007

@Anton – just use a two button mouse with macs like me and the right click just gives you the CTRL click function, I find the whole one button thing quite annoying but fortunately you can just plug any mouse in and fix it ;).

David Precious
# 8th November, 2007


the ‘Apple Spaces’ function on the new Leopard OS is genius – provides pretty much the same functionality as multiple monitors but without the need to sacrifice desk space/power.

Virtual desktops don’t compare to multiple monitors. And you make it sound like it’s an amazing new feature – dude – I was using that on Windows 3.1/Windows 95 back at school many, *many* years ago (though obviously not as a standard part of the OS but done with a very useful addon utility).

KDE has been able to do the same for a long time, and I think so does Gnome and most other *nix desktop environments/window managers.

# 8th November, 2007

/Gets Coat&Hat 🙂

# 9th November, 2007

(need to add: Leopard ROCKS!!)

# 18th November, 2007

Thank you for your most comprehensive no fuss info on digital and flat screen monitors. I wasn`t sure about digital or audio but you have cleared that up for me-I do need both but digital at least. I Iam looking for a competitive deal on a 20`
Thank you I have put your site in my favourites. I wish you success
respectfully Derek

# 15th January, 2008

Thanks for the great explanation about flat screen monitors. I am having a problem with the Display Properties on my computer. It does not offer a resolution that matches my monitor. Is there a way to manually put in a resolution? The slide bar won’t offer the resolution I need. Thanks for your help.

Esben Kvorning
# 15th January, 2008

@ Michele

If you haven’t installed the drivers that came with your monitor that’s the first thing I would try – if you for some reason didn’t get a cd with drivers on it, try Googling the model name/number and add “drivers” to to search query.

If that doesn’t work it might be that your graphics card is not capable of outputting the resolution your monitor requires. If you are on an older computer and on a brand new high resolution monitor there’s a slight chance that this might be what’s causing it.

You can also try adjusting the bit depth (the number of colours that can be shown simultaniously) down a bit, this is called “Colour Quality” in the Windows Display Settings, and then see if more resolutions become available.

Hope it works out.

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