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Problem with screen clarity at lower resolutions on new LCD monitors

For years I have had a pair of Dell 2405FPW 24" LCD monitors, running them at 1600x1000 from the dock on my various Lenovo laptops.  This worked great since they are 16:10, and the display on the screen was a very readable size, with the text in my vb projects easy to read--including on my recently purchased Lenovo T2410 laptop wtih docking station.

Now I've gone and bought three new Planar PL2410W displays, and the bottom line is that they are fuzzy and blurry on anything except 1920x1080.  But the 1920x1080 resolution produces thin, wispy characters, and the black text is not as black or thick as I had on the Dell.  I have tried all kinds of adjustments on the monitors, and also through the 'screen resolution' screen in Win7P, and through the Nvidia Control panel available to me as well.  I've adjusted all the obvious stuff like contrast and brightness, and the not so obvious such as gamma, vibrance, and hue.

I thought all this might improve if I went to a lower resolution--like I did with the Dells--but like I say, every other resoution I've tried is fuzzy, including the 1680x1050 that the user manual says is supported.  I was hoping to get 1600x900 working on these new 16:9 monitors, thinking it might look as good as the 1600x1000 on the old 16:10 Dells, but I don't see that option available to me, and when I try to create such a custom resolution wtih the Nvidia Control panel, or a 3rd party app such as PowerStrip, it makes the monitor go completely blank.

Right now I've reconnected one of the old Dells, and it is sitting next to one of my new Planars, and I'm able to get the same clear 1600x1000 that I had in the past.  They are both hooked up via the DVI connectors.  So, this make me think it is not a video probelm, but instead a lousy monitor.  I also tried a Viewsonic from another office here, and it essentially acted the same way.

My goal is to have new monitors that can run 'something like' 1600x900 with clear, dark text like my old Dells have.  Do I just have to buy higher-priced monitors?  How can I know for sure that it will look good before spending the money?  TIA
3 Solutions
An LCD monitor has what is known as a "native resolution".  Trying to use any resolution other than the native resolution will cause the image to be scaled which, can make it appear distorted.  Each LCD monitor has only 1 native resolution.  How bad it looks is based on how far from the native resolution you make the setting.  In the future you should take your laptop with when purchasing a monitor to view it in the store.

You've played with ClearType and tried the Large Fonts settings as well?
sasllcAuthor Commented:
JohnnyCanuck: I looked back at the specs for the Dell 2405FPW and see that it has an optimal resolution of 1920x1200, and does not list 1600x1000 as a supported option.  Yet it looks fine at that resolution.  Taking my laptop for testing purposes is difficult or impossible for several reasons, unfortunately.  Is there any way to find out from a manufacturer in advance if there is a resolution in the neighborhood of 1600x1000 that will look good?  Makes me wonder if Dell would even have known it would work so nicely if I had found the right person to ask back then.  Somehow I have my doubts, seemingly making it a game of chance when you're trying to buy mailorder.  In the case of these Planar PL2410W's, it is not working out well at all.

Now that you've explained that manufacturers only provide one clear native resoluion, I know to look online at the stated resolution for each monitor--and I see that every one is up in the 1920x1080 range.  I truly do not understand why no one is making monitors these days with optimal resolutions that are larger.  Sounds like there is no hope, but tell me if I'm missing something.  I can't imagine I'm the only person alive who needs somewhat larger, clear text on my screen.  Not a lot larger--after all, 1600x1000 is not huge--but large enough that I don't end each day with eye strain.

dbrunton: I found that cleartype is turned on.  Also, I experimented in the area of screen resolution settings where it offers to 'make it easier to read what's on your screen', testing with Medium-125%, but that caused text in my vb projects to be all out of whack.  If you were referring to a different setting (when you refer to Large Fonts settings), please let me know where to look.
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As mentioned by  JohnnyCanuck, displaying at the native resolution will give you the sharpest picture - anything else requires scaling, which will distort text and images to some degree.  Some monitors do a better job at scaling than others, but as soon as you change from the native resolution, do not expect a picture as good as that.

If you want clear 1600x900 resolution, you need to get a monitor that displays that, but most computer displays are 16:10 aspect ratio.  The black level is determined by the contrast number - the higher, the better.  Plasma TVs and CRTs have inherently better black levels, since their blacks are essentially pixels that are off completely, instead of light through a polarized filter.
sasllcAuthor Commented:
Callandor: I thought that new monitors were all going toward 16:9, so that's good to know that more of them are the same 16:10 that I'm accustomed to with my old Dell.

I assumed that if a monitors had an aspect ratio of 16:10, for example, that any resolution that divides out to 1.6 would look great.  Not so?

Does anyone make a plasma device for desktop computer use?
>I assumed that if a monitors had an aspect ratio of 16:10, for example, that any resolution that divides out to 1.6 would look great.  Not so?

If the pixels match 1:1, this would be true.  Anything else requires scaling to determine what the pixel should show, and this reduces the picture quality.

Your best bet for 16:9 aspect raio would be a TV, but then you would be spending for parts that you don't need in a computer monitor.  Plasma screens are great for picture quality, but they are too heavy and consume too much power for the dedicated computer monitor market.

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