Home > Display, Workstations > Choose the Best Display for Your CAD Work, Part 2: Getting the Most for Your Money

Choose the Best Display for Your CAD Work, Part 2: Getting the Most for Your Money

September 15, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Previously we covered the important characteristics to look for when choosing your next CAD display. Here, we finish our discussion with some suggestions about shopping and costs, as well as what you will need to get the best possible image out of your new display.

Seeing is Believing

As the old proverb states, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.” If possible, view your potential display up close and personal — before you buy. Ideally, you should view the candidate displays under the same lighting conditions as those of your office. Also, don’t be afraid to bring an 8× magnifying loupe with you. You can learn a lot about a display by examining it at the pixel level. Quality displays will have well-defined, tightly packed groups or rows of red, green, and blue dots. These are the primary colors for the additive color process of light, as opposed to cyan, magenta, and yellow, which are primary for the subtractive color process of pigments. (Hah—I worked in a quick physics lesson.) Lesser displays will look blurry or fuzzy at the pixel level.

What You Should Expect to Pay

What you pay for your display depends on several factors, including the size, quality, and feature set, as well as where you purchase it. At the low end, budget at least $500 for a medium-quality 24″ display. On the other hand, you can easily spend $2,500 for a high-quality 30″ display. Without mentioning vendors or models, if we were in the market today for a CAD display, we would be looking at a good-quality 27″ LED backlight LCD display at a cost of about $1,000. Remember, you are going to be spending a lot of time with your choice of display, spend the extra money now, so you don’t have regrets later.

Adjusting Your Display

After you have made your decision and have your new display in hand, don’t stop there. Get the most out of your new LCD panel with DisplayMate for Windows ($69; downloaded), an excellent software-based utility for fine-tuning your display. Cadalyst has used DisplayMate, from Sonera Technologies (www.displaymate.com), for all of its monitor reviews since it first earned our Highly Recommended rating in 1995.

DisplayMate screenshot

Screen shot of the DisplayMate application.

This wraps up this series. We hope you find it helpful when you are shopping for a display. In a future blog, we will take a detailed look at DisplayMate for Windows.

Author: Art Liddle

  1. September 16, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    Hello Art,
    First, thanks for this article and part 1 too! I’ve been using CAD for over ten years now, and never thought this deeply about my monitor. I’d say this article is also relevant to anyone in the aec industry that spends allot of time on their computer. A nice monitor can make life so much easier, and hence make one more productive and happy.

    I’d agree with you (in part 1) that 24″ would be the minimum size screen to go with. I just bought a Dell ST2310 last year, which is a 23″. Although I’m very happy with it, I do want more screen.

    All of your individual specs seem very useful to know, and possibly justifiable too. However, I would unfortunately say that probably 95% of the companies here in NYC would not spend the kind of cash required to meet those specs. I’ve worked for small aec firms, and also large “fancy” ones, and I couldn’t imagine any of them spending $500 on a monitor for Joe CAD Drafter. I’d bet that they’d be willing to spend what I did for mine, which was about $170 on sale. …I wonder if anyone else has had the same experience?

    I’m going to keep your article in mind, for the next time I buy a new monitor. – I think I need to increas my budget.

    Lastly, it’d be helpful if you could list a few models that you think meet your specs?


  2. February 24, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    Great post! I couldn’t find this article at a better timing, just in time when I’m about to replace my current monitor. Thanks for sharing!

  1. September 15, 2011 at 8:00 pm

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