Topic: Computer Monitor - Learn about Risks and Secrets -
eye strain, dry eyes and why wearing computer sunglasses can make a lot of sense...and what monitor to look for
Aim: In this post, I/we will tell you how to choose the perfect computer monitor for your home business.
I’ve been working from home for the last couple of years and I became very worried about my eye health staring onto this screen for hours each day.
I know about dry eyes and eyestrain, luckily I have been spared from eye strain headaches ...
perhaps only because I am interested in alternative health and read newsletters from doctors I hold in high esteem.
I haven't even mentioned the time I stare at my mobile screen (yes, that emits blue light too!).
Table of Contents
- 1 Table of Contents
- 2 How a modern computer monitors works
- 3 The best monitor you cannot buy
- 4 Monitors you can buy
- 5 My Buying Suggestion
- 6 Buying the optimal monitor on a budget
- 7 Screen size
- 8 Interface
- 9 Monitor stands
- 10 Save your Eyes: f.lux
- 11 Save your Eyes: Yellow Glasses
- 12 Conclusion
All the more I was shocked to learn about the risks modern computer screens (TV screens ...) pose to your health, and not only your eye health.
Jump directly to my monitor suggestions
So next to discussing PC Monitor screen sizes and resolutions, we also will discuss the risks to your health and what you can do about it by choosing the optimal computer screen for your home office.
So lets start with some basics and then move on to your eyes...
How a modern computer monitors works
To understand why monitors pose a risk, let me quickly give you an introduction into how our modern screens work - just briefly, promise!
Oversimplified, a monitor is basically bright background, like a projector, projecting light in our direction.
And in front of that is a transparent foil,in which colored dots -pixels - can be made light up in different colors. A complicated computer system makes these 1920*1080 (Full HD) = 2073600 dots "color" the light from the background "projector", so we see the image we see.
Again, this is a very simplified description, but this is all we need to make you understand why our monitor must shine light at us - it is needed, to make the dots appear in front of an illuminated white (high energy) background.
So this is why for every monitor we need to look at light to be able to use it.
There is no exception...
The best monitor you cannot buy
Well, is that really true?
It is not 100% true.
In my opinion, the best monitor would be one you cannot buy, because amazon does not build it - a monitor using the paperwhite screen technology amazon developed and put into its old kindle devices.
I own this old kindle and love it, It causes no strain to the eye because it does not emit any light. It is passive. It feels to the eye like reading on a real sheet of paper, it's absolutely fabulous.
But amazon seems to not see a market for bigger screens here. And as far as I know you can't even get this kindle anymore?
A downside to the paperwhite technology is that while it would be great typing this text (black on white), I could not use it while working on images (color)... so in part I understand amazon's decision not to proceed with this patent.
But I am sure with some research there would be a way to make the paperwhite technology work with colors, too...but well, who is going to inform Jeff Bezos about my idea?
Our Eyes are built to look with light, not against light
Ok, back to our topic: Why is the paperwhite technology so fabulous? Why does it cause no eye strain?
Because our eyes are built to look with light, not at light. And every computer monitor I know of except for this paperwhite technology is based on some form of backlight technology we discussed above.
And so they have to shine light aimed at your eyes in order to work at all.
But over time that is a bit like staring into the sun (well, sure by far not that intensive, but you get the idea - the sun would immediately destroy your eyes with only some unprotected exposure).
But while the sun is totally different animal and we can avoid looking into her, we cannot do this with our monitors.
Light should be indirect, not aimed at our eyes!
And especially not high-energy light like blue light or UV!
Monitors you can buy
So: The model you choose should help you work comfortably and should also ensure that your tasks gets completed without much strain, as far as that is possible considering the technological necessities..
Also, but not as importantly, It should have the right size, the perfect resolution and all the other features that you are looking for.
Blue light is the main culprit
Once again: The main problem with the light/backlight from monitors is the blue light, which has a high energy and is next to the ultraviolet light on the color spectrum.
So the idea is - since we need the monitor to shine at us - to avoid the blue light as much as possible.
Oh, and let me add that blue light (similar to sunlight) coming from your screen in the evening night might also discrupt your sleep cycle, since your eye/brain takes it as sunlight - so it must be day, right? No time to feel sleepy...
Caveat: What happens, when we reduce the blue light part in colors? They turn yellowish/brownish/redish...so if you work in grafic design, reducing the blue light might now be always possible for you.
But all option we discuss here can be switched on and off.
Flickering is another eye strainer
Another potential problem with monitors we haven't discussed so far is the issue of flickering and the resulting eye fatigue.
Many people report issues associated with eye fatigue while working on their home PCs. The issue is common and usually caused by the LED backlights. Most PC users have reported that they experience difficulties in seeing because of the high speed at which the backlight flickers.
In fact, even the people who cannot see this flicker are also likely to be affected by it. You can always dim the brightness control, but it doesn’t guarantee anything.
The dimming system of many modern LCD monitors itself causes this flickering and the resulting eye fatigue. So ideally we get a monitor which uses the so called DC (Direct Current) dimming system instead of the more popular PWM (Pulse Modulation System). Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages, but for some people the PWM system causes eye strain.
EIZO (a more high end monitor company) put a lot of research into the issue of eye strain and developed their own system called "EyeCare Dimming, a hybrid system used in some EIZO products". If you have a lot of problems with eye strain, EIZO monitors might be worth checking.out.
This monitor from Asus will prevent eye strain and make sure that you have a perfectly comfortable experience while working. It also comes with a blue light filter.
My Buying Suggestion
- Impeccable lifelike visuals with 25-Inch 16:9 2560 x 1440 with 100% sRGB and 178° wide-viewing angle
- ASUS Eye care technology with TUV certified Flicker free and Blue Light Filter for less Eye fatigue; Ergonomically-designed stand with Tilt,Swivel,Pivot,Height adjustment plus wall-mount capability for comfortable viewing position
- Extensive connectivity with native WQHD content support with HDMI, DisplayPort, and Dual-link DVI
- ASUS-exclusive QuickFit Virtual Scale and Splendid Video Intelligence Technology for true 'what you see is what you get'
- Inputs of HDMI/MHL, D-Sub, DisplayPort 1.2, Dual-link DVI-D.
Buying the optimal monitor on a budget
Personally I think that a Full HD screen standard width is enough (resolution) for me, though my PC could do more.
And because Full HD screens are standard these days, they are pretty cheap. On amazon searching for full hd monitor it shows the most products on the left side for the standard Full HD resolution, 1920*1080 px (pixels). I would go for those.
Taking our blue light discussion into consideration: What do you think of this screen?
- Includes 4 year advanced replacement warranty
- 24" Class Monitor (23.6" Viewable) Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution
- Anti-Blue Light Technology- Soft Blue, prevents 90% of blue light
- 16:9 Aspect Ratio w/ color support of 16.7 Million Colors
- Connectivity- VGA, DVI, MHL-HDMI, Audio In/Out
It comes with a Full HD 16:9 (the modern ratio of width to length, while 4:3 is the old TV ratio) and an inbuilt blue-light filter called SoftBlue.
Studies have shown that just as ultra-violet rays can cause eye damage, blue light rays from LED displays can cause damage to different parts of the eye and affect vision over time. SoftBlue LED technology uses a smart technology to reduce the harmful blue light waves without affecting the color or image of the display.
I think this could be a good choice for you?
Regarding blue light reduction, also check out the the chapter below called "Save your exes: f.lux".
Although you obviously need to choose a monitor according to space you have, having a large screen is sometimes a better thing. Though a friend of mine - Rob - loves to sit in front of really big screens - think 45-55 inches - that is definetly too big for me.
If I have to move my head to see from left to right, that is not for me.
But larger screen space helps you work more comfortably and some also claim that they cause less stress to your eyes. well, I doubt that, for me the brightness of such a big screen is too much and causes me strain.
But to be fair since I use f.lux (see below) almost every screen without it is too bright for me and causes me eye pain. And I never tried such a big screen with f.lux.
So size does matter, and more screen size means more backlight - consider this when buying a pc monitor.
Today monitors usually range between 17 inches, 19 inches, and 21 inches.
For me bigger sizes would be around 22 and 24 inches. The relatively larger ones will be around 27 inches to 30 inches.
22 to 24 inch is today a standard size that works for most home businesses.
However, as mentioned earlier, if your job requires you to focus more than usual on the screen, then a bigger monitor of 27 inches to 30 inches can be a good option.
A word about screen resolution
Resolution means the amount of pixels or "color dots" on your screen. To decide what resolution you are looking for, you should also know what resolution the grafics card in your PC "offers".
If your PC is not something you borrowed from grandma in the 2000s, it will have at least Full HD (1920*1080 pixels). And for me that's fine to work with.
If you are on a newer Mac with Retina screen, well, you might want to match that, but let's focus here on PCs or standard Macs.
I am working here on a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 PC with a Full HD monitor attached to it...the Surface can do a higher resolution, but it adopts to the resolution of my monitor, and I am absolutely happy with it. So for the PC to support a lower resolution is no problem.
If your business has nothing to do with high resolution stuff like grafics or 4k videos, Full HD should do for some time still.
But 4k or Ultra HD etc are coming in strongly.
Though it should not be an issue, make sure that you can connect your PC to the new monitor. For that you need a match in one or more of the video outputs of your PC to the monitor inputs.
For us choosing a monitor with a Display port or HDMI interface would be a good option.
One of the main advantages of the HDMI interface is the fact that it lets audio and video to be sent through the same cable. If you happen to get a monitor without the HDMI connector, you can always get an adapter that can be used for transforming a DVI port to an HDMI connector.
However, here too you wouldn’t get proper audio through. So while choosing the monitor, check the interface and go for the kind of interface that you would prefer and be comfortable in working with. Monitors with HDMI connectors best suit people who work with the media and sound.
While HDMI is standard, the Display Port is a newwer connector.
No big issue here, just make sure how you will connect the two.
Nowadays, all monitors come with a stand that can be used for adjusting the tilt. Likewise, these stands can also be used for moving the top part of the display from the vertical way to a few degrees near or away from you.
There is also other stands and base that helps you to swivel the monitor the way you want. Here, you do not have to grasp or move the monitor in the first place.
There are also other stands that allow you to adjust the height of the screen for more comfort. In this position, the top display will be slightly below the level of your eye. So when you look a little downward, you actually end up looking at the middle of the screen.
You will find other stands that let you rotate the monitor at an angle of 90 degrees from the horizontal structure to the vertical one. You can, therefore, toggle between the landscape and portrait mode with this feature. These kinds of stands are particularly more suitable for home business owners who work with the word document and review web pages.
When you play games or work with the video editing features, a curved monitor will work. So choose wisely depending on the nature of your work and the amount of time you spend on it.
Save your Eyes: f.lux
New research shows, that the blue light from our computer monitors, LCDs, mobile phones and probably LED lamps harms our eyes a lot, though the damage is not evident until much later.
Here is a very interesting article by Dr. Mercola about the "new" LED lights and their risks (for example sleep problems) in general. It is absolutely worth a read.
Also, check out this article about risks of blue light and computer monitors at Harvard.
A tool I came to love, which is also free, is a little program called f.lux (Windows) and Twilight (Android). They reduce the blue light on my screens and monitors, and today I can hardly look at my screens without this filter... so energy-intensive my screens are in the blue light (sub-ultraviolet) light band.
Check out their page on how much blue light they can spare your eyes! Check out their fluxometer!
You must check out this information! It is the best and most important advice on all this page!
Save your Eyes: Yellow Glasses
A very good idea is to wear orange sunglasses at night, filtering out the "high-risk" blue light spectrums:
- Orange Lens features Spectrum Control Technology (SCT) to absorb 98%+ of blue light emitted from laptops, computers, iPads etc.
- Result is additional screen contrast with sharpened details, which improves focus, reduces eye fatigue and helps inhibit vision problems like cataracts and age-related macular degeneration
- 3-Position ratcheting lens inclination system and patented, adjustable-length Duoflex comfort cushioned temples for optimal screen viewing; molded-in nose bridge for long-wearing comfort
- Wrap-around uni-lens design with integral side shields offers exceptional clarity; Uvextreme anti-fog coating; easy and economical lens replacement system
- Meets the ANSI Z87+ standard and is certified to the requirements of the CSA Z94.3 standard; made in the U.S.A.
If your desk space is small and you cannot accommodate a different set of speakers, then it is a good idea to choose a monitor that already comes with a built-in speaker unit.
Go for a model that has a speaker with a rating of 2 watts or more. But here, you wouldn’t get adequate volume and bass that is required for working with videos, listening to music or playing games. In that case, people who work with videos have to invest in a good set of speakers and/or increase their desk space if it is not spacious and adequate.
Another add-on that you should look for is a USB hub on the monitor. This is particularly useful for people who do not have proper USB ports for their flash drives. In such cases, side mounted ports can be a great option.
Size is not that important when thinking about buying a computer monitor... but well, opinion do differ...
Last update on 2016-12-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API