Selecting a Monitor for Old Eyes
de Dave W6DE
Selecting and setting up Monitors for use with DXLab requires tradeoffs between cost, resolution and size. You can optimize for any two. But for old eyes you will inevitably need high resolution (pixel size) and a larger screen size—which means the cost will be higher.
How do you decide what will work best for you? First you need to decide what resolution you can read on a monitor.
Resolution starts with the pixel size on the monitor. A pixel is a dot of color on your monitor. A ‘standard’ monitor now-a-days is an HDMI monitor and it has a resolution of 1920 x 1080 lines, that is 1920 horizontal dots per line across and 1080 vertical dots per line up and down on the monitor. Notice that a resolution specification is in line/pixel quantity, not physical size! For the same resolution (lines) pixel size is determined by the physical size of the monitor. So if you buy a big HDMI monitor you get bigger (easier to read) pixels and buying a small HDMI monitor you will get smaller (harder to read) pixels.
There a number of placement/ergonomic issues about monitors that will affect the ease of reading/use and thus your choice of monitors. First, put the monitor at the same level as your radios. Old eyes lead to bifocals and placing the monitor above the radios will have you tilting your head back to read the screen. This will give you neck cramps and/or a sore neck and make operating an unpleasant experience. Moving your head side to size is easier on the body than tilting your head back.
How far away should the monitor be away from your eyes? For me the correct distance is the length of my arm. Making a fist and extending my arm, my knuckles are very near the screen. If you absolutely have to get the monitor off the desk top, compromise and place the monitor stand/base alongside the radio. Extend the monitor stand and then slide the radio under the monitor. The lower edge of the monitor should then be physically on top of the forward edge of the radio. This will allow you to move your eyes to see the monitor with no tilt, or a very slight tilt, of your head. You can also use a VESA wall mount to hold the monitor over the radio—be careful to select a monitor with a VESA mount, not all of them have the VESA mount; e.g., my favorite, Dell Monitors.
Pixel density or how many pixels/lines per inch do you need? Referred to as Pixel Pitch, at an arm’s length I can see and read 0.233mm pixel density. One of my good friends needs 0.274mm pixel density. My recommendation is to visit a Computer Store (Best Buy, Fry’s) and look at a computer set up with monitors where you can right click the desk top and request the “Screen resolution” and not only know what you are looking at but see what small print looks like on that monitor.
Monitors are measured diagonally corner to corner. My 27” diagonal, 2560 x 1440 monitor is 23.5 inches wide and has a pixel density of 0.233mm. This is calculated this way: 23.5 inches equals 597 millimeters; dividing 597mm by 2560 pixels; yields 0.233mm per pixel.
AFTER you have decided what pixel size you can comfortably read, you need to decide how many fully visible Windows you will have open when using DXLab. This will help you decide to buy a HDMI (1920 x 1024), WQHD (2560 x 1440) or Ultra Quad monitor.
I tried using cheap Thrift store monitors and what I had laying around at first. After a year of frustration of not having enough monitor landscape, I bought some proper HDMI displays. I selected two 21.5 inch (diagonal) HDMI 1920 x 1024 monitors (Dell S2216) to view most of DXLab. The problem is those two monitors, when sitting side-by-side, took up almost 38” of desk space. So, I had to stack the one over the other, which of course gave me a sore neck. I gave up after a couple more years and went to my current monitor set up of one WQHD 27”, 2560 x 1440 (ASUS PB278Q) monitor along with one of the 21.5” HDMI monitors from my previous set up. The 27” monitor takes up 25” of linear desk space but I place it diagonally on the right of the radios at the end of the operating position where it only takes up 18” of left to right operating desk width. The second monitor is stacked over the radios and is only used for DX Atlas’ map and a DXSherlock 6-meter propagation map. These two maps are glanced at information displays; they aren’t typed into or manipulated after start up—so, no sore neck.
If you want to see most of the DXLab windows open simultaneously without overlaying windows, you will need two 1920 x 1024 monitors or one 2560 x 1440 monitor. There are other choices, but pay attention to the pixel density and desk space available. Make sure your current computer can operate with you selected monitor’s: Interface, VGA, HDMI, DVI, Display Port, etc.; Resolution: 2560 x 1440, etc.; and Quantity of monitors.
If you need a pixel size greater than you can get on a 1920 x 1024, 21.5” or 22” monitor (~0.23mm) consider a 24” 1920 x 1024 display at ~0.27mm; or a 27” display at 0.31mm. A lot of folks can read a 21.5” monitor, pretty much anybody should be able to read a ~25% larger 0.31mm pitch 27” HDMI display. Just be careful with desk space as you go to larger displays.
Or, if you need a pixel size greater than you can get on a 2560 X 1440, 27”(~0.23mm) display consider a 32” Curved display monitor, it will be quite expensive but it doesn’t take much more space than a 27” flat display.
Windows offers an approach to making text larger: Click the Start button , click Control Panel, and then, under Appearance and Personalization, click Adjust screen resolution (for Win-7 click ‘Display’ in lower left corner). If you choose one of these options; say 125% it will effectively cut your screen resolution by 80%. That means you lose 20% of your monitors display space—now you can’t get all your DXLab windows on the monitor. And, some applications will not display all the text in the designed in fixed size text boxes. Buy a physically larger monitor to get larger text; you’ll be happier in the end.