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Article: A Failing Display & Reevaulating a Workspace

by on September 23, 2010

I’m the type of person who is often torn between wanting the latest and greatest gadgets and wanting to get the most use/value out of my purchases. Often, these are at conflict, but I guess that also makes me pay attention to quality, price, and how something will affect long-term usage. Over the last week or so, I’ve had my entire workspace called into question because of a failing display.

My current setup consists of a MacBook Pro, a few external hard drives, Apple USB keyboard and Apple Magic Mouse, and a 21″ LCD. When I’m at “home”, I can have the capability and comfortability of a full-blown desktop, while still having a laptop to take with me. Most of this setup also was a result of the MacBook Pro replacing a G4 Mac mini that later became a media computer and then a server. I wasn’t going to throw away the LCD, but I didn’t necessarily need it.

Often, with this monstrous setup, I have found myself slightly wishing I had a current-generation Mac mini—it’s small, a little faster than my computer (not really an issue), but also doesn’t have me feeling that I need to use both displays (I have tried running my computer in clamshell mode, essentially with the display closed, but it just ends up being awkward). Instead, I could have a Mac mini and then take something like an iPad with me. If I was starting over from scratch, especially with my current needs, a desktop Mac and an iPad would be a perfect combination.

That being said, I promised a story about failure and it seems that my LCD is dying after only a few years of use. Granted, I probably have it on more than the “average” user, but it still is a bit frustrating. It was a name-brand (withheld), but was one of the more inexpensive models (good enough for a DVI connector, though). It seems either the backlight and/or inverter board are failing and, after some investigation, seems that it would almost not worth be fixing.

So what do I do now?

Well, it’s not dead yet—I have a flicker, black screen upon powering it on, and then after repeated presses of the power button a picture finally appears—but I am starting to think about my options. I could buy a new LCD, but which one? Brand reliability seems to be the easy factor, but the unknown is the technology. I’m leaning towards LED-backlit, since that’s what my MacBook Pro uses, and Apple seems to think is the way to go. This is also beneficial in that it will not have the inverter board and backlight issues that prior LCDs are often prone to. Another argument is the type of display. There is the budget-friendly TN, found on almost all laptops, the iPod touch, and most low-end to mid-level LCDs. There’s also the much-better-viewing-angle IPS, found in the iPad, iPhone 4, Apple desktop displays, iMac, and higher-end LCDs. In a lot of cases LED backlight and IPS displays are not included in the same display.

For right now, I’m going to keep using my display, but once it dies completely, I may just use my MacBook Pro with an keyboard and mouse and see how that treats me. If anything, this experience has been one where I am asking what do I really need? My iPhone has become my portable go-anywhere information source, even allowing me to view, create, edit, and manipulate content, making the need for my computer to be portable less of an issue. Perhaps my next computer will be another desktop, but for now I may just have a simple setup with my MacBook Pro.

Although I’ve been spoiled with over 3 million pixels on two displays, I think cutting down to only about 1.2 million on the 15″ display may be an interesting experiment.

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