Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 168 / SEPTEMBER 1994 / PAGE 54

How to upgrade your computer's display. (Compute's Getting Started With: Upgrading Your PC)
by Richard O. Mann

Your computer's display is really two components, the video card and the monitor. If you're moving from EGA or VGA to Super VGA (SVGA), you'll need both, If you're already running SVGA, you can upgrade one or the other or both.


A year ago, there were a lot of technical questions about monitors, such as interlaced versus noninterlaced, multiscan versus single scan, and VGA versus SVGA. Today, most of those questions have quietly slipped into obscurity, along with the older.. less desirable technology. in other words, all monitors today are multiscan, and only ultracheap monitors are interlaced. And, of course, VGA is thoroughly dead - all regular PC monitors are SVGA.

The only questions left are dot pitch (a measure of how precise and sharp the picture is), screen refresh rate, and screen size. Higher refresh rates do away with any hint of flicker in the screen image.

Look for a dot pitch of 0.28 or smaller; images with a larger dot pitch can strain your eyes. Standard refresh rates of 68 or 70 Hz are OK; a 72-Hz screen gives you a bright, crisp image under almost any circumstances.

Screen size is totally dependent on how much you want to pay. Using Windows at higher resolutions (800 x 600 or 1024 x 768) on a 14-inch monitor can strain your eyes. A 15-inch monitor gives a significant increase in size and is easier on the eyes. Larger screens are generally needed only for highly detailed graphics work. During the last year, many computer sellers have gone to the 15-inch monitor as their standard,

Video Cards

I you don't have a Windows accelerator card or other high-speed local-bus video card, you're leaving an unnecessary speed bottleneck in your system. Installing the video card is a simple operation, though it involves opening the computer case and swapping the existing card for the new one. You'll also have to deal with installing video driver software, but that's usually a fairly straightforward process.

Things to look for when selecting a new video card are speed (get local bus or PCI, depending on your computer's data bus) and memory, with its accompanying color and resolution capabilities, You'll also want to deal with an established vendor.

Each video card requires its own video driver software for Windows. The card will come with a Windows 3.1 driver, but when the next version of Windows arrives, you'll need a new video driver. Microsoft may not provide the driver, and since the video card manufacturer already has your money, you can't depend on the manufacturer to send you the new software. You'll need to be able to find the driver yourself, Dealing with an established company that posts its drivers on CompuServe or its own BBS is the safest course.

Video memory runs from 512K to 2MB. You'll want a practical minimum of 256 colors at 800 x 600, which requires only 512K of video memory. Another 512K of video memory (for a total of 1MB) buys you 65,000 colors at 800 x 600 or 256 colors at 1024 x 768, which will be enough for anyone without a megascreen monitor. You absolutely need 256 colors at 640 x 480 (the standard DOS-sized screen and resolution) to run any modern multimedia or game software, so don't get less.