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Display and Graphics Guide


For nine years, Information Systems & Computing (ISC) recommended a 17-inch cathode ray tube (CRT) monitor as the desktop standard. Beginning with the 2007-2008 desktop recommendations, the standard changed to a 19-inch liquid crystal display (LCD) and, for the 2019-2020 desktop recommendations, a 24-inch display is specified. While ISC believes that the 24-inch LCD standard will suit the needs of most users, it's important to be aware of special considerations that may influence your specific requirements.

ISC recommends purchasing displays that specify a 16ms or lower response time and using a digital video input, such as DisplayPort, Thunderbolt, or USB-C, to reduce the effects of input lag. Depending on its usage, purchasers may also wish to consider the quality of the LCD panel. Most display manufacturers use TN (twisted nematic), VA (vertical alignment), or IPS/PLS (in-plane switching) panels.

TN panels have the advantage of being less expensive to manufacture, as well as typically having lower response times but sometimes have issues with off-axis display accuracy. They often are found in business and consumer-oriented displays. VA occupy a middle ground between TN and IPS displays. IPS and PLS displays are often regarded as having significantly better color reproduction capabilities and are generally geared towards users who work in visual media where accuracy is paramount. ISC suggests carefully weighing the importance of color accuracy when making a display purchase.

Displays Purchasing Advice

ISC strongly recommends purchasing LCDs toward the higher end of the market, especially since it is common practice at the University to retain the same display for two system life cycles. In particular, displays with a LED backlight are highly recommended, as LED backlights keep useful brightness for a longer period and typically use less electrical power both in use and in standby. Displays should support at least Full HD resolution. ISC has had good experiences with Dell's UltraSharp and Professional displays.


For many years, ISC recommended purchasing desktop systems with discrete graphics cards. Discrete graphics cards continue to provide significantly higher performance than most integrated graphics solutions, but Intel's recent mid-range to high-end integrated graphics (designated HD 615 and above) have substantially closed or in some cases eliminated this advantage. Thus, for FY2020 the recommendation is for a discrete video card or Intel integrated graphics (HD 615 and above). This recommendation does not apply to lower-end integrated graphics such as HD 610, which are insufficient for University use.

Since discrete graphics cards have their own processor and memory, they can offer more power and do not need to share the system's main memory. This provides a better user experience and support for highly graphics-intensive applications such as AutoCAD, LightWave 3D, and Maya. Discrete graphics cards also often allow more flexibility when using multiple displays. Finally, they "future-proof" systems—over time, ISC has found that systems with discrete graphics are far more usable toward the end of their life cycles.

Graphics Purchasing Advice

For most administrative systems, ISC believes that the integrated graphics available on the Apple Mac mini, the Dell OptiPlex 7060, and the Lenovo ThinkCentre M910 are appropriate choices. The Apple iMac recommendation includes a discrete graphics card, but this only because Apple does not currently offer an integrated graphics configuration with a four-core processor.

Additional Information

The Computer Connection offers displays by Dell and Lenovo. Dell and Lenovo displays are also available in build-to-order configurations.

Dell's displays website.

Lenovo's displays website.