PC picture will sharpen

Desktop PC technology has made huge leaps in the past decade. Computer monitors lag in comparison. But that may change soon as the PC industry moves CRT (cathode ray tube) technology from an analogue world to a digital one.

A new industry standard, called digital video interface (DVI), offers to solve nagging monitor problems like jitters, ghost images and image distortion. The standard will do for computer monitors what high-definition television is expected to do for the boob tube, says Ed Anwyl, an IBM marketing manager.

IBM announced Tuesday that it supports the new DVI specifications in its Aptiva S Series, which is now available. IBM representatives say its PC 300 and IntelliStation desktop PCs, and both its P Series CRT monitors and T Series flat-panel displays will be infused with the technology by the end of September.

A group of PC, monitor, and graphic chip makers said this week that they too will support DVI specifications. Called the Digital Display Working Group and led by Intel, the industry coalition includes IBM, Compaq, Dell, Microsoft and Silicon Image.

The standard should not only eliminate common problems with monitors, but also improve the image, IBM's Anwyl says. Creating a consistent digital signal from a computer to a monitor should boost the resolution and crispness of images. The standard will eventually link PCs, consumer electronics devices and other systems to a digital display.

The monitor legacy

Most monitors connect to a PC by the video graphic array video monitor port. The VGA specification has been tweaked for higher performance, but analogue monitor and PC video technology haven't kept pace with other technological advances at the desktop.

Today, few monitors can handle a digital signal. But advancement in LCD technology has bolstered demand for a digital interface standard. LCD monitors can handle 1280 x 1024 resolution and offer crystal-clear pictures. Unlike CRT displays, flat-panel monitors are inherently digital.

An alternative to converting and reconverting analogue and digital signals is to keep the video signal digital. The conversion process, whether it be digital to analogue or digital reconversion, adds manufacturing costs and can noticeably degrade image quality.

The proposed DVI standard keeps the video signal in digital form. Vendors will integrate DVI specifications into the CRT monitor, flat-panel display, and video cards. IBM's Anwyl says legacy monitors and video cards will still work with new components, but will not benefit from purely digital signals.

Monitor makers Acer, NEC, Samsung and ViewSonic unveiled digital CRT monitors at Intel's developer forum this week in Palm Springs. Graphics chip maker S3, also a member of the DVI working group, announced support for the specification. Graphics board maker Matrox is another early adopter of the DVI standard.

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Tom Spring

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