Visualization: What you see is what you get – Sponsored by Dell

Whether you’re working on a notebook computer or a desktop, there’s no denying that being able to see your work is key. The more you see, the more productive you are and the quality of the monitor is nearly as important – especially if you’re doing graphics intensive work. But how do you know what monitor and graphics card or internal graphics in a laptop are right for you?

A desktop computer typical includes a graphics card and VGA graphics (in case the graphics card doesn’t work). Stock “straight from the factory” graphics cards range in quality based on the number of frames per second they display. Here, you’ll want to look at the computer’s specs and do some research on how well the card performs. Typically, a computer with a higher end graphics card will cost more. But do you need a high-end graphics card? Usually not, if you’re using run of the mill office apps. However, if you are doing animation or CAD or playing power hungry games (get to work there you), you’ll want to shell out the money for the machine with the high end card.

Laptops are another story. These little monsters give you a choice of two different types of graphics: integrated or discrete. Integrated graphics are just that: they are built directly into the motherboard. They also use system RAM which can slow down the machine. Discrete graphics are not an integrated part of the motherboard and are sort of a miniature graphics card. They use their own graphics memory and are generally considered to be substantially faster. Notebooks with discrete cards also tend to be more expensive. So, once again, you need to balance your money with your needs. You may want the fastest machine but do you need it?

The final part of the graphics equation is the monitor. Aside from specs, your best bet is to read reviews. It’s impossible to look at every screen available. There are a few things to look for however. You need to decide whether you prefer LCDs (liquid crystal display) or the newer LEDs (light emitting diode). In fact some folks prefer using used heavyweight CRTs (cathode ray tube) from a decade ago. Whatever anyone tells you, it’s a matter of preference. And, remember, invest in appropriate technology. The world’s fastest computer won’t make much of a difference when you’re working in Word.