Fire Your Mac Up! 9 Essential Mac Upgrades (Plus More Power Tips)

Zack Stern's picture

Fire Your Mac Up! 9 Essential Mac Upgrades (Plus More Power Tips)



Pretty soon, the old-school images of a Mac setup with a CRT (cathode-ray tube) display will garner snickers—or possibly nostalgia. Either way, LCDs (liquid crystal displays) have taken over, and for good reason. They save tons of desktop space, maintain their image quality better over time, offer accurate screen geometry (there’s no curvature), have more mounting options, and are more energy efficient. You can also take this opportunity to switch from the standard 4:3 screen ratio to widescreen format, the preferred format for video. Apple’s 20-inch Cinema Display is stunning, but it’s also a wallet-crashing $599. Here are a few examples of more affordable LCDs you can use to replace your hulking CRT.


A low-cost way to enter the widescreen world is with the ViewSonic VA1703wb ($195), a 17-inch display with a 1,440-by-900-pixel native resolution. There’s a catch with 17-inch widescreen displays in general: If you’ve been using a 17-inch standard display, you may actually feel as though you have less room on a 17-inch widescreen display. That’s because the 17 inches in a widescreen display are distributed more horizontally than vertically, so you might feel a bit penned in.


Having that vertical space is important for Web designers, people who do page layout, and audio and video editors who use applications that are loaded with control palettes. An affordable 19-inch widescreen display such as the Soyo DYLM1986 ($199) will give back a bit of that vertical space, but you’ll also have a nice wide screen for watching movies.


With the NEC MultiSync 20WMGX2, you can kill two birds with one stone. It’s a 20-inch widescreen display that also has a built-in TV tuner, so when you’re done using your Mac, you can switch to TV mode and catch the latest episode of The Black Donnellys. In addition to the DVI and VGA connectors, the 20WMGX2 has S-Video, component, and composite video connectors for devices such as TiVos and DVD players.


Perhaps you’re clinging to your CRT because you do work where accurate color is critical, and you’ve spent considerable time and effort to manage color. The LaCie 19-inch 319 ($899.99) is pricey, but its color accuracy is well worth the expense for photographers and publishing pros. It also comes with LaCie’s blue eye pro calibration software and a display hood for blocking out glare.


What to do with that old CRT? You can’t just toss it in the trash. CRTs contain lead, phosphorous, mercury, barium, and other environmentally harmful materials. In many states, you’ll have to pay to have your CRT disposed of. Check with your local waste management company to find out. If you want to donate your CRT, give the organization a call before you drop it on the doorstep on Saturday. Some groups may not accept CRTs or may charge a fee for taking it off your hands. - Roman Loyola


The NEC 20WMGX2 lists for $799.99, but you can find it for about $550.



The Soyo DYLM1986 is cheap but pretty.






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