— 11:23 AM on March 2, 2005

As you might imagine, I'm not an easy person for whom to buy gifts. As a result, the majority of my birthday and Christmas presents over the past five years or so have come in the form of dollars. I have developed a custom, over this time, of depositing the funds and proceeding to let them melt into our family finances, never producing a gift of any significance for myself.

Not this year, though. I vowed not to let it happen again, and so last week, I ordered myself a Dell UltraSharp 2001FP monitor. My decision was prompted in part by the fact that, when working a long day on an article, I found myself gravitating away from my desk, with its two CRT monitors, toward my laptop and its LCD display.

I knew the 2001FP would be good. I've seen them in person before. But I still wasn't prepared.

The 2001FP arrived yesterday, the box beaten and abused by UPS. I nervously set the display up and confirmed, to my relief, that it was just fine. I replaced one of the two CRT screens on my desk with the 2001FP, so that I had the new 20" LCD side by side with my older 21" Trinitron monitor, both running at 1600x1200 resolution.

And I then proceeded to spend the next two hours trying to troubleshoot my Trinitron CRT.

On some level, I knew that the Trinitron was the same as ever. I'd not even touched its connection to my PC when I set up the 2001FP. It was already connected to this BFG GeForce 6800 GT's higher quality primary RAMDAC. Nothing about the display was obviously warped or discolored. But I simply could not reconcile myself to what I was seeing. Next to the 2001FP, the Trinitron looked incredibly fuzzy, dim, and washed out. Something had to be wrong.

Fearing it was the RAMDAC on the GeForce card, I connected a Radeon to the secondary input on the CRT. Switching between the two inputs, at the same resolution with basically the same thing on the screen, produced only minor differences.

The reality is slowly sinking in. I should stop trying to troubleshoot my CRT and begin just enjoying the 2001FP. This display makes my laptop's LCD look washed out, as well as my CRT. It has the best combination of color contrast and brightness that I've ever seen, and it's simply fast enough not to allow any visible ghosting or the like, even in games. It's just stunning.

Still, despite everything I know, I can't entirely shake the impulse to "fix" the CRT. Surely the LCD can't be this much better. Surely. The only fix, I fear, will be a second 2001FP. And Christmas is a long way off.

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