The ABCs of DDC

By John Taschek  |  Posted 2002-07-29

Are LCDs Still a Luxury?

This is an interesting time—workers are purchasing "consumer-oriented" equipment for their offices that is superior to the dregs issued to them by their employers. This is especially true when it comes to monitors, where consumers are gobbling up LCDs while enterprises often are stuck with curved-screen CRTs that are hard on the eyes in more ways than one.

Recently, monitor vendors have striven to win back corporate customers, and theyre beginning to find success. With LCDs, for example, vendors including NEC Corp., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and ViewSonic Corp. are pitching reduced energy costs as a substantial benefit over older CRT technology.

However, although its true that LCD monitors use less than half the power that CRTs need, they are not necessarily less expensive to operate, even when factoring in rather high energy rates (those in California, for example).

Most 15-inch to 17-inch LCD monitors use up 20 to 30 watts when on, diving down to less than 5 watts of consumption in standby mode. Although new CRT-based displays can drop down to 5 watts in standby mode, they consume between 80 and 100 watts of power for a 17-inch display. Even the most energy-efficient CRTs come in at twice the wattage of an LCD.

But even based on a relatively high energy rate of 20 cents per kilowatt hour, LCD monitors make only marginal sense if total cost savings are the main purchase driver. At this rate, LCD monitors cost about 5 cents a day to operate, while CRTs cost a little less than 13 cents per day (using 80 watts of consumption on average). Assuming that monitors are in use 8 hours per day and 25 days per month, LCDs will cost $1.20 to operate per month and CRTs $3.20 each. Annualized, these costs are approximately $38 for the CRT and $14 for the LCD.

That means it would take nearly 10 years to make up the difference in operational costs when considering the price differences of the monitors ($500 for a 15-inch, high-quality LCD vs. $300 for a 17-inch, high-quality CRT). Of course, for a company running 1,000 monitors, theres a difference of $20,000 a year between LCDs and CRTs—and energy companies often offer rebates for lower costs to highly energy-efficient companies.

Power of Position

Power of Position

Even if energy savings are not as important as they were during last years energy crises, there still has to be corporate positioning.

Most often, NEC, Samsung, ViewSonic and other vendors market power consumption and space utilization as the main corporate drivers of LCD technology. More recently, those companies have added work force comfort to the equation. The thinking is that corporations have begun adding LCDs in increments and handing them over to employees as part of ad hoc work force retention programs.

Those three areas, plus recent price drops, have fueled corporate LCD purchases in the past year. In addition, other factors, including the absence of EMF (electric and magnetic field), play a role in some spaces, especially in the health care field.

Samsung officials cite tangentially related factors for boosts in sales, such as increased security spending , which has led to blanket equipment purchases including LCD monitors. Samsung, meanwhile, has released its SyncMaster line, which includes brackets for wall mounting and easy-to-use control buttons.

The ABCs of DDC


The ABCs of DDC/CI

One company offering true innovation targeted at the corporate enterprise is NEC. The company is taking advantage of a Video Electronics Standards Association specification called DDC/CI (Display Data Channel/ Command Interface) that allows IT administrators to control a monitors display functions. (More information is available at www.

In most cases, monitors are automatically recognized by modern operating systems and run without requiring IT support. However, driver changes and installation of graphics interfaces can cause erratic behavior. Users, meanwhile, often cannot diagnose or fix problems because of inconsistent user interfaces. DDC/CI offers bidirectional control over DDC/ CI-equipped monitors and display adapters.

For this to work, however, there must be a monitor driver in addition to the adapter driver, and the two must work in conjunction with each other.

NEC has implemented DDC/CI, a 4-year-old proposed standard that is just now meandering into products, as fully as possible in its Naviset architecture. Naviset allows administrators to control monitors via Ethernet cable or long-range signal cables.

The DDC/CI specification is display-technology-agnostic and will work with all forms of CRTs and LCDs. However, NEC has implemented it only in a select number of product lines.

Meanwhile, DDC/CI will not be ubiquitous until support for it is inherent in the operating system. Microsoft Corp. announced support for DDC/CI, but company officials said it wont be part of the operating system until the next version of Windows, code-named Longhorn, ships in 2004.

Until then, enterprise monitor purchases will largely remain a battle of cost vs. coolness.

eWeek Labs Director John Taschek can be reached at

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