LCD Monitor adjustment blues

So we’ve made the move to flat computer screens, which have many advantages over their bulky CRT ancestors; but the vendors pulled a fast one on us when it comes to the controls for adjusting the screen’s image.OSD on Samsung SyncMaster 913N monitor

In the good ol’days, every monitor had at least two round knobs, one for contrast, one for brightness. This is as good as it gets from a human engineering perspective. You just twiddle the knobs back and forth until your eyes tell your brain to tell your fingers to stop right there. Today, we have instead an On-screen Display (OSD), which some vendors tout as a good thing; in reality it is slow, unfriendly and confusing. The idea is that you use a line of pushbuttons the navigate a hierarchy of menus just to get to the function you need, and then you need to click a good deal more to effect the adjustment. To make sure this is easy, the buttons are often labeled by cryptic symbols in near-invisible relief (as in the photo below, of my Samsung SyncMaster 913N); and the logic they use, though simple, is far from intuitive. This may be justified – indeed inevitable – for accessing the numerous advanced functions that did not exist in the CRT days; but couldn’t they have left alone those more basic controls?

That’s progress for you (sigh)…

Control buttons on Samsung SyncMaster 913N monitor

So, what can we do about this? Adding analog controls is not realistic on these super-integrated monitors. The only thing left, which actually removes much of the confusion, is to do what the vendor should have done – mark the controls with visible labels, as I’ve done:

Labbeled Control buttons on Samsung SyncMaster 913N monitor

1 Response to “LCD Monitor adjustment blues”


  1. 1 Douglas Aurelio Marques

    Interestingly (or sadly), it seems to me that the more high end, the worst it gets! I bought an Asus monitor last year for gaming and its controls are terrible! You not only have to navigate through the on screen menus to do most of the settings, but also have to wait some seconds (“function timeout”) if you change your mind and want to use another function, because each control has multiple functions. For example, when I turn on the monitor, the arrows let me choose the input (HDMI, VGA, DVI). But then, if I immediately want to set the brightness, I can’t do it because the bright control is activated by the arrows too! So, I have to wait until the input mode times out, otherwise while I think I’m changing the brightness, I start to change the input and my screen simply goes blank!

    And it happens not only with computer monitors. I bought a microwave oven 10 years ago that had a knob to adjust about everything. To heat up something for some seconds in standard power I only had to turn the knob to set the duration and then press start. And to adjust the power during the process, I could press power and turn the knob. Amazingly I bought a high end microwave oven recently and to do any simple thing I had to press a lot of buttons! And it beeps very loud every time I press them, without an option to turn the beeping off! A design nightmare!

Leave a Reply