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I'm looking for a proper display setup for us sysadmins here and I'm going to be picking out a monitor for us to use.

What features should I look for in a display that are appropriate for sysadmins that spend a lot of time staring at text on a screen?

What qualities are important in such displays?

What qualities reduce eyestrain?

I'm looking at getting a two-monitor setup for us.

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Took me a minute to think about it, but this is a critical features of question, not a "shopping" or "recommend this monitor" question. – Jeff Ferland Mar 27 '12 at 15:07
up vote 5 down vote accepted

I'm not a monitor expert, but I'll offer you the qualities I like in monitors I have to stare at all day:

  • Height adjustment. It's important that you not look down at your monitors all day. I can say from personal experience this leads to neck strain. My monitors are currently sitting on an empty 2U rail kit box to bring them up to the right height.
  • Large size. Given the current prices, anything smaller than 24" is unacceptable. This allows me to use a large enough font that I don't have to squint, while still giving me enough real estate to SSH to 16 boxes at once.
  • Adjustable contrast / brightness. Can't imagine any monitors don't have this, but it's a must.
  • Some of my colleagues swear by rotatable screen, for reading documentation, etc. I personally don't use this, but I'd say it's worth considering.
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Screens tend to be a very personal thing - I don't think there's one universal set of "must-haves". That said, I'd recommend steering clear of the "glossy" displays and pay the extra few bucks for those with antiglare screens. Additionally, make sure that the monitors are VESA mount compatible so that you can attach them to a dual monitor arm if desired.

Honestly, if you want to make your sysadmins really happy, let them choose. Tell them the budget they have to work with and let them do their own shopping.

Also, I find that adjustable ambient light controls are much more critical in reducing eye strain than making sure you have the perfect monitor setup.

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I use a couple Dell 2408WFP 24" IPS screens side-by-side; these are properly height-adjustable and have a gazillion color controls. Also, the fact that they're IPS panels means they are pleasant to view from most angles.

I fully agree with ErikA's advice to let them shop.

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