Are Dell Computers Compatible With Other Brand Monitors?
By David Nield
Dell produces a broad range of desktop and laptop PCs, as well as its own range of branded monitors, which are usually offered as part of a bundle when a computer is purchased through the official site. Dell PCs do not have to be used with Dell monitors -- they can be hooked up to displays from any manufacturer, provided the device offers a compatible connection. Further support and advice can be found through the support section of Dell's website.
Checking Video Outputs
Which monitors are compatible with a particular Dell PC is dependent upon the outputs available from the graphics card or motherboard. If you are unsure, check the documentation supplied with your computer or look up the specifications in a quick Web search for the make and model of your PC. A freeware utility such as SiSoft Sandra can provide you with a detailed breakdown of the components installed inside your PC, and by searching online for a motherboard or graphics card model you can quickly bring up its specifications and video outputs. On the majority of boards and cards you will find small labels on the hardware itself, indicating which output is which.
Video Output Standards
There are three main video outputs that you will come across. The oldest is VGA (Video Graphics Array), sometimes referred to as D-sub 15, and it is still found as a standard on many cards and laptops. The connecting port is usually blue and built around 15 pin holes. DVI (Digital Video Interface) ports, which are larger than their VGA equivalents and almost always colored white, were introduced to replace VGA -- yet, many monitors, projectors and other devices still use the older technology. Finally, the newest HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) technology is now prevalent on many modern graphics cards, motherboards and monitors -- the connecting port is slimmer and flatter than the others.
Finding a Compatible Monitor
Monitors are listed together with the connecting ports they support on the Dell website and elsewhere. Any monitor of any brand that matches one or more of the connecting ports on your computer will work with it. Many modern television sets also offer VGA, DVI or HDMI inputs, and will work with the corresponding graphics cards or motherboards. Note that HDMI cables can carry audio as well as video information, which is something to keep in mind when configuring your computer setup.
Take into consideration other features and specifications when choosing a monitor. The headline specification is the screen size, measured diagonally in inches from corner to corner. Look for extra features such as a built-in TV tuner, USB connections and built-in speakers (which will save you from having to connect up an additional set). Some monitors allow an additional device to be connected (such as a games console or cable box) and can operate even when the PC itself is switched off. Other specifications you will come across include the contrast ratio (the difference between the whitest whites and blackest blacks) and the response time (how quickly the picture is updated, measured in milliseconds).
An information technology journalist since 2002, David Nield writes about the Web, technology, hardware and software. He is an experienced editor, proofreader and copywriter for online publications such as CNET, TechRadar and Gizmodo. Nield holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and lives in Manchester, England.