The lowdown on flat panels

What's hot this year? Well, it's cool prices, for starters. You can get some 15-inch, flat-panel monitors for under $300'a good price for a display that is at least one-third the weight of a traditional CRT display.

Should I worry about the bezel? The bezel is the fancy name for the edging around a display screen. Wide bezels can be attractive and serve other purposes, but they're not good items for grouping in a wall display or command-and-control situation. There, you want thin bezels'the thinner the better.

What's the advantage of a self-contained power supply? If the power supply is a part of the monitor itself, it could be easier to mount a bunch of them on a wall; if the power supply is separate, wall mounting can be a problem.

What about the extras? Universal Serial Bus ports on a monitor, multimedia speakers or a built-in microphone can all be exciting features. But they can add to the cost and might not be needed'or desired'in all circumstances.

Must-know info? Prices look to be going down as time goes by, thanks to new manufacturing capabilities and an increase in plasma TV production. With more flat-panel screens of several types being produced, LCD panel prices are bound to drop'and the panel itself makes up as much as 90 percent of a flat-panel monitor's parts cost.

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