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Q: Attaching flat-screen monitor to old Dell Inspiron 3800 ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   4 Comments )
Subject: Attaching flat-screen monitor to old Dell Inspiron 3800
Category: Computers > Hardware
Asked by: bbb-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 17 Aug 2004 13:05 PDT
Expires: 16 Sep 2004 13:05 PDT
Question ID: 389098
My daughter has an old Dell Inspiron 3800, still working ok & she'd
like to keep using it, in school. But the screen is going bad.
Since she really uses the Dell only at her desk, we wondered if we could do this:
   1. Buy a flat screen monitor and attach it. 
   2. Whenever the Dell goes bad (or is just too outmoded), buy a
desktop without a monitor and use that flat screen one.
This seems reasonable, but is it practical?
Any thoughts on attaching a flat-screen to a laptop? And maybe what to look for? 

Request for Question Clarification by smudgy-ga on 17 Aug 2004 13:10 PDT
Hi bbb,

Does your laptop have a VGA connector in the back? This connector is
usually blue in color, it's about 2 cm across, and it has three
horizontal rows of little holes. Most likely there is a simplified
graphic of a monitor printed above the connector.


Clarification of Question by bbb-ga on 17 Aug 2004 13:24 PDT
I think we may have that connector. I see one that's blue, with three
rows of holes (5 in each row), and a diagram that looks like an
approximate square shape between two vertical lines. As for length,
I'm metrically challenged, but the connector is about 5/8 of an inch,
Subject: Re: Attaching flat-screen monitor to old Dell Inspiron 3800
Answered By: smudgy-ga on 17 Aug 2004 14:45 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi bbb,

I hope you find the following answer satisfactory. If you find that
your question is not answered to your satisfaction, please request a
clarification before rating and I will do my best to resolve any

According to the Dell tech. specifications for your Inspiron 3800:

your laptop does indeed have a 15-pin video connector. This connector
is industry-standard across PCs and compatibles, and just about any
monitor manufactured for PCs should have this connector. The telltale
sign of this connector on your computer is that, unlike most of the
other connectors that are "packaged" similarly, this connector has
three rows of pins/holes instead of two.

If you go monitor shopping and the customer associate asks you what
kind of connector you need on your monitor, you can just say that your
computer has a "standard VGA connector" and they should know what
you're talking about, and be able to find a unit that meets your
needs. The truth is that it's mostly Macintoshes and high-end
industry-specific computers that deviate from the VGA-connector
standard, so you shouldn't have any trouble finding a monitor that
will work--in fact, you may not even be asked what kind of connector
you need, once the customer associate learns you're looking for a
monitor for a PC.

That being said, just about any VGA-compatible monitor you can choose
will work with both your current laptop and any new PC compatible you
are likely to buy. You could even buy an old $70 clunker of a CRT
monitor, and it would work fine.

Here's some general information on how to choose a monitor:

Your current computer supports a maximum resolution of either 800x600
(if it has a 12 inch screen) or 1024x768 (if it has a 14 inch screen).
Just about every monitor these days supports 1024x768 resolution, so
that shouldn't be a problem--but this is probably the lowest
resolution you want to settle for. If you get a larger monitor, you'll
want it to have a higher maximum resolution. Common wisdom has that a
15-inch monitor should have at least 1024x768 resolution; a 17-inch,
1280x1024; and a 19-inch 1600x1200. Higher resolution affords you more
"real estate" on your desktop, but it can also make text and icons
smaller and harder to read. There are settings in Windows, though,
where you can adjust text sizes, if you desire.

As for flat-screen monitors (and here I'm assuming you mean LCD or
"flat panel" monitors and the like, rather than "flat screen" CRTs,
which are not much different from traditional monitors), here's some
information on how to shop for them:

Flat-screen monitors offer a lot of advantages over traditional CRT
monitors--they are much lighter, they use a lot less power, and they
can give a very sharp, vivid picture--however, there are some
disadvantages. First of all, they are extremely costly, easily several
times the price of a comparable CRT, and price increases geometrically
with size: 15 inch monitors can go for about $300, 17-inch for about
$450, and 19-inch for upwards of $800. Other issues to be aware of
include the fact that some flat-screens don't "scale up" the
resolution if they are run at a lower resolution than they are
designed--that is, on some flat screens, if the monitor has a maximum
resolution of 1024x768, a signal from the computer running at 800x600
will display in the center of the screen surrounded by a black border,
rather than stretched out to the screen's edges. Also, flat screen
monitors can vary considerably in their brightness, and their ability
to update the screen quickly without "ghosting" effects (this can make
movies and fast-moving video games hard to view). There is also the
tendency (as you may have noticed with your laptop monitor) for
individual pixels or rows of pixels to die on a flat-screen.
Production of LCD monitors is constantly improving, though, so these
issues are less of a problem than they used to be.

You should definitely check out this previous Answer by haversian-ga
on how to select a flat-screen monitor.

Here also are some handy guides on how to select a monitor in general:

I hope this answers your question! If any questions remain or if
anything is unclear, please request a clarification and I will do my
best to answer more completely.


Search techniques:

Google search terms:
<buying flat-screen monitor>

Froogle search terms:
<15 inch lcd monitor>
<17 inch lcd monitor>
<19 inch lcd monitor>

Dell webpage search:
<Inspiron 3800>
bbb-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $12.00
To smudgy: My apologies for not replying sooner. Technical problems.
In any case, thanks for a superb answer, very thorough, clear, and
helpful. (Also thanks to bananarchy for that further thought.) We've
done our purchase based on this, and you made it much easier; we knew
exactly what we needed to know!

Subject: Re: Attaching flat-screen monitor to old Dell Inspiron 3800
From: bananarchy-ga on 18 Aug 2004 11:01 PDT
smudgy gives excellent advice on the situation, but I would add one
small caveat: if you wind up buying a monitor online rather from a
store, the "standard VGA connector" issue will become important.  If
you buy from a store, they'll most likely steer you toward monitors
that are compatible with what you're looking for, but it can be harder
to tell with online vendors.  Specifically, if it mentions anything
about "digital input", "DVI", or anything that sounds suspiciously
like "digital", make sure you're 100% sure that the words "VGA
connector" appear somewhere in the specs, as well.

Many LCD's these days, especially in the higher price tiers, only
support DVI (digital video input), and WON'T plug into the 15-pin
connector you have in the back of your machine, at least without the
purchase of a separate adaptor.

As I said, this probably won't affect you, and definitely won't if
you're shopping in a brick & mortar store.  Just wanted to make sure
you didn't run into any unnecessary headaches :-)

Good luck!

Subject: Re: Attaching flat-screen monitor to old Dell Inspiron 3800
From: smudgy-ga on 18 Aug 2004 13:00 PDT
Thanks for the additional info, bananarchy.

That being said, if you fall in love with a particular monitor, and it
does have a DVI or a Macintosh connector instead of a VGA connector,
they do sell adapters that will translate the connector into something
appropriate for your computer. Just make sure you get the
male/femaleness right. Male connectors are the ones with pins; female
connectors are the ones with holes. (The metal bracket around the
outside throws people off sometimes.) Look at the connector on the
monitor and the connector on the computer, and then make sure you get
a connector that accepts the right connector at each end.

Subject: Re: Attaching flat-screen monitor to old Dell Inspiron 3800
From: orangetabbyesq-ga on 24 Nov 2004 12:32 PST
I happened to add a nice 17" flat-screen to my old Dell Inspiron 3800
last week.  It's a fabulous improvement on most applications (the Dell
Inspiron 3800's own screen is TINY!!!), but I can't figure out how to
make the screen align correctly with Microsoft Word.  Word seems to
think the screen is about an inch to the right of where it really is,
which is mostly annoying when I'm trying to close or reduce documents
using the top-right corner boxes.  I've also found that the Dell
Inspiron 3800 likes the new keyboard I plugged into it very much but
will acknowledge the new mouse only when it's hooked up through the
docking station (keyboard and monitor are same with or without docking
Subject: Re: Attaching flat-screen monitor to old Dell Inspiron 3800
From: bbb-ga on 24 Nov 2004 16:46 PST
Thanks to orangetabbyesq for that info & caution.

(Also, your name makes sense, since I think most cats are in fact probably lawyers.)

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