I have to agee with Simon on this, 100%
I used to use a 19" CRT graphics monitor that I really liked --back when 15" was the standard. I judged that my aging eyes were worth it.
After I got a laptop, I was totally blown away with how much easier on the eyes [yeah, less headaches, too!] a Digital Flat Panel is.
I have replaced my 19" CRT with a 19" DFP, and it is great.
A Samsung SyncMaster 940BW, just for the record.
120x120 dpi resolution. No flicker. I can get as close to it as I want --usually 22-24 inches [56-61cm] is good for reading text. But I can lean back in my chair to about 32" [82cm] and it still looks nice and sharp.
The problem with the CRTs is that there is electron gun aimed right for your head, and it is beaming a flickering horizontal and vertical scanning pattern at you. If you have a video camcorder [analog] with autofocus & auto-exposure, shoot video of a computer CRT screen. On the tape replay [on a good television or monitor] you will see the actual scan lines and flicker on that computer CRT screen, under certain zoom & lighting conditions.
Your eyes will still get tired if you strain them --just like reading a book for too long. But the effects you are describing will be much less frequent --or gone entirely.
2 things to remember though:
Older laptops from 2000 & 2001 did not have nearly as good screen & video drivers as they make these days. My laptop was purchased in 2004, and it was fine.
The other thing to remember is that video RAM has gotten much cheaper since 2001. Modern graphics controllers are in the 128 - 512 MB range for video RAM. My 2004 has 64MB. A 2001 machine would be lucky to have 32MB of video RAM --that's what many desktop graphics cards were still using [in cheaper machines] back then. It might have only 16MB VRAM. That is going to limit your ability to watch streaming video online, or watch DVDs or VCDs on your laptop, especially since the system RAM is probably going to be 128-256 MB in a laptop that old. And a slow, hot CPU. . . you will be disappointed in the performance, even running Linux.
The laptop manufacturer is still going to publish frequency rates and color depth figures, even though the physics behind them is different for CRTs and DFPs, as Simon explained.
The direct answer to your question is that in a laptop, you have the video card/chip which has a certain capability, but then, you also have the screen panel -which will probably have a lower
My laptop's video AGP graphics controller is capable of pushing a resolution of 2048x1536 at 16 or 32 bits color depth. Theoretically. But the screen that Toshiba put on the machine can only handle 1280x800 at 16 bit color depth, maximum.
So it's those two factors, the graphics controller plus the screen, that determine what you get.
My advice is unless you're getting it for like $50, don't waste your money on an older laptop. Laptops are expensive --or impossible-- to upgrade, unlike a desktop machine. I build & upgrade desktop computers, so I know whereof I speak, on this point.
You might want to try getting a flat panel monitor for your desktop computer. A good 17" can be had for under $200 US. Get one that has both a VGA and a DVI connector. You can always upgrade your desktop video card to one that will do a DVI interface, probably for $30-40.
Ask at the MepisLovers.org hardware forum if you need or want any more info. I'm over there more than I'm here. On second thought, I can get email notification if you post to this thread, so that will work.
Bottom line: I hear you, brother. We each have only one set of eyes. And they're even harder to upgrade than a laptop!