I almost never use the native resolution on a monitor for desktop work, the way Windows renders the desktop is ancient and has its roots in the resolutions used more than two decades ago.
For example, I am using 1600x900 on my 24' 1920x1080 monitor, in the same fashion as I use 1280x800 on my previous 1680x1050 20' 16:10 monitor.
You can use DPI scaling in Windows to make things bigger, but it really doesn't work properly, as some programs are not compatible, not to mention that even the main things that do, like the desktop, look weird.
I do play games at the native resolution though, games usually scale the text properly, so everything is readable.
Also, one other reason why you might be having trouble is PWM. For more information read this article on TFT Central:
In essence PWM is even worse than what CRT monitors did. CRT monitors display images on the screen by continually updating the screen, line by line, and they usually do it at 60 Hz, with the better models capable of 72 Hz, and more desirably, 85 Hz or even 100 Hz. If you look at some old news footage, for example, where there is a computer in the background, you'll see the image flickering, this is the CRT monitor renewing the image, the faster it's done, the less perceptible it is and the less tiring it is for the eyes.
What happens with the now prevalent LED backlit LCD monitors is that when you lower the brightness, what manufacturers do to achieve the lower perceived brightness is to use PWM, that is, cycle the backlight on and off rapidly, and the more you turn it down, the worse it gets, with longer periods of the light being off than on. It essentially turns off the backlight and then on again, in a fast way, unfortunately not fast enough on most models. Mainstream and budget monitors will do it at 180 Hz, some up to 400 Hz, but that is not enough. And it may be more disturbing to a lot of people because, 1. unlike CRT's, the whole screen is affected, and 2. unlike with CCFL backlit monitors (probably the 17' you have), when you turn off a LED, it stops emitting light immediately, while CCFL backlit monitors that employ PWM to dim the backlight retain luminance because CCFL lamps have a coat of phosphor, so there is some luminance left for a while, so the on-off luminance cycle is not so harsh.
The solutions are: have a high PWM switching monitor, in the Khz range, or preferably a monitor that uses direct current to dim the backlight. This last method has the disadvantage that you can't dim the backlight so much (well, at least probably not affordably), so if you work in a dark room, you'll then have to compensate by lowering the contrast too. Some monitors are thus using the two methods together, higher than 20% brightness there is no PWM, lower there is a high quality PWM switching circuitry operating in the Khz range, the higher the better.
BenQ is updating its models to use Flicker Free technology, so no PWM at any brightness setting. The one in my sig, the RL2455HM already has this technology and it works fine. I usually use my monitors at 0 brightness, so then I had to lower contrast too, in this case to 7, I'm not losing on image quality for it though.
Dell and Eizo are doing a hybrid approach.
Edit: I forgot to add, the LEDs used in current monitors are usually blue leds with a coat of yellow to make it white. so wherever you read W-LED or White-LED, it's not really white. Compared to CCFL monitors, LED backlit ones usually have a blue tint to them. The trouble is that the blue light spectrum is distracting and disturbing to many people, so you may have to adjust both Blue and Green levels on the monitor in order to make the image warmer, more reddish. CCFL backlit monitors have a warmer light.
For example, in my monitor I have the RGB levels set at: R: 100, G: 93; B: 89.
The new Dell 2413 is using a new type of LED, GB-LED that is supposed to solve this problem. LG (the panel manufacturer) or Dell (that calibrated the display) don't seem to have gotten it just right yet though from what I've read, but it may be a quality control issue.
Here is a review: http://www.tftcentral.co.uk/reviews/dell_u2413.htm