GCN LAB IMPRESSIONS

The quiet death of the CRT monitor

We all know that when advertisers on TV say “Hurry…while supplies last!” they are actually sitting on a warehouse full of plastic choppers or steak knives or tomato plant seeds. There is little need to rush your order. And I suspect if they get close to somehow selling out, they’ll simply make more.

So when I got a press release from Dream Arcades saying that they were running out of CRT monitors, I didn’t pay it much heed at first. But the press release went on to say that companies that used to make CRTs either went out of business or are now only selling LCDs and other display types.


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Dream Arcades simply can’t find any new CRTs to buy, so its custom arcade machines will have to be based on LCDs from now on. That sounded reasonable, though it still seems a stretch that the CRT would disappear even in arcades, where it had seemed to find a permanent home.

I still didn’t quite believe it. CRTs were everywhere not that long ago, and some agencies hung onto theirs for a really long time. Could the supply really be all used up?

As an experiment, I did a Google search for “buy CRT monitor” and the first 10 listings were all from eBay and sellers of used equipment. Then I found a page from ViewSonic that touted a 15-inch CRT it was selling. I read about the monitor and then clicked on the button to begin the purchase process. File not found.

The same thing happened with page about a Dell CRT. It looked like it was available at first, but really wasn’t. In fact, other than used and refurbished dealers, I could only find a handful of companies that still sold them, and most of those were based in Asia with names I’ve never heard of before.

You won’t catch me crying about the loss of these not-so-gentle giants. The lab still has a few in boxes, but mostly for posterity’s sake. Back when they were the norm, my eyes were strained to the point where I almost needed glasses (switching to all-LCDs saved the day), I injured my back lifting one of the 30-inch heavies, a few broke for no obvious reason, and a really bad one we were testing actually caught on fire.

And that doesn’t even go into the many annoyances in terms of visual quality, the fact that you could see the grounding wires behind the tube, or that they didn’t look right until you warmed them up for a good 15 minutes or so.

No, if the CRT era has in fact finally passed, even from its arcade stronghold, I say let it rest in piece. I knocked a few of them into pieces over the years, and this seems a better fate. Like an old soldier, they just faded away.  

 

Reader Comments

Fri, Apr 4, 2014 Bongo San Diego

(April 2014) I'm writing this on a ViewSonic p225f CRT. I've had for 6 years and the guy before me had it for 6 years. It cost him $900 new and cost me $50 used. ;) It has 20" (4:3 viewable) weighs 64 lbs and is 23 inches deep. It can do 2048 x 1536 @ 60 Hz, but I run it at 1024 x 768 @ 100 Hz. I think one thing a lot of people don't realize is that a good CRT can do ANY resolution below it's maximum PERFECTLY CRISP. LCDs suck at that unless you do EXACTLY 1/2 resolution. So why am I STILL using a CRT in 2014? I HAVE BAD EYESIGHT. You can do all the font adjustment stuff you want but if you don't see well then the ONLY SURE WAY to make EVERYTHING bigger is to LOWER THE RESOLUTION of your monitor. I have 20/25 vision with hard contacts but I can only use them a few hours a day. With glasses, I only see 20/60. At 1024x768 I can BARELY see things and still need to increase font size on websites and sometimes use a magnifying glass to see something small. A good way to understand this is "pixels per inch" (PPI). The HIGHER the PPI the SMALLER everything gets and harder it is to see. 1024x768 @ 20" (4:3) = 64 PPI 1920 x 1080 @ 27" (16:9) = 80 PPI 1920 x 1200 @ 27" (16:10) = 84 PPI 1920 x 1080 @ 24" (16:9) = 92 PPI 1920 x 1200 @ 24" (16:10) = 94 PPI So you see the only way to get everything bigger with the 'standard' monitor resolutions is to buy a HUGE monitor, and you can't put it farther back on the desk because that defeats the purpose. So for us people with bad eyesight we have to buy a junk monitor below HD (1366x768), a massively expensive 4k monitor and run it a 1/2 resolution (2560x1440->1280x720), or a huge expensive monitor that's bigger than my television (32"+). Last but not least, despite my bad eyesight, I CAN seen the difference between 100Hz and 60Hz on 3d games. Once you've seen 100+ Hz YOU WILL NEVER GO BACK to 60 Hz. LCD Monitors have been out for TEN YEARS and FINALLY they are offering decent 100+ Hz monitors but with horrible color quality and viewing angles compared to CRTs from the last century. :P Also CRTs had NO ghosting/motion blur, NO light bleed, EXCELLENT darks/contrast, and perfect color quality. Just my 2 cents as I shop for a new monitor and see nothing I really like. I might have to buy 2 monitors, one for gaming with 120Hz but terrible image, and one with high resolution (to do 1/2 res) + good color for office work. I suppose I will have to wait ANOTHER 10 years to get a monitor that does BOTH. Like my CRT does NOW. ;(

Wed, Jan 1, 2014 Sithira Sri Lanka

I love CRTs a lot, and I don't want to see them gone. I have a 17" samsung monitor and a 29" SHARP CRT. We had 21" SHARP but sold it because there was no room for another TV. And they can be easily repairable and are very durable. You can increase the lifespan of a CRT TV by twice (1 1/2 maybe) by just cleaning it once a year. (Just turn it off, unplug the power cable, remove the back cover, and use a vacuum cleaner to clean the internal circuits. [DO NOT touch anything inside, stored electricity in capacitors and electrons left in fly back transformer can kill you immediately.) I hate LCD s because of the input lag, dead pixels, color patches, and poor sharpness and poor color quality. I always prefer using CRT s and love to see them in the future. I THINK Sony still make few CRT s for film makers, and those who need the same monitoring solutions. And people here in Sri Lanka, (I have no idea about other Asian countries in this case) people think about nothing except saving power and reducing electricity bill. They don't think about color quality, sharpness, lagging of durability. There are just few people who think about the build quality and durability of CRTs and they keep their CRTs. [sorry about the grammar and language mistakes,(if there are any) because English is my second language]

Sun, Dec 8, 2013

I'm sitting at my computer with a 24" ultra thin LCD. It's one of the best monitors out there in the $200 price range. It's crisp, colorful, bright and weighs all of 5 pounds. No annoying refresh rate flicker and my computer desk doesn't require reinforcement with 2x4's to hold the weight. But I would pay anything to have a CRT again.

Tue, Dec 3, 2013

CRT monitors are still the norm in the quality assurance of all those entertainment movies you and I crave. They are still being made for the Hollywood professionals; for exorbitant prices. They are superior in image quality in every possible point inspection. But... they are heavy! Power hogs! They emit more radiation!!! Yah yah... so does a 1970 GTO versus a Toyota Prius. Which would _you_ rather be sitting in??? However... from a business perspective; of course the greener, lighter, cheaper LCD gets the nod. I wouldn't use anything but an LCD at work. I come home to a CRT for fun time. Wish they were still widely available. The CRT is the sports car of monitors. Rare, expensive... hell-a-lot of fun to play with.

Tue, Nov 19, 2013 pinboy l.a.

There are many arcade games that will not work with the new flat screens. The optical gun games rely on a signal that only a crt can produce. The guns have an optical detector. Games such as lethal enforcers, area 51, max force, site 4, time crisis 1,2,3, police trainer. Most of the big buck series. If you want to preserve your game. Get an extra type monitor and put it away for safe keeping. Best monitors ever built are Nanao , in many sega games.

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