In the age of 4k, for me CRTs still reign supreme

The NEC MultiSync 22″ CRT… a true masterpiece.

I was thumbing through the free stuff on craigslist early Saturday morning (like I’m sure everyone does) and came across a 21″ IBM CRT monitor. A real classic.

Sadly, the owners must have grown tired of their treasure; they left it out overnight on the front porch, a potential death sentence for any piece of electronics. What a shame… it deserved so much better in its golden years.

For a split second I was tempted to go rescue it, but I quickly sobered up to the fact that I already had several taking up valuable real estate in my basement. This would not go over well with the wife.

And why the heck would I hold on to these giant paperweights in the era of glorious 4k ultrawide monitors and such, anyway? Well, there’s the nostalgia factor, of course, but there really are a few pretty solid benefits to the old cathode ray tube. Consider the following:

  • Dead pixels. I don’t know about you, but after I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on a new LCD monitor, I’m sweating bullets the first time I turn it on; dead pixels on LCDs are simply not that uncommon. In fact, I feel quite lucky if there are none at all. Whelp, with CRTs this unfortunate problem is much, much less common. Yes, things can still go wrong… you can still get stuck pixels, but it’s rare. Also, usually you can easily fix your screen with a good degaussing.
  • Viewing angle. Sometimes I just like to look at my monitor from odd angles, okay? And, lo and behold, the screen on a CRT looks good no matter how weirdly I turn my head or adjust my chair. I don’t even think I need to mention what a problem this can be for LCDs.
  • Older games look AMAZING. Most games back in the day were designed with 4:3 ratio (fullscreen) VGA CRTs in mind. If you try to play an older game at 16:9 (widescreen) it’s either going to be stretched out or you’ll have to put up with those annoying black boxes along the sides. Plus, often the colors don’t look quite as vivid. But maybe that’s just my imagination. At the very least I recommend keeping a CRT on hand to play the classics the way they were meant to be played.
  • Anti-theft protection. At 50 pounds or whatever, people aren’t going to be stealing these things. If they do, honestly they probably need it more than you. But I’m still not sure why anyone would bother, considering my next point:
  • Budget-friendly. People literally pay others to recycle their CRTs, so yes you can pick one up for free quite easily. This is good because it actually fits my budget.
  • Screen savers. One of the potential downside of CRTs is their propensity for burn in; that is, if you leave the screen on for too long without changing anything, images or their ghosts might become a permanent feature on your screen. No bueno. So how is this a good thing? Well, it made tacky screen-savers almost a necessity. I can’t be the only one that misses them.
  • They look cool? And not just in terms of their hipster-vintageness. Call me weird, but I genuinely like the white/beige color and robust heftiness of CRTs.

So, there you have it. I do realize you could make a similar (and probably longer) list in support of LCD/flatscreen displays. But that doesn’t diminish these “advantages”, nor make CRTs any less attractive for certain niche purposes. 4k is nice, indeed, but what would I do without the satisfying thud and buzz of those cathode ray tubes as they ignite… it’s the experience I think I’d miss the most.


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