In recent decades, gaming monitors have made great strides in technological advancement – they have left the bulk of CRTs (Cathode-Ray Tube) behind and started a much more exciting future for LCD (Liquid Crystal Display).
Gone are the days when monitors were larger than a PC tower and beige than your grandfather’s slippers. Today’s monitors offer a variety of impressive design features, performance specifications and impressive features that make them far superior to CRTs of the past for most people.
In addition, thanks to modern methods, manufacturers can now adapt the performance of a monitor to their individual needs. Whether you are a gamer, a creative guy or someone who just wants to immerse yourself in film and television, today’s market has the monitor you are looking for.
Despite all this, there is still a big debate; CRT vs LCD monitors – which display technology is best for games? Many would think that LCDs are better because they’re newer, but that’s not exactly true. If we look back at the history of monitor technology, we will compare CRTs to LCDs to find out which are actually better for games.
In this sense, we should not waste any more time and go into it directly!
The early years
The first computers were a dazzling mess of cabinets filled with electronics that interacted with their users through flashing lights – if they were lucky. Many had no visual output at all, and users needed hard copies to decrypt the information they calculated.
While CRT technology had been around since the late 1890s (and has recently been used in mainstream televisions), it wasn’t until the 1970s that cathode ray tube technology was first introduced in consumer computer monitors.
The first of its kind was the Xerox Alto computer. It was equipped with its own CRT monitor that uses a monochrome display – text only. It may have been easy, but it was the beginning of a new era.
In the 1970s and 1980s, computer scientists worked hard to repeat the success of television sets. You tried to develop hardware and code that allow PCs to display an image on portable consumer TVs. While they did this, the resolution was low and the color extremely limited. It wasn’t until the mid to late 1980s that CRT monitors were made public – albeit limited and not very versatile.
After the development of multisync technology, however, the production of CRT monitors changed dramatically. Manufacturers were now able to create and design CRT monitors that were not specific to any brand or model. Multisync not only made it possible to support compatibility with any PC, but also multiple resolutions, refresh rates and scan frequencies. At that moment, the CRT monitors really took off and offered a pleasant viewing experience that was both versatile and functional.
That being said, CRTs still had their shortcomings. Not only were they heavy, tall and ugly, they also took up most of your desk property. Because these characteristics were undesirable to many and thanks to the speed with which the technology was developing, it did not take long for a new favorite to be in town.
The first LCDs
While LCD technology dates back to the 1880s, liquid crystal displays finally only became available on computer monitors in the late 1970s. At this point, the majority of LCD technology was used in calculators and watches. Only later did desktop monitors recognize the effects of LCD technology.
LCD technology was revolutionary when it came to designing monitors. Due to its existence, the display dimensions could be drastically reduced, which opened up a multitude of advantages tailored to the consumer. LCD monitors were not only thinner and less bulky, but also lighter and used much less energy. They were also larger (in terms of screen size) and could be bent – which brought a whole new level of immersion to the table. Not to mention a much reduced eye strain.
At this point, however, the manufacturing process for LCD monitors was still extremely expensive, which means that liquid crystal displays would still be the second choice for most people for now.
LCDs are beginning to overwhelm CRTs in market share
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, LCD monitor manufacturing methods were significantly refined so that developers can now bring much cheaper displays to the CRT-flooded market. In all respects, this was the beginning of the decline in CRT monitors.
As cheaper LCD offerings came onto the market, consumer demand for CRT-based monitors began to decline. In the late 2000s, the majority of high-end CRT production was discontinued and instead focused on LCD alternatives. The UK’s largest retailer of domestic electronic goods saw a complete shift in sales of CRT models. He stated that sales declined 75% between 2004 and 2005. There were similar scenarios in America, where stores like Best Buy quickly reduced the space allocated for CRTs.
By the end of 2010, the previous pillar of display technology was practically dead. And although many thought the new slim display options were superior, there were still a number of people who were not completely convinced of the idea.
Competitive gaming has been around since the early 1970s. Stanford University hosts one of the first multi-player competitions. However, it was not until the 1990s that the competitive game really started.
Street Fighter II (one of the most popular fighting games of the past 30 years) was one of the first to promote the idea of head-to-head competition. It paved the way for many multiplayer online action games, some of which are still played today. A decade or so fast forward and competitive gaming is bigger than ever and includes a global audience of players and viewers.
At this time, PC sports became more and more popular. Competitive players would look for an advantage that they could achieve over their advantage opponent. One aspect that was taken particularly seriously during this period was the monitor of their choice.
This was at the time when LCDs started to conquer the monitor market. While many people were more than happy to get rid of their bulky CRT monitor, this could not be said for gamers.
As many know, monitors used for competitive gaming require a number of different factors that must be classified as “high performance”. Of these factors, the most important are; Refresh rate, response time, resolution and input delay. These are the factors that make the gameplay run smoothly, ensure that the graphics are optimized and the delay between the peripheral device and the display is reduced – all essential when it comes to competitive games at the highest level.
Unfortunately, the LCD was neglected here. Early LCD monitors were worse in almost all departments, so competitive players had no choice but to continue with their proven CRTs. It was only years later that LCDs were finally able to show CRT-worthy performance levels.
Today’s monitors: A comparison between CRT and LCD
Fast forward to today, it’s 2020 and CRT monitors are almost forgotten. Competitive gaming is the most popular and titles like LOL, CS: GO, Dota 2, FIFA and Fortnite are beginning to release mainstream news. Professional esport franchises are huge, and players earn huge sums of money thanks to contract and sponsorship deals.
With the newly discovered lucrativity of the sport, monitor manufacturers are starting to get involved with the gaming train – and marketing everything that appears to be “the best for gaming”. While this might be the case compared to today’s LCDs, can they really have the same credentials compared to older CRT monitors?
CRT vs LCD
Let’s look at this:
Above, we’ve put together a quick comparison between one of the best CRT monitors ever (the Sony FW900) and one of the latest high-end gaming LCD panels (the ROG XG279Q). While the first readings look like the ROG is the superior monitor, there are certain technologies in a CRT display that may make you think differently.
First, we have the pixel grid. In contrast to LCDs, CRTs do not adhere to a fixed pixel grid. Instead, CRTs use three “cannons” to shine light directly onto the tube, which means that there is no upscaling blur and no special native resolution as such is required. In this case, CRTs can run at lower resolutions, which reduces the load on your GPU while still looking crystal clear.
The second biggest advantage of CRT monitors is motion resolution. Modern LCD monitors use a technique known as “sample and hold” in which movements are rendered at a significantly lower resolution than static images. This means that when panning a game from left to right, the image is rendered in a lower resolution, which results in a much less clear visual experience. CRTs, on the other hand, treat movements in a completely different way. CRTs do not use the “sample and hold” method, but render each frame identically. For games, this means that a CRT with a resolution of 768p can look as good, if not better, than today’s 4K display.
Next up is input lag. While the entry delay is not a big issue with high-end LCD monitors, it still plays a role in many individuals’ buying decisions today. However, there is no entry delay for CRTs. The images displayed on a CRT are radiated directly onto the screen at a speed that is close to the speed of light. This means no entry delay or delay – one of the main reasons why some people still use CRTs to this day.
However, they are not all victories for CRT monitor technology. Some of the most obvious drawbacks are in the CRT corner, including size, weight, and health risks. They are also extremely fragile, have no versatility and can put a lot of strain on your eyes.
Ultimately, it depends on what you prioritize the most in a gaming monitor. If you give priority to raw gaming performance, CRTs are still the better choice today. However, if you are mainly interested in immersion, ease of use, versatility and features, a modern LCD is a good choice.
Monitors of the future
After all, the only thing left to discuss is the future of display technology and what it has in store for gamers. Since OLED is already used in modern television sets, it is only a matter of time before we see the technology used in mainstream desktop monitors. It offers a variety of design features and performance-specific specifications that are likely to make LCD panels out of date today.
Players get faster response times, deeper blacks, higher contrast ratios, wider viewing angles and higher energy efficiency. Not to forget the ability of the OLED to bend, bend, roll up and bend.
However, one question remains open. While they offer clear performance advantages over today’s LCDs, can the same be said when compared to CRTS 20 years ago?
Well, although the answer is almost certainly no, it’s still a long-term debate.