CRT TVs provide an authentic way to play vintage games as they were meant to be viewed. Their scanlines, vivid colors, and quick response make old consoles and PCs shine. But picking the right consumer CRT television for retro gaming takes some research. This guide covers top models, features to look for, and what to avoid.
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Why Play Retro Games on a CRT?
CRT TVs have advantages over modern displays:
- Accurate native resolutions – 240p/480i content displays correctly, not upscaled blurrily.
- Scanlines – The interlaced lines create a nostalgic retro look.
- Vibrant colors – Phosphors in CRTs produce vivid, saturated visuals.
- Quick response – No input lag like HDTVs. Ideal for fast-paced action.
- Sharp pixels – CRT’s discrete phosphor dots beat scaling artifacts.
- Light guns work – Analog nature supports light gun peripherals.
For the ultimate nostalgic gaming experience, a quality CRT display is a must.
Top Performing CRT Models
These consumer CRTs offer the best combination of image quality, low input lag, and retro gaming features:
|Brand||Model Line||Notable Features|
|Sony||Trinitron||Top image quality, component inputs|
|JVC||D-Series||Excellent image, S-Video, component|
|Toshiba||AF Series||Component video, nice image|
|Panasonic||Tau||Good quality, low input lag|
|Philips||Philips||Component input available|
Sony’s Trinitrons stand above other CRTs for their razor sharp image. But excellent retro gaming models exist across major brands.
Ideal Specs and Features
Look for these optimal qualities in a vintage CRT television:
- Component video inputs – Enables crisp high-def retro gaming.
- S-Video – Sharper image quality over composite. Great for 480i systems.
- Service menu access – Allows adjusting settings like geometry and convergence.
- Under 20″ screen – Best for desk use. 27″ and up get very heavy.
- Late 90s/Early 00s production – Newer sets with great retro gaming support.
- Curved glass screen – Provides undistorted image edge-to-edge. Avoid flat screens.
- Proper 240p support – Displays retro systems clearly without interference, flickering etc.
- Low hours of use – Higher hour CRTs can have worn out tubes. Under 10,000 hours ideal.
Features to Avoid
Certain CRT features create a poor retro gaming experience:
- Digital tuning – Adds display lag. Analog tuner models have less input lag.
- Flat screens – Can cause geometry distortion around the edges. Curved only.
- 100Hz+ refresh rates – Introduces input lag. 60Hz standard provides crisp response.
- HD resolution – Unnecessary for retro games and may add scaling lag.
- Rear projection – Image is less sharp than direct view CRT.
- Built-in VCRs/DVD players – More to break and added signal processing.
Finding the Perfect CRT
You can acquire a quality retro CRT through:
- Classified listings – Look locally for curb alerts, garage sales, auction listings.
- Thrift stores – Call to check inventory. Visit often as stock rotates quickly.
- eBay – Search for models known to support retro gaming well.
- Craigslist – Expand search distance, be prepared to drive for pick-up.
- Facebook Marketplace – Look for nearby sellers advertising CRTs.
- Recyclers – Some reuse centers receive CRT donations. Call to find out.
Buying locally saves on shipping for these heavy units. Be prepared to thoroughly test and clean any used CRT you get. Refurbishing may be required.
Q: Can I play light gun games on a CRT using original hardware?
A: Yes, CRT’s analog display technology is compatible with original light guns for games like Duck Hunt on consoles such as the NES and PS1. They will register accurately.
Q: Is a PVM or BVM better than a consumer CRT for retro gaming?
A: PVMs and BVMs offer unparalleled image quality but consumer CRTs provide great results too, especially models like the Sony Trinitron. And consumer CRTs are vastly more affordable than pro video monitors.
Q: How many inputs do I need on a CRT for retro gaming?
A: At minimum, one composite input. But having S-Video and component will give you flexibility. SCART input is great too for RGB if your consoles support it.
Q: What TV lines of resolution should I look for in a consumer CRT?
A: 480i and 576i TVL models provide a great balance of image clarity and authentic scanline effect for most retro consoles. Higher resolutions like 600+ TVL tend to look too sharp.
Q: Are later widescreen CRTs good for retro gaming?
A: Generally no, a standard 4:3 aspect ratio CRT is preferable so that 240p and 480i content fills the screen without scaling or stretching which introduces lag.