LCD vs. CRT
Which Monitor is the Best to Buy?
PC computer displays have reached a turning point.
Over the last two years, LCD monitors have begun to replace the
traditional CRT monitors. LCDs are priced much higher than comparable
CRT monitors, but this is changing as production of LCDs increase
and the costs to producing them goes down. So which type of monitor
should one get? This article will discuss the pros and cons of
each type of monitor in the hopes of clarifying which type is
best suited for you.
Cathode Ray Tube or CRT
Most people are familiar with the general
functioning of a television set. A television tube consists of a
large vacuum tube with an electron beam inside of it. This beam
is constantly scanning across the front of the tube containing
phosphorus, exciting the particles and producing the light.
CRT monitors use the same technology to produce
the computer display for the user. In fact, many early CRT
monitors were modified television screens used to display text
from the computer. So what advantages does a CRT display give a
The first and foremost advantage is cost.
Dollar for dollar, it is possible to get a larger and better
display buying a CRT monitor when compared to an LCD screen.
This primarily comes from the fact that CRT monitors have been
developed over the last 20 years of computing and as such the
manufacturers have already paid for most of the development and
CRTs also have multisync capability. This
allows the electron gun inside the tube to adjust itself to
various resolutions and refresh rates. This is very desirable if
you have any need to display multiple resolutions. Games are a
common area where multiple resolutions are useful. New games
that may tax your computer at higher resolutions can be scaled
down to lower resolutions.
The high refresh rates and response times of
CRT monitors also makes them ideal for video purposes. Since the
tubes are based on the same technology that is used in
television sets, it makes sense that the video display of a
monitor is better able to reproduce the fluid motion of video
playback on the CRT.
Finally, the color clarity of CRT monitors
cannot be matched by an LCD screen. With the myriad of
adjustments that can be made to the contrast, brightness and
hues, CRT monitors are better able to represent actual document
colors. This is extremely important for individuals who work in
either print or graphics industries. Having an accurate
reproduction of the color of a document on the screen when it is
printed can save a huge amount of hassle when it comes time to
have documents published.
Of course, all these advantages do have their
drawbacks as well. The biggest drawback to CRT monitors is their
bulkiness. The tubes within the CRT monitors are extremely
heavy. This is primarily necessary for safety reasons. The tube
is a vacuum and if it were to crack, the monitor tube would
implode. The tubes also draw a large amount of power. Some
larger CRT monitors now can actually draw more current than the
computer they are attached to. The visible area of the tube is
also smaller than the actual tube size. When a company markets a
19" CRT monitor, the actual visible area of the screen will be
about 1 inch less than the tube's full size due to the cabinet
surrounding the tube.
- Multisync Capable
- High Refresh Rates
- Color Clarity and Depth
- Large Footprint on Desktop
- Very Heavy
- Use Large Amounts of Energy
- Generate Excess Heat
Liquid Crystal Display
LCDs have been around for many years in the
portable computing market but they are fairly new to desktops. A
liquid crystal display functions based upon the characteristics
of crystals when electricity is applied to them. A matrix of
these crystals forms up the film of the display which can have
the colors turned on or off by the application of a current. A
backlight behind the film them illuminates the film so that it
is visible in any lighting condition.
The biggest advantage to LCD monitors is their
size and weight. Most LCDs sold on the market range from about 1
to 3 inches in thickness compare to CRT monitors that can be as
much as 24 inches.
This reduced amount of material means that LCD
screens are easy to move around and are small enough to be
mounted on a wall. Anyone with a small desk will be pleased by
how little space a LCD monitor takes up.
LCD screens also tend to produce less eye
fatigue to the user. The constant light barrage and scan lines
of a CRT Tube tend to cause strain on heavy computer users. The
lower intensity of the LCD monitors coupled with their constant
screen display of pixels either being on or off produces less
fatigue for the user.
Finally, LCD monitors are much more energy
efficient compared to a CRT monitor. Most of the energy used by
LCD displays is for the backlighting of the LCD screen. The
amount of voltage required to maintain the state of the various
pixels as on or off is negligible when compared to that of the
backlighting. CRT displays on the other hand use vast amounts of
power to keep the electron beam constantly streaming across the
Since LCD technology is much newer compared to
CRT technology, it is much more expensive to produce LCD
monitors. This is a big drawback when a 19" CRT monitor can be
purchased for roughly half the cost of a 17" LCD monitor even
though they have the same rough visible screen area. Over time
as the manufacturers improve their techniques of manufacturing
LCDs and the demand for them grows, the costs will begin to come
The second disadvantage to LCD screens is
their fixed or native resolution. An LCD screen can only display
the number of pixels in its matrix and no more. It can display a
lower resolution in one of two ways. Using only a fraction of
the total pixels on the display or through interpolation.
Interpolation is a method whereby the monitor blends multiple
pixels together to simulate a single smaller pixel. This can
often lead to a blurry or fuzzy image particularly with text
when running the screen below is native resolution.
Finally, the technology behind the LCD screens
can cause a ghosting of moving images on a screen against a dark
background. This is caused from the fact that while changing the
state of the crystals from off to on is fast, the speed at which
it can be turned off is about four times slower or more. This
tends to leave slight after images on the display while the
pixel is being turned from on to off. This can be noticed most
in video playback or games where bright objects are moving
against a dark background.
- Takes up Little Space on Desktop
- Light Weight
- Energy Efficient
- Causing Less Eye Fatigue
- Blurry Images Outside Native Resolution
- Motion Blur on Fast Moving Images
- Washed Out Colors
So which is the better type of monitor to buy?
It all comes down to how one will be using the monitor with
their computer systems. CRTs are best suited for individuals who
use it for desktop publishing, graphics development, gaming (and
don't need portability) or are on a tight budget for buying a
computer. LCDs are best suited for those individuals who use the
computer heavily for word processing, programming or have
limited desk space for the computer. As the technology improves
with LCDs and the cost comes down more, LCDs will dominate the
market and CRTs will remain for those who require them for
specific professions. Just remember that monitors tend to
outlive the functional lifetime of a computer system and can
easily be used between systems, so it is best not to skimp too
much when buying a display.