Updated: November 5, 2013

CRT TV Technology Guide
Is it still worth investing in a tube-based TV?

What are the Pros and Cons of CRT Television Sets


The good old CRT television has long disappeared from most store shelves as many are turning to plasma, LCD and LED TVs.  Yet the tube TV - as it is often called - is not extinct even though all major TV brands had long discontinued CRT televisions from their TV lineups for most markets.

The truth is that the low cost CRT television is still a popular choice in countries like China, Latin America, India, and parts of Asia. Further more, there are still millions of good old CRT TVs in many American homes that have stand the test of time and continue to deliver. The problem with CRT televisions is their bulky size and weight, but picture-wise the best CRTs can deliver a superb quality picture with deep blacks and accurate color.

It is for these reasons that we updated this CRT television technology guide, to help those still looking into this TV technology. This guide was first published on our site in 2004  - a long time in terms of the fast pace associated with today's TV technological developments, but with CRT things have practically remained unchanged except that in the process, the tube TV got a bit slimmer!


Samsung Slimfit CRT TV

Samsung SlimFit Series CRT TVs

Good Old CRT Televisions

The tube TV is still alive!

CRT TVs are relatively heavy and bulk for their screen size; a 36-inch CRT TV could have easily taken 30-inch in depth while a 40-inch CRT television would have required some 36-inch in depth and weighs over 250 pounds! It is no wonder the first to disappear where 40-inch and 36-inch CRTs.

Today, the biggest CRT television size we have come across stands at just 29-inch.

The first attempts we have seen to save the technology way back in 2005 and 2006 were a series of CRT TV sets from Samsung called SlimFit that managed to reduce the overall TV depth by a third. This meant that a 30-inch CRT TV such as the Samsung SlimFit TX-S3082WA reviewed on our site got to around 16-inch in overall depth, a significant reduction over the typical 22-inch required by a standard 30-inch CRT TV. Eventually Samsung started referring to its SlimFit CRT televisions as 'ultra' slim claiming a 40% reduction in overall TV depth. Mind you, this still leaves the tube TV as a relatively heavy and bulky TV option in comparison to plasma and LCD TVs. But despite their weight and bulkier size, CRTs enjoy a few advantages over competing display technologies.

In this article, we discuss CRT technology to better understand the pros and cons of this direct-view video display technology. As stated, tube TVs are no longer being made by any major TV brand, at least not for the US market. Yet, CRT TVs are extremely reliable TVs that are still available in many homes and as refurbished/secondhand through online stores.

For this reason, we are also publishing two archived reviews, one covering Samsung SlimFit line released in 2006 and the other the FD Trinitron WEGA line of Sony CRT television sets released between 2004 and 2006. These had proved to be among the most popular CRT televisions at the time and are often available as 'used' on amazon and the like at relative very cheap prices.

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The Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) TV - A few basics facts:

Many are accustomed to the old tube TVs. We have all seen them since the day we were born. In fact, for the past 75 years, the majority of televisions have been built using a CRT - a relatively robust display device with a half-lifetime of around 20,000hrs; this means that the image brightness of a CRT TV set will fall to half its original value after approximately 20,000 hours of use.

Surprisingly as it may seem, CRT TVs still amount to over 8% of all TV sales world wide. In addition, over 50% of all TVs present ion home world wide are still CRT TVs.

Most of present day CRT sets available in the majority of households use the 4:3 standard TV screen format, but wide screen 16:9 display formats are also available.

The CRT is essentially a vacuum tube that produces images by projecting an electron beam onto the front of the tube, which is covered with phosphorus that glow when excited by the bean of electrons.

While ordinary CRT sets are still being delivered with a curved screen surface, typical of tube-based televisions, yet high-end CRT based monitors and TVs are also available in a totally flat screen, leading to improved viewing due to reduced glare, and practically zero image distortion.

CRT TV Sets - Drawbacks and Advantageous

Advantages: Picture Quality and Overall TV Performance

CRT-based TVs may be bulky, but then they deliver one of the best TV pictures you can get from a video display device at a relatively cheap price. The truth is that even the least expensive CRT televisions manage to deliver high contrast ratios, excellent color accuracy, a very deep shade of black, and equally important, a relatively wide color gamut.

In addition, true flat-screen high-resolution cathode ray tubes are capable of producing crisp, vibrant images of exceptional quality with hardly any image distortions.

These TVs can also display any resolution since a CRT tube is not subject to a fixed native resolution as in fixed-pixel displays like plasma and LCDs, but resolution is instead dependent on the horizontal and vertical sweep frequencies used to build the display.

Tube TV is easy to set-up, and will work well in a variety of locations and ambient light conditions. 

Add their sub-millisecond response time - much faster than even the latest LED TVs, practically zero image lag, and excellent viewing angle, and there you have an exceptionally valid display technology even in the face of today's flat panel TVs.

Disadvantages: Operational and Convenience Issues

Tube TVs are bulky and very heavy; even a 20-inch CRT TV may easily weigh over 50 lb.

They are also limited in screen size to just 40-inch; this is the maximum CRT TV size ever made for the consumer market, and this was in the days when plasma and LCD TVs were almost inexistent.

A manufacturing reality come into play here: there is a limit to how much you can blow that piece of glass - rendering the manufacturing process of large glass tubes difficult and expensive.

Equally important at a time when everyone one is trying to be green is that CRTs have a high power consumption - typically twice to three times that of an LCD TV, and as a consequence, they also generate a considerable amount of heat when in use.

Like plasma TVs, CRT displays suffer from burn-in, and due to the way they make use of a magnetic field to deflect the electron bean, purity and convergence issues will arise when an external magnetic field is in close proximity to the tube.

Technology Developments: Slimmer CRT Televisions

Thinner is better! People got tired of CRT TVs despite their better picture quality and lower prices due to their bulky size; in fact, the most appealing factor of flat-panel TVs has always been their slim factor that help these sell even when they were still very expensive TVs.

The manufacturing industry knows very well that the whole issue is being slim - it is a simple case that slimmer is better. So...

CRT display tube manufacturer LG.Philips - a joint venture between LG Electronics and Royal Philips Electronics, and TV manufacturer Samsung Electronics, have both come with an answer - a super slim CRT design that drastically reduces the average depth of the tube device. In addition, they have also re-designed the tube such that the tube-based set would look like a flat-panel TV from the front.

It worked. Samsung SlimFit CRT sets were first released in 2005 and people simply loved them - enough that Samsung SlimFit range earned 40% of the total CRT market share. These TVs came in 30-inch HDTV, and 27-inch HD and standard definition versions, and are still being made by Samsung for certain market, with sizes ranging form 14-inch to 29-inch.

The Samsung SlimFit 30-inch-tube television is about 16 inches thick. Surely, that's deeper than a flat panel set, but at 16 inches, this brings this CRT HDTV at about the same size as that of an equivalent screen-size flat-panel television mounted on a table-top stand.  These were then followed by the Ultra-SlimFit which are 40% slimmer than conventional tube TVs.

These so called slim CRTs offer the best of both worlds - superior picture quality, a slim size design that is closer to flat-panel televisions, at a price  that was only just slightly more expensive than conventional CRT TVs bit that was substantially cheaper than an equivalent size flat-panel TV.

These slim CRT designs has definitely help prolong the appeal of tube-based televisions to the home entertainment community at a time when prices of plasmas and LCD HDTVs had already started falling to wards a more appealing price bracket.

At that time, these slim CRTs provided a cheaper yet stylish alternative to those that still considered LCD and plasmas an expensive display option for their available budget.

Archived CRT TV Reviews


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 Article Content

Issues covered in this article:

Blue bullet  Introduction: The Good Old Tube TV is still alive and...

Blue bullet  The Cathode Ray Tube: A few technology basics

Blue bullet  Understanding the Pros and Cons of CRT technology

Blue bullet  Developments in CRT TV technology

Blue bullet  Index of archived CRT TV reviews

Blue bullet  Readers' Comments: Submitting your opinion is easy!

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