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CRT vs. LCD: 6 Must-Know Facts

  • A German scientist called Karl Ferdinand Braun invented the earliest version of the CRT in 1897. However, his invention was not isolated, as it was among countless other inventions that took place between the mid-1800s and the late 1900s.
  • CRT technology isn’t just for displays; it can also be utilized for storage. These storage tubes can hold onto a picture for as long as the tube is receiving electricity.
  • Like the CRT, the invention of the modern LCD was not a one-man show. It began in 1888 when the Austrian botanist and chemist Friedrich Richard Kornelius Reinitzer discovered liquid crystals.
  • LCDs have more diverse uses compared to CRTs.
  • Similar to how LCDs succeeded CRTs, new display technologies like OLEDs, OLETs, and QLEDs have begun to supplant them.
  • Extreme temperatures, both high and low, can negatively impact LCD performance. External magnetic fields can do the same to CRTs.

CRT stands for cathode-ray tube, a TV or PC monitor that produces images using an electron gun. These were the first displays available, but they are now outdated and replaced by smaller, more compact, and energy-efficient LCD display monitors.

In contrast, a Liquid crystal display, or an LCD monitor, uses liquid crystals to produce sharp, flicker-free images. These are now the standard monitors that are giving the traditional CRTs a run for their money.

Although the production of CRT monitors has slowed down, due to environmental concerns and the physical preferences of consumers, they still have several advantages over the new-age LCD monitors. Below, we shed some light on the differences between CRT and LCD displays.

CRT vs. LCD: Side-by-Side Comparison

CRT LCD 
What it isAmong the earliest electronic displays that used a cathode ray tubeA flat-panel display that uses the light-modulating properties of liquid crystals
Developed byGerman manufacturer TelefunkenILIXCO (now LXD Incorporated)
MechanismAn electron gun is used to form imagesLiquid crystals are used to form images
Size and weight CRT monitors are large, bulky, and heavyLCD monitors are thin, compact, as well as easier to handle and customize 
Power consumption CRT consumes more power and generates more heat than LCD monitorsLCD consumes less power, approximately half that of the CRT
PriceThe low demand makes them significantly less expensive than other display technologyHigher demand so they are more expensive
Flickering Flickering is recognizable by the naked eye because of the monitor’s low refresh rateFlickering is almost negligible thanks to its high refresh rate
Response ratePosses a faster response rate, meaning blurring and ghosting are reducedLCD is slower than CRT in terms of response
Resolution Highest pixel resolutions generally availableDisplay a lower resolution
Image retention There’s no image retention in CRTImage retention is present in LCD

CRT vs. LCD: What’s the Difference?

Scalability 

crt vs lcd
A CRT monitor is a computer display that produces images using an electron gun.

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CRTs boast a great scaling advantage because they don’t have a fixed resolution, like LCDs. This means that CRTs are capable of handling multiple combinations of resolutions and refresh rates between the display and the computer

In turn, the monitor is able to bypass any limitations brought about by the incompatibility between a CRT display and a computer. What’s more, CRT monitors can adjust the electron beam to reduce resolution without affecting the picture quality.

On the other hand, LCD monitors have a fixed resolution, meaning they have to make some adjustments to any images sent to them that are not in their native resolution. The adjustments include centering the image on the screen and scaling the image down to the native resolution.

Technology

CRT monitors project images by picking up incoming signals and splitting them into audio and video components. More specifically, the video signals are taken through the electron gun and into a single cathode ray tube, through a mesh, to illuminate the phosphorus inside the screen and light the final image.

The images created on the phosphor-coated screen consist of alternating red, blue, and green (RGB) lights, creating countless different hues. The electron gun emits an electron beam that scans the front of the tube repetitively to create and refresh the image at least 100 times every second. 

LCD screens, on the other hand, are made of two pieces of polarized glass that house a thin layer of liquid crystals. They work on the principle of blocking light. As a result, when light from a backlight shines through the liquid crystals, the light bends to respond to the electric current.

The liquid crystal molecules are then aligned to determine which color filter to illuminate, thus creating the colors and images you see on the screen. Interestingly, you can find color filters within every pixel, which is made up of three subpixels—red, blue, and green—that work together to produce millions of different colors.

Visual Performance 

crt vs lcd
LCD is a type of flat panel display which uses liquid crystals in its primary form of operation.

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Thanks to the versatility of pixels, LCD screens offer crisper images than CRT monitors. The clarity of the images is a result of the LCD screen’s ability to produce green, blue, and red lights simultaneously, whereas CRTs need to blur the pixels and produce either of the lights exclusively.

The diversity of the pixels also ensures LCD screens produce at least twice as much brightness as CRTs. The light on these screens also remains uninterrupted by sunlight or strong artificial lighting, which reduces general blurriness and eyestrain.

Over time, however, dead pixels negatively affect the LCD screen’s visual displays. Burnout causes these dead pixels, which affect the visual clarity of your screen by producing black or other colored dots in the display. 

Other differences in the visual performance of CRT and LCD displays

  • CRT monitors also have better motion resolution compared to LCDs. The latter reduces resolution significantly when content is in motion due to the slow pixel response time, making the images look blurry or streaky. 
  • With CRTs, you don’t experience any display lag because the images are illuminated on the screen at the speed of light, thus preventing any delays. However, lag is a common problem, especially with older LCD displays.
  • CRTs are prone to flickering during alternating periods of brightness and darkness. LCDs don’t flicker as much thanks to the liquid pixels that retain their state when the screen refreshes.

Design

CRTs have a thick and clunky design that’s quite unappealing. The monitor has a casing or cabinet made of either plastic or metal that houses the cathode ray tube. Then there’s the neck or glass funnel, coated with a conductive coating made using lead oxide.

Leaded glass is then poured on top to form the screen, which has a curvature. In addition, the screen contributes to about 65% of the total weight of a CRT.

LCDs feature low-profile designs that make them the best choice for multiple portable display devices, like smartphones and tablets. LCD displays have a lightweight construction, are portable, and can be made into much larger sizes than the largest CRTs, which couldn’t be made into anything bigger than 40–45 inches.

CRT vs. LCD: Pros and Cons

Pros of CRTCons of CRT
More affordable than other display technologyBulky and heavy
Fast response rateUse a lot of energy and emit a lot of heat
No lagProduce more magnetic field, which can damage surrounding magnetic devices
Don’t have a native display resolutionNot as bright as LCD monitors
Produces more colors
Pros of LCDCons of LCD
Energy efficientExpensive compared to CRTs
Extremely high resolutionUneven backlighting
Little-to-no refresh rate and flickeringLimited viewing angles
Slim and lightweight Limited to a single native resolution
Available in large sizes

History of CRT

The invention of the cathode ray tube began with the discovery of cathode beams by Julius Plucker and Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Geissler in 1854. Interestingly, in 1855, Heinrich constructed glass tubes and a hand-crack mercury pump that contained a superior vacuum tube, the “Geissler tube.”

Later, in 1859, Plucker inserted metal plates into the Geissler tube and noticed shadows being cast on the glowing walls of the tube. He also noticed that the rays bent under the influence of a magnet.

Sir William Crookes confirmed the existence of cathode rays in 1878 by displaying them in the “Crookes tube” and showing that the rays could be deflected by magnetic fields.

Later, in 1897, Karl Ferdinand Braun, a German physicist, invented a cathode ray tube with a fluorescent screen and named it the “Braun Tube.” By developing the cathode ray tube oscilloscope, he was the first person to endorse the use of CRT as a display device.

Later, in 1907, Boris Rosing, a Russian scientist, and Vladimir Zworykin used the cathode ray tube in the receiver of a television screen to transmit geometric patterns onto the screen.

History of LCD

LCD displays are a much more recent discovery compared to CRTs. Interestingly, the French professor of mineralogy, Charles-Victor Mauguin, performed the first experiments with liquid crystals between plates in 1911. 

George H. Heilmeier, an American engineer, made significant enough contributions towards the LCD invention to be inducted into the Hall of Fame of National Inventors. And, in 1968, he presented the liquid crystal display to the professional world, working at an optimal temperature of 80 degrees Celsius.

Many other inventors worked towards the creation of LCDs. As a result, in the 1970s, new inventions focused on ensuring that LCD displays worked at an optimal temperature. And, in the 1980s, they perfected the crystal mixtures enough to stimulate demand and a promotion boom. The first LCDs were produced in 1971 and 1972 by ILIXCO (now LXD Incorporated).

CRT vs. LCD: Which One Is Better?

Although they may come in at a higher price point, LCD displays are more convenient in the long run. They last almost twice as long as CRTs are energy efficient, and their compact and thin size make them ideal for modern-day use.

LCDs are also more affordable compared to other display monitors available today. So, you can go for a CRT monitor for its ease of use, faster response rates, reduced flickering, and high pixel resolution. However, we don’t see why you should look back since there are so many new options that will outperform both CRTs and LCDs.

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CRT vs. LCD: Full Comparison  FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are CRT monitors still used?

Yes, CRTs are still used today. Although they’re not as popular as they were 2–3 decades ago.

Is CRT or LED better for gaming?

CRTs are better for playing retro games thanks to their higher refresh rates and better contrast ratios, which help to hide many of the imperfections in the game’s visual quality. A CRT monitor gives you a great gaming experience as it doesn’t lower the contrast and color saturation like LCDs do.

Is LCD or CRT bad for your eyes?

Staring at an LCD screen for long periods of time can cause eye strain because the screens emit blue light. CRT displays are just as harmful because they have radiation and emit some blue light that can damage your eyes.

Where can I find a CRT monitor?

With their low demand and these low production quantities, you may need to put in some footwork to find the best CRT monitor. However, Amazon, eBay, and Etsy are some reliable stores where you can find good CRT monitors.

What is the lifespan of CRT vs. LCD displays?

Your CRT monitor can last at least 8–10 years (25,000 to 30,000 hours) if used for only 8 hours a day. On the other hand, LCD monitors can last between 10 and 30 years (30,000 to 60,000 hours of use) if the monitor is used appropriately.

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