CRT vs. LCD Monitors

What's the difference between CRT and LCD computer screens?

An old desktop computer with a CRT monitor
CRT monitors like this are outdated and rarely used anymore.

Wittayayut / Getty Images

Since the production of cathode ray tubes has essentially halted due to the cost and environmental concerns, CRT-based monitors are now considered an outdated technology. All laptops and most desktop computer systems sold today come with LCD monitors; however, there are a few reasons why you might still prefer CRT over LCD displays.

CRT Monitors

  • Greater color clarity and depth.

  • Faster response time.

  • Very large and heavy.

LCD Monitors

  • Smaller and lighter.

  • Energy efficient.

  • Blurry images outside native resolution.

CRT Computer Monitors

Advantages

  • Multisync capable.

  • High refresh rates.

  • Can be found used for very cheap.

Disadvantages

  • Uses large amounts of energy.

  • Generates excess heat.

  • Glare from the screen.

The primary advantage that CRT monitors hold over LCDs is their color rendering. The contrast ratios and depths of colors displayed on CRT monitors are significantly better than what an LCD can render. For this reason, some graphic designers still use the very expensive large CRT monitors for their work. Of course, the color quality degrades over time as the phosphors in the tube break down.

Another advantage that CRT monitors hold over LCD screens is the ability to easily scale to various resolutions. By adjusting the electron beam in the tube, the screen can be adjusted downward to lower resolutions while keeping the picture clarity intact. This capability is known as multisync.

The biggest disadvantage of CRT monitors is the size and weight of the tubes. An equivalently sized LCD monitor can be 80% smaller in total mass. The larger the screen, the bigger the size difference. CRT monitors also consume more energy and generate a lot more heat than LCD monitors.

LCD Computer Monitors

What We Like

  • Causes less eye fatigue.

  • Larger viewable area.

  • Easier to transport.

  • More environmentally friendly.

What We Don't Like

  • Motion blur on fast moving images.

  • Reduced color clarity.

  • Dead pixels can occur.

The biggest advantage of LCD monitors is their size and weight. LCD screens also tend to produce less eye fatigue. The constant light barrage and scan lines of a CRT tube can cause strain on heavy computer users. The lower intensity of the LCD monitors coupled with their constant screen display of pixels being on or off is easier on the eyes. That said, some people still have issues with the fluorescent backlights used in some LCD displays.

The most notable disadvantage to LCD screens is their fixed or native resolution. An LCD screen can only display the number of pixels in its matrix. Therefore, it can display a lower resolution in one of two ways: using only a fraction of the total pixels on the display, or through extrapolation. Extrapolation blends multiple pixels together to simulate a single smaller pixel, which often leads to a blurry or fuzzy picture.

Final Verdict

Significant improvements have been made to LCD monitors over the years, but CRT monitors still provide greater color clarity, faster response times, and wider flexibility for video playback in various resolutions. Nonetheless, LCDs will remain the standard since they are easier to manufacture and transport. Most users find LCD displays to be perfectly suitable, so CRT monitors are only really necessary for those interested in digital art and graphic design.