CRT displays certainly have a following. And there are any number of reasons for that. I generally prefer LCD, but there are times when CRT is better, especially when it comes to retro gaming. Let’s talk about advantages of CRT over LCD.
LCD panels have a fixed resolution. When you send them something other than their native resolution, they have to do something with it. That may mean centering the image on the screen, where it may mean scaling the image to the native resolution. Sometimes this looks fine, and sometimes the result doesn’t look right.
With CRTs, scaling isn’t a problem, because they don’t have a fixed resolution. There may be certain combinations of resolutions and refresh rates that a display doesn’t handle, but generally when you are matching a CRT display to a computer of the same era, this isn’t much of a problem. Usually when there are limitations, the computer and display are able to negotiate compatible options and hide the incompatible ones.
With game consoles, you don’t usually have to worry about this. The console sends an image to the CRT, and the CRT displays it.
The biggest criticism of LCD versus CRT is usually lag. Under the best of circumstances, LCDs can keep lag to a minimum. But there isn’t any guarantee that your circumstances are going to be ideal. And if there is scaling involved, there is probably going to be some lag. In a really fast-paced game, that leg can be just enough to throw off your timing so you don’t play as well as you would on a CRT.
This is less of a problem on newer displays than it was on older displays, but unfortunately, the older your display is, the greater the likelihood is it has inputs that are natively compatible with the vintage console or computer.
There was a time when a good LCD had a dizzying array of input options. It was a given that someone who was paying hundreds, if not thousands of dollars for a flat panel display would have dozens of different devices they would want to plug into them, including a DVD or Blu-ray player, a VCR, a video camera, any number of game consoles, and probably a computer.
But all those connections cost money, and it’s not necessarily a given anymore that the typical consumer wants or needs all of those connections now. Today, the typical consumer buying a new panel probably just wants two or three HDMI connections.
Furthermore, if you have a really old system that uses RF, such as an Atari console, there is a reasonably good chance that a newer display won’t be compatible with it, given that over the air analog television no longer exists. Any CRT TV will still have a functioning RF input you can use, even if it needs an adapter.
It’s usually easier to get vintage consoles working with a late model CRT than it is with a brand new LCD. The story may be a bit different with an older LCD you find at an estate sale or a thrift store.
Authenticity advantages of CRT over LCD
A CRT display is probably going to feel more authentic with anything older than a PlayStation 2. And even in the case of a PlayStation 2, it depends on what you remember using one with.
Sometimes you can find a panel whose styling matches a system surprisingly well, but the older the system is, the harder that becomes. Even then, the look of the scanlines and other imperfections of a CRT make it look more authentic and period correct.