Differences Between CRT and LCD Monitors for PC Gaming

Written by:  Daniel Barros • Edited by: J. F. Amprimoz
Updated May 23, 2011
• Related Guides: Pc Gamers

In this article we explore what a monitor does and lead into a discussion about the top monitors that are sold to the consumer.

From CRT to LCD

elcome back PC Hardware aficionados - once again, it's time for "Building the Perfect Gamer PC". Today's article will be discuss the monitor - what it does, how it works, and what it means to the PC Gamer. Ultimately, the monitor represents the be-all and end-all for the PC Gamer - the monitor is the relay device between the grand you dropped on building your rig and your eyes. Much like BOSE tells their customers inside their little store theaters about matching speakers to a home theatre, a magnificent rig hooked up to a 20 year old CRT isn't going to do anyone much good. Similarly, a lowly rig hooked up to a high-def, state of the art monitor will also not work out well. That being said, let's start talking about the PC monitor and its evolution through the years.

The monitor started out much like the humble television. These first monitors were called CRTs (or Cathode Ray Tubes) and employed the use of a cathode ray - or essentially an electron gun at the far end of the Tube. These monitors are heavy and unwieldy, mostly because the electron gun present inside the tubes is large and needs ample area to work with. The CRT works by using the electron gun to excite a phosphorescent layer on the surface of the interior of the screen. The effect is a series of red, blue, and green dots that intermingle to create an image composed of many different colors. The CRT was a staple of the computer industry for a long while. Until plasma screens, LCD screens, and OLED screens came along.

LCDs have been around for a long while, however, only recently have they reached a level of sophistication that competes with the response time and cost of the CRT monitor. The LCD uses technology that is radically different from the technology of the CRT. The technology is reasonably advanced - therefore, for the sake of not getting too overly technical, let's just go over the basics of the LCD pixel. In an LCD screen, the surface of the screen on the interior consists of millions of tiny square-structures known as pixels. A pixel is essentially a small, square, multi-layer, sheet where a liquid crystal molecule is squeezed between two electrode structures. In a color LCD screen, these pixels are each coated with different filters to allow red, green, and blue to be expressed in each pixel. Because each pixel has its own color, there are millions of possible color variations that the LCD can, outstripping the CRT. However, not every pixel has its own independent power source - using multiplexing, pixels are arranged in a grid that houses only a few different voltage supplies.

LCD Advantages and What to Look For

The LCD display has a few key advantages over the CRT monitor. Recent monitor advances have brought LCD response time into CRT territory. Most importantly for PC users who lack space or who don't want the clutter that a CRT creates, the LCD is truly flat-panel (no LCD screen needs a cathode ray, therefore the creators try to make them as thin as possible). In the Hardware Afficionado spirit of always looking forward, LCD screens may have their days numbered.

Recently, Sony unveiled new televisions that use a startling new technology called OLED. OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) technology works off of electrodes, redox principles, and uses organic molecules. In OLED displays, colors appear more vibrant and the displays actually look much nicer than the LCD screen. However, OLED displays are still prohibitive in their cost.

Now, on to what you need to look for in an LCD monitor. First of all, and I can't stress this enough, an LCD monitor is only as good as its response time. At the very least you need a monitor that has a response time of 5 ms, any more than this will result in a less than optimal experience. The second thing to watch out for in an LCD monitor is the native resolution of the monitor. When buying, be sure to get a monitor with 1680 x 1050 or 1900 x 1200 resolution. The final point to be made about the LCD monitor you're going to purchase is the size of the screen. Keep in mind that while bigger will always be better, in the LCD monitor world, there is such a thing as too big. Whereas a TV can always get bigger and better, an LCD monitor any bigger than 26 inches will be overkill and the resolution will start to break down. Most PC gamers usually settle for a monitor that is 22 inches wide.

In the next article we'll be discussing what the top 3 best PC gaming monitors are and what the best budget PC Monitor is.


 
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