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Direct-view Televisions

Advantages and Limitations

Direct-view TVs-otherwise known as the traditional tube television, consist of a single cathode ray tube (CRT) and electron beam that excites and illuminates phosphors on the inside surface of the TV screen. Most of those considering the standard tube television as an alternative to projectors, rear-projection TVs, or flatscreen TVs will opt for the largest TVs that are available, and usually those that are are HDTV compatible. Those will be the focus of the comments herein.


Plug-and-play. Assuming you have the muscle to get the TV into position in your room, the CRT is about as easy to set up as it gets. You put it on a stand, connect the signal cables and/or antenna, plug it in, and you are in business. Compared to wall-mounting a flatscreen TV or setting up a projector, screen, and separate audio system, the conventional television is a simple thing to install.

Superb picture quality. CRTs are still capable of delivering the best black level, contrast, shadow detail and color performance of any video technology out there. The new fixed-pixel technologies have a lot to offer in terms of larger scale images, or hang-it-on-the-wall convenience, but they do not outperform HDTV tube televisions in pure image quality.

Low cost. The 36" widescreen CRT-based HDTVs on the market go for around $1,500 to $2,000 at this writing. By comparison, the Sharp 37" LCD TV has street prices around $3,500. So if you want a plug-and-play solution with no more than a 36" screen, the tube HDTV is by far the more cost-effective alternative.

Great with ambient light. A CRT television can be used with room lights on or during the day with little compromise in image quality.

Excellent viewing angle. CRT TVs, at least the HDTV models with flatscreen tubes, can be viewed from any angle with little loss in picture quality. In this regard they are about equal to flatscreen TVs, and have an advantage over rear-projection TVs.

Less imposing when not in use. Due to its smaller screen and footprint, the CRT television is less imposing as an inert piece of furniture when not in use. Meanwhile, the larger rear-projection TVs can be quite unattractive as large objects in the room. Many people who are d├ęcor-sensitive will be less enthused about the big RPTVs for this reason.

Maintenance-free. The CRT television has a long life-expectancy, has no filters or lamps to change, and is as reliable as any product ever built.


Bulk and weight. The 36" CRT tube television is about two feet deep and can weigh over 200 lbs. By comparison, a 37" LCD TV is 3" deep and weighs under 50 lbs. So the CRT television requires floorspace as well as a lot of muscle to install it or move it. Hauling one of these units up a flight of stairs to install it in a bedroom is no fun at all.

Image size. The largest CRT televisions are about 38" diagonal. So they don't give you the big screen experience that you can get from projectors, rear-projection TVs, or plasma TVs. Even the largest LCD TV at the present time is 45", and larger models are on the way. Meanwhile, there will be no further growth in the image size of tube televisions-they are just too heavy and bulky to market effectively. A tube television larger than 38" wouldn't fit through the doors in the typical home or apartment.

"Old" technology. The tube television is perceived as old technology, so it does not have the cool factor that the newer digital technologies have to one degree or another. However, in reality this is nonsense. There is nothing at all wrong with the tube television solution, and nothing antiquated about the technology other than their screen size limitations. As far as video quality is concerned, you can get beautiful HDTV pictures on these sets.

Who should buy a Direct-view HDTV?

The direct-view HDTV is most appropriate if you don't want a picture larger than about 36" diagonal, and don't mind allocating floorspace to a television. If space is not a factor and you want to keep your budget under $2,000, the direct-view HDTV can be the perfect choice for you.

The alternative in this price range would be a front projector, which you can get for as little as $1,000. Entry level projectors with screens can be had for less than the price of the 36" HDTV, and they will produce much bigger images. For more details, read the overview of projectors linked below.

If you are in the budget range for a 36" direct-view HDTV, keep in mind that for about $500 more you can opt for a 42" rear-projection TV, and for about $1,000 more you can get into a 42" plasma TV. If either of those has appeal to you, check the write ups on them by clicking the links below.

Projectors-Advantages and limitations

Rear-projection TVs-Advantages and limitations

Flatscreen TVs-Advantages and limitations

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