It’s unfortunate that many people’s only knowledge of CRT projectors comes from the poorly serviced, badly focused models in old sport bars and airplanes because they’re not quite the technological dinosaurs most make them out to be – unless you mean in terms of size, in which case they’re somewhere between a triceratops and a brontosaurus.
CRT, short for cathode ray tube, is a projector technology that uses a a vacuum tube containing an electron gun and a fluorescent screen to display a picture. It may sound confusing, but for almost 100 years, it was the dominant picture technology.
These days CRTs are increasingly less popular, as other technologies offer comparable picture for a fraction of the size and weight. You can spot a CRT projector by its three lenses, one each for red, green, and blue color, which are then converged to produce a full color image. While a high quality CRT projector will feature great picture, their weight, often well over 100 lbs., and large power requirements, really pushes the concept of portability.
Still, because the price of CRT projectors has been reduced drastically, especially now that big corporations and the government seek to unload their supply of them, they are often a compelling option for bars, home theaters, and any application where maximum portability is not the primary concern.
CRT projectors are very durable, and like CRT monitors, which remain popular in printing, broadcasting, graphic design, photography, and professional video, CRT projectors produce accurate colors and superior contrast.
Thorough home theater specialists might still recommend CRTs in some specific applications, especially if cost is a concern. Curt Palme Home Theater has an in-depth guide about CRT projectors, which unlike much information on CRTs on the internet, was written well after LCDs and DLPs had hit the market.
- Price has dropped significantly compared to other technologies
- CRT projectors sport probably the best cost/screen size ratio
- Service parts still exist in good supply and at good prices
- Very good picture quality
- Deeper blacks than many current technologies and good flesh tones
- Very long tube life (often 10,000 hours or more)
- Amazing durability (some commercial projectors have been left on for years without being serviced)
- No pixilation or artifacts (the “digital look” of square pixels becoming visible)
- Size and weight: CRT projectors range anywhere from 50 to upwards of 250 lbs.
- Not as consumer friendly
- Initial set up can be confusing
- Many models require periodic adjustment
- Changes in screen size require complete readjustment
- Many CRT projectors are not as bright as comparable technologies