All of the older game systems were designed to be viewed on a
4:3 (square) CRT TV. Some games look great on newer TV’s, but they still look different from playing them on
the scanlines of a CRT and it’s often annoying playing them
"stretched" in 16:9 (widescreen) format. I tried researching different high-end consumer TV's and after
considering other solutions, I finally asked what should have been my first question: What about just getting
an RGB monitor?
I did some research and found the most common RGB monitors
were used as either TV studio monitors or medical equipment. These devices were extremely high-end and used
to cost anywhere between $2000 and $25000. They still go for a lot on eBay (usually between $100 and $1000)
and cost a lot to ship.
I hunted around for a bit and ended up finding a 20” Sony
PVM-20M2U for $130 that included all the cables and adapters I needed. I got it home and was blown
away. Below is a picture comparing Sonic 3 on my really nice Sony CRT via composite and the same shot through
an RGB monitor (hooked up via RGB cable, of course). Please click on all pictures if you'd like the
Pictures can not do it justice: the difference was absolutely
staggering. Seeing an RGB monitor side-by-side with my high-quality Sony CRT absolutely blew my mind.
After experiencing that, I feel that unless you don't have the room for it, every retro-gamer should own an RGB
monitor. They support every type of accessory a standard CRT supports, such as light guns and 3D glasses
(both the Famicom and Sega Master System offered some cool 3D games). I even did a short video of a light gun game working on an RGB monitor, just
as proof that it actually works (please excuse the poor quality video, I just shot it quickly with my iPad):
Here’s a few more comparison pictures. I took pictures
using the RF, Composite and S-Video inputs of the Sony CRT TV. I also used the RGB to YUV converter (YUV is the basic analog version of YPbPr component) I bought
on eBay to take a picture of the SNES outputting RGB into the component inputs of my Sony CRT TV. The final
picture is the same shot taken on my Sony PVM monitor in RGB. What a huge
I wish I had a way other than pictures to show you how much
better using an RGB monitor is than any other solution (maybe some day I can borrow high-end video recording
equipment and do a side-by-side video). The only reasons not to get one are if you really have no space at
all for a monitor (I put mine on a rolling cart so I can put it away when I’m not using
it), or if you’d really like to go down the road of upscaling your old systems on an HDTV.
Exactly what RGB monitor to buy is pretty easy to figure
out. First (unless you specifically need a small one), expect to buy a monitor around 19". There were
only a handful of options larger than that and they aren't as common. As for brand,
almost any Sony PVM or BVM series monitor
will look wonderful and is a good choice. Also, the Sony BVM-20F1U is arguably the best CRT ever made.
The NEC XM29 is an amazing monitor (supports RGB
and VGA up to 1280x1024), but it's extremely hard to find. I've heard there is a 37"
version (XM37) available, but I've never tried one. As a side note, both the NEC monitors require a "clean"
sync signal, so you'll either need to get csync from all your consoles, or use some type of
sync stripper. Phonedork recently did a great video
showcasing his XM29. His video includes a few demonstrations showing exactly why CRT's will be a
better choice in most cases - Especially when compared against cheap upscalers. I suggest anyone looking for
more information check it out, especially the part demonstrating lag at around 14
Also, there are a few models of Ikegami monitors that were
supposedly just as good as the Sony PVM's, but also accept 480p component (something most PVM's don't do). If
I ever get a chance to try the XM37, or a 480p-compatible Ikegami (or PVM), I'll update this page and let you know
how they work.
Just a quick FYI - Many 480p compatible RGB monitors will display "480i" on the
on-screen display when it's actually showing a 240p signal. I'm not sure why, but at least on my monitors,
the signal has definitely been displayed as 240p.
Finally, if you have a lot of money to spend and your favorite systems are 6th
generation game consoles, such as the Dreamcast, GameCube, modded GBA and PS2, there's one monitor that's by
far the best choice: The Sony BVM-D32E1WU. It's a 32" widescren tube monitor that can accept
signals from 240p all the way up to 1080i...that originally retailed for around twenty thousand
dollars!!! It's a bit overkill if you use 5th gen and earlier, since you won't need the 16:9 screen or
HD support, but it's by far the best solution for 6th gen systems!
No matter what the brand, there’s a few things to pay
attention to when buying one of these monitors though:
- Many of these were left on 24/7 in some sort of professional
environment. As a result, you can find monitors that are extremely worn out and produce a horrible, blurry
picture. As long as you try it out before you buy it, you should be able to avoid getting a worn-out
- The newer the better. They made PVM’s into the 2000’s,
so always try to look for the newest one. Also, some older PVM’s require different input adapters (I talk
more about that later), so a newer monitor with BNC inputs
would be a better choice.
If anyone has any info on larger RGB monitors that are high
quality, please let me know.
For now, I’ll say this: Try to get an NEC XM29, or a
Sony PVM/BVM-series around 20”. As long as they don’t have too many hours of use, either will be an
As a side note, if you live in Europe, you could try to find
an old high-end CRT that has SCART inputs (more on SCART in a bit), which will accept an RGB signal. Today,
you can find many old Loewe and B&O TV’s that used to sell for thousands for just a few hundred. It’s a
great and very easy solution that produces a wonderful picture, however it’s still not in the same league as an RGB
My Life In Gaming has an excellent video about CRT's and the difference between
consumer and professional-grade: