The CRT thread (I bought a GDM-FW900)

Discussion in 'Geek Cave: Computers, Tablets, HT, Phones, Games' started by Serious, Dec 30, 2016.

  1. Serious

    Serious Inquisitive Frequency Response Plot

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    A few weeks ago the OLED thread made me curious to try something other than LCD for my monitor. I've been eyeing the Sony GDM FW900 CRT for a long time now and finally decided to give it a shot a few weeks ago. This is a very popular CRT and often mentioned as one of the best, mainly because it's pretty large (22.25"), widescreen (16:10) and high resolution (1920x1200*). There are larger CRTs, or ones with a higher horizontal scan frequency, but the GDM FW900 seems to tick the most boxes.
    Here it is on the floor when I first got it:
    20161215_140956 - Copy.jpg
    This picture doesn't capture how massive it really is. You need a lot of space to the back of your desk. I'm lucky because mine is positioned in a corner.


    When you do buy one of these monitors it will almost certainly need to be calibrated. In my case the G2 value was set way too high (I went from 154 to 124) which caused the blacks to be way too bright. Everything looked grey and desaturated. The Hardforum megathread has links almost everything you need to know:
    https://hardforum.com/threads/24-widescreen-crt-fw900-from-ebay-arrived-comments.952788/

    These two also helped me a lot:
    http://forums.blurbusters.com/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=504
    https://hardforum.com/threads/windas-white-point-balance-guide-for-sony-trinitron-crts.1830788/

    This is also pretty interesting:
    https://ntrl.ntis.gov/NTRL/dashboard/searchResults/titleDetail/ADA415156.xhtml#

    I went out and bought a USB to TTL adapter and an X-Rite DTP94. By the way: You can plug in the cables for the USB to TTL adapter in the back of the monitor without opening the case. My monitor was manufactured in 2000 and definitely saw a lot of use. There's also 16 years worth of dust in the back. Thankfully the glass doesn't have any deep scratches, but the anti-glare coating is removed. The case has some scratches, but it doesn't look too terrible. All included I paid less than 200€.


    I went from a BenQ XL2420T 120Hz LCD to this one. For most of my use cases the GDM FW900 is better for the following reasons:
    • Instant reponse time. It's noticeably faster than even a 120Hz LCD. This is even with the 95Hz refresh rate (at 1920x1200) that I run most of the time, but for CS:GO I like to use 1440x900 at 126Hz. Technically nothing can beat a CRT for response time. This is amazing for gaming.
    • Less motion blur. Phosphor decay seems to generally be as fast as OLEDs. Much faster than LCDs.
    • Much better black levels under optimal conditions. As the screen coating is more of a grey than black the black levels get worse than LCD with direct light hitting the screen. Also because of the CRT glare the black will get much worse if there's a bright image next to it. Black bars for movies often don't look darker than on LCDs. Absolute black levels should be better than Plasma, but it's no OLED. You can still tell it's on. I think the black level is somewhere in the 0.000Xcd/m² range.
    • More accurate colors. I don't think the XL2420T even covers the full sRGB gamut. The CRT primaries seem to closely match the SMPTE-C primaries, which almost covers the full sRGB range. The sRGB standard is from when CRTs were the only monitors available. As far as I know almost all CRT monitors seem to use the P22 phosphor set. At this point I'm most concerned about sRGB performance than wider gamuts.
    • I like the glass front panel. It feels more solid than the anti-glare stuff on LCDs.
    • Technically better bit-depth than almost every other screen due to the analog nature. Good luck finding a consumer graphics card with a 10bit VGA output.
    • The viewing angles, especially vertically are much better than the TN LCD. With the LCD I got color and (more importantly) major gamma shifts across the screen even from a normal viewing distance.
    Some of the stuff that is better with LCDs:
    • Maximum brightness is limited. WIth a brand new one it's about 125cd/m², but older ones with more use won't be as bright. Like with OLEDs or Plasmas this also depends on the picture that is displayed, so it will be brighter for a smaller white image and less bright when the whole screen is white.
    • The contrast is limited for black-white transitions. There will always be some glare around white images on a black background. This is what annoys me the most with CRTs. LCDs, especially the ones with local dimming, aren't perfect in this regard either, but the area right next to the bright spot won't be as dark with CRTs. As you move further away the blacks get much better on the CRT though. This is also what limits sharpness with text. In my opinion this is the best thing about OLEDs (and Plasma): The amazing instant contrast between having one pixel fully on and the one sitting next to it completely off.
    • Images generally look less sharp, but this CRT is by far the sharpest I've seen and I've not even touched the sharpness screws in the back.
    • Mine buzzes a bit. I think most CRTs do to some extent. It also seems like some buzzing gets induced into dynamic driver headphones when you get really close.
    • The screen isn't perfectly flat. The glass is flat, but the screen is a cylindrical shape, with the edges on the sides slightly recessed. This doesn't bother me much.
    • With the Trinitrons you get one or two very thin wires across the screen. In this case there are two. This is noticeable in bright scenes.
    • You don't have to worry about geometry issues, landing errors, moiré, magnets next to your monitor and all sorts of weird stuff.
    • Size. Doesn't need an explanation. This thing is huge.
    • Weight. 42kg.
    • Power consumption/heat output. I think under normal usage it draws about 150W. As with audio gear things that run hot and draw a lot of power are often better.
    • Takes some time to warm up. You can use it immediately, but it takes more than an hour for the best black levels and sharpness.
    • Reflections on the glass panel. My room is generally not too bright, especially in the winter, so this doesn't bother me much.
    • The green phosphor takes a long time to fully decay. When you have a white object moving on a very dark or black background you can see a green trail. This can get annoying with some material.
    • CRTs are more suspectible to burn-in than LCDs. Almost everything other than LCD has burn-in. CRTs seem to be better than OLED or Plasma in this regard. Mine is really old and white still looks almost perfectly uniform.

    Do you think CRTs are still a viable alternative in 2016 (and 2017)? I certainly do, especially for the price they go nowadays. There may be LCDs that I would ultimately prefer, but definitely not for 200€.
    Is anyone on here still using a CRT?


    *From my understanding it only has 1920 vertical lines, so the maximum resolution of 2304x1440 actually can't be resolved.


    EDIT: On a spare CRT that I got for free now, since my FW900 broke again for the third time. I never fixed it properly, but I know it can be fixed.
     
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    Last edited: Dec 29, 2018
  2. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex SBAF's Imelda Marcos

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    I owned two of these back in the day. I am surprised you're getting a lot out of a unit like this. How much life is left?
     
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  3. Serious

    Serious Inquisitive Frequency Response Plot

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    Good question. Probably not too much, we'll see. When I first got it it sometimes didn't turn back on after the image restoration feature. I'll have to recheck but I think for an all-white picture the maximum brightness is only at about 54cd/m².

    There's always the option of buying the like new ones that go for 1k on ebay o_O
     
  4. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    When I last office-worked, about thirteen years ago, all our screens were still CRT. I think they were substantially smaller than yours, but, for those who got the budget for a bigger screen, it was something that I could barely lift single handed. And yes, even they took a lot a lot of desk space.

    When the job-for-life turned out not to be, my system went home with me for the final months of gardening leave. Subsequently, it even emigrated with me, and the NEC monitor, despite a transit cracked case, worked for quite a few years.

    Have just discarded an LED monitor due to a bright green line of stuck pixels. Had earlier replaced the back lights, but didn't want to spend more on it, especially as a replacement screen unit was not readily available. Had this been a CRT, I suspect that local-guy-with-soldering-iron would probably have restored it to life. I suspect that the old CRTs do live longer, and are comparatively easy to fix when stuff does go wrong. At least in India, where even skilled labour is afordable.
     
  5. Serious

    Serious Inquisitive Frequency Response Plot

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    I adjusted the settings some more. The main thing was turning down the G2 value even more, but I also adjusted the peak brightness. I also did a proper gamma calibration for all of my monitors using DisplayCAL 3. This is really imoprtant for an old CRT like this if you want to get proper black levels, otherwise the gamma will be way too high. As for the G2 value you really do have to dark-adapt your eyes for 10 minutes (which I also did the first time) and this time I tried to focus extra hard to see if there were still benefits below 124. I think I settled for 121.
    Here's a side-by-side black level comparison against my XL2420T. Both monitors were set to the same peak brightness (80cd/m²). The GDM-FW900 is on the left:
    Black level .jpg
    (My XL2420T actually has a very uniform backlight, it's just the camera noise making it look like that.)
    For reference I placed a small tea light between the two monitors. Usually I also use a bias light. The FW900 black level is way too dark for my phone to show. The DTP94 also stands no chance. The XL2420T comes in at about 0.12 nits black level (667 contrast) head-on, but it gets worse from an angle. The GDM FW900 should be somewhere around 0.0005 nits (160 000 contrast). You can see a slight glow after you dark-adapt your eyes.

    In real-world usage the contrast won't be as good because flaring makes the black levels worse. For a really bright scene black bars on top and bottom are actually brighter than on an LCD, but in dark scenes the CRT just leaves every LCD I've seen in the dust. This feels much more natural to me.
    For videos and games (or just plain pictures) the CRT absolutely rocks, but for surfing (with a lot of text) the LCD is often better. This is especially true since you get a lot of hard contrasts on websites. Black text on a white background isn't where CRTs excel.
    What's also very important to me is that you get almost no color/brightness/gamma shifts as your viewing angle changes. I can actually look at it from my bed. Good IPS panels are also good at this, but not TN panels.

    Without going into too much subjectivity I do think there's a certain 'depth' to the image with the CRT that you don't really get with LCDs. Maybe OLEDs. Part of this is probably the better black level and faster response times and part of it might be the slight curve to the screen coupled with the flat glass.

    Here's one of my measurements of the color gamut against sRGB (dotted lines):
    Gamut GDM-FW900.png
    I tend to get slightly different results with each run, but they're generally consistent with what I've seen elsewhere. The red coverage could be a bit better. Newer LCDs will have a larger gamut.
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2017
  6. pandather

    pandather Acquaintance

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    If anyone has a GDM-FW900 they'd be willing to part with, I would definitely be interested in buying it. I got one for $350 in highschool and made the mistake of selling it for $700 since I thought it sucked due to a shitty VGA cable I had (I saw it in it's full glory for 5 minutes when someone drove 120 miles to pick it up and I didn't want to make them drive a 240 mile round trip drive for no reason,) and I still get sad thinking about it. I'd sell or trade most of my audio gear for one (which consists of a black Bifrost Multibit 1, HD800 SDR modded, HD650 nickel/spider/damplifier pro modded, Modi Multibit (old FW,) Asgard 2, and Massdrop x Cavilli Tube Hybrid) and drive ~300 miles one-way from Texas to pick it up haha.
     
  7. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex SBAF's Imelda Marcos

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    For that price get the 48" LG OLED and turn on black frame insertion. It's the only thing I've seen that is comparable to the smoothness of CRT
     
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  8. Melvillian

    Melvillian Friend

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    Saw one of these on eBay recently for $4k. CRT prices are so stupid lately. I owned the BVM-D24 Which has the same picture tube in it. Ended up selling it because I mostly want CRT for 4:3. If I’m spending the kind of money they go for now I’ll just get an LG OLED. For 240p there are better options and for 480p and higher there are OLEDs

    @pandather Will keep an eye out for one but with how prices are nowadays it’ll probably be costly. I would try estate sales and auctions. Might take a long time but you might eventually find one.

    just checked eBay and the $4000 is no longer listed. I wonder if it sold. It was in very good condition.
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2020
  9. pandather

    pandather Acquaintance

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    Oh wow I haven't seen that OLED yet. 120hz @ 4k with BLI sounds amazing, along with non-BLI VRR for everything that has trouble getting to 120. If only I didn't need a new GPU to run all my games @ 4k 60 (am willing to turn down graphics but some games are giving me trouble getting to run smoothly on my $150 3xU2412M setup (60hz 1920x1200 with 55px borders, so 3710x1920) on low.) Still I may start selling some frivolous stuff to fund one... Thanks for bringing that to my attention.
     
  10. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex SBAF's Imelda Marcos

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    Given the insane prices for an fw-900, you can get that display and a 3080.
     
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  11. 7seven

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    OLEDs are a no brainer over CRTs at this point,
    A few years ago it made sense, you would find them for much cheaper (they are starting to become like antiques now) and you only had even shittier LCDs.

    First and foremost, CRTs age. I got a highend CRT a few years ago, it was already showing its age when I got it and has gotten worse since to the point that it needs to be replaced. OLED longevity is questionable but not as much as 15+ year old CRTs.

    CRTs are better than the LCD overall but people tend to ignore/sugar coat the flaws.
    Static blur, for one. It is acceptable, but at best it still wont be as a sharp as a basic 1080p LCD, let alone 4k.
    Max CRT resolutions are pretty meaningless due to the inherent blur and dot pitch limit.

    Excellent motion clarity is worth a slight lack of static clarity, however they still have a kind of motion blur/trailing caused by phosphor persistence and It can be very distracting and noticeable in high contrast areas. Having only seen brief demos I'm not exactly sure how well OLED response times fare in comparison but it does appear to be more independant of contrast and cleaner.

    CRTs have infinite colour depth, but this is the same thing as saying a cassette tape has infinite bit depth... it's the nature of analogue.
    They'll probably struggle to resolve full 8bit colour due to limited peak brightness/gamut.
    Honestly I think there are many basic 8bit IPS that can do much better colour than CRTs, and now we have 10bit OLEDs with the contrast+response times to boot.
    With 4k and HDR becoming standard now this is stuff is less of a gimmick.

    Though LCDs will never be able to produce a looking natural image with WLED, polarisation and whatever other nasty shit they use, emissive displays are the only way.
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2020
  12. Serious

    Serious Inquisitive Frequency Response Plot

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    I wish OLEDs were a no brainer, but last time I checked there still weren't any OLED monitors that could be an alternative for desktop use. Sure, there are the LG CX series TVs which are awesome, but in the 20-30" size range there really aren't any.
    [​IMG]
    I think for this picture I even had the CRT set somewhat brighter than the LCD. The massive black borders on the 4:3 CRT playing the 2:1 video mostly vanish at night.
    I so want to ditch my CRT, especially since I now use a worse CRT than the FW900, but there just isn't an alternative, yet. When the Eizo Foris Nova 21.6" 4K OLED became available for 1000€ I really considered buying one. At the end of the day I decided that I'm not getting a 60Hz monitor again, especially if it has to replace my CRT. I saw the BFI on the CX OLEDs and it was great (high and med were somewhat flickery, but low was fine for me), just wish it was available as a screen you can put on a desk.

    @7seven you mentioned ageing. I assume you calibrated your monitor, right? I can't get mine anywhere close to a 2.2 to 2.4 gamma anymore using the controls, so I have to rely on DisplayCAL to hit the target gamma. For screens with better black levels I tend to prefer a somewhat higher gamma between 2.3 and 2.4 than the 2.2 or sRGB gamma people use on LCDs.

    As far as gamut goes, I still really only watch sRGB content. More power to folks who actually watch HDR movies and need high brightness and a larger gamut.

    I'd say when a 24" 4K 120Hz OLED with built in BFI and low input latency becomes available for less than $1500 all CRTs will be dead. But that may never happen or at least not in the near future.
     
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  13. 7seven

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    They are too big as a monitor for sure. For 4k imo anything below like 30'' would be too small to get the full benefit, unless it's like a foot away from your face (though maybe I'm just blind). cheaper 1080/1440p OLEDs in those smaller size is something Im hoping for... never gonna happen though.

    The ageing I noticed was a lot of different things like subtle ringing, noise, halos etc. which got gradually got worse over the course of a few years, started to have brightness issues near the end.
    This was more obvious running at high horizontal scan rates, it actually still looks reasonable at more conservative rates e.g [email protected] . There's a chance it is PSU related, I may eventually trying replacing some of the electrolytics in it but doubt it will help, the caps it uses are good quality japanese long life, high temp caps , not the kind of junk you find in most modern electronics.

    Aside from size, doesn't LG 48CX tick all these boxes?
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2020

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