Let me set the record straight. I’m not one for modern video games.
Sure, they’re pretty and all, but they just don’t attract me the same way that the games of my youth did.
Now, that said, while I am not a modern gamer, I am still very much a retro one! I can’t tell you the number of hours I’ve continued to log playing such classics as Adventure Island, Earthworm Jim, and Super Metroid. I’ve canceled plans to revisit Sonic & Knuckles. I’ve spent rainy afternoons Cruis’n USA. I’ve even feigned illness just so I could beat my high score on Columns.
Yes, when it comes to retro gaming, I’ve done my time. And one thing that I have learned over the last three decades is that one’s vintage video game experience is only as good as the television upon which it is played. And, when I say television, I’m not talking about some swanky 4K flat-screen monitors. I’m talking about something a little older. I’m talking about a nice CRT TV.
What is the best CRT TV for retro gaming? Let’s take a look…
The Truth About Retro Gaming
Now, no doubt there are a few of you out there wondering why we’d even consider such an ancient piece of kit – especially with all of the impressive high-definition units available as close as your local Walmart.
Well, the truth of the matter is that old-school consoles like the Super Nintendo and SEGA Genesis just weren’t designed to be played on such things.
Heck, the closest thing we had to an HD TV when I was a kid was our 20” wood-encased Zenith. And you know what? That did the job just fine.
No, forget your 80” 4K LG. You’re going to want to grab yourself a nice CRT TV if you’re hoping to get the very best out of Duck Hunt and Donkey Kong. Why? Because these were the units most older games were made for – thus it only makes sense to pair the two together for the ultimate vintage gaming setup.
What Is a CRT TV? A CRT or cathode ray tube TV is an analog display monitor that creates an image on the screen by directing electron beams over millions of phosphor dots to light them up. In a color monitor, the screen has alternating red, green, and blue phosphor dots which get activated by the electrons and combine to make millions of visible colors.
Wait, CRTs Are Still A Thing?
Now, while they may not be cramming the shelves of today’s big box stores, there are still plenty of classic CRT televisions out there that are certain to take your retro gaming to the next level.
Most can be had for cheap, and acquired through multiple means ranging from eBay to your neighbor’s weekend garage sale.
They may not be sexy, and most weigh about as much as a ‘62 Buick Wildcat. However, they’ll also work themselves to the bone ensuring that all your cartridge-based cavalcades will be ones to remember.
I’ve had experience with numerous CRT TVs over the years – from a convenient little 12” Magnavox portable to a sleek 16:9 Sony Hi Scan. And, while I sadly never got my hands on the much coveted Philips Discoverer, I think I can confidently say that I have in fact enjoyed some fun times with the very best CRT TV to ever hit the market.
The near fantastic factotum known as the Sony PVM.
What Is The Best CRT TV For Retro Gaming?
The Sony PVM, more specifically the PVM-14M2U, is without a doubt the very best CRT TV when it comes to retro gaming. It’s quite stylish for an older unit and is one of the few things in life that will never let you down. Seriously, this thing is a nearly indestructible workhorse.
Take the following for example. Growing up, we had one of these bad boys setup on our boat. One October afternoon, we hit a nasty storm out on the lake. A storm so nasty that we were seriously considering beaching the boat on one of the nearby islands to avoid the risk of sinking. Fortunately, it never came to that.
However, in the process of finally reaching our destination, the boat did take a couple of nice waves to the side, which caused the little PVM unit to come crashing down from atop its perch a few feet above our heads.
And, while it may have made a horrible sound as it tumbled down to the cabin floor, and its inner working rattled like a tin can forever after, that little TV continued to function as intended right up until the moment we sold it just a few years later.
Under The Hood
The PVM may not be the biggest unit on the market. Ours only had a 13” screen. However, there is yet to be a classic game – from Wild Gunman to Wonder Boy – that didn’t display great on it.
This is thanks largely in part to the fact that the Trinitron color screen technology Sony incorporated into the TV’s design produces a resolution with a near-flawless 600 lines. As a result, games are both steady and smooth – while at the same time also appearing nicely defined.
No jerky movements, and plenty of pretty colors.
As if that’s not reason enough to add one to your gaming set-up, the Sony PVM also supports multiple inputs and features a range of adjustable features. Thus, gamers can fine-tune each of their favorite games as needed.
It’s tough as nails, user-friendly, and made to support all your most beloved vintage video games in the best way possible. It is, without a doubt, the very best CRT TV to ever hit retail. Bar None.
Where Can You Get One?
As I said earlier, CRT TVs are old kit. As such, you won’t just be able to walk into Best Buy or Walmart and pluck one off the shelves in the home electronics department.
You’ll need to do some searching. However, as the PVM range started hitting retailers in the mid-90s and was manufactured right up to the early 2000s, they’re actually not too hard to track down.
Auction sites like eBay seem to have plenty up for bid, but the better units tend to start around $500 and up. I guess that’s what happens when retro console gaming becomes a pretty popular hobby.
If you’re not looking to spend that kind of money on your set-up, may I also recommend you keep your eyes open while visiting your local thrift store? Older models tend to pop up rather often in places like these, most still in solid condition and working order.
Plus, if you’re fortunate enough to locate one of these things just sitting on the shelf at the local Value Village or Salvation Army, chances are you’ll be able to take it home with you without breaking the bank.
Pawn shops also tend to carry older televisions, many with sticker prices far lower than those found online.
Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and Kijiji are also good places to keep an eye on when looking for a CRT TV of your very own.
In my experience, most people are honestly just looking to unload an unused piece of tech that has been taking up space for far too long. Thus, they’re open to negotiating and not asking a premium price for what they’ve got.
Which bodes well for those of us still stuck in 1991.
The Bottom Line
So, to wrap things up, if you want to get the most out of your favorite retro video games, get yourself a CRT TV. More specifically, get yourself a Sony. Even more specifically, a Sony PVM-14M2U.
It’s not as large as the Toshiba AF. Nor is it as funky as the Philips Discoverer. But, it’s pretty darn near bulletproof and makes every retro video game from Dig Dug to Dashin’ Desperadoes look great!
The resolution is perfect, and the full range of customizable features allow each individual gamer to adjust the look of each game as they see fit.
Additionally, they’re not exactly hard to track down and can be found in most pawn shops or thrift stores for a few bucks.
And, speaking from personal experience, they’ll never give you an ounce of trouble.
Yes, when it comes to retro gaming, you just can’t go wrong with a Sony PVM.