Flat-Screen vs. Flat-Tube TV


As high-definition television has grown ever more popular, the technology people have adopted in their pursuit of better picture quality has changed. Sleek flat-panel (or flat-screen) sets, such as plasma and liquid crystal diode (LCD), have become the norm, while bulky cathode ray tube (CRT) sets have all but disappeared, tossed on the technology scrap heap with cassettes and eight-track tape. However, CRT sets are still available in limited quantities.


  • Flat-panel TVs are sleek sets that are no more than three or four inches thick. They can be hung on a wall and are available in many sizes, from 17 inches to 70 inches. These sets are either LCD or plasma technology. LCD is more cost-effective and doesn't have the "burn-in" effect that can happen on a plasma set (a ghost image may be burned into the pixels on a plasma set if a single image is left on the screen too long). LCDs also work better at higher altitudes, because the gas inside a plasma set expands and causes a buzzing. However, plasma generally has a better picture.

Flat Tube

  • Until fairly recently, most tube TV sets consisted of a slightly rounded screen in front of the cathode ray tube. However, in the late 1990s, electronics manufacturers developed flat-screen tube TVs. Before the decreasing costs of flat-panel sets, flat-screen CRTs were very popular and could be purchased in sizes as large as 36 inches.

Aspect Ratio

  • Because HDTV dictates a 16:9 aspect ratio, virtually all flat-panel sets are widescreen sets, though some small LCD sets (smaller than 17 inches) have a 4:3 aspect ratio. Almost all flat-screen CRT sets were 4:3, but with the advent of HDTV, some companies made widescreen flat-screen CRT HDTVs as big as 40 inches.

Flat-Screen vs. Flat-Panel

  • Flat-screen CRT sets suffer obvious disadvantages in size, bulk and weight compared with flat-panel sets. CRT sets are heavy and are much deeper than flat-panel sets, so they dominate a lot more of a room. Flat-panel sets can also be made much bigger than single CRT sets. However, rear-projection CRT sets, which used three small CRTs, one for each color, that projected the image on a flat screen, could rival the size of the biggest flat-panel sets.

CRT Advantages

  • Despite obvious disadvantages, CRT flat-screen sets do have better color accuracy, better contrast and better off-axis viewing than flat-panel sets. However, consumers seem to prefer the size and weight of flat-panel sets to CRT flat-screens, despite the better picture quality of a CRT.

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