Thursday, March 7, 2013

To LCD or not to LCD?

Ah, new technology. Everyone seems to clamor over the newest and greatest technology. I can be found guilty of this as I make this post on my iPad while waiting for an oil change. New technology is great, makes our lives easier, and entertainment more... entertain-y. But what happens with old technology once new technology is introduced? Do you throw away the old to make room for the new? Were you someone who chucked out their old tube TV for that new plasma?

This is where a huge problem arises for both arcade operators and arcade collectors. Classic arcade games use CRT monitors. Current arcade games have almost completely switched over to LCD monitors. Manufacturers have seemed to slow down to a crawl with CRT production and jumped into LCD monitor production. Sure you can still repair CRT monitors and even order replacement parts such as chassis and even tubes ( seems to offer some decent prices) or even purchase new CRT monitors from arcade equipment sellers (Suzo-Happ offers a couple for sale), but repairs require experience with dangerous equipment and replacing a CRT monitor can be both expensive to purchase and possibly difficult to install. I personally have to replace the CRT in my Konami Windy Cabinet which can be quite difficult for a greenhorn like myself. The other option, which is controversial amongst arcade collectors and purists, is to chuck out the old and get with the new. LCD that cabinet.

I personally prefer CRT monitors in classic arcade cabinets. Nothing beats playing the original pcb on a cabinet with it's native format. Just dig out your old console and hook it up to your new widescreen TV and you'll see how those pixels do not translate well. However, replacing a CRT can be out of a persons area of expertise, or someone could be looking to upgrade their old cabinet for newer arcade games that take advantage of the LCD's higher resolution. Here are a couple of options I have found while searching the web.

LCD "upgrade" kits:


I put the "upgrade" in quotes since many people would agree that replacing a CRT in a classic arcade cabinet with an LCD monitor is not an upgrade. However, Suzo-Happ offers some LCD monitor mounting kits for CRT cabinets. An example of some of the parts and cabinets they fit into are in the picture above. You can see they offer special mounting brackets and a bezel for going from a 4:3 ratio to a 16:9 ratio and still have your cabinet look professional. Personally, if cost is not an issue, this will be the way I plan to go if/when CRT monitors become obsolete. The extra mounting hardware and bezel only add about 60 bucks to your total cost. However, the bezel looks like it only works with a few games. You could always make your own bezel like some handy people online have done out of wood. But, if you are handy enough to make a bezel out of wood, you might want to try the second option.

Retro fit an LCD monitor yourself:


The picture above was taken at Arcade UFO in Austin, Texas and was posted by them via twitter. If you look to the right you'll see what appears to be a Blast City Japanese candy cabinet with what looks like an LCD monitor attached to the outside of the bezel. I don't have definite confirmation, but it does look like someone custom retrofitted an LCD monitor in this cab (or well... on it). While not as aesthetically pleasing as the cabinets with the upgrade kit, this does get the job done. Personally, I think it looks fine and I am curious how the monitor is mounted and what type of monitor it is. It looks like it is possibly a computer monitor. This method may be the most cost effective. I've found some other interesting conversions from CRT to LCD with candy cabs. These included someone who mounted an LCD monitor in a Jaleco Pony candy cab with a custom wood bezel that looked pretty sweet. This seems like it might be the only option for candy cabs since LCD monitors tend to come in 15", 19", or 26" Sizes. Most candy cabs take 27" monitors so having the ability to retrofit support brackets would be a must. Creating a custom bezel would be a plus since candy cab bezels are a large, curved piece of plastic designed for the 4:3 aspect ratio. A downside to retrofitting would be the possibility/risk of hacking up a cabinet to fit the monitor, or ending up with something that looks like this:


So, options do exist for replacing a CRT monitor with an LCD monitor. The question is, is it worth it? LCD monitors are much lighter than CRT monitors. However, CRT monitors provide a better picture for classic lower resolution games. But you can purchase converters that will improve the picture quality for classic games on LCD's. But the cost of these can be around 200 bucks or more. However you can possibly use them with less expensive LCD computer monitors.... You can go back and forth for awhile when considering the various options. For me, I am sticking with CRT monitors until they can no longer be repaired or are no longer availible.


1 comment:

  1. I haven't been there, but that Blast City looks like an unholy abomination.