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The Best Monitor for an Arcade Cabinet

It is very difficult to decide on the best monitor for an arcade cabinet because there are so many details to consider. Today, we will discuss buying options and simplify technical details so you can choose a great monitor for your arcade cabinet build.

Some video gamers are purist and would only consider using a CRT monitor (vintage box monitor), while others do not mind using an LCD or LED.

vintage Tv monitor

Vintage Box Monitors (CRT monitors) are great because they are configured to work well with classic video game consoles.

**Old-school monitors are best suited to those who use classic gaming systems instead of an emulator.

For instance, if you have an old-school shoot’ em up video game, you can use your gun with the CRT monitor without a problem. Likewise, you won’t run into any image display problems because older game consoles were designed to work with the CRT monitors.

One of the greatest benefits of using a CRT is its great response time and refresh rate. When shopping for a gaming monitor, always look for a high refresh rate and low response time.

 Vintage monitors redraw every frame from scratch with an average refresh rate of 100 Hz. Plus, the time it takes for the CRT monitor to refresh (response time) is between 3ms and 5ms, which is very good. This feature makes CRT monitors very attractive to some gamers.

While vintage monitors have ideal response times and refresh rates, they also have the perfect aspect ratio for your vintage video game cartridges. The average CRT monitor has an aspect ratio of 4:3, which allows games to display without black space at the top and bottom of the screen.

In addition to working well, CRT monitors are authentic and don’t just duplicate the vintage arcade cabinet look.

The downsides of CRT

The main problem with CRT monitors (Cathode Ray Tube Monitors) lies in the way they function. CRT monitors contain millions of tiny red, green, and blue phosphor dots that glow when struck by an electron beam, which travels across the screen to create a visible image. The positive charge is called an anode, while the negative heated filament is the cathode. Heat and static electricity, generated by this process, causes problems.

Heat causes:

  • screen burn, which is a process where images get burned into the screen
  • rodent problems because pesky critters are attracted to warmth

Static causes:

  • dust that makes cleaning a real chore

CRT monitors are a problem

CRT monitors can be a fire hazard because old cords wear out, leaving wires exposed. When you find an old monitor, make sure the cords are intact. If not, replace the cords or make sure they are covered with electrical tape. You might love the nostalgia and great function of vintage TV monitors, but…

They are huge…

Heavy and large CRT monitors are a major space hog, which makes them less than ideal for modern living. Plus, the only place you’ll find one is at your local thrift shop. If the idea of using a vintage monitor for your arcade doesn’t appeal to you, you might consider an LCD or LED monitor.

LCD or LED monitor

The differences 

To understand whether you should buy an LCD or LED monitor, you must first understand differences between the two.

LED and LCD monitors are both liquid crystal monitors, which means they both function by using liquid crystals to block and pass light thru layers of glass. The two types of monitors differ because LCD monitors use fluorescent lights, while LED’s use light emitting diodes.

LED monitors are thinner, more energy efficient, and clearer than LCD monitors. However, LCD and LED monitors both far surpass the clarity of CRT monitors minus the conditions discussed below.

The benefits of LEDs

LEDs are:

  • Thin
  • Lightweight
  • New
  • Clear
  • Work very well with emulators

The downsides of LEDs

Many new monitors do not have older connection options available. Hence, many classic console users find themselves needing a converter.

You can either use a TV or computer monitor for your arcade cabinet.

Most TV monitors have HDMI, USB, S-video, composite, and coax. S-video, composite, and coax are the best choices for older gaming consoles.

Composite is compatible with gaming systems like Dreamcast, the Nintendo 64, or the GameCube. However, other consoles like PlayStation 2 and the original Xbox are most compatible with component.

This is a problem for Play Station 2 and Xbox users because composite usage on a component based system often compromises viewing quality.

Since most TV monitors have multiple connection options, they are best suited to those with multiple gaming systems and an emulator.

TV monitors are meant to be viewed from a distance. Hence, they are also best suited to those who play games with multiple users.

An emulator easily plugs into an HDMI or USB slot, while the classic game consoles work with composite, S-video, coax, or a converter.

**If you are going to use a computer monitor to play older game consoles, you MUST have a converter.

Computer monitors almost always have VGA and HDMI. However, they don’t have much else.

The computer monitor is most suited for usage with an emulator.

Computer monitors are designed for up close viewing. Hence, they are also best suited for those who will be playing video games using an arcade cabinet.

Computer monitors are suited for this purpose because they have the correct ports and are affordable. To learn more about computer monitors for gaming, check out our blog, “Five Great Computer Monitors for Gaming.”

Peripherals to choose from

Cable Management Systems

Gaming Headsets




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