I got a CRT TV to use in a retro gaming setup, and it was a living nightmare

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Opinion: I enjoy CRTs, but owning one has made me realise how much I take for granted modern conveniences.

image credits: shutterstock

As a lifetime gamer, I’ve recently been wanting to relive my childhood nostalgia, which has mostly included investing in a retro gaming setup. I went all out and bought a PS1 (the incredibly tiny edition that’s still a looker aesthetically), a handful of games, and, most crucially, a 14-inch Bush 1473T CRT TV to play them on in a rose-tinted quest to re-experience the games of my youth.

But, with CRTs being such an antiquated display technology, why bother? After all, if all you need to do is plug a console into it, shouldn’t any modern TV suffice? That’s not the case. Even the best 4K TVs suffer from a lack of input for a SCART adaptor, which is the major source of video a technique for connecting older consoles to AV, such as the PS1 and N64.

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If you go down to a 1080p screen, you’ll almost certainly find a SCART port. Another difficulty is that earlier games were never developed with flat-screen TVs in mind, especially pixel-based games or those with a low polygon count. This has the unintended consequence of making old games appear worse. Edges sometimes appear jagged, and pixels aren’t mixed together as smoothly as they should be. As a result, when playing ancient games on more contemporary displays, you lose a lot of visual depth.

This is where a CRT TV’s attraction comes into play. When it comes to visual quality, the somewhat rounded display, as well as its scanlines, mask a lot of the flaws of earlier titles. In fact, most retro games were created specifically for these displays, as they allow for a much softer image that may blend pixels together. As a result, objects appear less jagged, and pixel-based text and backgrounds appear as they should, rather than as an unattractive splotch of coloured squares.

As a result, when each critical component of the setup came at my place, I was eager to get it up and running as soon as possible. I connected the PS1 to the CRT and double-checked that everything was in place and it was working as it should, so I buckled up for the journey. I had no idea it would be a ride I would regret taking.

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The nightmare starts now

I completely overlooked the fact that setting up a CRT TV might be an awful pain in my haste to construct a charming little retro gaming setup. It goes without saying that they lack all of the benefits of a more current display, such as the excellent LG CX. Furthermore, there are a few very perplexing hoops to jump through in order to get a retro configuration to operate.

If you don’t have component cables, the only other alternative is to use an RFU converter, which is provided with most PS1 consoles. This adaptor does not require you to use AV, but it does require you to locate the adaptor’s channel and manually tune it I’ll keep displaying until the image is exactly what you want. And, in most cases, you won’t be able to tune a CRT TV without the help of a compatible remote.

Thankfully, I was able to locate a set of component cables as well as a SCART adaptor. But that wasn’t the end of my problems; I hadn’t considered that in order to access AV output, I’d need a compatible TV remote in the first place. I didn’t get one with the Bush CRT TV that I bought on eBay.

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A farcical comedy

I realised I’d have to search down a remote only to access the AV output on my CRT after fiddling with the buttons on the TV to no success. I had no idea that this would be the most difficult obstacle to overcome, as finding a remote that worked with my CRT was considerably easier said than done.

I tested a variety of universal remotes as well as second-hand remotes purchased from spare parts websites, which is one of the few dependable options left for purchasing an old CRT TV remote. None of them worked, and I was starting to get worried. Had I really just spent so much money on a retro gaming setup only to fail at the last hurdle? I felt hopelessly caught in a never-ending cycle of trial, error, and despair, much as I did when battling some of Elden Ring’s toughest bosses.

But one thing has come out of the whole ordeal for me. It made me realise how much I’d taken for granted the advantages of modern television. The majority of new 4K televisions are incredibly simple to operate. Whether it’s due of HDMI’s simplicity or the multitude of streaming apps incorporated into these smart TVs, current displays are more convenient than older TVs.

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This narrative does not have a happy conclusion, as much as it hurts me to say so. Not yet, at least. While the delight of being able to play games like Tekken 3, Ridge Racer Type 4, and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night on the display for which they were designed remains elusive, my search for a functional remote will continue.

After all, I’m not going to abandon the project now that I’ve already spent a significant amount of money on it. As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

The Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack makes it much easier to play older games.

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