Buying a Second Hand CRT

Mad Mr H

Prominent Member
Hi All,

I found this, written by Magistrate Jerome Saliga on April 24th, 2002

Everyone loves it when they buy a big ticket item and walk away with a killer deal. Unfortunately, home theater being what it is can suck your wallet dry on equipment purchases in a hurry, leaving nary a buck or two for DVD purchases. Having a great home theater with no movies to watch is like having a Lamborghini with no gas. It might be pretty, but it demands to be driven. This column is devoted to the DVD Verdict readers out there who want high performance but must achieve it on a down-to-earth budget. I consider a used CRT projector to be the best value out there for the budget-minded videophile. The rapid growth and development of small digital projectors has led to a growing availability of CRT projectors as individuals and companies replace them with smaller, portable digitals. Several resellers have seized the opportunity to bring these used projectors to performance-hungry videophiles, often at bargain-basement prices.
Bear in mind that many of the more common projectors out there in the used marketplace sold new for between $15,000 and $30,000 just four or five years ago. These same machines are carrying used prices that range between $1,500 and $6,000 today, depending on the projector, tube size, hours of use, features, and condition.
But none of this means purchasing a used projector is a simple matter, especially if you are new to the game. It can be a very risky endeavor if you are not careful; there's no shortage of horror stories from people who paid top dollar for a used machine only to find out later that the tubes were shot and needed replacement. What's even worse is to pay for a projector that you never receive (it's happened a number of times to folks who were careless). For most of us, we have to invest some level of trust in the seller since it's not likely there will be a vast selection of used projectors available in your neighborhood. This often means you will be buying a projector from someone sight unseen, and this can be fraught with risk. There are some steps you can take to greatly minimize your risk exposure. To that end, I want to provide you with some good rules to thumb to follow.

Used CRT Projector Do's

• know with whom you are dealing: Buying from someone you don't know is a good way to get taken to the proverbial cleaners. Many AV related forums host classified ads, and you will find many used projectors for sale there. Some are legitimate, honest deals and some are not. If you are considering buying from an individual, find out as much about them as you can before making a deal. If they are registered on a forum, then ask members to comment on their experiences with that person. If you are dealing with a company, you should do the same. Get references whenever possible.
• Ask the seller targeted questions: You will need information about the material condition of the projector you are considering for purchase. If you ask the seller a question such as "What sort of shape is the projector in?" then you are going to get a dime store answer, which is not going to tell you what you really need to know. Target your questions to obtain information about specifics, such as runtime hours (both on the chassis and the tubes), history of ownership, where the projector came from, etcetera. Be aware, though, that on some projectors, the hour meter is pretty easy to reset—a dishonest seller can reset the hour meter, run it for a while, and then hawk it as a low-hour unit at a premium price. It' possible, therefore, that the hour meter might not reflect the actual run time accumulation. Also, some projectors don't have hour meters. Get information on the cosmetic condition as well. A severely beat up case can be a sign that the projector has been subjected to a lot of rough handling. Ask the seller other important questions such as what inputs the projector will accept (RGBVH, Component, etc) and other features. Ask about compatibility with source resolutions that you want to run, such as DVD, HDTV, etc. Try to get as full an accounting as possible about what you are buying.
• Find out about the condition of the tubes: You will also want to know if there are wear patterns on the tubes and on which ones. Better yet, ask the seller if he can take digital photos of the tube faces, preferably with the lenses off, and e-mail the images to you. Aside from normal wear, you need to know if there is any phosphor burn on the tube. Burn can be caused by displaying static images such as computer desktops and other stills. All of these things drive price. All other things being equal, a projector with no visible wear patterns or burn will sell for more than a projector with two tubes that have burn or severe wear. Keep in mind that the green and blue tubes generally show signs of wear first. You do need to pay attention to all three, however.
• Ask about included accessories: Ask the seller what is included in the sale. Is a remote control included? It might sound like minor detail, but it's pretty important, since you will have a hard time setting up the projector without it. Replacements are generally expensive ($100 to $200) if they are available at all. If a remote is not included, ask if the projector has an RS-232 interface and control software. If so, then you can probably get by without a remote and use a computer to setup the projector instead. Printed manuals are a plus, especially a setup guide, but in many cases, you can get that information from the Internet. If printed documentation is not available, ask the seller to provide you with a link to the manuals on the web if at all possible. Otherwise, you will need to track them down yourself.
• Obtain information about post-sale support and customer satisfaction policies: If you are buying from a company or individual running a small resale business, you should have support and customer satisfaction questions answered prior to closing a deal. Few companies in the used CRT market offer customer satisfaction guarantees, but some do. Buying from an individual usually means all sales are final. Equally important is to find out what sort of after-the-sale support you can expect if you have a problem or need help over the phone getting the projector up and running.
• Ask about shipping: CRT projectors are big, heavy beasts. Most the time this means your projector will be shipped via a freight trucking company. Get a shipping cost estimate. Find out if the seller will have the projector crated for shipment or if it comes in a road case.
• Negotiate the Price: Once you have all the information you need and are ready to deal, you should attempt to negotiate a better price—even from a dealer. Remember, you are dealing in used goods here, so you should always consider the price to be negotiable. The seller's willingness to haggle with you over price will largely be determined by supply and demand. Sony 7" projectors are plentiful, for example, even through demand might be brisk. So you can usually nudge the seller down a bit on price. A Barco 1209s 9" CRT is a bit more scarce and more desirable, so don't expect a seller to have a lot of wiggle room on such a unit.
• Carefully plan your purchase and build your knowledge base: Spend time doing your homework on the forums, in forum classifieds, and online auction sites. The purpose of this exercise is to develop a working knowledge of specific projectors out there and their going prices. You might think that a Barco 808s with 2,400 hours on the chassis and tubes might be a terrific deal for $12,000, until you learn the market value for such a machine is about $3,000 or less.

Used CRT Projector Don'ts

• Don't become a victim of yet another online auction scam: While there are a lot of honest sellers on eBay and other auction sites, this is one of the most surefire methods of paying a lot of money for a projector that you will never receive. Stories of auction fraud or misrepresentation are legion on forums like AVS and other places. Don't get sucked in by meaningless seller appraisals such as MINT, MINTY, EXCELLENT as valid descriptors of a projector's condition and worth. Like used cars only driven on Sundays by little old ladies, "mint" CRT projectors are a dime a dozen. Such embellishments are used so frequently they are valueless. Always be careful of new users with no feedback profile. If you find a projector on auction and you are considering a bid, then ask the seller all of the questions I spell out in the do section beforehand. Ask the seller if he will allow you to take delivery in person and make payment at the time of delivery. Ask members on AV forums if they have experience with the seller running the auction. Word of fraud spreads like wildfire on the forums. A general rule of thumb is if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Here are some warning signs that scream trouble: (1) Seller will only accept wire transfer as only form of payment (run away!); (2) Seller is a new user with no feedback profile (run away!); (3) Seller refuses to allow you to take delivery in person (run away!). (4) Seller claims to have no specific knowledge about the projector he is selling (run away!). You cannot be too careful in the online auction world. There are some reputable corporate sellers that run auctions, and I will point some of them out to you at the conclusion of this article.
• Don't succumb to sales pressures: Nobody wants to pass up a great deal. Still, little red lights start flashing in my head when after a few short minutes on the phone with a seller I get the line, "I got several potential buyers lined up, so you better act fast." Or, "At this price it's bound to go out the door soon." To me, these can be warning signals that you shouldn't ignore. If you feel the terms of the sale are right and you have done all the do's and have seller references, then close the deal, but you need to be in the comfort zone first.
• Don't forget to factor other important costs into your budget: When setting your sights on price, you need to factor in other expenses, such as buying a screen and a scaler or HTPC. These items are essential to get the most enjoyment out of your projector.
• Don't skimp on quality and features if you don't have to: There are a couple of ways to enter the front-projected world. On the one hand, you can start out very modest and buy an inexpensive used 7" CRT projector, and then when you are comfortable with the technology upgrade to a better unit later. On the other hand, you can simply get the best projector your budget will allow. I suggest you consider the latter approach if you can afford it. If you have $4,000 to spend on a CRT projector, for example, then you should be looking at some of the better 8" models such as the NEC XG110LC or Sony G70Q, or a 9" NEC 10PG or Sony VPH 1292Q. If you have a more limited budget, you can get in on the ground floor inexpensively and consider an upgrade later. But if you have the scratch for a nice 8" or even a 9" CRT, for example, then buy one.
• Don't be too fixated on chassis hours: Many of the CRT projectors in the used market are industrial grade machines and are built to provide many years of reliable operation. A friend of mine has a projector with 24,000 chassis hours on it and it's still going strong. Preferably, you will want a unit with much lower hours. But the point is that you want low tube hours, which is not the same thing as chassis hours. Don't be too surprised to find that the numbers differ. A projector run in standby mode will accumulate chassis hours and not tube hours. For example, don't necessarily be put off by a projector with 3,200 chassis hours and 2,200 tube hours. Units with no tube wear or burn are where you should focus your attention.

Other Things to Consider

Not all projectors are created equal. They differ in their capabilities and their feature sets. This is also where projectors within a given class are differentiated in terms of price. So it is important for you to have some rudimentary knowledge of these features and how they affect performance and the user experience.
• Convergence: While you can buy a used projector with an analog chassis such as a Sony VPH 1231Q, I don't generally recommend it unless you have an extremely tight budget. With an analog chassis, the picture is adjusted by turning dials on the projector chassis. A digital chassis has a convergence computer that controls picture adjustment, provides digital memories to store your configuration, and affords you much more granular control over geometry and convergence.
• Focus: Many older and lower end CRT projectors feature electrostatic focus. Newer, more upscale units will feature electromagnetic focus. This is a more desirable feature, since it gives you very fine focus controls over the center, edge, and corners of the screen for each tube. Thus, you can consistently achieve sharp and uniform focus throughout the picture area.
• Light output: As a general rule of thumb, more light output is better. Light output is expressed in lumens. The confusing part is that manufacturers have chosen several different ways to express it: Lumens, ANSI Lumens, Peak White Lumens, etc. It therefore makes it difficult to compare competing units to each other. There is a link at the end of this column for further reading on this subject.
• Tubes and optics: The light generated by the projector's tubes travels trough three lenses, one for each primary color, on its way to your screen. Projectors that have color filtered or color corrected lenses will have better color performance and be closer to SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) standards. Some higher end projectors might feature liquid coupled optics, in which there is a liquid medium that couples the CRT output to the lens. The main benefit this offers over air-coupled systems is improved contrast due reduced light reflection in the optical path.
• Inputs: Most every CRT with which I am familiar comes with an RGBVH input as a minimum. Usually the connection is made via BNC interconnects, so if you are going to use a HTPC as your source, for example, you will need a 15-pin VGA to RGBVH BNC cable. Many projectors have options for adding other input boards such as component video.
• Resolution: This can be a very misleading property for many newcomers to CRT projection. To be sure, there is a vast difference between a projector's ability to sync to signals of a given resolution and its ability to actually resolve details at that resolution. You should therefore concentrate on systems that have adequate performance at common video resolutions to which you wish to scale.

• 1280 x 720 NTSC (16:9)
• 1024 x 576 PAL (16:9)
• 1280 x 720 (720P)
• 1920 x 1080 Interlaced (1080i)

There are certainly other possibilities, such as 1440 x 960, but these are beyond the scope of this column.

A Short List: Common CRT Projectors in the Used Market
While the used market is filled with a plethora of makes and models, I want to narrow the discussion of used projectors to the more commonly available and popular units that you are likely to encounter in your quest for home theater nirvana. Bear in mind that this is by no means an encyclopedic list.

Seven Inch CRTs
Projectors in this class range in price from about $1000 to $2,500 depending on condition and model. If you are truly budget minded, then this is the place for you to start.
Sony 127xQ Series:
This series of projectors by Sony are very popular and abundant. The Sony name is well respected, and these models are considered to be very reliable. These projectors have the following features:
• 7" liquid cooled CRTs
• Electrostatic focus
• Digital chassis with zone convergence and built-in test pattern generator
• 75 MHz of Video Bandwidth
• Max H-Scan of 85-93 KHz for 1271Q, 1272Q
• 650-700 Peak Lumen light output (1271Q, 1272Q)
You do need to consider what sort of video sources you want to run. The 1271Q and 1272Q series are better choices if you need HDTV compatibility, but the 1252Q is not. Keep in mind that the 127xQ series are in the upper end of the price range for this class of projector. So if you have, say, only a $1,000 budget it might be more difficult to find a decent 127xQ—but if you are patient it can be done.
NEC 9PG Series:
I will be the first person to tell you that I am somewhat biased towards NEC CRT projectors. This is probably because I have owned two of them, starting out with the XG110 and then later upgrading to a XG110LC (liquid coupled).
But let's get back to the 9PG series (which includes the 9PG+ and 9PG Xtra). These projectors feature:
• 7" liquid cooled CRTs
• Electromagnetic focus
• Color corrected lenses for exceptional color accuracy
• All digital chassis with point convergence and built-in test pattern generator
• 100 MHz of Video Bandwidth
• Horizontal scanning rates up to 100 KHz
• 1000 Peak Lumen light output
I believe, though perhaps others might not agree, that the 9PG series represents the best overall value in the used 7" CRT entry-level market. In short, they have features and picture quality that is very hard to beat in this class of machine. This is not to sell the Sony short, since there are many satisfied owners out there.

Eight Inch CRTs
Stepping up a level in performance and picture are 8-inch CRT projectors. Models in this class typically range from about $2,000 to $5,500 in price. The wide price range reflects both features and demand.
Barco Graphics 808s:
This highly popular projector is loaded with features and performance that will meet the demanding needs of discriminating videophiles. Low hour units carry modest prices in the $2,500 to $3,500 range, thus putting them well within reach of most people considering 50" and up HDTV compatible RPTV sets. The 808s has the following feature set:
• 8" liquid cooled CRTs
• Electromagnetic focus and astigmatism
• Color corrected lenses for exceptional color accuracy
• All digital chassis with point convergence and built-in test pattern generator
• 120 MHz of Video Bandwidth
• Horizontal scanning rate to 110 KHz
• Optional IRIS auto-convergence system
• 1250 lumens peak white light output
NEC XG 85, 110, 135 Series:
The XG series of CRT projectors from NEC are also highly regarded by videophiles. They have exceptional focus and color. All models in the XG series are virtually identical with the exception of their maximum horizontal scan rate (indicated by the model number). The XG110 and 135 are available in both air-coupled and liquid-coupled configurations. The non-LC versions are substantially less expensive and are recommended for fiscally-minded buyers; prices range from about $2,800 to $3,400 for the XG110. The XG85 is slightly lower in price and the XG135 is slightly higher. These projectors feature:
• 8" liquid cooled CRTs
• Electromagnetic focus and astigmatism
• Color corrected lenses for exceptional color accuracy
• All digital chassis with point convergence and built-in test pattern generator
• 120 MHz of Video Bandwidth
• Horizontal scanning rate to 110 KHz (XG110)
• 240 ANSI Lumens (1200 lumens peak white) light output
The LC models add liquid-coupling to the feature set, which in turn typically adds $800 to $1,000 to the cost over the non-LC models.
Electrohome Marquee 8500 and 8500LC:
What originally began as Electrohome later became Christie Digital, which subsequently sold off its Marquee division to VDC Display Systems. Don't let that confuse you or stand in the way of considering the fine 8" projectors in the Marquee line. Both models have the following features:
• 8" liquid cooled CRTs
• Electromagnetic focus and astigmatism
• Color corrected lenses for exceptional color accuracy
• All digital chassis with point convergence and built-in test pattern generator
• Optional ACON auto-convergence system
• 100 MHz of Video Bandwidth
• Horizontal scanning rate to 130 KHz
• 225 ANSI Lumen light output
Like the NEC LC models, the liquid-coupled option on the Marquee 8500LC adds to the price. Speaking of price, you might pay a bit more for the Marquee than with other 8" models. They are less plentiful in the used marketplace and demand is pretty brisk.
Sony VPH G70Q:
Last but certainly not least is the Sony G70Q. This model is also very popular; it is feature rich, and has solid build quality. Since it has liquid coupling, it also carries with it slightly higher used prices on average than other 8-inch models. Expect used prices to come in somewhere in the $3,800 to $5,500 range. The Sony features:
• 8" liquid cooled and liquid coupled CRTs
• Electromagnetic focus and astigmatism
• Color corrected lenses for exceptional color accuracy
• All digital chassis with point convergence and built-in test pattern generator
• 120 MHz of Video Bandwidth
• Horizontal scanning rate to 110 KHz
• 240 ANSI lumens (1200 lumen peak white) light output

9-inch CRTs
In this column, I have really tried to concentrate on used projectors that can be bought for less than $5,000. Most of the better known 9-inchers have used prices that are much, much higher than that. So there really is no point in discussing the Sony VPH G90Q or Electrohome Marquee 9500LC, for example. Even at the $5,000 price level, many readers will conclude that five grand is a boat-load of cash to spend on a display—perhaps too much. But there are two 9-inch CRTs that do meet the price criteria if you are a careful and prudent shopper, so I want to be sure to mention them.
This is the flagship projector in the PG series from NEC. Low hour used models are priced at right around the $5,000 mark. Indeed, AV Science recently listed a demo unit with 300 hours on it for $4,995—which for a 9-inch CRT with such low use is a pretty exceptional value. The 10PG is very similar to the other models in the PG series with the following exceptions:
• 9" liquid cooled and liquid coupled CRTs
• 1000 lumens peak white light output
• Horizontal scan rate up to 93 KHz
Sony VPH 1292Q:
This Sony 9" CRT model can frequently be found for under $5,000. On thing worth noting about this big Sony is that most people agree that fan noise is a serious issue with a stock setup. The good news is that there are fan modifications available to tame it to more tolerable levels. Notable features of the 1292Q are:
• 9" liquid cooled CRTs
• 700 lumens peak white light output
• Horizontal scan rates up to 135 KHz
• 125 MHz of Video Bandwidth

A Few Concluding Remarks
Okay, so you've read all this and now you are beginning to salivate over creating your own corner of home theater heaven. But now you just gotta know which projector is best. I won't even hazard a guess on that one, since for the most part it is a subjective question at best. But you can begin to answer that question for yourself by setting a budget, since that will pretty much dictate where you can go with a used CRT. If you are in the hunt for an inexpensive 7" model, then my opinion will be of little value since I don't have a lot of experience with them. The only model I have seen is the NEC 9PG+, and I thought it made a great picture. I have, however, seen and toyed with all of the 8" CRTs that I mention, with the exception of the Sony G70Q, and any one of them would make a fine choice.
This brings me to another point. You can certainly take your question about which is best to forums like AVS. But this subject comes up all the time and has yet to be settled. People will argue for their pet favorite and use terms like "it blows the others away in picture quality." This is utterly useless drivel, if you ask me. If you look over the 8" models I discuss in this column, for example, you will find that in terms of specifications there is very little to differentiate one system from another. This is because all of these units are very close to each other in terms of picture and performance. To be sure, the Barco 808s, NEC XG110, and Electrohome 8500 all make superb images, and you can't go wrong no matter which one you choose. The same is true of the liquid-coupled 8" projectors. As for the 9-inchers, I have no experience with them, but I would love to get my hands on a NEC 10PG just to compare it to my 8" XG110LC if I can find one at a fire sale price (Yeah, I'm a HT gearhead at heart.)
If you follow the do's and avoid the don'ts, then you should be able to find a very good used CRT projector at a price you can afford. It's a great alternative to traditional RPTVs, and the projector will bring a more theater-like experience to your movie watching. Take the time and expend the effort required to become more familiar with the projectors available at your price level. Once you feel you are ready then go for it. You will be glad you did.

Mad Mr H

Prominent Member
I will add into the FAQ im trying to encourage people to look there.....

I will "one day" add a sticky aimed at new members to this section.......

However its YOUR forum I just over see it so if more people want it as a sticky then im happy to do that.....

To be honest I have not read it all yet!

Just put things here as I find them...


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