Today we have something truly special, an amber CRT monitor, that goes INSIDE your PC! But does it have a place at home?

Introduction:

Made in March 1997 this CKS-05V monitor is an orange/amber phosfor screen, meant to go inside a PC tower.

The video cable wraps around to the outside of the case and plugs in to any old video card via VGA.
This means the screen is practially compatible with almost anything!

It is of course beige, as was the standard color back then. There were black models made but they are even harder to find.

Pictures by Tixie

Testing:

Units/Size:

The CRT eats just ~14 watts but running with a Pentium 2 an 350 watt powersupply did get a little unstable. A power supply change to a better quality 450 watt model also fixed the issue where the screen would wobble when the PC’s load increased.
It also allows you to turn the CRT off while the system is on but this power surge when you turn it back on can trip the power supply and reboot your system.

As for dimensions the CRT is 14.5cm wide, 13.7cm high and 24.6cm long.

Supported Video Modes:

Video modes were tested with VESAW3.BAS from Toshi’s Project Page and MONITORS from WebHQ’s DOS Diagnostics. Some modes were not tested for lack of software that outputs in said modes.

CRT Video:4bpp8bpp16bpp32bpp
640×400N/TN/AN/A
640×480N/TCorruption
640×350N/AN/AN/A
320×200
Resolution compatibility. *bpp: Bits Per Pixel.
N/A = Not Applicable. N/T = Not Tested

Anything above 800×600 fails to display, so only basic VGA resolutions and lower will work.

Color = Gradients

Now look at these two images:

The CRT is of course a monochrome screen so color data simply gets ‘converted’ to grayscales.
Notice how red is practially invisible! This left me wondering how the MONITORS testing tool worked, because the keys to actually use the functions are in red text:

So with that said.

Red color data gets completely nuked, which in games like DOOM also means that finding colored key cards is practially impossible unless you know their locations.

Or in this case that the MONITORS tool will not show the keys to activate video test modes keys.

This is one of the downsides of monochrome screens, as any color data simply depends on what the screen thinks it can display. It would be nice if if were a little brighter so the text is actually visible, but alas. One thing to tick for downsides!

Benchmarks:

For further demonstration I have filmed a couple sequences to run on the screen.
First, is the boot sequence and the PC running some benchmarks.

Booting the PC and running benchmarks.

As seen on the color bars in the previous paragraph colors can either be bright, really dim or barely visible at all. In some benchmarks you can see how some are really bright while others are really dim. The same goes for DOOM where depending on the environment you can sometimes get completely blinded.


Gaming:

Gaming on a monochrome CRT is special on its now, let alone an amber phosphor.
As shown above the camera is pointed dead center on the screen’s visible area. You can watch these recordings and evaluate with them how well you think they run.

Two levels of DOOM 1.
A way too fast BlockOut Demo
Epic Pinball!

Also if your game uses many colors it might be hard to see, otherwise unless it is primairly red gaming on the little screen is actually really fun! It is decently bright but a tad tired, and keen to look at.


Windows:

The screen is highly univeral as shown in the Benchmarking part, so what does Windows 3.1 look like?

Lets first look at one of the Benchmark programs, also shown here. Notice how the white text on a grey background gets impossible to read. It is doable, but not great to use.

Windows 3.1’s own programs on the other hand look great! The ‘VGA With Monochrome Display’ driver works pretty well with the supplied programs.

Windows is usable, but not recommended at it 1, burns the CRT out way too fast and 2, the text can be really hard or impossible to read.

The CRT was most likely used for text only applications back in its hayday and for preservation it is best to keep it that way.

Lazy Game Reviews:

Update 22-08-2021:

Lazy Game Reviews a.k.a LGR/Clint have worked together to get it to even more views and retro enthusiasts!
LGR even got some more information about the company I could not find back at the time of writing.
Take a look!

LGR showcases the wonderful 5 inch CRT!

Here LGR plays a couple games, builts a PC to house the 3-bay high screen and many more shenanigans.
So thanks so much Clint for the video, Kevin for the upportunity and to all readers, thanks to you for taking a look here!


Conclusions:

There are many points why this little CRT can both be awesome, but also not that good.

Pros:

  • Fits inside a PC.
    Of course the biggest point is that it can fit INSIDE your PC, so it will not take up any additional space.
  • Looks very sharp.
    The image in person really clear and sharp due to its high ‘pixel’ density.
  • Is a really show showpiece
    And not to mention how cool this thing really is, I mean a full CRT inside your PC, VGA compatible and in Amber of all colors. Where else could you find that!?

Cons:

  • Not that bright.
    Sadly this CRT is rather tired and to film it the best I can I made most pictured and recordings at night.
  • Rather long.
    This means that it might conflict with your power supply if say you were going to build it into a Baby AT case.

Personally it is absolute awesome but since CRT’s burn out over time I do not like to run one day to day. For a showcase like this, sure thing. This is just way too cool not to cover!

But for the question we started with, does it make sense at home? Well…
If you do only text based things or games that are not very colorful it can work out pretty well, otherwise the color ‘reproduction’ can get in the way of visibility. Really it is a question of what you want to use it FOR that’s the decisive factor.

With that said I hope you enjoyed taking a look at this oddball of a screen, and thanks for reading!


Gallery:

Showcase photos made by Tixie over on Twitter!

3 Replies to “A CRT inside your PC: STS Tecom amber monitor showcase”

Leave a Reply