Greetings once again, friends, and welcome to another installment of Consoleation here at Retroware. This time around, I’m turning the calendar back to 1997, and talking about one of the best video game-related purchases that I ever made. It’s not a game, and it’s not a console. It’s a purchase that I still use today, 18 years and thousands of hours later.
What I’m referring to is the GxTV, manufactured by Samsung.
Prior to the release of the GxTV in 1997, I was in a bit of a bind when it came to how I was playing my PlayStation games. The television that I had been using was manufactured by Zenith, and early-model PlayStation units had compatibility issues with some Zenith sets. I ultimately wound up relocating the PlayStation out of my bedroom– which was where my NES and SNES consoles were set up– and putting it in the living room. As I was living with my grandmother at the time, this led to occasional conflicts when it came to using the living room TV… which meant that there were plenty of times when I had to work around my grandmother’s TV-watching schedule.
In short… it wasn’t convenient for either of us.
When I spotted the GxTV at my local Electronics Boutique, it seemed almost too good to be true. What sorcery was this for $300? Audio features like a built-in sub-woofer and simulated surround sound options were nice. The compact size of the GxTV made it perfect for putting on my desk and playing games on. Having a cable-ready TV was a nice bonus at the time, too. Admittedly, I was most drawn in by the fact that it seemed to be marketed at me– a television set for video game players. I bought the GxTV the same day and brought it home.
As you can see, the GxTV screen isn’t very big. It’s got a 13″ screen, and it’s accompanied by two hinged adjustable speakers that swing out from the screen. It’s very much a personal TV, rather than a set that you could put in a living room or family room for multiple people to play games or to watch movies on. As the GxTV has a cathode ray tube, it’s great for older consoles with composite or even RF video connections. There are two inputs for composite cables, as well as a coaxial connection for RF connectivity. A/V switch boxes can enable even more consoles to be hooked up, making the GxTV a solid option for those who have a lot of consoles… like the seven boxes that I use.
The picture/tube quality has deteriorated on this TV over the years. It’s changed residence (along with me) a dozen times and has seen more than 5,000 hours of use. That’s a more than valid reason for the tube to be a bit tired. Text can be hard to read, and the refresh rate makes taking screen shots with smartphone and/or tablet cameras a real challenge. I’ve had to bump up the brightness and the contrast levels considerably in order for the picture to be strong. That said, the GxTV still powers on without delay and the tube warms up in less than 10 seconds for use. There’s some color bleed here and there, but nothing that makes a game unplayable.
What hasn’t deteriorated in the 18 years that I’ve had this television is the sound quality. In fact, the sound quality and the speakers are perhaps the GxTV’s best assets.
The built in GxTV sub-woofer (seen in this shot behind and just above the screen itself) is the real kicker, but the swing-out speakers are no slouches, either. The bass response is really impressive, and even at 35-40% of maximum volume, some games literally shake the room. Stereo sound is best, so hooking up consoles via composite cables yields the best results. For those without composite cables– such as hooking up a top-loading NES with RF cables– there is a Mono option that does a nice job of sending decent sound through both the left and right speakers as well as through the sub-woofer. In addition, the GxTV has two additional simulated surround sound settings that can be used. Personally, I don’t use these; it’s not even close to the quality of simulated surround that you get from SRS products and it really doesn’t enhance the audio that much. I have found it better to manually set Bass and Treble levels to your liking. My levels are way up there… probably a bit higher than they should be.
When not being used, the speakers can be folded inward and effectively shield the screen from dust and streaks. Over the years, I have found myself closing the speakers far less often, but it’s definitely noticeable when I leave the speakers open over a period of time and wind up removing a thin layer of dust or other foreign matter (like pug fur, in my case) from the screen when I clean and organize my gaming area. I do like the smaller form factor when the speakers are closed, as well.
GxTV sets are still out there in the wild, for those interested in looking to pick one up for themselves. Recent listings on eBay range between $150 and $250, but there may be better luck at flea markets, swap meets, and tag/yard sales. When buying a used GxTV, be sure to ask about the working conditions of the speakers and the sub-woofer and the status of the input jacks. Since the sound is the GxTV’s best asset, a non-functional sub-woofer or wonky speakers diminish the quality of the set. In addition, the input jacks tend to loosen over time, and this can affect picture quality. If at all possible, try to see and hear the set in action before spending the money… unless you’re considering picking up the GxTV as a conversation piece, rather than a practical device.
It’s hard to believe that I’ve had this GxTV for 18 years now. When I bought it back in 1997, I never thought about how long it might last. $300 for a television was perfect for a short-term solution until I could save up the money to get a bigger set, but I never wound up needing one. It has successfully served not only as a gaming television, but also as a regular television set to watch movies and shows on in my bedroom during downtime. I recently acquired a backup CRT, as I know that I’ll eventually have to replace this one, but I don’t think that I’ll ever buy another device that has been as reliable and as functional as the GxTV has been.
I hope that you enjoyed this installment of Consoleation, and as always, I appreciate you taking the time to check out my work. As an added bonus this time around, I put together a video that shows off my GxTV in action while sharing some other memories and observations about the set: