Following an industry trend toward smaller, more efficient PCs, Apple has phased CRT (cathode ray tube) monitor Macs out of its product line.

LCDs have long been sleeker, lighter-weight and more efficient than CRTs, but their greater price has always held them back in the retail market. Whether buying a television or a computer monitor, shoppers have been able to buy a larger screen for their money with CRTs.

Apple's move is typical of an industry-wide move from CRTs to LCDs.

Five years ago, flat panel displays were the smallest segment of the market for desktop monitors; today they have overtaken CRTs, said Tim Bajarin, an analyst with Creative Strategies.

"Absolutely, you can get more screen for your money with CRTs. They are relatively dirt cheap, but they are fundamentally becoming dinosaurs," Bajarin said.

While their visual performance is comparable to LCDs, CRTs suffer from much larger physical size and power draw, he said.

That is particularly important to buyers at schools and colleges, where IT managers frequently move the computers from room to room.

Competitors like Dell even offer lower prices on desktop PC packages with flat panel monitors, Bajarin said. Still, Apple's iMac will be popular with education buyers, who typically spurn bargain deals in favour of increased storage and mid-range processors so they can run a wide variety of applications.

LCDs still cost more than CRTs, but many new factories have opened in China since 2000, helping to drive the price down, said Bajarin. That enables even mid-sized PC vendors like Apple to negotiate volume discounts. Apple is the fifth-largest PC vendor in the US, with 3.7 per cent market share, according to IDC.

In fact, Apple has been moving away from CRTs for years.

At a trade show in 2002, Apple CEO Steve Jobs launched a new desktop with the words: "The new iMac ushers in the age of flat-screen computing for everyone. The CRT display is now officially dead."

Four years later, his prediction has come true, at least at Jobs' own company. Apple has ceased production of the eMac, but will continue to sell the CRT-based desktop while its inventory lasts.