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How to Get the Best Video Out of Your Retro Consoles

August 3, 2014

Here is a little guide on what video format older US consoles can output (excluding RF). It is not complete but has all the major ones on there for now.

For most older consoles RGB is your best bet. RGB is generally output using a SCART cable. Since North American TVs don’t use SCART as a standard I recommend getting a SCART to HDMI Converter in order to play on Plasmas and LCDs. If you are very serious about your gaming I suggest purchasing a Framemeister XRGB-mini.

System Composite S-Video RGB VGA Component
Microsoft Xbox Yes Yes No No Yes
Nintendo 64 (N64) Yes Yes Some Models –
Mod Req.
No No
Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) Model 1 – Yes
Model 2 – Mod Req.
Model 1 – Mod Req.
Model 2 – Mod Req.
Model 1 – Mod Req.
Model 2 – Mod Req.
No No
Nintendo GameCube (GC) Yes Yes Mod Req. No Yes*
Sega Dreamcast Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Sega Genesis Yes Mod Req. Yes No No
Sega Master System (SMS) Yes Mod Req. Model 1 – Yes
Model 2 – Mod Req.
No No
Sega Saturn Yes Yes Yes No No
Sony Playstation (PSX/PSOne) Yes Yes Yes No No
Sony Playstation 2 (PS2) Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) Yes Original – Yes
Mini – Mod Req.
Original – Yes
Mini – Mod Req.
No No

System Notes

Nintendo Entertainment System:

Is it worth buying (or modifying) an RGB modified NES? This all depends on how serious you are about picture quality. If you are happy with your picture, then the only thing I suggest is for you to buy high quality A/V cables. This alone can make a big difference. Something else you might want to consider is buying a new TV. I know… this is not what you wanted to hear. However, not all displays are equal and this still remains true for how composite signals are processed in your television. If you have a low quality or older LCD/Plasma TV then you most likely have a low quality comb filter. The comb filter is what converts your composite signal into something your display can use. There are multiple methods used to strip the composite signal and some are better than others. Better TVs have what is called a 3D Y/C comb filter. It combines old and new methods to strip the composite signal in order to display the best possible signal composite can give.

That being said, RGB is always preferred. Even running RGB through a cheap upscaler will give you a better picture than composite ever will. RGB modified NES systems currently go for between $300-$400 so that alone might answer your question. If you can afford it, go for it.

Nintendo GameCube:

The official GameCube component cables are extremely rare and currently cost between $200-$300. To make matters worse there are no 3rd party GameCube component cables available. The cable itself has circuitry that is required to produce the component signal. A few people have successfully hacked their GameCube to output a component signal on a custom port using an FPGA but nothing has been made for the masses. We are looking into writing a guide on doing this but the cheapest/easiest option for now is to buy a Wii and a Wii component cable to play your GameCube games.

Sega Dreamcast:

I recommend running the Dreamcast through VGA when possible (a few games don’t support it). Currently the best Dreamcast VGA box is the Hanzo. It has some neat features like a built in scanline generator. They are $62 new. They seem to be produced in short runs and can be hard to find. If you don’t care about scanlines then you can get a VGA box/cable for around $20 on eBay. I actually have a cheap little VGA box and it works great.

Sega Genesis:

A lot of Genesis games seem like they were designed with a composite signal in mind. Some games seem to have better color when being played through composite. When using an RGB cable everything look much sharper but the color in many games can look a little off. I still prefer RGB over composite, but I know some who actually prefer composite for their Sega Genesis. Again, if you choose composite over RGB do the bare minimum and get some high quality A/V cables.

Super Nintendo Entertainment System:

If you are obsessed with RGB then you might want to check out the board in your model 1 SNES. One version actually produces a better picture than the others. If you already have RGB cables and a decent converter you might as well dive deeper and acquire the SNES with the best board. If you want to find one of these, start by finding one with a serial number that starts with “UN3.” You will have to take it apart to be 100% sure. Look for “SNS-CPU-1CHIP-01” printed on the board. Some eBay sellers have already done the work for you and are selling the 1CHIP SNES at a premium.

The model 2 produces similar quality when modified to output RGB.

One Comment
  1. Keith permalink

    A shame you don’t cover the Atari Jaguar. Apart from that, this is a good guide and comparison. Thanks.

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