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Feature: The SLG3000 and the Glorious Return of Scanlines

Posted by Damien McFerran

How to get that authentic retro look from your modern flatscreen TV

Sometimes, outdated technology has a quality which seemingly defies description. For example, those of you that are old enough may harbour a strange nostalgic affection for the monochrome Game Boy’s blurry LCD screen, even to the point of spurning the updated Game Boy Color because its improved display doesn’t exhibit the same flaws that gave the original handheld its unique personality. It’s an odd situation, but one that many of you will no doubt sympathise with.

Veteran gamers will feel a similar glow of fondness when the word ‘scanlines’ is mentioned. Again, this is a case of outdated technology boasting an appeal which simply cannot be replicated by modern devices; for the uninitiated, scanlines are a characteristic of old CRT monitors – the kind that were standard issue before flatscreen LCD and plasma TVs arrived on the scene.

In modern games, the lack of scanlines isn’t an issue, but with retro titles – with their pixel-based graphics – scanlines are of vital importance. They serve to sharpen the image, giving 2D visuals more clarity. It seems almost absurd, but a quick look at any 2D game running under scanlines proves the point beyond all doubt.

Obtaining this kind of image on a LCD TV was, until recently, impossible — scanlines are an integral part of how CRT technology functions. However, where there’s a will there’s a way, and the resourceful chaps at Germany’s Arcade Forge have created the SLG3000 – a device that adds in artificial scanlines for that authentic retro vibe on flatscreen televisions.

The SLG3000 itself is a small piece of circuit board with female VGA/DB15 sockets at either end. Before venturing down this path you’ll need to get your retro control hooked up to a CGA to VGA upscaler, so read our Guide: Upscaling Your Retro Consoles for HDTV Sets and ensure your LCD TV has a VGA input (it should, as most modern sets do.) If you have a Sega Dreamcast then you can connect directly to the SLG3000 via the console’s dedicated VGA Box peripheral, negating the need for a VGA upscaler, though it's worth noting Dreamcast VGA adaptors aren't easy to find and so, accordingly, are not cheap.

Once you're set up you can toggle the unit's dip switches to get the scanline quality you desire, and there's even a dial to tinker with during play to strike the perfect balance.

The SLG3000 is available directly from Arcade Forge for €48.95 (that's about $70, or £43 if you're British). It's hardly cheap, but these guys are building the units themselves: this is very much a labour of love. It's also worth noting that if you place an order you’re currently looking at a lead time of around two to three weeks. However, we think that the results speak for themselves.

If you’re a dedicated lover of vintage gaming then you’ll miss scanlines as much as we do, and the SLG3000 is the perfect way to get that classic look without having to keep a bulky CRT TV set in the house.

If you require further convincing, below are a few videos showing this ingenious device in action and illustrating the kind of results you can get on a standard LCD TV set with various retro hardware. Enjoy!

[via arcadeforge.de]

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User Comments (21)

kurtasbestos

#3

kurtasbestos said:

I still use Minidiscs on a daily basis, so I love to see other people who refuse to give up outdated technology.

Rapadash6

#4

Rapadash6 said:

Hmm, I kind of wish there were a component video version of this so I can hook my Wii up to it. Virtual Console titles would benefit the most from this technology.

sykotek

#6

sykotek said:

This is the most backwards thing I've ever heard of...adding scanlines to your crisp HD image... ...I like it! :O

DamoAdmin

#7

Damo said:

Another thing worth noting is that the SLG3000 can be used with the Xbox 360 VGA cable. You can then play 2D titles like Deathsmiles, Marvel vs Capcom 2 and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night the way they were meant to be played :)

shinesprite

#8

shinesprite said:

@Damo The same can be said for any game console. All it takes is a set of couplers and a S-video/Composite/Component => VGA cable

Speaking of which, I've been planning on ditching my small CRT and hooking my Gamecube (preferably via component out), N64 (composite), and DTV box (composite) to my monitor (via VGA/DVI). Scanlines I can do without (moving to a larger, sharper display), but does anyone know of an all-in one adapter I can get instead of using various couplers, adapters and splitters (I hate knotted wire.)?

MeloMan

#9

MeloMan said:

So... we're breaking new technology to make it behave like the technology it replaced? :S

Link-Hero

#10

Link-Hero said:

So... You pay for a device that literally makes a LCD TV look like a CRT TV... Which means it will make it look worse... Did I get that right? :|

Some people just can't leave the past behind, can't they? They are just so blinded by nostalgia that they just have to have everything look like "the great ol' days". I find that kind of sad really.

That look is what makes me glad they don't make CRT TVs anymore. I like my games to look crisp, sharp, and clear with all the pixilated glory. Lines going through the screen with blurriness always annoyed me.

Mach-X

#11

Mach-X said:

@11 I guess you've never connected an nes or snes to a modern hdtv? Game systems before ps2/xbox 1 ran at definitions called 'LDTV' which is basically half of SDTV's 480 lines. Analog tvs would simply display data every other line since they don't do any kind of scaling whatsoever. Games were designed with those black lines in mind with certain colour levels and contrast. When connected to an hdtv, the line doublers/triplers ignore the blank data lines and simply double up on the visible ones, which changes the overall contrast/colour level of the image. It appears that this device puts in actual display information that is black so that it essentially transforms the 240 line (or 224 line or 256 line) output of an older system into an actual 480 line image with every other line simply painted black. It isn't a matter of 'looking like great old days' it's a matter of correcting the output so that the scaler in an hdtv sees it properly, rather than ignoring the blank lines, which I feel is a major fault in todays hdtv scalers.
Now using this with a ps2/xbox/dreamcast/gamecube would make no sense since those systems displayed a full 480 line image so you would sort of be cutting their effective resolution in half.

Rensch

#12

Rensch said:

I don't even have a flatscreen TV so this is still common when playing an old video game.

Lotice-Paladin

#13

Lotice-Paladin said:

@Link-Hero: Although I agree with you about why would you want to view it from a past perspective...some people actually perfer that and it doesn't effect us at all.

I wouldn't say the graphics are worse...I think it makes the screen stable and less likely have screen tearing (which I actually hate if it's bad...FInal fantasy XIII on the PS3 does this if you aren't up to specs...which is kind of sad...but I am probably wrong on that dept).

Colouring in the lines in between is certainly a good diea of recent TVs but if you play on a TV close up this wouldn't be for you.

By the way, I'm someone who's played the Mega Drive as my first console so I can see both people's POV's...

Golden_Kumquat

#14

Golden_Kumquat said:

@Link-Here: You realize HD-CRT televisions are superior to LCD/Plama HD TVs in many ways don't you (Granted they cost a fortune and weigh a ton)? New technology isn't always superior in every way. I'll take vinyl to CDs or MP3s any day.

Vinsanity

#15

Vinsanity said:

This is the dumbest thing I've ever seen! :)
Why would you ever want to move away from improved picture quality!?! Nostalgia isn't the explanation here; you have to be crazy to want this XD

Big_A2

#16

Big_A2 said:

Hey, here's a crazy idea, how about you just play on an old CRT?!! Yeah, then you don't have to worry about input lag and you can have all the scanlines you want!

Shinjix2

#17

Shinjix2 said:

I still want to know if the Super Scope 6 is playable with this application. I would put forth the money if so!!

Bass_X0

#19

Bass_X0 said:

how about you just play on an old CRT?!!

I doubt playing on an old CRT would offer the same crystal sharp display as this.

theblackdragonAdmin

#20

theblackdragon said:

@BigA2: I don't know if you've noticed or not, but it's to the point where you just can't find an SDTV in a store to purchase anymore. With the way they naturally fail or wear out over the years, pretty soon they'll be hard to come by even used. This kind of thing is going to be worth it to serious retro video game players pining for that old SDTV feel when they finally go the way of the dinosaur :3

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