Guides: Upscaling Your Retro Consoles for HDTV Sets
Posted by Damien McFerran
The quest for the perfect picture
Getting a pin-sharp, colourful image on a modern gaming console is about as hard as falling off a log. Both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 support HDMI output for true HD gaming, and although the poor old Wii is still stuck in the land of 480p, it’s still capable of kicking out a pretty decent image via component.
However, getting the same quality from older hardware is becoming more and more difficult. Machines from previous generations were intended for use on CRT television sets, and these were more suited to the standard definition images pumped out by the likes of the SNES, N64 and PlayStation.
The march of progress has resulted in HD-ready LCD TV sets becoming the norm, and although they’re geared up to give you 720p resolution and beyond, they don’t tend to show retro hardware in the best light. We explored retrofitting your console for the HD age for solving this problem a while back, but in the relentless quest for the perfect vintage picture, we’ve dug a little deeper to highlight another product that grants an authentic representation of retro gaming on a modern telly.
The CGA to VGA Upscaler is a little box of wonders weighing no more than 100 grams. It takes the signal of your vintage hardware and ‘up-scales’ it so it’s displayed with more clarity on your LCD television. Most modern TVs support VGA input, and depending on the make of your TV, this method is often superior to using RGB SCART. It’s certainly an improvement on composite, which is the only option that many American gamers have when it comes to playing their old consoles.
Of course, because the upscaler uses a VGA connection, it isn’t just limited to to your LCD television. You can hook it up to your PC flatscreen monitor, and create a proper gaming rig that includes your personal computer and your retro consoles, all based around one screen.
The only thing you’ll need to be aware of is that the upscaler uses DB15 connections for both its input and output. With the output it’s obviously not an issue as the DB15 is the standard connection for VGA leads, but you’ll have to get a special lead to connect your retro console to the upscaler’s DB15 input. You want to be harnessing the machine's RGB signal where at all possible, as that gives you the best possible results with the upscaler.
The quality of the image generated by the upscaler is noticeably better than pure RGB SCART, and the added bonus of being able to hook up old consoles to flatscreen PC monitors is almost worth the price alone. If you've got several flatscreens lying around the house, you may find they get a new lease of life thanks to this awesome piece of kit.
We obtained our unit from UK company CYP Europe. The unit we acquired goes under the code CM-397, and it’s a tiny little box that is unlikely to take up too much room under your TV, unlike some of the bulkier options on the market. If you're looking for a way to make your retro games look as good as possible on your modern TV, then this could be your best bet. It's also worth noting that this upscaler allows you to use the awesome SLG3000 scanline generator for that authentic CRT experience - but more on that in another feature.