Feature: Further Adventures in Scanlines: The SLG SCART
Posted by Damien McFerran
Reading between the lines
Not so long ago we reported on an awesome piece of tech which imbued your HD TV with the power to display authentic retro-style scanlines. The SLG3000 has since gone on to become a highly sought-after piece of kit in vintage gaming circles, so much so that Arcade Forge - the company behind the unit - have come up with a more streamlined version, dubbed the SLG SCART.
Before we proceed, it’s probably best to explain the near-mystical appeal of scanlines to those of you too young to remember the days when TV sets were as deep as they were wide. Before the introduction of flat-panel LCD televisions, cathode ray tube goggle-boxes were dominant, and due to the way these sets produced an image, you’d get horizontal lines on the screen.
Ironically, these lines - known as scanlines - add immeasurably to the appeal of retro visuals. They help to sharpen pixels and add clarity, and their absence is why a lot of old-school titles look so rough on modern LCD sets. Of course, there’s also a nostalgic element here too - because gamers from the ‘80s and ‘90s will have grown up with scanlines, they vividly remember the way games looked with them in place.
The SLG3000 generates brilliant results, as you’ll no doubt recall from our review a while back. The problem is that you need other pieces of kit to get it to work effectively. Firstly there’s the VGA up-scaler, which takes the RGB signal from your console and converts it into a signal that the SLG3000 can work with. Hooking your console up to the scaler isn’t easy, either - a sync-stripper is required (Arcade Forge sell one called the Sync Strike).
The SLG SCART removes the need for this mountain of kit, but there’s a catch - because it’s not up-scaling the image, the quality isn’t as good as it would be with the SLG3000 setup. With the SLG SCART you’re essentially getting the totally untouched RGB SCART signal with scanlines applied, whereas with the other approach offers much sharper visuals as the graphics are being neatened up before they hit your TV screen.
To be honest, having sampled both sets of equipment we think that the SLG SCART still offers a pretty attractive results, and if you don’t like the idea of having loads of tech lying around with wires everywhere, then it’s certainly the tidiest solution - and is cheaper, too.
You can order the SLG SCART direct from Arcade Forge, which is based in Germany. The units start at 34 Euros (approx $44) but that price will rise if you add a plastic case and power supply.
Personally speaking, we think the price is more than worth it if you’re a serious retro gamer. Anyone who has lived through the 16-bit era will tell you that scan-lines are an integral part of vintage gaming’s appeal, and being able to incorporate them so effortlessly into modern LCD TVs is a real bonus.