As the years roll by and vintage consoles get older and older, it stands to reason that the AV connection standards these machines were intended to use will become obsolete. S-Video, Composite, Component and even RGB SCART are all legacy connections that are slowly but surely being phased out in favour of digital standards, with HDMI being the current 'catch-all' favourite.
Taking analogue signals from old machines and getting them to work on your modern-day TV is no simple matter; products like the OSSC and the GCHD do a great job but are expensive options, and it's possible to get machines modified to output HDMI. Thankfully, one company is taking steps towards providing another, cheaper alternative with a range of cables which allow you to use your dusty old machines on TVs via HDMI - and absolutely no modding is required.
Pound Technology is a relatively young firm but it has already made quite an impression with retro gamers the world over. So far, it has produced a handful of products - including a clone SNES system - but its range of HDMI leads has caught the attention of many. So far, Pound has produced cables for the Xbox, PS2 and Dreamcast, and we've been lucky enough to have a go with the Dreamcast option.
The lead uses the Dreamcast's VGA signal for 640x480, 480p output and produces an incredibly crisp and colourful picture (it sadly means that certain titles which don't work with the VGA signal - like the PAL version of Skies of Arcadia - are unplayable with this lead). It's not quite as sharp as the pure VGA signal, nor does it seriously challenge the RGB SCART signal when passed through an upscaler like the aforementioned OSSC, but it's still impressive, and a real improvement over composite or pure RGB SCART (assuming your TV has those connections, of course). In fact, one of the TVs we tested it on - a 2018 model - lacked even a VGA connection, so this cable is something of a godsend if you're wanting to play your Dreamcast on the latest 4K sets.
The only issue we had was that our TV didn't allow us to change the aspect ratio of the image, so we were stuck with a stretched 16:9 picture. However, we've had the same issue when running other HDMI content via this particular set (a Panasonic) so we can't strictly lay the blame for this at Pound's feet.
Pound isn't done yet, either. It has plans to produce cables for the SNES and TurboGrafx-16 which will also allow those consoles to connect to your TV via HDMI. Given that neither of those machines outputs over VGA it will be interesting to see the results, but we've certainly been impressed with the Dreamcast offering so far.
Perhaps the most alluring aspect of these cables is the price. When you consider the cost of the OSSC and the high price of the GCHD, the fact that Pound's cable can be picked up for £37.99 is quite a bargain. Could these leads spend the end of wallet-busting HDMI solutions for classic consoles? Possibly, and for those of you who simply want a good picture on your modern TV with the minimum of fuss and cost, we can't imagine you'll have any issues with these.
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Thanks to Games Connection for supplying the Dreamcast HDMI cable used in this feature.