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Thread: Do you think retro upscalers are worth it?

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    Default Do you think retro upscalers are worth it?

    So a few weeks back, I mentioned my CRT television dying.

    Recently, I notice that when I play video games... something tends to look weird to me. I'm not sure what it is. To be fair this isn't even just old games either... I may just be having adaptation issues.

    Still, part of me has been curious about upscalers, and I've watched a few videos, such as Avalanche Reviews' great overview of all the upscalers that were on the market at the time of his video... link to video BTW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YGuq4mJhyYY

    Game Sack also did a decent video about upscalers.

    Here's the thing though.

    So what I did for myself was, I compared some NES and SNES games I owned, running through composite, to how they look when played on the Nintendo Switch. I don't know how good this comparison is since the Switch is using an emulator, but I assume this is what an upscaled image would look like.

    And it's like.. I DO see the difference, but its way more obvious in SNES games... and even then, only if I was just looking at one version before switching to the other one.

    And on top of that, I wonder if upscaling will even fix the weird personal cognitive issues I've been having which are hard to describe.

    I do know though that right now it seems like prices of $200 are a bit too much for what will be minimal improvements at best.

    What do you think?

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    Unless you have a crt still then no but if all you have is hdtv's then scalers are worth it.The most recent one being the retrotinx 5x.

    Yeah it's $300.00 but cheaper then a framemister.All i have is just a retrotinx pro but it get's the job done maybe in the future a 5x for me.

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    Ive owned a Framemeister for about seven years. If I could do it over again, I wouldn't have bought it. The latency is tolerable but I notice it. The switching between 240p and 480i is delayed, as is the startup. And the screen size adjustments seem to disrupt other attributes of the picture. You also have to have the remote aimed directly at it to register. And no RF inputs. And 2 player mode in Sonic the Hedgehot 2 is a garbled mess.

    I strongly recommend getting a CRT off Craigslist for free, one that has RF, composite, and S video. The upscalers were a great solution before FPGA clones became widely available, as well as RetroVision cables, but in 2021 I would just tell you that with an upscaler, you're probably going to be disappointed.
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    I find two "issues" with composite sources on a modern HDTV. One is the muddiness, which is difficult to resolve without an expensive upscaler. The 2nd is the color depth, which you lose quite a bit of with composite even on a CRT. However, that cannot be fixed with an upscaler, only by pulling an RGB source out of the consoles themselves. Which again, requires more of an investment. If I were you, you might just be satisfied using a RetroTink 2X (Pro or Mini), which converts your composite into HDMI.

    https://www.retrotink.com/post/intro...o-multi-format
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greg2600 View Post
    I find two "issues" with composite sources on a modern HDTV. One is the muddiness, which is difficult to resolve without an expensive upscaler. The 2nd is the color depth, which you lose quite a bit of with composite even on a CRT. However, that cannot be fixed with an upscaler, only by pulling an RGB source out of the consoles themselves. Which again, requires more of an investment. If I were you, you might just be satisfied using a RetroTink 2X (Pro or Mini), which converts your composite into HDMI.

    https://www.retrotink.com/post/intro...o-multi-format
    The argument for RF (or composite) to CRT is that it is the most true to the original intent of the game's artists, since the developers knew that gamers would be playing with RF cables connected to 20" console televisions.

    I like to have the best of both worlds. The old TVs with RF input has its charm and there's no better way to step into a "time machine" than firing up a consumer grade CRT with mono sound and most of the overscan missing.

    But sometimes when I just want the game to look good and I want to be able to differentiate one sprite from the next, then yeah, I will use an upconverter But generally speaking, I find the 8 bit graphics to be hard on the eyes on my 55". scanlines helps somewhat, but still
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    Quote Originally Posted by gbpxl View Post
    The argument for RF (or composite) to CRT is that it is the most true to the original intent of the game's artists, since the developers knew that gamers would be playing with RF cables connected to 20" console televisions.

    I like to have the best of both worlds. The old TVs with RF input has its charm and there's no better way to step into a "time machine" than firing up a consumer grade CRT with mono sound and most of the overscan missing.

    But sometimes when I just want the game to look good and I want to be able to differentiate one sprite from the next, then yeah, I will use an upconverter But generally speaking, I find the 8 bit graphics to be hard on the eyes on my 55". scanlines helps somewhat, but still
    Well yes, the best choice is to have a CRT; however Mr. Dantes seemed resigned to eliminating his. Some just no longer have the room for them. That being said, I gave up on running RF ages ago, simply because of the signal noise. Converted those systems to composite, while upgrading most all of my composite systems to component. I still would agree though that on a CRT, the 8, 16, even 32/64 bit systems are fine with composite or S-video.
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    Honestly I do hope to get a replacement CRT, but it has to be a small one... my last one was huge and hard to move, which became a problem when I needed to clear it out (and would be a problem again if I move into a new house).

    I'm not sure what measurement I would max out at... basically if I can carry it, it will be fine.

    Thing is, I'm kind of just expecting that nobody will have a CRT for sale/give away in my area, or if they do it likely will be an old-smack model which only has RF (I at the very least insist on composite) or probably some other issues. Like my grandpa had one that displayed a green picture with lines at the top of the screen and somehow messed with the sensor on my NES Zapper (I can usually hit all the ducks, with this TV it seemed random).

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    You're in Puerto Rico right? Yeah, it's not like the lower 48, where CRT's remain somewhat plentiful.

    27" is the limit for me, and even some of those are tough to move if it's a Trinitron. The standard (usually) for CRT's 24-27" and bigger from the late 90s through 00s was to have RF, composite, S-Video at the least, though often with component video. I'd think an RF-only model is rarer than one with AV jacks.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Edmond Dantes View Post
    Honestly I do hope to get a replacement CRT, but it has to be a small one... my last one was huge and hard to move, which became a problem when I needed to clear it out (and would be a problem again if I move into a new house).

    I'm not sure what measurement I would max out at... basically if I can carry it, it will be fine.

    Thing is, I'm kind of just expecting that nobody will have a CRT for sale/give away in my area, or if they do it likely will be an old-smack model which only has RF (I at the very least insist on composite) or probably some other issues. Like my grandpa had one that displayed a green picture with lines at the top of the screen and somehow messed with the sensor on my NES Zapper (I can usually hit all the ducks, with this TV it seemed random).
    I forget which settings affect the Zapper from registering correctly, if either the brightness or sharpness is turned down it can prevent light guns from working correctly. I think it was one of those settings that affect it.

    If you're going to play games on an HDTV, you might look into just emulating the games as there won't be any problems with upscaling or controller delays, it's really the easiest and cheapest option with modern displays. Most times I've seen old hardware upscaled on HDTVs they looked like crap, that's been my personal experience with it.

    Toshiba TVs are pretty high quality as well if you can't get Sony Trinitrons, even component inputs are available on Toshiba models. These models I'm thinking of do have a known issue with dying caps that can cause retrace lines to appear near the top of the tube, but it's just one or two capacitors that need changing and then things are good again.

    You'll probably want something no larger than 27", even a smaller 19" or 20" set can be suitable. I'm fine with smaller sets too, like 13" if played close, but most of this size are just mono so stereo inputs for composite will be a bit tougher to find. Toshiba models in this size do have stereo inputs, and component as well, at least the ones if the series I mentioned above as they're basically the same model but available in various sizes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gameguy View Post
    I forget which settings affect the Zapper from registering correctly, if either the brightness or sharpness is turned down it can prevent light guns from working correctly. I think it was one of those settings that affect it.

    If you're going to play games on an HDTV, you might look into just emulating the games as there won't be any problems with upscaling or controller delays, it's really the easiest and cheapest option with modern displays. Most times I've seen old hardware upscaled on HDTVs they looked like crap, that's been my personal experience with it.

    Toshiba TVs are pretty high quality as well if you can't get Sony Trinitrons, even component inputs are available on Toshiba models. These models I'm thinking of do have a known issue with dying caps that can cause retrace lines to appear near the top of the tube, but it's just one or two capacitors that need changing and then things are good again.

    You'll probably want something no larger than 27", even a smaller 19" or 20" set can be suitable. I'm fine with smaller sets too, like 13" if played close, but most of this size are just mono so stereo inputs for composite will be a bit tougher to find. Toshiba models in this size do have stereo inputs, and component as well, at least the ones if the series I mentioned above as they're basically the same model but available in various sizes.
    Contrast and brightness are the settings to change. Also, room lighting is a factor.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greg2600 View Post
    You're in Puerto Rico right? Yeah, it's not like the lower 48, where CRT's remain somewhat plentiful.
    I'm in Arkansas, actually. It's just my area is mostly country and a lot of the thrift stores sell what I call "old woman things" (dolls and such). My nearest town doesn't have a Goodwill, but there are some like 30min-1hr away that do, and I'm hoping to make a trip up there soon.

    @Gameguy -- This particular old CRT of my grandpa's had clear visual distortions even before booting up Duck Hunt (I actually played a bit of SMB first, and Mario was green... granted, living on a diet of mushrooms might do that to a person, but I still don't think its supposed to look like that)...

    What the heck is a Sony Trinitron and all that?

    The going all emulation argument is something I've thought about, though lately I've been thinking of a variant... IE selling physical games in favor of flash carts and ODEs. Probably gonna start with Optical Disc Emulators because CD and DVD-ROM based games are getting expensive and I've had one experience too many with buying a Sega CD game and it either doesn't work or it has a pinprick of death that makes it unfinishable, so that market has become too much like gambling. Apparently a cartridge called the... I think its the MODE? allows you to play Sega CD games straight from a cart, without even needing the real add-on.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Edmond Dantes View Post
    I'm in Arkansas, actually. It's just my area is mostly country and a lot of the thrift stores sell what I call "old woman things" (dolls and such). My nearest town doesn't have a Goodwill, but there are some like 30min-1hr away that do, and I'm hoping to make a trip up there soon.

    @Gameguy -- This particular old CRT of my grandpa's had clear visual distortions even before booting up Duck Hunt (I actually played a bit of SMB first, and Mario was green... granted, living on a diet of mushrooms might do that to a person, but I still don't think its supposed to look like that)...

    What the heck is a Sony Trinitron and all that?

    The going all emulation argument is something I've thought about, though lately I've been thinking of a variant... IE selling physical games in favor of flash carts and ODEs. Probably gonna start with Optical Disc Emulators because CD and DVD-ROM based games are getting expensive and I've had one experience too many with buying a Sega CD game and it either doesn't work or it has a pinprick of death that makes it unfinishable, so that market has become too much like gambling. Apparently a cartridge called the... I think its the MODE? allows you to play Sega CD games straight from a cart, without even needing the real add-on.
    I heard the Terra Onion cartridge plays Sega CD games. I dont remember the details on that. The ODE for the PlayStation is always sold out. I cant remember what the story is for the Saturn and Dreamcast. GameCube has an ODE as well which looks really slick. all of them require extensive soldering and electronics knowledge. it's a very advanced mod.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Edmond Dantes View Post
    I'm in Arkansas, actually. It's just my area is mostly country and a lot of the thrift stores sell what I call "old woman things" (dolls and such). My nearest town doesn't have a Goodwill, but there are some like 30min-1hr away that do, and I'm hoping to make a trip up there soon.
    What craigslist would be nearest your location? I tried to search for Arkansas but there's a few areas listed. I accidentally first searched the Kansas craigslist by mistake, and when I searched for TVs in the free section there were tons. Then I realised my mistake and searched one of the listings for Arkansas and there were only 3 listings for giant projection sets, but plenty of listings for free chickens, a rooster, fence pickets, and potato salad.

    I love the description for one of the projection sets. "This is old so it does not have any HDMI inputs. Would also make a good Target." Of course you can use it for shooting. lol

    Quote Originally Posted by Edmond Dantes View Post
    @Gameguy -- This particular old CRT of my grandpa's had clear visual distortions even before booting up Duck Hunt (I actually played a bit of SMB first, and Mario was green... granted, living on a diet of mushrooms might do that to a person, but I still don't think its supposed to look like that)...
    Maybe it could be fixed? I'm not sure what causes that specific issue but it would probably be something commonly known, at least to diagnose if not worth repairing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Edmond Dantes View Post
    What the heck is a Sony Trinitron and all that?
    I assume you're joking but if not it's a brand of TVs that are known for being high quality.

    Quote Originally Posted by Edmond Dantes View Post
    The going all emulation argument is something I've thought about, though lately I've been thinking of a variant... IE selling physical games in favor of flash carts and ODEs. Probably gonna start with Optical Disc Emulators because CD and DVD-ROM based games are getting expensive and I've had one experience too many with buying a Sega CD game and it either doesn't work or it has a pinprick of death that makes it unfinishable, so that market has become too much like gambling. Apparently a cartridge called the... I think its the MODE? allows you to play Sega CD games straight from a cart, without even needing the real add-on.
    That's a partial solution, but the hardware playing the games would still have issues with modern displays so it doesn't actually help with usability in your case. It's why I would go with the pure emulation route if you're going to be displaying them on a modern TV anyway, and you can still emulate CD games using images as well.

    There is a cartridge that can play Sega CD games on the Genesis console without needing the Sega CD system, but it was priced around $300 when I last looked into it. Even if CDs or DVDs won't work because of damage, you can always just burn a disc to CD-R or DVD-R, these solutions have been around for ages. The real problem would be the disc drives themselves failing, more than the discs failing. Though both would still be an issue overall. I'm a bit surprised a small pinprick would prevent the game from being unreadable, usually error correction would work with a small defect like that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gbpxl View Post
    . I cant remember what the story is for the Saturn and Dreamcast.
    The mode is for saturn and dreamcast far as odes go.The last one that came out for the saturn is the satiator which plugs back into to the saturn vcd slot,allowing you to keep the system stock.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Edmond Dantes View Post
    My nearest town doesn't have a Goodwill, but there are some like 30min-1hr away that do, and I'm hoping to make a trip up there soon.
    Not sure if it's a per store basis, or a blanket corporate policy, but the last few Goodwill stores I were in had a sign up saying they no longer accepted donated CRTs of any type.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gameguy View Post
    I would go with the pure emulation route if you're going to be displaying them on a modern TV anyway, and you can still emulate CD games using images as well.
    Speaking as someone who still owns multiple CRTs and tons of original hardware.... if you're going for a modern TV just emulate. Never thought those words would ever come out of my mouth but at this point there's very few compelling reasons not to compared to an avalanche of reasons for it. Even if you drop a few bucks on converters so you can use OEM controllers (which is important to me, anyway), you could still get a very good, low hassle, quick setup emulation box that's good enough for anything PS1 and older.

    I'm not hosting Evo 2021 at my house, nor am I going for some Punch Out speed run record or Billy Mitchell-style shmup superplay. Machine-level FPGA emulation isn't a necessity for me to play a few rounds of Street Fighter II or some z-grade SNES beat 'em up.

    I know there's skilled hardcore savants that can pick out the slightest bit of millisecond input latency or display lag, and God bless 'em, but that's a level of accuracy I personally don't need. Even that is an issue that can be solved as long as you're willing to invest the money in better hardware.

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    Has anyone tried the RetroVision component cables for SNES? I am curious about input lag, aspect ratio.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Az View Post
    or Billy Mitchell-style shmup superplay.
    So, you're not planning to cheat?

    Thing I have against going full emulation (not that I haven't considered it) is three things.

    The first is, currently I have a laptop that like you guys said, can handle anything up to the PS1... but even then there's stuff like how some roms seem to only work with certain emulators and I know stuff like bSNES apparently requires hefty power.

    Secondly, and kinda related to that... if a ROM file ever doesn't work in an emulator, it can be a lot of different factors--the ROM could be corrupt, or the game might just not like a certain emulator, or maybe even my comp just was feeling like a jerk that day.

    Continuing that last point, if something goes wrong it can be a pain to diagnose. For example I once had an experience in an old version of MAME, decades ago, where in one game anytime I pressed a button it would make both player characters act... as I was trying to play co-op with a friend at the time, that was kind of annoying, and we tried re-configuring the controls and even deleting the config altogether to force the program to spawn a fresh one... we never did find out what the hell that was about.

    On a physical console, on the other hand, if a controller doesn't do what its supposed to, you know the controller is broken, and if multiple controllers don't do what they're supposed to, you can guess its the console itself.

    This leads to my third issue with pure emulation.... I don't always game alone. I sometimes have friends over. Recently its often my niece and nephew.

    On a real console, if I wanna play Contra III with my nephew, I just turn the game on and hand him a controller.

    On an emulator, I load the ROM, hope it works, set up the buttons for both controllers, then I have to test to make sure I didn't screw anything up, and then hope there aren't any random hardware issues, and possibly I might have to include a list of what-not-to-do to prevent known temperamental issues....

    Yeah, I would rather have the convenience, especially if I have to deal with little kids who might not understand all the technical jiggery-pokery I'm doing.

    And I haven't given up on getting a replacement CRT, I just haven't had any luck finding one yet.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Edmond Dantes View Post
    So, you're not planning to cheat?

    Thing I have against going full emulation (not that I haven't considered it) is three things.

    The first is, currently I have a laptop that like you guys said, can handle anything up to the PS1... but even then there's stuff like how some roms seem to only work with certain emulators and I know stuff like bSNES apparently requires hefty power.

    Secondly, and kinda related to that... if a ROM file ever doesn't work in an emulator, it can be a lot of different factors--the ROM could be corrupt, or the game might just not like a certain emulator, or maybe even my comp just was feeling like a jerk that day.

    Continuing that last point, if something goes wrong it can be a pain to diagnose. For example I once had an experience in an old version of MAME, decades ago, where in one game anytime I pressed a button it would make both player characters act... as I was trying to play co-op with a friend at the time, that was kind of annoying, and we tried re-configuring the controls and even deleting the config altogether to force the program to spawn a fresh one... we never did find out what the hell that was about.

    On a physical console, on the other hand, if a controller doesn't do what its supposed to, you know the controller is broken, and if multiple controllers don't do what they're supposed to, you can guess its the console itself.

    This leads to my third issue with pure emulation.... I don't always game alone. I sometimes have friends over. Recently its often my niece and nephew.

    On a real console, if I wanna play Contra III with my nephew, I just turn the game on and hand him a controller.

    On an emulator, I load the ROM, hope it works, set up the buttons for both controllers, then I have to test to make sure I didn't screw anything up, and then hope there aren't any random hardware issues, and possibly I might have to include a list of what-not-to-do to prevent known temperamental issues....

    Yeah, I would rather have the convenience, especially if I have to deal with little kids who might not understand all the technical jiggery-pokery I'm doing.

    And I haven't given up on getting a replacement CRT, I just haven't had any luck finding one yet.
    Ive thought about hoarding CRTs, I just dont have the space for it. I have 3 of them right now, and mostly have them just because the particular models are somewhat rare. I knew a guy who would hang out outside Best Buy waiting for a customer to bring one in and he would ask them if he could take it off their hands
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    Quote Originally Posted by Edmond Dantes View Post
    On a real console, if I wanna play Contra III with my nephew, I just turn the game on and hand him a controller.
    There's definitely something to be said for a setup to be idiot-proof (not meaning that in a derogatory way).

    I have some cabs and a virtual pin setup, and a few of the cabs are running MAME or some other multi-game setup. For those I always have to explain to people to not hit certain buttons or button combinations or else the game will exit to the menu, and you can bet your sweet ass it will still happen every time.

    If you were interested in going the emulation route there's some easy ways to overcome the hurdles you mentioned though.

    Do you own either NES or SNES classic system? Those can be easily upgraded to accept additional ROMs while still retaining the ultra-simple original frontend. I have the NES Classic and run NES, SMS, and TG-16 games on it without issues. I use just those systems due to the controller being 2 buttons.

    Raspberry Pi's or other similar mini-computer setups can easily run a preconfigured image where you don't have to deal with an operating system, and the whole thing can be navigated with a controller. They're fairly simple to get setup, and once you've got it the way you like you never have to fool with it again. For less than $50 they're worth having around even if you don't use it much. A modded Wii or original Xbox works well also.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gbpxl View Post
    Has anyone tried the RetroVision component cables for SNES? I am curious about input lag, aspect ratio.
    I have them on my CRT setup, they are second to none with quality. Don't recall anyone complaining of lag with them.
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