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Monoprice VGA to HDMI adapter review (Connecting Dreamcast to HDTV in 480p)

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
I went a little nuts and got a Dreamcast last weekend off of Craiglist to celebrate its 10th anniversary. While playing Dreamcast on a 13" CRT connected through RCA composite was okay 10 years ago, I'm no longer a broke college student, so I wanted to get the best Dreamcast video experience possible.

The Dreamcast was ahead of its time in many ways-including its video output, which supports 480p. Unfortunately though, this resolution is only available through a VGA D-sub connector provided by the Dreamcast VGA adapter. I chose one from an Amazon.com vendor which works perfectly. They do appear to vary wildly in quality, but I would take the risk and buy a 3rd-party box because the official SEGA VGA box costs much more.

If your HDTV has a VGA port, this is all you will need to connect. However, most HDTVs these days only have HDMI or component inputs. To get the 480p signal from the VGA box to your VGA-less HDTV, you will need a VGA to HDMI adapter.

I used this Monoprice adapter for my setup. The price is right, although you don't have a lot of configuratibility. My TV reports the resolution coming from the VGA to HDMI adapter as 4:3 480p, which is perfect for my HDTV, since it is a 4:3 (fullscreen) native device. I assume the same 480p 4:3 signal would be output to a widescreen TV, and it would be up to the user to decide whether to stretch or "pillarbox" their TV.

As for the image quality, it is significantly better than murky, blurry composite input I was using previously. With the aid of progressive scan and full RGBHV color separation, motion is much more fluid and colors are bolder and more accurate. Although it doesn't push as many pixels as the newer systems, Dreamcast still looks great on the big screen. I could not detect any scaling lag as I played through Crazy Taxi and Power Stone 2. If you are playing Dreamcast via composite or svideo on an LCD or DLP panel, this will certainly cut down lag as the TV will no longer have to scale the 480i image produced by the DC up to your panel's native resolution.

The image produced by the adapter slightly too small for the TV and bowed on the edges, but that likely has as much to do with the imperfect geometry of my CRT-based HDTV than it does with the adapter.

Audio out is provided on the Dreamcast VGA box via a stereo mini jack or dual RCA audio. You can plug the audio in directly to your TV or receiver from there, or you can plug it into the HDMI adapter and have the audio digitized along with the video. I chose to use the HDMI adapter for audio as well as video, taking audio from the stereo mini jack on the VGA box to the dual RCA audio inputs on the VGA to HDMI adapter. The audio is very hot...I have to turn my receiver down about 20 "notches" to match the level of volume of other sources. I haven't determined if this is caused by the VGA box or the HDMI adapter yet, but I'll update this article once I figure it out.

All in all, if you still play your Dreamcast and you want the best possible connection to your HDTV, you need the VGA box and the HDMI to VGA adapter. Especially if you're using a flat panel, the improvement is well worth the price.
post #2 of 12
Good to hear that this little bit worked out decently. I was huge in to Dreamcast, it being the console that got me back in to consoles. I still have two DC's kicking around, and even still have my VGA box. Upgrading my plasma earlier this year, I lost the VGA port that I had on my old 42", and playing in s-video is just unacceptable.

Like I said in the other thread, it would be worth the $40 just to play Seaman again. I miss you, Walter.
post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 
Yeah, I wish I hadn't sold nearly all of my Dreamcast games when I got rid of the system, I'm really itching to play some Cannon Spike. I guess it's time to hit eBay!
post #4 of 12
This thread made me bust out the dreamcast awwww how i missed you.
post #5 of 12
Dudes!! I am so glad I found this thread! Please help! I have been playing my DC on an old Sony CRT TV set via regular composite cables. Its still awesome but like you said I want to see the dreamcast at its best. So First I know I need a VGA box. Now my TV does not have a VGA input only component input which will diplay at 480i according to the user's manual. What kind of converter/transcoder do I need in order to have the VGA out of the Dreamcast going into the component video?? I do need a transcoder right? I was under the impression that a VGA to component cable is really only designed for certain CRT projectors that can accept component signal via a VGA port I have been looking at the HDbox pro which seems like its a great deal but may not work for me and I can't get a clear idea of the specs. Doesn't it only have a VGA out?? I have also seen the transcoder sold by audio direct but its like 129 dollars. Is that my only option?? Any information is appreciated. Thanks for reading.
post #6 of 12
If your display will only accept 480i over component, then just get a Dreamcast s-video cable and call it a day. The difference between s-video and component at 480i is extremely minimal. S-video compared to composite though is a massive improvement.

Now, when you get an HDTV, then this thread will be more help to you. Either just get a TV that has VGA in and order up a DC VGA box, or the DC VGA box plus the aforementioned HDMI adapter if you end up with a display that only does HDMI in.
post #7 of 12
Thank You for Clarifying!! DC VGA box on the way!
post #8 of 12
Thread Starter 
Actually, Mr. Kelvin, darklordjames recommended (as do I) that you get a Dreamcast s-video cable-that is the best available connection for an SDTV. It's really not worth all the trouble of VGA box-to-component adapter for a very marginal upgrade.

But if you do have an HDTV, especially a flat panel, you definitely want to get the VGA box in order to enjoy the best resolution the DC has to offer.
post #9 of 12
Yea I was too excited when I typed that. My apologies. I figured I would pick up a box anyway because I have more than one DC and will hopefully be upgrading to a nicer TV in the not too distant future. So will the Dreamcast S-video cable look better than the DC VGA box S-video out or will that be identical? I have seen boxes which offer both VGA and S video out in addition to the audio. Many thanks again for your insights.
post #10 of 12
Thread Starter 
The s-video out from the DC VGA box won't look any different than s-video coming directly out of the back of the Dreamcast.

Also, if you are looking for a cheap HDTV, check Craigslist. CRT HDTVs are going for cheap now, that's how I got mine.
post #11 of 12
Technically, the best picture one can get from the Dreamcast short of VGA RGB is SCART RGB, which, if used with a transcoder, can be converted into component YPbPr. So if you really wanted it to look as good as possible on a component-ready CRT SDTV, you could get a SCART cable and a SCART-to-component transcoder. That, or hunt down a SCART-ready TV or monitor, but good luck with that.

Nevertheless, nothing beats hooking it up to a good CRT monitor. Though of course, if you wanna hook it up to your HDTV, then I suppose transcoding it into HDMI would also work well.
post #12 of 12
Was about to suggest staying with the VGA box as I read comments telling you not to bother, since they typically can also output s-video for the Dreamcast (You'd kill two birds with one stone, s-video for now and you'd be ready when you get a set that can take advantage of progressive scan).

But I see people realized it can also do s-video.
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