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Best way to upscale retro console content?

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
I've been surfing the net trying to read about the best way to upscale old consoles (Playstation, N64, SNES, Genesis, Nintendo) to make them look better on an HDTV. I've seen a few HDMI upscalers that are a bit cheaper, as well as some other boxes that cost hundreds-thousands and output via VGA.

Would love some opinions on what would be the best way to achieve this. I just bought a new HDTV for use in a back room that I intended to use for retro consoles and streaming media. Would love to make that content look as best as I possibly could.

Any opinions and suggestions greatly appreciated.
post #2 of 10
Your TV's scaler will likely do just as good as a job as any sub-$500 external scaler, and if will likely do it faster. The only real exception may be one of the units that adds scan-lines back in to the image.

Either way, you're in the wrong place. You want a classic console gaming forum like Atari Age or something to find people with proper experience in this. Here we just play our classic games on our iPads, 360/PS3 re-releases, Wii Virtual Console, or in PC emulation.
post #3 of 10
As a classic gamer that visits several popular forums like AtariAge, I'd say that such sites are largely full of CRT diehards that will just suggest to you to log onto Craiglist and similar sites and look for cheap late model CRT's like Trinitrons.

Paying some passing attention when such discussion has come up, I think you're best off avoiding the external scaling world. Quality devices are expensive as Darklordjames said and their quality varies greatly from system to system. Something that might be great at upscaling your Sega Genesis might have trouble just even displaying a picture on a Nintendo 64, for instance.

So I suggest taking a different route for now. External upscaler's are just going to get better and more economical for classic gamer's as technology progresses and we move deeper into the HD age when the CRT well starts to dry up. So unless you have deep pockets and are prepared to possibly purchase several expensive devices to satisfy all of your needs, you're better off waiting.

So my advice for you wanting to play this content on your HDTV would be to consider a HTPC. Not only would it be excellent for emulation but I'm sure you would find other handy uses for it as well. Most popular console's before the Dreamcast generation have been emulated to a high degree and even many of the lesser known console's like the Jaguar are making significant progress these day's. And you can even play your original discs with things like Sega CD and Playstation emulators (So no hassle of downloading several hundred MB disc images or ripping your own discs).

I saw a site with a pretty detailed look at many of the scaling options on the marketplace and how they perform with various console's just a few days ago. I'll try to dig it up and post it for you in case it's of any assistance if you decide to go the external scaler route.

Edit - Here's what I saw posted that looks like it has a lot of information on this subject. Hopefully it's of some help in getting an idea of just what your options are in this area.

http://retrogaming.hazard-city.de/
Edited by Leo_Ames - 1/23/13 at 11:02pm
post #4 of 10
I would avoid the scalers, highly expensive and may not produce the results your looking for. I went down this journey a couple years ago, you really want an HTPC and you can still use your original media, though for cartridge you would need a USB adapter. You get superior graphics, more granular control, the ability to save anywhere at anytime, many have roms that fix bugs, and your choice of controller. The downside is you deal with more complexity in the software and compatibility issues, mostly for the 32bit Gen and up. The pay off though is sweet, a single box that gives me SNES, NES, Genesis, Saturn, Sega CD, MAME (All arcade), PSX, PSX 2, GBA, and DS lite to HDTV.

Controller - Xbox360
Controller Software - Xpadder

NES - Nestopia
GBA - VBA
DS - DeSmuME
SNES - zsnes
N64 - I haven't set this up yet.
PSX - epsxe
PSX 2 - PCSX2
Genesis - Fusion
Sega CD - Fusion
Saturn - Satourne
Arcade - MAME
post #5 of 10
There might be one or two designs out there in limited numbers for a console or two, but in general there aren't USB cartridge slots to utilize your cartridges on your PC. But he shouldn't have any difficulty locating rom images for the cartridges he owns for a console like the Super Nintendo (It gets a bit tougher the more recent you go and disc images can make even a 1TB HD feel cramped relatively quickly). And if it makes him feel better, it's not terribly complicated to rig things up to dump your own cartridges or rip your own discs.

What there are for adapters out there are USB adapters that allow for original controllers to be hooked up to a USB port to increase authenticity for many popular console's from the Atari 2600 and Intellivision to more modern console's like the Playstation. Also, while it sounds like it suits your needs, he should be aware that the d-pad on the Xbox 360 controller sucks and isn't ideal for things like Super Nintendo emulation. Also, emulators allow you to remap buttons in the settings screen so I've at least never had any need for some outside program to accomplish it (Even with my wired 1st party Xbox 360 controller).

Playstation emulation is excellent and Nintendo 64 emulation is decent. But Saturn, Jaguar, 3DO, and Dreamcast onwards for consoles have many issues and aren't really substitutes for the real deal (Not terribly familiar with GBA and DS emulation so I couldn't say... but GBA seems to be well emulated if YouTube is any indication).

At least a couple of your emulator suggestions are far from the best though. The best Super Nintendo emulator by a wide margin is bsnes and is 100% accurate where as ZSNES is far from perfect and is essentially designed to run about the 30 most popular games and was popular about a decade ago. Similarly with Nestopia which was the option of choice many years ago but has been left in the sun by things like the Nintendulator. Unless he just wants to play things like Mario platformers, he's better off avoiding those old choices.
post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 
Thank you so much for the info guys. I was really hoping to use my old systems, but if I want to achieve something that looks nice, it sounds like everyone agrees --- emulate.

I took out all my old consoles and cleaned them off and connected them with a component switch to my TV, but yeah -- the quality is just not what it needs to be. I would really have loved to use the old systems and controllers though... But one user said that I can still use the controllers if I buy a USB adapter for the controllers? Or would it be better to buy a USB controller version?

I have a computer in another room that has a few emulators on it, but that is not the ideal place to have some of my friends play classic games --- I made this new area specifically for classic gaming. Sounds like I should look into getting a new PC that can handle the emulation with up-scaling.
post #7 of 10
In general, I'd suggest USB adapters for the original controllers. The Stelladapter for the Atari 2600 and the Retroport's for several Atari, Sega, and Nintendo consoles come to mind. There are even Intellivision and Colecovision USB adapters. And you can buy original controller's modded into USB PC controller's as well. And of course like many other platform's, there are options to adapt Sony Playstation controller's for use on the PC.

I do have a few modern USB recreations that I like. Legacy Engineering's Atari 2600 USB controller recreation of the classic CX-40 joystick and a Sega Saturn style USB pad are what I own. But the adapter route is what I suggest in general (Particularly since you presumably already have what you need for controller's).

Hopefully in a few years as we progress further out of the CRT age and the supply of quality used sets drys up, classic gamer's will have more economical and versatile external scaling option's and your console's will again be able to take up residence in your living room. But for now, i think you're best off going the HTPC route and emulation to enjoy these game's on your modern HDTV.
post #8 of 10
I'm in no way associated with this product, but there's a clone system on its way this year that could be a partial solution for playing classic games from several popular consoles/handhelds on the marketplace on a HDTV with decent quality. Because of this thread and another recent one, I thought I'd update both with this information.

It's the Retron5 from Hyperkin (Was called the Retron4 at first). It's an emulation based platform with HDMI output, support for the Genesis/NES/SNES/GB/GBC/GBA (And possibly Sega Master System and SG1000 support if the Z80 sound chip of the Genesis is emulated correctly). It will include a rechargable BlueTooth controller, controller ports for the Genesis/NES/SNES for original controllers, button remapping and the ability to use any controller for any system, and several other interesting features.

No mention of the ability to play rom images like some clones have had such as several AtGames Genesis clones, but it does have a USB slot. So hopefully it supports playing roms off a thumb drive (Which before anyone screams piracy, be aware that there is a homebrew scene with plenty of legitimate projects that could be taken advantage of with this feature) although it's possibly only there to recharge the wireless controller and to facilitate firmware updates that they've said they will have.

Here are threads at two classic gaming forums I visit where discussion on this product is underway with more information, thoughts, and where you can find updates in the upcoming months as discussion continues leading up to the release and afterwards.

http://www.digitpress.com/forum/showthread.php?166619-RetroN-4-is-officially-a-thing-apparently

http://www.atariage.com/forums/topic/209669-retron-4-console-for-snesnesgenny-etc/
Edited by Leo_Ames - 9/28/13 at 11:46pm
post #9 of 10
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Leo_Ames View Post

I'm in no way associated with this product, but there's a clone system on its way this year that could be a partial solution for playing classic games from several popular consoles/handhelds on the marketplace on a HDTV with decent quality. Because of this thread and another recent one, I thought I'd update both with this information.

It's the Retron5 from Hyperkin (Was called the Retron4 at first). It's an emulated based platform with HDMI output, support for the Genesis/NES/SNES/GB/GBC/GBA (And possibly Sega Master System and SG1000 support if the Z80 sound chip of the Genesis is emulated correctly). It will include a rechargable BlueTooth controller, controller ports for the Genesis/NES/SNES for original controllers, button remapping and the ability to use any controller for any system, and several other interesting features.

No mention of the ability to play rom images like some clones have had such as several AtGames Genesis clones, but it does have a USB slot. So hopefully it supports playing roms off a thumb drive (Which before anyone screams piracy, be aware that there is a homebrew scene with plenty of legitimate projects that could be taken advantage of with this feature) although it's possibly only there to recharge the wireless controller and to facilitate firmware updates that they've said they will have.

Here are threads at two classic gaming forums I visit where discussion on this product is underway with more information, thoughts, and where you can find updates in the upcoming months as discussion continues leading up to the release and afterwards.

http://www.digitpress.com/forum/showthread.php?166619-RetroN-4-is-officially-a-thing-apparently

http://www.atariage.com/forums/topic/209669-retron-4-console-for-snesnesgenny-etc/

Wow. This thing looks amazing. Exactly the type of thing I am looking for. Any word on it's up-scaling abilities? Going to bookmark these links and read through this week. Thanks for posting here!
post #10 of 10
We know that it will upconvert video signals to 720p. The connection will be HDMI (Along with a composite port for older televisions and those without an available HDMI port). The user can change the aspect ratio between pillarboxed 4:3 for OAR or stretched 16:9. It has something Hyperkin is labeling as audio interpolation that they claim will clean up analog audio for digital output. Also the video output will include artificial scanlines to recreate the appearance classic gamer's prefer (No word if they can be turned off).

Here's the latest bit of information that I'm summarizing from what AtariAge/DigitalPress member Satoshi Matrix has posted in those two threads I linked. It's based on this announcement video taken from the recent Midwest Gaming Classic 2013 Convention.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GAk0HWCZH8&feature=player_embedded

-It will have a 60 pin Famicom slot, the Japanese equivalent of the Nintendo Entertainment System. NES cartridge slots are 72 pin and the audio capabilities were downgraded which is why it can't use the same slot. This reason is behind the change from calling it the Retron4 to the Retron5.

-Game Boy and Game Boy Color support is also confirmed in addition to the previously known GBA support. So five cartridge slots in total for a total of three console platforms (Including Japanese and PAL releases for all three) and three handheld platforms spanning the entire life of Nintendo's Game Boy line.

-It will feature six controller ports. Two ports each for the NES, SuperNes, and Sega Genesis.

-You can use any controller for any system and remap buttons as you desire.

-Composite video and HDMI out.

-Wireless BlueTooth controller with six button layout and a microswitch driven "click-stick". Odd decision instead of a standard d-pad but hoping it works out well in use.

-SD card slot for saving game states.

-USB port for charging the included wireless controller.

-System will have firmware updates which presumably will take advantage of the USB port with a thumb drive or an SD card inserted into the SD card slot.

-System OS, save states, auto save state when the system is powered down, and a built in cheat menu (Presumably for Game Genie and Action Replay codes).

-Manual & Passive Overclocking according to Hyperkin. Presumably the speed of the game can be changed to whatever the user desires. So proper slow motion support after all of these years (Controller's that used to have this feature just enabled auto fire on the start button to rapidily pause and unpause the game). And if one felt that a game ran too slowly, you can speed it up now.

-Price point will be under $100.

-No word on allowing rom images to be played off a USB thumb drive or from SD card.

- No word on Sega Genesis accessories like the Power Base Converter (Which was a pin converter to allow SMS games to play on a Genesis) or Sega 32X.

-No word on Famicom Disc System support or if the NES emulator will fully support the increased audio capabilities of the Famicom.


If loading rom images happens (And it really should since it's essentially a free feature and we've seen other clone companies do it before like AtGames and there's certainly plenty of demand for it), hopefully the fact that the Z80 processor served as the sound chip for the Genesis will open up additional platforms.

The Sega SG-1000, Sega Master System, and Sega Game Gear all utilized a very similar processor as their main CPU. In fact that's how the Power Base Converter for the Sega Genesis was possible since it was just a pin converter for SMS cartridges to allow them to be physically connected with the game then playing off the Genesis sound chip. There are no chips inside a Power Base Converter.
Edited by Leo_Ames - 9/28/13 at 11:48pm
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