Quick Reference - Best Ways to Connect A Game System to a Modern Display

Sega Genesis

Recently, I've taken on a Game Room project - I want to get the best picture possible out of each of the systems that I own, within reason.  The very best picture for many old consoles is via RGB.  In Europe, RGB was available via a connection called SCART, available on many of their TVs, and certainly on RGB monitors.  This standard is slightly different (wired differently) in Japan, but those systems support the same style of connections in many cases.  While I don't currently own any Japanese systems, it's my intent to update this list eventually with the Japanese counterparts of each system.

If you make the decision to go RGB, you typically need to get either a VGA scalar, or an HDMI scaler to go to a modern display.  I'm currently building a VGA scaler (because it's vastly less expensive than other alternatives at $50), but the "money is no object" method is definitely the Framemeister (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqW03NvDXmY , http://solarisjapan.com/products/xrgb-mini-framemeister-compact-up-scaler-unit), at about $375.  If building a VGA scaler isn't your thing, ArcadeForge.de has the "SLG In A Box" alternative that is reportedly excellent.  I'm also looking into their SLG 3000 unit (a scanline generator).  A cheap SCART to HDMI converter is available, but I don't recommend these units, as lag can be frighteningly bad (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pne94BxFHGY).  The end-around on all of these discussions of course is to simply not go to a modern display - RGB CRTs are still available via eBay, even if they're very expensive. 

Any digital signal is typically better for console connections.  As such, when available, I choose that as the best available connection.  In general, HDMI wins out over Component, as a matter of personal preference (systems supporting Blu Ray playback at 1080p generally support this on HDMI).  In one case (PC), DisplayPort wins out over HDMI, because DisplayPort can go up to 8k resolutions. 

In many cases, modding a console is either risky or expensive, or both.  Given that, I have published this list with the best available connection that doesn't require a hardware modification, and more detailed still, what the best non-modded connection is available in the States. 

Based on my research, here are the best connection types available for each console, how to get the best picture from each console, and how much it costs to get these connections in place.

Please let me know if you have any feedback.  I take little / no credit for any of the work here; I didn't do research on each console, I'm just presenting the research done in a single place.  Frankly, even the most comprehensive resources on the topic don't have everything!  If you're wanting more detailed wiring diagrams (for sync / sync stripping, etc), I recommend http://www.retrorgb.com, for scaler information, I recommend FaginRS500's channel on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/user/Faginrs500).

In general, unless there are no other alternatives, I'm not listing emulation as the best alternative for display, because my assumption is that you're looking to use your old consoles.  That said, emulation always provides the best picture, assuming the emulation is 100% accurate.

 

System Best Picture Best Picture, no Modding Best US/NA cable (no-mod) How to get the best picture Cost of Best Picture
Magnavox Oddessey 2 Composite RF RF Hardware mod for composite:  https://www.assemblergames.com/forums/showthread.php?29884-AV-mod-for-Odyssey-2 $10-20
Atari 2600 SVideo RF RF Hardware modification To Svideo:  http://electronicsentimentalities.com/index.html $30-70
Colecovision Composite RF RF Hardware mod for composite:  http://www.instructables.com/id/ColecoVision-Composite-Video/?ALLSTEPS;
HDMI through Emulation + adapter here:  http://www.intellivision.us/intvgames/interface/interface.php ;
Flawed Svideo can be modded (faint vertical lines):  http://www94.pair.com/jsoper/cv_svideo.html
$10-20
Intellivision Composite RF RF Hardware mod for composite: http://www.intellivision.us/video_mod/video_mod.php 
HDMI through Emulation + adapter here:  http://www.intellivision.us/intvgames/interface/interface.php 
$10-20
TI-99/4a Composite Composite Composite Composite Cable Pinout here:  http://www.stageselect.com/N174-make-a-composite-video-cable-genesis-ti994a.aspx $10
Atari 7800 SVideo RF RF Hardware modification To Svideo:  http://electronicsentimentalities.com/index.html $30-70
NES RGB Composite Composite Hardware modification to RGB:  http://etim.net.au/nesrgb/
HDMI mod is being developed
$100
SMS RGB RGB SCART Composite Buy SCART cable, output to scaler / line doubler $20
GameBoy RGB None None SNES Super Game Boy, assumes SNES connected via RGB $15-20
TurboGrafx RGB/Component Composite Composite Component Mod here: http://www.tg16pcemods.com/ $35-40
GameBoy Color Component None None Component (or Svideo) Through the GameBoy Player on GameCube.  SNES Super Game Boy can play black carts, but in black and white mode $50
GameGear RGB None None Hardware Mod - Game Gear RGB board:  http://etim.net.au/shop/shop.php?crn=201 $50-70
Genesis RGB RGB SCART Composite Buy SCART cable, output to scaler / line doubler $20
SNES RGB RGB SCART Svideo Buy SCART cable, output to scaler / line doubler
SNES Mini Requires hardware mod:  http://www.retrorgb.com/snesminirgb.html
$20
3DO RGB SVideo SVideo RGB Modification:  http://www.otakus-store.net/en/modding-kits/279-3do-rgb-modding-full-kit.html
Compatibility can be an issue, check model carefully
$65
Saturn RGB RGB SCART Svideo Buy SCART cable, output to scaler / line doubler $20
PlayStation RGB / Component / HDMI RGB Svideo Native support for RGB or SVideo
Component through PS2 (can be noisy)
HDMI through PS3
$5
GameBoy Advance Component None None Component (or Svideo) Through the GameBoy Player on GameCube $50-100
Atari Jaguar RGB RGB SCART Svideo or RGB Create your own cable (much less than buying cables on ebay) $10
Nintendo 64 RGB SVideo Svideo Hardware Mod, if capable $50
Dreamcast VGA VGA VGA VGA Cable is Dreamcast specific
HDMI mod is in progress
$10-15
PlayStation 2 Component Component Component Component considered best for system but has some issues (noise). 
HDMI through compatible PS3s
$0
GameCube Component Component SVideo GC Component cables (expensive) or Wii
PAL GameCube can do RGB
$0-200
DS HDMI via PC None None Video Capture Modification:  http://3dscapture.com/ds/index.html
HDMI - Emulation on PC
$100
Xbox Component Component Component HDMI for select backward compatible games on 360 $0-10
PlayStation 3 HDMI HDMI HDMI Also offers component out $0
Xbox 360 HDMI HDMI HDMI Also offers component out $0
Wii Component Component Component Excellent display for GameCube and Virtual Console games $10
PlayStation 4 HDMI HDMI HDMI   $0
Xbox One HDMI HDMI HDMI   $0
3DS HDMI via PC None None Video Capture modification:  http://3dscapture.com/ds/index.html
Emulation in early stages
$100
PSP Component Component Component Component Cable is PSP specific, supports 2000&3000 versions (no support on 1000) $5-10
PSP Go  Component Component Component Component Cable is PSP Go specific $5-10
Game.com None None None Emulator is apparently available, hard to find (only option) $0
WiiU HDMI HDMI HDMI   $0
Vita HDMI via PC None None Video Capture Modification:  http://www.3dsvideocapture.com/
Use Vita TV for compatible games
$100
Vita TV HDMI HDMI HDMI Lacks full compatibility $0
Android HDMI HDMI SlimPort / MHL HDMI   $10
iOS HDMI HDMI HDMI   $10
Arcade RGB     RGB Native - Converter/Line Doubler for modern displays
HDMI for most games via PC / MAME (Emulation)
$10
PC DisplayPort DisplayPort HDMI All cable types supported, most commonly output to TV via HDMI, but DisplayPort is most capable $0
           
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Comments
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Anonymous, 4/21/2015 10:27:18 AM
Score: 0  
Component
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Component_video

Component can output at 1080p and beyond.

Great article though, very handy!
larsoncc, 4/21/2015 12:33:31 PM
Score: 0  

OK, I've updated the article to reflect HDMI as a personal preference (support for HDCP, while not something I actively desire, is a feature that Component lacks and could therefore have a content playback impact should content providers choose to restrict in this fashion).

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