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How to hook up retro consoles to High-Definition TVs
This article covers two issues you may find when trying to hook-up your retro console to a modern television using an RGB SCART cable. The first is that most modern hi-def TV’S don’t have SCART inputs, and historically most televisions sold outside of Europe never supported SCART and especially North America. Therefore, you will need to know what converters are available to take an RGB SCART cable and convert this for use on a non-SCART TV. And secondly modern high definition televisions with SCART inputs usually do a terrible job of up-scaling a consoles low-res image to fit the televisions big screen, so an external up-scaler maybe better. And I discuss my personal recommendation in the summery.
Recently I picked up a new Samsung 49inch 4K TV, model number UE49MU7000 to replace my old Sony Bravia and discovered that not only was the television lacking a SCART input as expected with a new TV, it was also missing component video inputs (YPbPr). And due to no component video input there was no way of connecting composite video (Yellow/Red/White Phono) either. Composite video inputs have been omitted from modern televisions for a while now, however, you were able to plug the yellow video phono plug into the Y socket of the component input to achieve a composite video input. So due to lacking a component and composite video inputs I was unable to connect my Nintendo Wii via composite video and also my PlayStation 2 via component, not to mention all my other consoles like the Super Nintendo and Sega Mega Drive which I always connect via a SCART cable.
Samsung UE49MU7000 4K 49"
Unfortunately my new shiny Samsung only has four HDMI inputs via an external interface unit called a ONE CONNECT which also includes the RF and satellite inputs. So Samsung didn't even fit the HDMI inputs in the actual TV! This was probably a design decision so that they only need manufacture one version of the UE49MU7000 and ship internationally with region configured ONE CONNECT boxes to cater for PAL and NTSC variations.
ONE CONNECT external interface unit
Level entry solution
The Cheapest solution is a SCART to HDMI converter on Amazon.co.uk called the Elephas SCART to HDMI converter, which upscales analogue RGB from a SCART cable and outputs resolutions of 720p and 1080p. This converter has received mostly very good feedback from customers with an average of 4 out of 5 stars out of 179+ reviews on Amazon. These normally retail at £49.99, but as of writing this article its currently discounted by 52%, so you can pick one up now for £23.99, which is a bargain! They also retail on eBay for between £28 to £33, however, these are available from various sellers with limited stock, unlike the Amazon listing for this converter which has been active for a number of years now. But be aware of other SCART to HDMI converters on Amazon and eBay, as a lot of the cheaper devices do not support RGB video. If you are interested in what up-scalers to avoid then please read this article titled SCART to HDMI Converters to Avoid which covers SCART to HDMI converters that only support composite video and not RGB video, because if you want to achieve the greatest potential from your retro console you want to be utilising the RGB output.
Elephas SCART to HDMI converter
The downside with the Elephas SCART to HDMI converter is a problem called input lag and input lag refers to the time it takes from pressing a button on your joypad to the action taking place onscreen and is measured in milliseconds. This small delay might seem insignificant but it could be crucial when playing platform games, but for casual gamers it might not be noticeable.
This particular converter did however crop the image on the right hand side of my Phillips HD TV as seen below. This occurred in most resolution settings using the 720p/1080p button on the converter and was more noticeable in the maximum resolution output.
Elephas converter in maximum resolutionresulting in image cropping
However the optimal setting is the 1024x768 resolution which gives a nice 4:3 aspect ratio as seen below.
Optimal resolution for Elephas converteroutputting 4:3 aspect ratio
The Framemeister XRGB-mini by Micomsoft is a purpose built up scaler designed specifically for connecting retro consoles to modern HDTV's via HDMI. This is a very popular device in the retro gaming scene which accepts the following inputs; RGB, composite video, s-video and component video and up-scales these to 1080i/p, however its not cheap and currently retails at £250 plus shipping and import duty which will push the price over the £300 mark, as the main retailer for this unit Solarise Japan are based in Japan. This has less input lag than the Elephas SCART to HDMI converter.
The OSSC or Open Source Scan Converter began as a home-brew project back in 2015 now is open source which means the source files for building your own OSSC are available online from junkerhq.net or you can purchase one pre-built from videogameperfection.com for £162 plus shipping. Unlike the Framemeister which upscales the image using a video processor the OSSC uses a technique called line doubling which greatly reduces input lag caused when a video signal is upscaled using a processor.
Open Source Scan Converter OSSC
Not only does the OSSC accept SCART but also component video and VGA. So you could hook up a SNES via SCART, a PS2 via component and a Dreamcast via VGA and leave them plugged in, so then the OSSC acts like a switch. Regular firmware updates are released for the OSSC and firebrandx.com has released optimal timing profiles for various Sega consoles and will be working on more in the future. Normally videogameperfection.com run a pre-order basis for the OSSC however check their website to see whether they have some available for immediate dispatch.
For casual gamers who only have HDMI inputs on their TV I would recommend the Elephas SCART to HDMI converter as they are a bargain and its a simple plug and play system. For more serious gamers who are worried about input lag I would recommend either the Framemeister or the OSSC, but for value for money out of the professional solutions I would go for the OSSC. Both the Framemeister and OSSC will need more technical knowhow to set up for optimal use but the results are worth it! For more information on the OSSC watch this video below from the My Life in Gaming guys who did an excellent job of reviewing this converter.