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Posted on Jun 7th 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (Addicted)
Posted under Dreamcast, HDMI, VGA, Hidden Gems


These days one can find all sorts of new tech for old consoles. With devices ranging from Framemeisters to Optical Drive Emulators, these products help us keep our old consoles working and expand their feature-base beyond anything we could have imagined. When California based Pound Technologies released their Original Xbox to HDMI cables, they were met with high praise for their signal quality and low price. Their recently released Dreamcast to HDMI cable promotes features such a generous 6.6-foot cable length and the best video output the Dreamcast can provide, but can it deliver?



When the Dreamcast launched in the US on Sept 9th, 1999, it marked the beginning of the end of the 240p video standard. The 240p standard had been the best way to display a rock-solid progressive scan image from consoles for decades. It works by taking half of the horizontal and vertical resolution of a standard definition TV set to quickly refresh the on-screen image. The Dreamcast can output 240p, but it can also display games in 480p. To achieve a 480p signal, the Dreamcast uses an external box that outputs a VGA signal at 640X480. This external box, fittingly called the "VGA box," worked well with the technology of its time, but finding a TV with anything but HDMI ports in 2018 can be a headache.

For our testing we will be using the following equipment:

    Cable:

    • Pound Technologies Dreamcast to HDMI Cable

    Consoles:

    • Japanese Dreamcast Model HKT-3010
    • US Dreamcast Model HKT-3020 Rev1

    TVs:

    • 19" Sylvania Model LC190SS2
    • 32" LG Model 32LN530B-UA
    • 46" Polaroid Model 4641-TLXB
    • 40" Sony Model KDL-40W600B

    Let's start with the good. The cable length is generous at 6.6 feet and should have enough slack for any setup. The cable is lightweight, but doesn't feel cheap.  The picture quality is sharp and clear with no visual artifacts and is on par with a VGA box or cable. The sound is crisp and free of distortion. There isn't any noticeable lag.

    All products have flaws and the HD Link Cable is not without fault. The cable connection to the Dreamcast is a tight fit (death grip) and you have to be careful when unpluging it. The picture will most likely appear off center after the game starts. This can be worked around by either turning the TV off and on or switching to another input and then back to the HDMI input the cable is on. This process will need to be repeated every time a new game is started. While most games are compatible, there are a small number of games that won't work with the HD Link Cable or a VGA box. However, most of the incompatible games can be hacked or patched to work.


    The image is stretched here to show the screen centering issue. Notice the black bar on the left.

    While not quite a plug and play solution, Pound Technologies' HD Link Cable for Dreamcast works as advertised. Its inherent quirks of a non-centered screen and incompatible games can be overcome for those that are willing to put in some effort. Thanks to this cable, the Dreamcast will keep thinking for years to come.

    Comparison shots:


    40" Sony Model KDL-40W600B

    32" LG Model 32LN530B-UA

    19" Sylvania Model LC190SS2

    46" Polaroid Model 4641-TLXB
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    Comments
     
    Thanks for the write-up, Addicted. Based on what I've seen, I think I'll wait and opt for a pricier solution, if only to try and get a better experience. Thankfully, my main TV has a VGA input, so a good Hanzo VGA box is what I've been thinking about. That, and I want to use the DC at some point with the OSSC, so I can output that through an Elgato 60 PRO - which several YouTubers, including John Riggs and Metal Jesus Rocks have confirmed doesn't work with this cable. Who knows whether or not future revisions will fix that, since the issue may be related to the incoming resolution, so it may be dependent on Elgato to update drivers, firmware, or software on their end. For the more casual user, however, this might be a good, low-cost solution to hooking up a DC to a more modern HD set, and I think it probably achieves that goal, based on everything I've seen so far.
     
    I've had a VGA box since the consoles heyday. I love the picture quality, but I'm glad that there is an option for HDMI only.
     
    @MetalFRO: The Hanzo box paired with the OSSC makes a good combo. HD Retrovision is working on a component video cable for the Dreamcast that works with all games. HD Retrovision's cable would also make a great pairing with the OSSC. Since your TV supports VGA I would recommend ordering a cheap Dreamcast to VGA cable for now as it can be used on your TV now and with the OSSC when you buy one. They can be ordered for as cheap as $7.

    I should note that you can use a Dreamcast to VGA cable and a VGA to HDMI converter to achieve similar results to the Pound Technologies cable. You would still have to deal with incompatible games. The Pound Technologies cable combines the Dreamcast to VGA cable and VGA to HDMI converter in a single cable.

    @Duke.Togo: The 480p output really makes a difference. I just wish all games supported it.
     
    Kind of a bummer.  It seems like maybe this could be overcome with a monitor vs a television (one with controls that allow you to force aspect ratios and screen position).  The price is pretty good, even with the issues, but I don't know if can replace my VGA box.  Quick question, for non-VGA compatible games do you get a picture at all?  My current box will output regardless, but I have a friend whose only displays VGA-compatible games.  Thanks!
     
    @bombatomba: Most of them won't display a picture at all. In the case of Hydro Thunder it shows up for a second then blacks out.
     
    I wasn't aware this was a thing!  Looks like it could be a nice solution for Dreamcast on a new TV.  I have my Dreamcast running through composite video on my 24" Trinitron and it looks pretty good.  I just ordered one on amazon and look forward to trying it out...  Armada will be amazing on my 52" plasma!

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