If you've tried playing a retro console on a modern HDTV, you may not have liked what you saw — smeary, stretched images that are a far cry from the sharp chunky blocks of yesteryear. Luckily, there's a better way for purists to get a crystal clear image that doesn't involve buying an old CRT TV.
The guys at My Life In Gaming did an amazing in-depth technical breakdown of how to get the cleanest picture out of your physical retro consoles. They not only explain the various resolutions, terminologies and cords, but also break down why they matter (and why you shouldn't trust the upscaler in your HDTV if your source is 240p).
You might not want to make the effort, but it's hard to argue with the results:
Here's a very brief overview of a few of their points:
-Start by avoiding the hell out of composite. Even S-video is a step in the right direction.
- Most consoles before the Dreamcast outputted to 240p, a lower resolution than the standard 480i. The scalers in most HDTVs are not correctly optimized for 240p signals, which end up reading the signal as interlaced. This creates a smeary, ugly image. Many HDTVs are even phasing out those old inputs altogether.
- They recommend using an external scaler, specifically a high-end Japanese scaler called the XRGB-mini FRAMEMEISTER, which correctly upscales your signal and outputs the image in HD over HDMI with virtually no lag.
- Going beyond Composite and S-Video, RGB is the cleanest source you're going to get out of many old consoles. A lot of those old consoles are hardwired for RGB if you have the correct cable. They prefer using SCART cables, and recommend an eBay seller called retro_console_accessories.
-Some consoles, like the NES have to be modified output RGB. They personally recommend the NESRGB board, though warn that they sell out fast.