Best Retro Video Game Upscaler
If you're looking for a way to make sure you get the best picture quality out of your old video game systems such as the SNES or Sega Genesis, look no further than a video game upscaling device. You might notice if you try to plug in your game console to your flat screen LCD or LED television, the image will be stretched and blurry on the TV.
You might be fine with having a blurry look on your HDTV using composite AV cables but if you're looking forward to getting razor sharp pixels on your brand new television, look no further than a retro video game upscaling device. It will require a few new cables for your SNES or Nintendo Entertainment System but will look great once you're all setup and using the original hardware.
Table of Contents
While we did enjoy using the various retro scaling devices that worked well for displaying one of the best images on our HD television, we would sum up the list of recommendations for the best retro console upscaler:
-RAD2x Cables. These are the easiest plug and play solution for retro gaming upscaling.
-RetroTink 2x Mini. This option allows you to use all of your favorite component inputs and display them on your TV if you still have the original cables.
-RetroTink 5x Pro. This option is the best for getting the sharpest image possible on your HDTV.
RetroTink 2x Mini
The RetroTink 2x Mini will take a 240p input source and line double it to 480p. What this means is it will take the native resolution of your favorite retro gaming console and turn it into a resolution supported by your tv. It will allow you to take a composite signal as well as S-video signal and output it to HDMI. This is your best entry level solution for those who just want to play your old games on a LED TV.
RetroTink 2x Pro
Giving you the same functionality as the RetroTink 2x Mini, the pro features S-Video, Composite and now component in while outputting to HDMI video to your TV. This gives you plenty of flexibility for consoles such as PS2 or Xbox using the component cables. There's also flexibility from the SNES using a special component cable. The RetroTink 2x Pro also has scanline features that give you the same look and feel as your old school CRT TV.
RetroTink 5x Pro
This is the cream of the crop when it comes to the lineup of RetroTink scalers. Not only does it support 480p that the 2x model features, it also can output a resolution up to 1440P if your TV supports that display mode. It can handle a variety of different options such as Composite, S-Video, Component as well as SCART. This means you can play all of your favorite systems right out of the box such as NES, Super NES, Sega Genesis, Sony PSX, PC Engine and many more!
The Framemeister has thus been discontinued since the publishing of this article. It suffers from input lag when taking the input from your console and displaying it on the TV. The Framemeister was a fantastic device when it was first released, but has been surpassed from the other devices on this list. We recommend using one of the RetroTink devices over the Framemeister at this point that suits your individual needs.
Open Source Scan Converter (OSSC)
The OSSC or open source scan converter is a fantastic way to take your game console's input and displaying it offers zero input lag, something that has plagued the Framemeister device. It offers the following inputs:
3.5mm audio auxiliary jack
This was our go to device for displaying retro games for quite some time and it offers a fantastic experience for displaying all of our SCART based consoles up to 1080p at 5x mode. The board also has attachments you can purchase in order to add additional inputs such as S-video. We absolutely loved the OSSC as an option for the best retro video game upscaler.
Another option to take a component input and output to VGA. Useful if you want to play your Super NES on your CRT monitor or other PC style monitor. We wouldn't recommend this if you want to display the image on your TV unless you have that particular input on your TV.
GBS-C AIO Scaler DIY Kits
A low cost DIY solution to put together your own retro scaling device is here for you. If offers relatively low lag, less than one frame. Allows you to input a number of connectors (SCART, Component and VGA) as well as outputting up to 1080P through VGA or HDMI. This is a great option if you're good at soldering and are on a tight budget.
The RAD2x cables are a good no frills option for those looking for a plug and play solution. They're offered by RetroGamingCables who manufacture a fine selection of consoles from the Sega Genesis, SNES-N64-Gamecube, Sega Saturn and Sony PS1/2. This is a fantastic option if you're not looking to tinker with settings or need the most advanced features.
What Is A Retro Gaming Upscaler?
If you were used to playing your old video games on a CRT television, you may have noticed that these original consoles were running at a lower resolution than modern HDTVs would have been able to display.
A common resolution would be 240p for the 8 bit or 16 bit consoles. Due to this nature, when outputting the 240p image up to 720p or 1080p will stretch the image and make it blurry using the composite or RF cable.
A retro gaming upscaler takes that 240p signal and multiplies it to keep the same aspect ratio (4:3) and allow it to be displayed on a modern HDTV screen. Out of the box options like the SNES HDMI upscaler end up making your image look fantastic!
Why Do Retro Games Look Better On Old TVs?
Retro game developers used tricks that allowed the blurry image to be used to their advantage. Many older televisions have CRT displays that allowed the higer refresh rate, brighter colors and more flexibility of odd resolutions and aspect ratios. Newer LCD or OLED displays have difficulties displaying odd resolutions or frame rates correctly due to their digital display technologies.
Many modern televisions apply upscaling processing technologies to fit the older game resolutions on the newer resolutions in order to improve their picture quality. The end result is a blurry, artefact featured output that really impacts the picture quality adversely.
This is why it's incredibly imprortant to have a retro upscaling device in order to correct the mistakes that the HDTV tries to apply to the analog signal. You'll have a much cleaner 4:3 image when using an old console on a new TV.
It's also important to consider the aspect of nostalgia when playing retro games. Some people who are considered purists love the look and feel of playing their favourite retro consoles on a tube TV over anything modern. This could simply be due to the fact that this was the way they were meant to be played as they have been used to it after so many years.