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Yurkie

Atari 2600 RGB mod

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The 2600RGB can output s-video or composite as well as RGB. It can also do component with a small add-on board. I'd consider installing one of these even if I was only looking for s-video or composite. Most Atari video mods are dark and undersaturated. This page is quite old but it gives you a flavor for what you can expect from most mods http://www.cheeptech.com/2600mods/2600mods.shtml

 

The 2600RGB on the other hand will regenerate much of the video signal from scratch and the result should be impressive. The NESRGB is a very similar design particularly in the output stages and it's s-video out is really, really good. RGB is better of course but s-video is closer than you might think. As darcagn said a few posts up about the RGB output "you can basically expect the output to look crystal clear and perfect just like an emulator would" With S-video it will be a little less clear with a little more color smearing, but overall a similar effect.

 

Also be aware that classic consoles output 240p even after video mods. Many modern TVs can't handle that signal despite having the right connectors. You may need some sort of converter box. A popular one is the xrgb-mini. It is nice though a bit pricey.

 

Thanks for the link - I had stumbled across that last night actually.

 

But, if i understand correctly, even after this mod, I can't just use the component plugs to plug directly into any TV? I need to make sure the TV can accept that signal type even if it has the red/blue/green? (YPBPR possibly won't work)

220px-Component_video_jack.jpg

 

Also, what kind of plug do I use for the RGB?

Again, sorry if these questions are repeated, but I couldn't really follow the other website suggested.....I totally got lost on there....LOL.

If I'm going to do the mod, I really want the best signal I can get, or the a variety of options. This obviously sounds to be the best, but I want to try to be on the same page of understanding as you guys.....haha.

Edited by spawnshop

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Thanks for the link - I had stumbled across that last night actually.

 

But, if i understand correctly, even after this mod, I can't just use the component plugs to plug directly into any TV? I need to make sure the TV can accept that signal type even if it has the red/blue/green? (YPBPR possibly won't work)

220px-Component_video_jack.jpg

 

Also, what kind of plug do I use for the RGB?

Again, sorry if these questions are repeated, but I couldn't really follow the other website suggested.....I totally got lost on there....LOL.

If I'm going to do the mod, I really want the best signal I can get, or the a variety of options. This obviously sounds to be the best, but I want to try to be on the same page of understanding as you guys.....haha.

I would assume the Atari console might have a multi out jack or something and that would plug into a frameister or scaler and then you use a hdmi cord going from the scaler to your tv .

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Thanks for the link - I had stumbled across that last night actually.

 

But, if i understand correctly, even after this mod, I can't just use the component plugs to plug directly into any TV? I need to make sure the TV can accept that signal type even if it has the red/blue/green? (YPBPR possibly won't work)

220px-Component_video_jack.jpg

 

Also, what kind of plug do I use for the RGB?

Again, sorry if these questions are repeated, but I couldn't really follow the other website suggested.....I totally got lost on there....LOL.

If I'm going to do the mod, I really want the best signal I can get, or the a variety of options. This obviously sounds to be the best, but I want to try to be on the same page of understanding as you guys.....haha.

 

The problem is that even if your television accepts component video aka YPbPr, a lot of television sets will refuse to display low-resolution signals (240p) via component video. So you'll need to make sure your television is compatible.

 

The 2600RGB comes with a 8-pin miniDIN connector for RGB. You then connect this to your display using an appropriate cable that has a miniDIN on one end and another connector on the other end. Standard consumer television sets in North America do not support RGB. Pro-level monitors will accept RGB via BNC connectors. In Europe, consumer TVs had RGB support and used SCART connectors for this. The XRGB-mini has a miniDIN for RGB input.

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The problem is that even if your television accepts component video aka YPbPr, a lot of television sets will refuse to display low-resolution signals (240p) via component video. So you'll need to make sure your television is compatible.

 

In addition to what darcagn said, I would add that many sets have trouble with 240p signals over composite or s-video too. Composite and S-video are a bit more likely to show a picture than component but the TV is likely to treat it as 480i and make a mess of it. It's one of the challenges to hooking up any old game console to a modern digital TV.

 

This site covers 240p pretty extensively and reviews pretty much every scaler on the market for 240p performance. http://retrogaming.hazard-city.de Scroll down to "A Few Basic Definitions" for an overview.

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And my 2600RGB kit showed up today. I ordered August 1st, it shipped on August 4th and was delivered to me in the US on August 17th. However, this unit has a startup bug and a replacement was supposedly shipped on 14th. Another two weeks to wait.

 

I may try installing this one until the fixed unit arrives. I was planning on using pin headers anyway so swapping it out should be easy. I wish there were more details on the "startup bug". I would guess the issue is intermittent since it wasn't caught until after shipping. If it's just that the 2600RGB occasionally doesn't initialize properly on power up and you need to restart the console to get it going, I could live with that temporarily.

Edited by collinp

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collinp (and others) - thanks for the info and keep us posted. Info has been slow to surface for the 2600RGB and I'm eager to see it in action!

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And my 2600RGB kit showed up today. I ordered August 1st, it shipped on August 4th and was delivered to me in the US on August 17th. However, this unit has a startup bug and a replacement was supposedly shipped on 14th. Another two weeks to wait.

 

I may try installing this one until the fixed unit arrives. I was planning on using pin headers anyway so swapping it out should be easy. I wish there were more details on the "startup bug". I would guess the issue is intermittent since it wasn't caught until after shipping. If it's just that the 2600RGB occasionally doesn't initialize properly on power up and you need to restart the console to get it going, I could live with that temporarily.

 

I would suggest to wait personally. I got too excited and stubbornly installed mine and I can't get it to start up. Tried a variety of games, but I just get a blank black screen out of all of the inputs. The XRGB-mini sees it as input, it's just black. No audio either. And I know all the connections on the TIA and sockets are fine because the RF output still works fine, and I know all the connections for the video are fine because composite, s-video, and RGB all get an input/sync light on the XRGB-mini, indicating there's a signal, just no picture.

 

I know it seems unlikely that it affects a ton of boards and scenarios given the testing, but then again during the second manufacturing run of the NESRGB Tim selected RAM for the board with a slightly different timing, and it bugged out a massive amount of NES games from working properly, and it was only discovered after shipment. I was really puzzled as to how that slipped through because it was pretty obvious. This isn't a slight on Tim in the least bit though, his products are excellent and top-notch quality, but it's not like he has an entire team of QA people to test all the different scenarios.

 

I too use pin headers for my installations so it will be no big deal to reverse the installation; bummer that I have to wait another 2 weeks but oh well.

 

In the mean time, here's some install-porn to keep you guys happy.

 

 

 

2600rgb-1.jpg

2600rgb-2.jpg

2600rgb-3.jpg

(the jumpers aren't soldered on the board on these pics but I did solder them before testing)

 

 

Edited by darcagn
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Thanks for the pics. Great idea using pin headers. Did you relocate the "tall" components to the bottom of the PCB or mount them horizontally?

 

I socketed the TIA on a JR board in preparation for the upgrade. I also have a 4 switch board ready to go. Still debating which to upgrade.

 

 

 

I would suggest to wait personally. I got too excited and stubbornly installed mine and I can't get it to start up. Tried a variety of games, but I just get a blank black screen out of all of the inputs. The XRGB-mini sees it as input, it's just black. No audio either. And I know all the connections on the TIA and sockets are fine because the RF output still works fine, and I know all the connections for the video are fine because composite, s-video, and RGB all get an input/sync light on the XRGB-mini, indicating there's a signal, just no picture.

 

I know it seems unlikely that it affects a ton of boards and scenarios given the testing, but then again during the second manufacturing run of the NESRGB Tim selected RAM for the board with a slightly different timing, and it bugged out a massive amount of NES games from working properly, and it was only discovered after shipment. I was really puzzled as to how that slipped through because it was pretty obvious. This isn't a slight on Tim in the least bit though, his products are excellent and top-notch quality, but it's not like he has an entire team of QA people to test all the different scenarios.

 

I too use pin headers for my installations so it will be no big deal to reverse the installation; bummer that I have to wait another 2 weeks but oh well.

 

In the mean time, here's some install-porn to keep you guys happy.

 

 

 

2600rgb-1.jpg

2600rgb-2.jpg

2600rgb-3.jpg

(the jumpers aren't soldered on the board on these pics but I did solder them before testing)

 

 

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Thanks for the pics. Great idea using pin headers. Did you relocate the "tall" components to the bottom of the PCB or mount them horizontally?

 

I socketed the TIA on a JR board in preparation for the upgrade. I also have a 4 switch board ready to go. Still debating which to upgrade.

 

 

 

 

I mounted them horizontally so that I could keep the shielding on the bottom of the motherboard. I had to horizontally mount a crystal, the orange coil, and a capacitor.

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And my 2600RGB kit showed up today. I ordered August 1st, it shipped on August 4th and was delivered to me in the US on August 17th. However, this unit has a startup bug and a replacement was supposedly shipped on 14th. Another two weeks to wait.

 

I may try installing this one until the fixed unit arrives. I was planning on using pin headers anyway so swapping it out should be easy. I wish there were more details on the "startup bug". I would guess the issue is intermittent since it wasn't caught until after shipping. If it's just that the 2600RGB occasionally doesn't initialize properly on power up and you need to restart the console to get it going, I could live with that temporarily.

 

 

You can try installing it if you can't wait, just be aware that the replacement board does not come with any other parts from the kit.

 

The bug is related to the clocking system. During the start up process the main clock is switched from the internal RC oscillator to the PLL. The original software had a timeout on the PLL. If it did not lock within a certain period of time it would got to an error handler which was just an infinite loop. It was hidden in some library code so I didn't know about it previously. I don't recommend using the buggy version in a permanent installation because it relies on the speed of the Atari's oscillator start up and this can change with factors like temperature. The most obvious sign that you are seeing this bug is the LED on the 2600RGB board doesn't blink when the power is switched on. Normally it blinks once for a NTSC console, twice for a PAL console.

 

Anyway, if it doesn't start you can get it going with a manual reset. There is a 5 pin programming header (at least plated holes for one) next to JP2. Pin 1 is marked with a circle. Switch the Atari on, then momentarily short pins 2 and 3 with something conductive. The 2600RGB board should now start and blink the LED. You will need to press reset on the Atari to reinitialise the game so the colours are correct. A few games won't work properly this way. For example Ms Pacman only draws the maze once at power up, not on reset.

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Fantastic! Shorting those two pins did indeed work (and actually worked for Ms. Pac-Man as well, though there were some weird lines on the side of the screen).

 

Here's a screenshot of Space Invaders over RGB -> XRGB-mini -> 720p HDMI to elgato Game Capture HD.

 

Will take some more screenshots and footage soon.

 

 

 

spaceinvaders-rgb-1.png

 

 

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Video footage: Pitfall (XRGB-mini 720p via RGB)

 

Video footage: Harmony Encore main menu, Pole Position (XRGB-mini 720p via RGB)

 

Images, all through XRGB-mini at 720p:

 

Pitfall (palette 1) via RGB

 

pitfall-rgb-1.png

 

 

Pitfall (palette 2) via RGB

 

pitfall-rgb-2.png

 

 

Pitfall (palette 3) via RGB

 

pitfall-rgb-3.png

 

 

Pitfall (palette 2) via Composite

 

pitfall-cvbs-2.png

 

 

Pitfall (palette 2) via S-Video

 

pitfall-svid-2.png

 

 

Comparison image:

comparison.png

Edited by darcagn
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Images, all through XRGB-mini at 720p:

 

Which one is the default palette? Your first image seems very green.

 

Also RGB is dimmer on your Pitfall Harry comparison pic, do you know why?

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Palette 1 is the default palette, but palette 2 definitely looks a whole lot better in Pitfall.

 

As for the dimness of the RGB picture, I'm not sure the reason. I reset my XRGB-mini to factory settings in case I adjusted the picture and it still appears different. At the moment I don't have a cable made up to hook it up to my CRT monitor so I don't have another way to test the picture at the moment.

 

Here's some more palette comparison pics:

 

Dig Dug

 

 

digdug-rgb-1.png

digdug-rgb-2.png

digdug-rgb-3.png

 

 

 

Custer's Revenge

 

 

custers-rgb-1.png

custers-rgb-2.png

custers-rgb-3.png

 

 

 

Frogger

 

 

frogger-rgb-1.png

frogger-rgb-2.png

frogger-rgb-3.png

 

 

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Wow, that RGB output looks amazing! Now i'm really thinking of getting this mod! It looks so crystal clear, even compared to S-video.

 

Can you show us the actual connections that you're using? What cable?

Edited by spawnshop

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Looks like it has some problems with interleaved graphics. It seems like every 2nd frame is omitted.

 

But then all other games will probably also only display with 30Hz.

 

Or is that YouTube?

Edited by Thomas Jentzsch

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For us that love scan lines, what is your impression of this mod with XRGB-mini's scan lines?

Does turning on scan lines look better in 720 or 1080?

Very interested in your observations!

 

I'm most interested in having an LCD tv look like Atari 2600 gaming on a good CRT, not like an emulator.

Think I can get that with this mod's RGB or S-video to XRGB-mini with scanlines?

 

My opinion is that some game are improved by having an emulator-like clear picture, and other games are improved by having an artifacted, blurry scan line picture.

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Looks like it has some problems with interleaved graphics. It seems like every 2nd frame is omitted.

 

But then all other games will probably also only display with 30Hz.

 

Or is that YouTube?

 

What that looks like to me is a deinterlacer gaining and losing lock. It may be the particular deinterlacer mode on the xrgb-mini he was using. We'll have to see with more testing.

 

Overall these screen shots look great. I'm most surprised by the brightness delta between s-video/composite and RGB. I'm pretty certain my NESRGB doesn't do that. I wonder if it's an xrgb-mini setting too, though darcagn did state he did a settings reset on the xrgb.

 

Since we've got a way to jump start the "startup bug" boards, I may have to install mine and join the fun.

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Looks like it has some problems with interleaved graphics. It seems like every 2nd frame is omitted.

 

But then all other games will probably also only display with 30Hz.

 

Or is that YouTube?

There is a quality that says 720p60 on YouTube, he even mentions it in the description.

Then it plays back as it was captured.

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I'm a bit concerned by the palettes now, after comparing your pictures with Stella and my own Pitfall on my RF console.

The palette 1 seems identical to Stella's palette. Your screenshot is like NTSC Pitfall and Tim's screenshot is like PAL Pitfall. I thought that Pitfall was too green simply because I'm used to PAL Pitfall, where the floor is like sand and the bark is dark brown.The palette 2 looks like PAL Pitfall in that sense, even though the cart is NTSC (NTSC cart in a PAL console has blue trees and grey floor, so you didn't load the PAL palettes by mistake.)

Palette 1 seems accurate in terms of hue to my console. The tone, however, is much lighter than my real console. If I compare Tim's to the poorly screenshot I just took, you can see the differences. (PAL games)

pitfall_stella.jpg


nZlASqO.jpg


(My screen should also be much brighter / vivid, but you get the idea)

The megadrive also outputs super bright RGB that needs to be dimmed with a 75ohm resistor and a 220µF cap for each colour pin to get the correct brightness and colours. I wonder if the same is happening here?

mega2.png

 

I do have Megadrive cables with and without the resistors and capacitors, and I'm planning to install a 9pin mini-din on the 2600, so I guess I will be able to test it myself. But not before something like two months as I'm modding a 2600Jr and Tim has yet to have adapter boards for this model.

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Looks like it has some problems with interleaved graphics. It seems like every 2nd frame is omitted.

 

But then all other games will probably also only display with 30Hz.

 

Or is that YouTube?

It's YouTube; you were probably viewing in 480p30. My pop-up notice says to view in 720p60 mode, so that you can see the interleaved graphics.

 

Once you view in 720p60, the Harmony's menu looks incredibly legible via RGB, unlike viewing in RF where I have to strain my eyes to see what the heck is going on.

 

 

 

As for my RGB cable, I'm using a straight through 3' mini-DIN 8 to mini-DIN 8 cable from the 2600 to the XRGB-mini's RGB-in port, with a separate phono cable for the audio that splits with a y-cable to the front inputs of the XRGB-mini. I haven't gotten around to making a better cable yet that's long so for right now I have to sit right in front of the TV to test it.

Edited by darcagn

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My opinion is that some game are improved by having an emulator-like clear picture, and other games are improved by having an artifacted, blurry scan line picture.

Yes. I also like to have a little unsharpness in retro gaming-graphics. A little blur, similar to things like antialias- or bilinear-filtering in the emulators. When the pixels can be seen to sharp, sometimes it looks a little bit like a puzzle. And also i think, that programmers of retro-games play with the little blur-effect, that tube-TV`s had back then, when they included color-gradients in games. Such gradients only work completely good for the human eye, when there is a little blurring, because only then, the colors can really flow into each other. This dont work like it should, when the picture is to sharp.

 

On modern games, this is vice versa. There the users want a totally sharp picture, because you can not see the very small pixels at all.

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I didn't demonstrate scanlines in my pictures or video, but they do look good on Atari games. A lot of people don't like scanlines, but I'm of the opinion that they work great on some games and other games they don't (in general, not just on Atari). They provide a certain "textured" feeling to the image that really helps benefit when you have such a sharp picture. The nice thing about the XRGB-mini though is the ability to tweak the image processing in a variety of ways that can help soften or sharpen the image to your liking. I prefer a super sharp picture, myself, but on some games I like to complement the sharp picture with scanlines to ease the abrasiveness of the sharpness.

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