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Skippy B. Coyote

Best way to play Atari 2600 games on a modern TV?

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For pretty much as long as I've been into retro gaming, which has been about a decade now, I've always played Atari games using mostly original hardware (A Light Sixer system with a Harmony Encore cart on a couple different Sony Trinitron CRT TVs) but my living circumstances are changing and space is at a premium, so I'm having to switch to doing all my gaming on a modern HDTV. 

 

Playing most of the systems I like on an HDTV is pretty straightforward. Get an Analogue Mega SG for Sega Genesis games and a Super NT for SNES games, a Retro USB AVS for NES games, and so on. The one enigma for me has been what to do about the Atari 2600, since there's no easy plug and play FPGA based Atari 2600 system available that I know of and I would definitely like to retain the ability to play original cartridges I've collected over the years.

 

So, I was just wondering what my best options are? Are there any HDMI modifications available for my Light Sixer that would give it a good 1080p or 720p upscaled picture while retaining near 100% game compatibility? Or do I go the emulation route with something like the Retron 77 and try to wrap my head around the convoluted mess of cables that seem to be required just to use paddle controllers on it? I'd sure like to be able to continue to use my Harmony Encore cart on whatever system I end up with, so maybe a Retron 77 wouldn't be a good idea.

 

In any case, I'd sure appreciate any advice on what my best options for playing Atari on my modern TV are in terms of picture quality and game compatibility!

 

 

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2 hours ago, hizzy said:

Is there an RF connection on the back of the TV?

 

There is, but connecting my Light Sixer directly to the TV's coaxial port with a RCA to coaxial adapter yields a pretty terrible picture with muddied colors so the system is definitely going to need some sort of video output modification if I want to use it on a modern TV. 

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2 minutes ago, Skippy B. Coyote said:

 

There is, but connecting my Light Sixer directly to the TV's coaxial port with a RCA to coaxial adapter yields a pretty terrible picture with muddied colors so the system is definitely going to need some sort of video output modification if I want to use it on a modern TV. 

I've had great success with my RF port. It's not as sharp as emulation but it is pretty good. I wonder what's up.

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9 minutes ago, hizzy said:

I've had great success with my RF port. It's not as sharp as emulation but it is pretty good. I wonder what's up.

 

I don't think there's anything wrong with the system, since it looks sharp as a tack with bright vibrant colors on my old Sony WEGA Trinitron KV-20FS120 CRT TV that I'm going to be having to get rid of soon, I think I just have high standards for visual quality that plugging the 2600 directly into a modern TV doesn't live up to :lol:

 

At this point I'm looking at possibly trying to find someone to install an RGB mod board (https://etim.net.au/shop/shop.php?crn=207&rn=553&action=show_detail) with component output then running it through a RetroTINK 5X-Pro to convert component to HDMI and upscale the video signal from 240p to 1080p without latency, but hoo boy that would be an expensive and complicated undertaking so I'm definitely open to other options.

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26 minutes ago, Skippy B. Coyote said:

 

I don't think there's anything wrong with the system, since it looks sharp as a tack with bright vibrant colors on my old Sony WEGA Trinitron KV-20FS120 CRT TV that I'm going to be having to get rid of soon, I think I just have high standards for visual quality that plugging the 2600 directly into a modern TV doesn't live up to :lol:

 

At this point I'm looking at possibly trying to find someone to install an RGB mod board (https://etim.net.au/shop/shop.php?crn=207&rn=553&action=show_detail) with component output then running it through a RetroTINK 5X-Pro to convert component to HDMI and upscale the video signal from 240p to 1080p without latency, but hoo boy that would be an expensive and complicated undertaking so I'm definitely open to other options.

If you are going to use a Tink5x then s-video is likely good enough in the case of the 2600 for the cost. Well, I say that, the Tink5x is expensive but a even the older Tink2x mini or classic will work well here and pair that with a UAV installed.

 

That would be the cheapest solution that if you then decided you needed something better after that, you could have the UAV removed and the RGB kit installed. The RGB would still be able to use the composite and s-video you would have installed and go from there.

 

Be advised that the current RGB upgrade will require a secondary daughterboard to be purchased that is also installed to get you YUV (component) outputs which further adds to the cost.

 

But to answer your immediate question and need. I think a UAV with a Tink2x will get you where you want to go and allow for better in the future if you felt you really needed it.

 

 

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1 hour ago, -^CrossBow^- said:

If you are going to use a Tink5x then s-video is likely good enough in the case of the 2600 for the cost. Well, I say that, the Tink5x is expensive but a even the older Tink2x mini or classic will work well here and pair that with a UAV installed.

 

That would be the cheapest solution that if you then decided you needed something better after that, you could have the UAV removed and the RGB kit installed. The RGB would still be able to use the composite and s-video you would have installed and go from there.

 

Be advised that the current RGB upgrade will require a secondary daughterboard to be purchased that is also installed to get you YUV (component) outputs which further adds to the cost.

 

But to answer your immediate question and need. I think a UAV with a Tink2x will get you where you want to go and allow for better in the future if you felt you really needed it.

 

 

 

 

Thank you so much for the advice CrossBow! Getting my Light Sixer modded with the UAV (and I'm assuming S-Video output?) and running it through a RetroTINK 2X Mini would be a heck of a lot easier on the wallet than an RGB mod, component output board, and RetroTINK 5X Pro; that's for darn sure. I'm guessing the video quality would be plenty fine for Atari 2600 games too.

 

I did still have a couple questions though! I was wondering if you've run into any game or peripheral compatibility issues with the UAV + RetroTINK combo? Any games that use weird interlacing methods that the TINK black screens on or any issues with peripherals like the Harmony Encore cart, paddle controllers, or CX-80 Trak-Ball? I really love playing all the trackball hacks on my Harmony Encore cart so that's the main thing I wanted to make sure would still work correctly.

 

The only other thing I was wondering is if you had any suggestions for who to have install the UAV in my Light Sixer? I looked over the installation manual and I just don't think my soldering skills are up to snuff for a job of this complexity, and I really don't trust myself to drill new video output ports in the back of the system without cracking the plastic, so I'll definitely want to find someone who knows what they're doing to install it.

 

Thanks again for the helpful advice! :)

 

Edited by Skippy B. Coyote

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Well unfortunately, all of the current AV upgrades methods when ran through most of the scaler devices will have issues with those games that don't conform to the proper scanline counts in places. But it will vary from TV to TV and scaler device used. That has been documented before here in these forums but here are a few games that give issues pretty much on everything except for a CRT:

 

- Starmaster - Not sure the exact issues on this but I think the screen blanks out all the time making it unplayable?

- Empire Strikes Back - When you take down an AT-AT the screen will blank out for a few seconds

- Battlezone - On some TVs the actual movement of the tank will cause the entire screen to jitter up and down. But only when the tank is moving

- Buck Rogers - Title screen might blank out or in my case it actually has infinite vertical scroll issues. But only on the title screen, game play is fine.

- Moon Patrol - The title screen is known to blank out and not be visible with some combinations.

 

Just to name a few and I know there are some more with odd issues. But again, this is likely to happen with any AV upgrade regardless. I personally only have issues with the game Buck Rogers and none of the other games give me any problems. I have a UAV in my 7800 but I have it running through more expensive equipment before it gets to my TV via HDMI. It would seem that my Extron is able to handle these odd scanline programming issues with most of these problematic 2600 games with the exception of Buck Rogers which, I rarely play anyway. I've also been told that using the triple buffer mode in the much more expensive Tink5x does help with most of these problem games. 

 

Having said all of this, it really depends on the scaler you are using and how your TV handles the signals from the scaler. Some people report that when using a Tink2x device it might only flicker for them when others will report their screen going completely blank and taking a second or two to come back. So there really isn't anyway to know for sure exactly how it will respond in those certain circumstances on your particular setup. But I think most here that have UAVs in their consoles will tell you that they either don't play most of those problem games either, or they might play them on a different TV but I don't think any of them have really wanted to go back to just using RF only once they have seen the improved clarity of an AV upgrade. 

 

One really nice thing about the UAV is that it doesn't require having to remove anything to use it. So you can keep the RF intact and working when using the UAV in most cases. I think only the later revision 2600 systems require having to disable one resistor or connection that causes over saturation of the colors on the UAV output. I've installed the UAV in a few 2600 systems now and haven't had to disable anything in the system so the RF was still fully working in addition to the UAV outputs.

 

I apologize for the length of this reply but I wanted to make sure to try and answer your questions and hopefully it provides answers for others that might have been asking the same.

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45 minutes ago, -^CrossBow^- said:

Well unfortunately, all of the current AV upgrades methods when ran through most of the scaler devices will have issues with those games that don't conform to the proper scanline counts in places. But it will vary from TV to TV and scaler device used. That has been documented before here in these forums but here are a few games that give issues pretty much on everything except for a CRT:

 

- Starmaster - Not sure the exact issues on this but I think the screen blanks out all the time making it unplayable?

- Empire Strikes Back - When you take down an AT-AT the screen will blank out for a few seconds

- Battlezone - On some TVs the actual movement of the tank will cause the entire screen to jitter up and down. But only when the tank is moving

- Buck Rogers - Title screen might blank out or in my case it actually has infinite vertical scroll issues. But only on the title screen, game play is fine.

- Moon Patrol - The title screen is known to blank out and not be visible with some combinations.

 

Just to name a few and I know there are some more with odd issues. But again, this is likely to happen with any AV upgrade regardless. I personally only have issues with the game Buck Rogers and none of the other games give me any problems. I have a UAV in my 7800 but I have it running through more expensive equipment before it gets to my TV via HDMI. It would seem that my Extron is able to handle these odd scanline programming issues with most of these problematic 2600 games with the exception of Buck Rogers which, I rarely play anyway. I've also been told that using the triple buffer mode in the much more expensive Tink5x does help with most of these problem games. 

 

Having said all of this, it really depends on the scaler you are using and how your TV handles the signals from the scaler. Some people report that when using a Tink2x device it might only flicker for them when others will report their screen going completely blank and taking a second or two to come back. So there really isn't anyway to know for sure exactly how it will respond in those certain circumstances on your particular setup. But I think most here that have UAVs in their consoles will tell you that they either don't play most of those problem games either, or they might play them on a different TV but I don't think any of them have really wanted to go back to just using RF only once they have seen the improved clarity of an AV upgrade. 

 

One really nice thing about the UAV is that it doesn't require having to remove anything to use it. So you can keep the RF intact and working when using the UAV in most cases. I think only the later revision 2600 systems require having to disable one resistor or connection that causes over saturation of the colors on the UAV output. I've installed the UAV in a few 2600 systems now and haven't had to disable anything in the system so the RF was still fully working in addition to the UAV outputs.

 

I apologize for the length of this reply but I wanted to make sure to try and answer your questions and hopefully it provides answers for others that might have been asking the same.

 

No apologies needed, more information is always better and I appreciate you taking the time to type it all out! I watched a variety of YouTube videos on Atari video mods and scaler combinations and honestly I think I might just bite the bullet and go with the RGB mod installed by 1Up Restorations (https://1uprestorations.com/collections/atari-mods/products/atari-2600-rgb-install?variant=35845310578848) coupled with an appropriate RGB SCART cable (https://www.retrogamingcables.co.uk/8PIN-MINI-DIN-TO-RGB-EUROSCART-TIM-WORTHINGTON-NES-RGB-ATARI-2600-HAS-SUPERGUN-Sega-Game-Gear-Philips-CDi-Colecovision-Intellivision-Panasonic-3DO) then run it through the RetroTINK 5X Pro to get the sharpest picture with the most vibrant colors and avoid the flickering and dropped signal problems present in many other combinations.

 

It would be around $560 altogether, which feels kind of absurd, but I'm taking the "Buy once, cry once" approach to make sure I'll be happy with what I get the first time around. It's just a darn shame that Analogue hasn't made and doesn't seem to have any plans to make an FPGA Atari 2600 system, since I'd be all over a $200 plug and play 1080p HDMI equipped Atari 2600, but alas Atari just doesn't seem to be popular enough for them to want to do it.

 

The Atari 2600 core on the MiSTer seems to be pretty wonky too, and the Retron 77 is just loaded with game and peripheral incompatibilities, which kinda leaves spending a small fortune on original hardware mods, cables, and upscalers the only real practical option for playing Atari 2600 on a modern TV with near 100% game compatibility; and I definitely loves me some Starmaster and Moon Patrol lol

Edited by Skippy B. Coyote

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As an alternative (and cheaper) approach, if you want to try to stick with RF:

  • Get a better RF cable from Blue Jeans Cable (Belden 1505A).
  • Turn off your HDTV's image processing "features" like noise reduction, motion smoothing, etc. It all makes interlaced video look terrible.
  • And if you have a composite video input on your TV, get an RF demodulator/tuner (like a Sony TU-1041U, which you can find all over eBay).

It won't be as crisp as a mod, but RF can look really good if done properly. And it will be a lot cheaper and easier to implement.

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RE Modded consoles on new TVs: Keep in mind that you might get some screen roll. Others can explain it better, but it has to do with the number of scanlines on new displays. You don't get that with RF.

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2 hours ago, hizzy said:

RE Modded consoles on new TVs: Keep in mind that you might get some screen roll. Others can explain it better, but it has to do with the number of scanlines on new displays. You don't get that with RF.

Yeah, I mentioned that in detail few posts up. But even on RF you might still have this issue. As an example, on my main display in the game room, all Intellivision systems through RF look really good, but they exhibit a constant bouncing screen that jitters up and down. That is one example I can think of where the RF still exhibited issues. It has more to do with the lack of tolerances present on more modern displays.

 

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On 10/13/2021 at 1:53 PM, Nathan Strum said:

As an alternative (and cheaper) approach, if you want to try to stick with RF:

  • Get a better RF cable from Blue Jeans Cable (Belden 1505A).
  • Turn off your HDTV's image processing "features" like noise reduction, motion smoothing, etc. It all makes interlaced video look terrible.
  • And if you have a composite video input on your TV, get an RF demodulator/tuner (like a Sony TU-1041U, which you can find all over eBay).

It won't be as crisp as a mod, but RF can look really good if done properly. And it will be a lot cheaper and easier to implement.

 

I'd definitely be willing to give it a try, though I'm a bit confused about how to install the Belden 1505A cable in the Atari 2600. It looks like it comes with coaxial connectors on both ends but inside the Atari the RF cable connects with an RCA plug in a pretty darn tight space, so is there a compact female coaxial to male RCA adapter you'd recommend for connecting the cable inside the system or can I order the Belden 1505A cable with a male coaxial connector on one end and a male RCA connector on the other?

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On 10/13/2021 at 1:53 PM, Nathan Strum said:

As an alternative (and cheaper) approach, if you want to try to stick with RF:

  • Get a better RF cable from Blue Jeans Cable (Belden 1505A).
  • Turn off your HDTV's image processing "features" like noise reduction, motion smoothing, etc. It all makes interlaced video look terrible.
  • And if you have a composite video input on your TV, get an RF demodulator/tuner (like a Sony TU-1041U, which you can find all over eBay).

It won't be as crisp as a mod, but RF can look really good if done properly. And it will be a lot cheaper and easier to implement.

These were going to be my suggestions.  Another option would be the Flashback 9 which I think is the one with HDMI and the SD card slot.  I think they can be had pretty cheaply.  Atari Flashback 9 - Electronic Games 818858029636 | eBay

 

I've sorta soured on modding systems because there's always some drawback.  You'll get a CRT again some day, just work around with one of these choices until then.  I wish I was close enough to you to pick up your WEGA!

 

 

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17 hours ago, wongojack said:

These were going to be my suggestions.  Another option would be the Flashback 9 which I think is the one with HDMI and the SD card slot.  I think they can be had pretty cheaply.  Atari Flashback 9 - Electronic Games 818858029636 | eBay

 

I've sorta soured on modding systems because there's always some drawback.  You'll get a CRT again some day, just work around with one of these choices until then.  I wish I was close enough to you to pick up your WEGA!

 

 

 

That's an excellent suggestion and one I hadn't considered! After doing some reading it seems like the Flashback 9 is pretty easy to soft mod to load whatever you want via the SD cart slot, and standard paddle controller functionality can be enabled with a simple 4 resistor soldering job. No idea whether it'll play the trackball hacks, but for $40 to $50 or so it definitely seems like an affordable and straightforward way to try playing Atari 2600 games on a modern TV.

 

Out of curiosity, last night I hooked up my 2600 to my modern TV (A 1080p Sony Vizio) but even after spending an hour fiddling with all the TVs picture settings to get it looking as nice as I could over RF the picture was just too soft and fuzzy for my liking; so I think either emulation or expensive hardware mods are going to be the way to go for me. I'll give the Flashback 9 a try first though, since it's going to be about 1/10th the cost of a top end hardware mod setup and might be able to give me the sharp cleanly defined picture I'm after :)

 

Edited by Skippy B. Coyote
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I didn't want to start a new thread for this related question, so...  I am now a "new" owner of a 2600 "Vader" model.  (I had a six-switcher YEARS ago).

 

Anyhoo, ALL of my chips are soldered in.  And I don't even want to try removing them, too many pins.   But is there any S-Video mod available that can be installed without removing any chips?  I think the answer is no, but I am not sure.  I'd prefer S-Video over composite, but not if major surgery is required.

 

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On 10/12/2021 at 2:45 PM, Skippy B. Coyote said:

 

There is, but connecting my Light Sixer directly to the TV's coaxial port with a RCA to coaxial adapter yields a pretty terrible picture with muddied colors so the system is definitely going to need some sort of video output modification if I want to use it on a modern TV. 

You'll need a Game/TV switchbox to block the RF interference (with a coxial output) or use a TV cable from an Atari 8-bit computer that has a box containing a fermite iron ring.

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All the converter options mentioned here are clever. Personally, I’m not fond of the old cartridges even though I still hold on to my old collection for some reason. Emulation was fine until I played on a real system for the first time in years and felt the absence of lag. Now when I play old Atari games, I favor the jailbreak firmware from the NT Mini Noir. It was expensive, and cartridges and paddles are not supported, but it’s sweet. 

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On 10/14/2021 at 6:23 PM, Skippy B. Coyote said:

I'd definitely be willing to give it a try, though I'm a bit confused about how to install the Belden 1505A cable in the Atari 2600. It looks like it comes with coaxial connectors on both ends but inside the Atari the RF cable connects with an RCA plug in a pretty darn tight space, so is there a compact female coaxial to male RCA adapter you'd recommend for connecting the cable inside the system or can I order the Belden 1505A cable with a male coaxial connector on one end and a male RCA connector on the other?

I'm pretty sure Blue Jeans Cable will custom-make the cable with whatever ends you'd like. Depending on the space inside your 2600, you may still need a right-angle RCA adapter to make it fit. If you post pictures, that would help.

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On 10/15/2021 at 1:31 PM, Skippy B. Coyote said:

Out of curiosity, last night I hooked up my 2600 to my modern TV (A 1080p Sony Vizio) but even after spending an hour fiddling with all the TVs picture settings to get it looking as nice as I could over RF the picture was just too soft and fuzzy for my liking; so I think either emulation or expensive hardware mods are going to be the way to go for me. I'll give the Flashback 9 a try first though, since it's going to be about 1/10th the cost of a top end hardware mod setup and might be able to give me the sharp cleanly defined picture I'm after :)

I really like the RetroN 77 with the community build of Stella. The devs continue to update and improve it, and it will play nearly everything. The current models are a gaudy orange color, but it's nothing a little spray paint can't fix. ;) 

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1 hour ago, Nathan Strum said:

I really like the RetroN 77 with the community build of Stella. The devs continue to update and improve it, and it will play nearly everything. The current models are a gaudy orange color, but it's nothing a little spray paint can't fix. ;) 

Been on the fence forever, but you sold me.  I just purchased an original Retron77.  Now I'll need to familiarize myself with how to install the community build of Stella.  It appears that build 6.5.3 is the latest. 

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On 10/16/2021 at 4:06 AM, glurk said:

Anyhoo, ALL of my chips are soldered in.  And I don't even want to try removing them, too many pins.   But is there any S-Video mod available that can be installed without removing any chips?  I think the answer is no, but I am not sure.  I'd prefer S-Video over composite, but not if major surgery is required.

Yeap there is. The UAV doesn't require any of the IC chips or even any components to be removed to use it. It does require soldering in a few wires from various points on the system board to the UAV board, but it provides good composite and really good s-video output.

 

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On 10/18/2021 at 12:53 AM, -^CrossBow^- said:

Yeap there is. The UAV doesn't require any of the IC chips or even any components to be removed to use it. It does require soldering in a few wires from various points on the system board to the UAV board, but it provides good composite and really good s-video output.

 

Thanks for the tip on this.  I ordered one and JUST TODAY installed it.  Really good composite, and FANTASTIC S-Video in my opinion.

 

I had the 2600 prepped ahead of time, with a power LED, the "stereo" mod, the output jacks installed, and a ribbon cable soldered to the TIA pins.  That part was not too bad.

 

But the UAV was a PAIN - for me anyways.  I knew it was small, but my gosh, more like microscopic.  My poor old eyes are not made for this.

 

Warning to old folks, this thing is TINY and you'll need a very fine tip soldering iron, nerves of steel, and it requires soldering next to really small SMD components for the header block thing.  I got it done, and it works, but I hope I never ever have to take the thing apart again!! 

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4 hours ago, glurk said:

Thanks for the tip on this.  I ordered one and JUST TODAY installed it.  Really good composite, and FANTASTIC S-Video in my opinion.

 

I had the 2600 prepped ahead of time, with a power LED, the "stereo" mod, the output jacks installed, and a ribbon cable soldered to the TIA pins.  That part was not too bad.

 

But the UAV was a PAIN - for me anyways.  I knew it was small, but my gosh, more like microscopic.  My poor old eyes are not made for this.

 

Warning to old folks, this thing is TINY and you'll need a very fine tip soldering iron, nerves of steel, and it requires soldering next to really small SMD components for the header block thing.  I got it done, and it works, but I hope I never ever have to take the thing apart again!! 

Yeah I use a head mounted magnifier and came up with a trick on the wiring. I basically tin each wire and cut them to the lengths I pretty much need already which, that is standard fair. But I also go ahead and pre tin each of the vias that the wires go to. This way, when I'm ready to attach the wire I just place my iron on the middle of the via that already has some solder in it, and then when it melts I just slide the iron back a tiny bit and press the tinned end of the wire into the via. No additional solder is usually require doing it this way.

 

On the terminal block, (I only use that in 5200 installs really), I find it easier to just get the far left Ground soldered first and then I use some liquid flux over the remaining pins and place my iron basically straight down along side the pins and apply the solder that way. If you do this a certain angle it does help and it also helps that if you are right handed like I am, that you actually solder starting from the left and them move right. This way you aren't as likely to bridge anything since the next pin to the right hasn't been soldered yet and so you have a bit more room to work.

 

Then again, I'm likely just used to working on the UAV at this point?

 

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