My venture into CRT gaming

13. May 2019 12:44 by Cameron in gaming, SNES  //  Tags: , , , ,   //   Comments

Let me preface this by saying that getting into CRT gaming is not a cheap endeavor. If you go all RGB, you either need to mod the systems that don't support RGB or buy them already modded. Additionally, monitors are becoming higher demand and people aren't letting go of them as easily so expect higher prices in the coming years.

I recently started following the CRT gaming sub-Reddit and subsequently, I've begun acquiring various CRT displays. My first CRT was a Sony PVM-14M2U (14" RGB monitor) which I held onto for a few months before getting my Olympus OEV203 ex-medical 20" RGB monitor. Shortly after getting my original PVM, I wanted a bigger screen and ultimately found a 27" Sony Trinitron consumer TV which has component, S-Video, and composite inputs. The next monitor I found is an Amdek 310A which is an amber monochrome 12" monitor that works with the MDA/Hercules standard from vintage IBM PCs. Lastly, I picked up a Gateway 2000 15" Vivitron for retro 90's Windows gaming.

You may be wondering, you have all the monitors, but what about systems to connect them with? Well, I have you covered there! I invested in a 6 way SCART/Component switch to handle multiple consoles going to my PVM and 27" Trinitron. I have the following systems connected via this switch:

  • Super Nintendo
  • Nintendo N64
  • PS1
  • Sega Genesis
  • Sega Saturn
  • Sega Dreamcast
Note: I have an NES that I plan to RGB mod, but I haven't had the time to do this yet.
 
I have all of my RGB systems routed through a sync strike in order to record/stream from my Startech USB3HDCap capture card. For those unfamiliar with a sync strike, this device takes any sync signal and produces a CSYNC signal for either a monitor or a capture device. Some of the systems in my setup are sync on Luma (PS1 and N64 I think) so this was necessary for allowing captures. On the other end sync strike, I have a VGA distribution amplifier which I use to split the signal between my PVM (VGA to 4 BNC breakout cable) and my capture card.
 
I also have a Wii, GameCube, Original Xbox, and PS2, but these are not connected via RGB. All but my GameCube are component. The official GameCube component cables are too expensive so I went with S-Video.
 
For my retro computing, I have an old Compaq Deskpro 4000 with the following specs:
  • Pentium 233MMX
  • 256MB of RAM
  • 32GB storage with SD to IDE adapter (I left the original 2GB HDD in there since Compaqs are hard to change drives)
  • 48X IDE CD Drive
  • S3 Virge 2MB PCI graphics card
  • Creative SB Live SB0060
  • Hercules compatible ISA graphics card for monochrome displays
  • 2GB internal Jaz drive with PCI SCSI adapter
  • Windows 98 SE (DOS 7.1)
I have a few classic games installed at the moment such as Roller Coaster Tycoon Deluxe, Age of Empires 2, and Sim City 2000.
 
I don't know how much longer these tubes will last due to some of the longer hours on some of these. When seeking out equipment, I recommend going for Sony Trinitron or equivalent. In the case of my Gateway Vivitron SVGA monitor, it is a rebranded Sony Trinitron. Dell had some monitors that were rebranded Trinitrons also. Olympus is a rebranded Sony PVM so that's also a good alternative. For consumer sets, if you can find a Trinitron, go for it. The aperture grill vs. shadow mask makes a big difference in image quality in my opinion. You will be fine with many other sets out there too. Just be sure to check if it has component or S-Video inputs and that will be incredibly better than composite video. That being said, I am impressed with Sony's comb filter on composite video with my consumer set. Flat Trinitrons tend to have geometry issues due to CRTs not being designed for flat screens. Your mileage may vary, but the thing to remember is to test the screen before buying and buy local when possible. Lastly, if the seller is asking a ton of money for the screen, try to talk them down. Many Goodwills still have CRTs that you can find locally and you can check Craigslist, eBay, and the CRT gaming subreddit for local listings.
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