Open Source Scan Converter (Kaico Edition) – REVIEW
I still remember when I first came into possession of a high definition television in 2006. At the time the technology was still unripe, but the cathode ray tube screens began to be seen by the general public as a burden, both ideally and physically. The generational change was therefore at the door: a new technology would have replaced the old one, bringing with it strengths and weaknesses. If this in itself was not a big problem for PC users and movie and sports aficionados, it became so for those interested in using their old consoles not equipped with the HDMI standard.
Since the ’70s every game was made taking into account the screens present inside our homes. The old CRTs carried out their work in an analogue environment which, combined with the 4: 3 image ratio, the supported video cables and the overscan technique (an image zoom to fill the whole screen) gave life to the bases for creating a video game. The much loved-and-hated “CRT filter” was nothing more than the end result of how an image was generated: one scan line at a time. In essence, each game was developed taking into account these constraints and, in some cases, using them for some tricks.
With the advent of the digital age all this reasoning behind game development has been lost, as it is no longer necessary. Others have become priorities for developers, such as image quality, colours or the introduction of HDR. Video games of the past, on the other hand, have been entrusted to emulation, sometimes with mixed results over the years. Connecting an old console to a new screen, although possible, was not an option to be seriously considered. I learned to realize it at my own expense already with our first HD Ready TV, connecting my consoles with the supplied cables and noticing that something was not as it was before. The image had a “I don’t know that strange” compared to the old CRT at home, yet I didn’t understand what. Truly, I began to get used to it, aware of the old age of the hardware in my possession. Only after several years did I understand the problem. Their resolution where possible was not supported but rather, converted to 480i (if the signal was international at 60 Hz) or 576i (if European to 50Hz) and then managed by the TV. A visual mess. We will talk about the matter again, but for the moment just think of these conversions in interlaced resolutions like an enlarged photocopy of a photograph.
A new challenger
Given this, each recent screen has led us to two choices for older consoles: relying on emulation or adapting. But today we have a solution to the problem, and it is the best way we can go, economically speaking, to play with native hardware: adapt it . Enter the Open Source Scan Converter (OSSC), a tool created by the community that will give new life to the video game consoles in our possession.
Born from the mind of the Finnish engineer Markus “marqs” Hiienkari as an answer to the expensive solutions on the market, the OSSC is an object apparently similar to many of its analogue converters of digital signals, but with a particularity: it is a double -liner. Its task is not to work with the finished image, but with the individual scan lines that make it up, in order to reach a higher final resolution, acceptable from the screen and pleasing to the eye. Based on the starting resolution it is possible to multiply a single line up to a maximum of five times. This for those who have been accustomed to emulation for years should not really be surprised, but it is the first time that a similar result is obtainable with their original consoles.
Given its origin, the OSSC is an open source product. Anyone can take the initial project and evolve it, making it not in fact a property of the single marqs or of a single manufacturer: you too can build it with the necessary skills! Still the hardware receives software updates, and others will arrive in the future. In our case we will review the unit sold by Kaico International, a company based in England that has recently started selling its branded version of the hardware. In itself the sold OSSC model is no different from what you might find in other shores. It is always the 1.6 version of the hardware, the last one currently released with HDMI output and digital audio support. In an old article published by VideoGamePerfection the Kaico model was considered a “bootleg” of the unit sold by them, but it is an inaccuracy. While following the same schematics (after all, it is open source) their unity is not inferior to others, far from it. Even Voultar, a famous engineer in the field, was able to analyze an old version of the unit in detail, noting how the build quality (as well as the presentation) was of excellent workmanship. Furthermore, the company is officially recognized by the same author,as can be seen in the dedicated Wiki.
Compared to its competitors, the model sold by Kaico has some not inconsiderable extras: first of all the possibility to buy it directly from Amazon (and thus enjoy their guarantee), and secondly the presence inside the packaging of several fundamental accessories to normal use of the device, sometimes sold separately. In fact, we can find a remote control to use the unit even remotely, a power supply with different electrical connections and a manual with some basic information for use. Given the ridiculously low cost, I would have liked to see at least one 3.5mm audio adapter included, in order to avoid an extra expense to use the sound compartment of my consoles connected in VGA or Component. They are also available separately for the purchase of coloured houses for the OSSC. The basic model includes only the matte black variant (which is still very classy).
Spending the last few weeks in the company of this double liner, I won’t deny it, guys, it was a pleasure to rediscover my old consoles in a new light. The final rendering on screen is unbelievable, especially for older hardware, and often this has done nothing but make the idea of recovering new games flash in my mind. Because what the OSSC does in the end is a direct connection between the console and the television: the information that passes on one side must reach the other, and does it well, adding among other things very little lag (almost zero) , but not to the point of breaking certain games. It must be made clear, however, that this powerful tool is aimed primarily at a niche of people, and not at those interested in connecting their console once thrown in the cellar. If your setup is composed of several gaming machines and related Scart RGB cables (attention: not the yellow-red-white cables), Component or VGA, then the OSSC is not only a useful purchase, but a far-sighted one. Furthermore, the screen used must also be taken into account. Apart from the initial introduction I have always avoided the term “TV” for this very reason. The OSSC, given the task it performs, could cause incompatibility in certain modes on certain televisions and a little less on computer monitors (more subject to particular resolutions and frequencies). In itself, however, compatibility is high, and in any case the actual yield will always be greater than the direct connection. You can find compatibility lists with various TV and monitor models on the market. The lists are constantly updated and, given the open source nature of the unit, we are trying to stem possible incompatibility problems where possible. The latest firmware at the time of writing, 0.84, has added a special mode for Panasonic products, but in general Samsung and Sony (or at least a good screen) are guarantees.
This review was produced by www.nintendoomed.it and written by Filippo ‘Flippoh’ Corso, thanks for the great review!
check out the rest of the review at: Nintendoomed Full Review on the Kaico Edition OSSC