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Mini review: Scart to HDMI 1080p scaler.

I’ve got a pretty big loot post coming up, but before that I want to share my experiences with one of those scart to HDMI upscalers in a little mini review of sorts.
If you’re interested in reading more about scalers & gaming, here’s a great site to check out!

You see, the CRT TV I’ve been using for retro gaming & LD watching isn’t actually all that great. It’s a big, chunky 32” widescreen Sony WEGA CRT that 99% percent of the time only gets feed with 4:3 content. It’s got the wrong shape for the job, really. Also, when viewing a 4:3 image on it, it squishes the edges, ever so slightly. Once you notice it, you will see it every time though. It’s especially evident in horizontal scrolling games but also any time a movie or whatever pans horizontally.
One simple solution would be to get another CRT TV, and that is a solution I’ve been thinking of for a while but haven’t been able to go through with. There is two reasons for this:
1) People often don’t specificate what TV it is they’re selling. “Sony CRT” will be the most detailed description you will see. Also, almost never any pictures of the back or information about the inputs available. They will say if it has scart, because scart is important to people here, but s-video? Composite? Component? No. You simply won’t get that from 99,99% of all sellers looking to get rid of their old, fat TVs.

2) They’re big, heavy and generally cumbersome. I can’t lift one myself and in order to get to my room, you have to climb a set of stairs. Not fun with a TV.

So, I’m kind of looking to save space by getting rid of my current CRT and plug everything back into my LCD TV, the proper way this time. I used to just plug things in and it worked all right, didn’t notice much input lag, but with the PCE I got image problems with interlacing and artfacts in some games.
With a scaler, though, you let it take care of the image from your preferred video source and scaling it up to the native (or close to) resolution of your LCD TV.

Problem is a good scaler, like those home cinema ones, are disturbingly expensive. Though, brand name is part of what you pay for and there happen to be tons of Chinese no-name scalers listed on eBay. So, I tried my luck with one of these, a scart one because what isn’t directly connected to my TV goes into my scart boxes.

Behold, the scaler

This isn’t a proper review, to get that out of the way, I didn’t actually play much with it, as I was more focused on how things would look, would it work at all.
The unit itself feels very solid. It’s got a metal casing and certainly weighs a bit. Setting it up couldn’t be any more simple; Scart goes into the scart socket in the back, HDMI cable goes into the HDMI socket on the front. Add power and you’re done. But what’s the end result? Well, here are some pictures I took:

PS1 - RR 4 - PAL scart

PS1 - GitS - NTSC s-video

PCE - NTSC-J composite to scart

Let’s analyse these, shall we? First up was Ridge Racer 4 running on my PAL PS1 through scart. The result is a bit odd. The image has black borders and isn’t centered. Also slightly squished. Ghost in the Shell was running on my NTSC-J PS one through s-video through scart and as you can see, the scaler didn’t like s-video. No color, just black & white. Although in full screen. PCE then? No. Won’t work. Don’t know why. Technically, it’s a NTSC-J composite signal put through one of those Xbox 360 scart connectors, but running it directly into the composite inputs in my scart switches didn’t change the fact that I got no image.

The best result was achieved by my Laser Disc player, which outputs an NTSC composite signal that goes directly into one of the scart boxes. Still stretched to full screen, however.

This highlights the biggest problem, aside from getting a proper image, everything is mercilessly stretched to 16:9. And for some reason, I can’t change the aspect ratio to 4:3 on my TV. Actually none of the two TV sets I’ve tried this on allowed me to change the aspect ratio to 4:3 once the scaler was powered on.
And therefore, it is to me quite useless. Sadly.

As I stated earlier, there are many many many no-name scalers available on eBay (but also Amazon). It might be worth a shot, but don’t be surprised if you get a similar result. : /

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