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Hi, this is a technical question/discussion for those who have a fairly deep understanding of this kind of thing.. This is necessarily a long post so sorry for that!

My aim is to find out is the best type of display for the N64.

Most people will happy just plugging their console into their HDTV or any CRT that they have to hand which is totally fine and understandable. People have different perspectives and tastes on this and I respect the fact that this is all largely subjective - but as I say, my aim is to get the absolute best possible picture out of an N64 console.

I have already done quite a bit of research & experimenting with this & would really value any further wisdom on this.
Here are some things that I've already sussed out:

1: A high quality old fashioned 4:3 CRT TV or CRT monitor that accepts a 50/60Hz signal is essential. Many people are happy to use a flatscreen but we're looking for the absolute best image and LCDs and plasmas are not the way to go in this case. No matter how good a plasma or LCD display is, it still has to internally linedouble (and scale) the N64's 240p output which introduces lag and produces a blocky image. The N64 was designed with a CRT in mind. The NTSC console outputs a progressive 240p (15Khz) image which inherently has scanlines. Without these scanlines, the image would look blocky and unattractive (again, the effect seen on flatscreen TV's). Also, I wouldn't use a 16:9 CRT as I prefer the N64's 4:3 image to fill the screen.

2: It's important that the CRT display hasn't had too many hours of usage. A CRT has a half-life of roughly 10,000 hours (variable). An overly used one will have a soft, blurry output.

3: An RGB mod (preferably with a THS7314 Amp chip) is essential for the best image. Also a high quality RGB scart cable is a must (preferably official) to prevent interference. There are a couple of options being developed that produce an HDMI output via a DAC from an N64, but even these inevitably produce a blocky, linedoubled picture. An incredibly knowledgeable guy galled Viletim has developed (and will hopefully soon be selling) a DAC kit that bypasses the N64's analogue output circuitry and apparently produces an amazing true 240p image via RGB scart - this seems as though it might be the best option so far.

4: High quality scalers like the XRGB series are an excellent (and expensive!) option for getting many retro consoles to look good on a flatscreen TV. To me, this works less well for the N64. You can either have the image linedoubled (blocky) or with emulated scanlines - which look great on 2D consoles like the SNES etc. - but make the N64 output look false and not authentic IMO.

5: The size of the TV being used makes a difference . Some people are happy using 29 inch and above CRT's but in my opinion, these larger screen expose and amplify the negative aspects of the N64's output - namely it's blurry, overly anti-aliased picture. A 21 inch will always be one class better than a 29 inch. I don't find small screens involving enough so for me a 25 inch CRT is a good compromise. (An N64 will look amazing on a 14 inch screen!)

6: The display should not process the output in any way - for the best, truest picture it should be pure RGB in, pure RGB out. Processing of various kinds was introduced into TV's from all manufacturers at varying points during the 90's. All types of processing are generally considered to be detrimental to the output of retro consoles. An example is 100Hz technology which gives a blurry image when there's movement on screen). Other types of processing introduce unwanted artifacts into the picture. Philips started using 100Hz as early as 1988, whereas Sony was still producing larger TVs with no processing as late as the late 90's.

7: The TV would need to be an SDTV (pre-HDTV & EDTV). Even CRT HDTVs/EDTVs linedouble and scale the image (again, blocky and laggy image).

8: There are basically 2 types of CRT TV - Aperture grille (all Sony CRT's were this type) and shadow masks (everyone else). The difference is that although Sonys produce a really excellent bold picture due to their aperture grille, they have really strong, prominent scanlines as the phosphors are perfectly lined up in rows rather than the 'triad' alignment of a shadow mask. As mentioned earlier, these strong scanlines look great on earlier 2D consoles but (in my opinion) not so good on the NTSC N64 as they break up the 3D graphics in a detrimental manner. (On the PAL N64, the scanlines are much less apparent due to the higher resolution, so are not as much of an issue. I'm not into PAL gaming but if you are, this is a non issue). In my opintion, the softer more blended scanlines of a shadow mask TV really complement the NTSC N64s picture. As I said before, scanlines are essential for the N64 to look at it's best, but I think softer, blended ones look better than bold, prominent ones.

9: In terms of CRT monitors, this last point rules out the popular Sony PVM/BVM series which are aperture grilles and have strong scanlines (I had one and didn't like it). Shadow mask monitors include Hantarex (EQ 25/28s amongst others) NEC, Mitzubishi etc. I haven't had much experience with these except for the fact that they seem to be hard to find in good condition with low usage/hours. These are supposed to be very good if found in good condition though. The monitors that are most suitable are generally presentation or broadcast monitors that can produce a true 15Khz (240p) image and not multisync or computer monitors. A good quality CRT TV can match a good CRT monitor, though, and I personally find that a TV gives me a more authentic feel (I always used TV's back in the day)

10: The general quality of the TV - i.e. I would obviously take a Loewe or a Metz over a Bush or a Goodmans .
These CRT TV's are slowly dying out now so I think it's worth making a small collection of high quality little-used CRTs now for when they are mostly gone.

11: There are certain aspects to a CRT display that affect the quality of their picture, such as geometry issues, focus & convergence issues etc. but In mentioning CRTs in this post, I'm assuming that they're well-sourced, little used CRTs that have minimal problems.

12: Whether the N64 is PAL or NTSC region. The jump from an NTSC (240 lines) to a PAL (288 lines) is almost the same jump, relatively, as from PAL standard definition (576 lines) to 720p (720 lines). This means that the PAL N64's image looks quite a bit cleaner (though I prefer the NTSC colours) but we all know the disadvantages of PAL gaming - slower, bordered games - with some exceptions, notably Rare's games. Actually, even though well optimized PAL games run at the same gameplay speed as their NTSC counterparts, they still have lower framerates, topping out at 25/50fps rather than 30/60. In my opinion the higher the framerate the better in terms of gameplay, so PAL is a non-option for me.

I should mention that I'm discounting emulators in all of this - I much prefer the N64 hardware for various reasons.

So does anyone have any further insight into this - or know of a display that pairs particularly well with the N64 to produce a really spectacular picture quality? Any further insight would be well appreciated :)


Edited by andyk2003, Sep 13 2014, 06:48 AM.
My CRT thread:
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Use of display technology to produce the best possible image from the N64 · Gaming & General Nintendo 64 Discussion