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Use of display technology to produce the best possible image from the N64
Topic Started: Jan 27 2014, 05:43 PM (8,603 Views)
andyk2003
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That includes the kit as well as the modding process. The way that Badass consoles is doing it is that you send an them your N64 & receive it back with the mod fully installed. Apparently the mod is pretty hard to install so Marshall has set it up this way to offload the risk of people screwing up the install onto someone else as he understandably doesn't want to get into that minefield.

I think it might well be possible to buy just the kit from resellers at some point but I don't know how much they'll charge. Marshall isn't selling the mod himself and from older info, the resellers have to buy a set number at a time for around $127 each (although this may have changed now). If that price point is in the general ballpark, though, I personally think that unless you're very good with a soldering iron, getting the mod work done by an expert for a relatively small extra charge is a no-brainer - a THS7314 RGB mod is child's play by comparison.
My CRT thread:
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Cabanon
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shipping back and forth is killing all kind of deal. I'd rather solder it myself.
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buddy1983
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I am end up missing out on this as my soldering skills are not up to this level I suspect and like Cabanon said shipping to the US and back will make it far too expensive :-(
Youtube

Wii U user name: Read1ngFC (thats a one and not a i)

Switch friend code SW-4595-4819-7191

UK resident

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I'm currently playiing triangle in a reggae band. I just stand in the back and Ting
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andyk2003
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I've asked Marshall if there's any installers setting up in Europe but no reply yet.. I hope there will be - I don't much like the thought of having to ship my N64 to and from the US.
My CRT thread:
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Grimakis
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andyk2003
Nov 8 2015, 10:04 AM
So here's the first installer/reseller I've seen for this mod. You have to send an N64 to them - then they'll perform the mod for $164 plus shipping charges.

I'm fine with that but I'd be really interested to hear what people here think about the price - is it putting anyone off buying this?
I am put off for several reasons.

While this is a great mod, it is entirely a standalone solution. Meaning, you need no additional hardware, but the overall cost of the mod is really high. I already have a Framemeister. The reason I got it, was so that I would be able to upscale all my old consoles.

This mod upscales the N64 and it's graphics, add scanlines, and does all sorts of fun stuff. I think the issue here, is that is offers a lot of redundant functionality for many people. I think that the price is absolutely fair. However this isn't something I'll be running out to buy.

Regards,
George
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kartmaster
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I'm certainly interested. But on the list of "Things I want for $200" this is barely top 10.

If this were $50, it'd be something I'd try myself and if I screwed it up, oh well.
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andyk2003
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Techically it should outclass the Framemeister+N64 as it removes the need for converting the N64's digital signal to analogue RGB and back again as well as adding scanline bleed etc. but I don't know if the real world difference would be enought to warrant installing this if you already have the XRGB mini, which is awesome in it's own right. There are some direct 1080p comparisons here.

PS. thanks for the Virtual pool review Grimakis - just bought it :)
Edited by andyk2003, Nov 22 2015, 04:39 PM.
My CRT thread:
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Cabanon
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im also curious about the lag it will cause if any. MK64 comes to mind where you need to be spot on and any lag caused, as little as it could be, by converter is a major issues.
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kartmaster
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I thought I heard in one of the videos that the lag is about 1-2 frames. So .03 to .07 seconds.
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andyk2003
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According to Marshall, the mod's lag averages at around 16ms with processing on which isn't bad at all (same as the Framemeister) - but all HDTVs have lag to some degree as well. So if you were to buy what is currently classed as a blazingly fast gaming TV, it would have about 10ms of lag. This would be something like the Sony W6/7/8/9 series mentioned here by Fudoh.

So that would make the best case scenario to be around 26ms of lag overall, which is OK by me but might not be acceptable to the really lag-sensitive. The average HDTV might have a lag of 30ms or higher, though, which would give a total figure of close to 50ms - which is definitely too high for me.

You can turn all the effects off & go lag-free but you lose all the pretty processing which is kind of the point of the mod IMO...
Edited by andyk2003, Nov 11 2015, 04:38 PM.
My CRT thread:
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Cabanon
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In Guitar Hero, you have to turn off every game mode possible & be lag free. not only for the game play to be accurate but otherwise the game stutter so much it's unplayable. With all settings turned off, I have an in-game lag setup of 0/0 A/V with my TV. So I guess it differs on what you're looking to do with the game you're playing.
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andyk2003
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Nov 11 2015, 10:17 PM
In Guitar Hero, you have to turn off every game mode possible & be lag free. not only for the game play to be accurate but otherwise the game stutter so much it's unplayable. With all settings turned off, I have an in-game lag setup of 0/0 A/V with my TV. So I guess it differs on what you're looking to do with the game you're playing.
Although Rock band and Guitar hero have calibration that compensates for HDTV lag, they are only compensating for the lag in-game rather than actually reducing the HDTVs inherent lag, which isn't possible.

Most games don't compensate for input lag in this way, though, and for this mod you'd need to factor in your TV's lag to get an overall latency value.
Edited by andyk2003, Nov 13 2015, 02:34 AM.
My CRT thread:
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andyk2003
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The other week I was amazed to pick up a basically brand new (<100 hours) 25" Sony CRT TV from around 1998 (KV-X2500-B, BE3B chassis). I couldn't believe it - the seller was an arcade collector who'd bought it new & just never got around to using it. It's one of the 'golden age' Sonys - before they started introducing 100Hz, linedoubling and other processing - RGB in, RGB out with zero lag. The size is perfect - 21/22" is too small for me to get really involved in 3D games and anything over about 25-27" makes the mask/grill too obvious IMO. The prominent scanlines and the inevitable over-pixellation of a 240p image on larger TVs never suited the N64 to me, with it's charming low-res 3D graphics.

I've picked up a lot of Sonys CRT TVs over the last 3 years & had kept hold of just the very best 25" and the best 21" sets I had found. This new Sony blew even my best 25" Sony away. I knew how important having a low-use set is for a great image, but I couldn't believe the clarity & rich colours that a new set can produce. I guess it had been a long time since I'd seen a brand new CRT!

At the end of my journey, after collecting some great TVs and some high end retro gaming monitors (including the BVM-20E1E and NEC XV29 plus), I found that, to me, the N64 really needs to be on a standard CRT TV. The heavy scanlines of a high end professional monitor look great for 2D sprites, but breaks up the N64s image in an odd way, giving the effect of looking at a cohesive 3D world through Venetian blinds with excessive pixellation. The same goes for scalers like the Framemeister - again fantastic for 2D games - but just not as good for the N64 as a nice CRT IMO - providing either a blocky, linedoubled look or a prominently scanlined look. This is because we're still basically in the early years of CRT emulation on a hardware level. We're not quite at the point of phosphor emulation yet, which would be the holy grail for the N64 on a flat panel. Marshall (creator of the UltraHDMI) showed me some proof of concepts for this (a future project of his), and it looks absolutely stunning.

As I say, to me the N64 really needs the relatively coarse mask/grille of a consumer CRT TV - but without overly prominent scanlines. When the TV is not too large, the sitting distance is right (no less than 5-6 feet from a 25", say) and, most importantly, hasn't had too many hours of use - the phosphors appear as a fine, defined and uniform grid, rather than than rows of phosphors with obvious scanlines in between. This 'grid' of phosphors gives the N64's graphics a lovely subtle, rich textured quality - something I've never seen properly recreated by scalers or emulators so far. At the same time, this phosphor array actually adds clarity to the image. The N64's output (even with RGB ) is rather soft - but the phosphors add definition to the 3D image in the same way that scanlines add definition to 2D sprites and the overall effect is a cleaner image that's very pleasing to the eyes. In contrast to the clinical look of an emulator, it gives the simple graphical worlds of the N64 games a kind of depth without losing any clarity - a warm, textured feel that gives the games more substance - something more than just a bunch of low polygon models on-screen. For me, it's more than just a graphical 'look' - it really helps to bring the games alive. The rub, though, is that the TV needs to be reasonably fresh & not hammered for this to be really effective.

It's easy to pick up an old CRT for virtually nothing these days - but finding one that hasn't been used too much isn't as easy. A well-used one will inevitably have an image that has lost some focus and the colours will have lost some of their vibrancy - that lovely grid of clean, sharp phosphors has gone soft. I eventually found three perfect consumer CRTs; the 25" Sony mentioned above, the E3001 chassis 25" Loewe (both with same-chassis backups for spares), and a mint (very rarely used) 21" Sony (KV-21X1U).


Having said all this, though, I think that most people will not want or need to go down this road & are very happy with the TV they're using - and quite rightly so - it's 99% about having fun with the awesome N64 library after all :)



As a side note, my HDMI-modded N64 is coming back from Badass consoles shortly (Marshall's ultraHDMI mod), so It'll be very interesting to see what that brings to the table. We won't have phosphor emulation for a while yet, but he's taken hardware CRT emulation further than anyone else and I'm really looking forward to seeing it in person!


Edited by andyk2003, Dec 10 2015, 04:56 PM.
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andyk2003
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My UltraHDMI review:
Edited by andyk2003, Dec 22 2015, 05:21 PM.
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sublime1996525
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I have a 25" Sony Trinitron that I picked up to play on and I've been happy. Tried finding a BVM monitor but they were pricey. Now I really need to do a RGB mod and replace the thumb stick in my controllers and I'll be golden.
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Mantis128
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A CRT TV is high on my things to get list, but I want to use it for other things.

Other pre 7th gen consoles, mainly GameCube for Melee. Consoles I plan to get for CRT.
Xbox OG
Dreamcast
Super Famicom
Famicom
Maybe a PS1 and 2
SNES (PAL).


DVD's of old 4:3 shows.

And eventually a LaserDisc player.

Is there a (preferably large) CRT with minimum over scan or adjustable over scan that's good for all this while still getting the full power of the 64, or should I get two CRT's?

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andyk2003
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It depends how fussy you are about image quality and lag. Many people are fine with any old CRT TV, but consoles up to and including the PS1/N64 era look best on a Pre-HD CRT - i.e. one that can only display 480i and 240p. As a Melee player you might want to avoid the HD capable CRT TVs as although they do 480p, they often have processing that introduces lag.

An older 4:3 TV that has a maximum resolution of 480i is perfect for pre-Gamecube era consoles and would be fine for all the consoles you listed. Retro game nuts call these '15Khz' TVs. I think you're in Australia? If so, you guys have variants of these 15Khz TVs with 100Hz processing. The 100Hz TVs were produced a bit later (but before HD CRT TVs) and don't look very nice with videogames at all. The best TVs for the 240p consoles would probably be the Loewe E3000/E3001 chassis and the pre-100hz Sonys. Loewe are top of the line and the E3001/3001 are the last produced before they introduced 100Hz. They have RGB inputs and no lag. They're also quite common in Australia - I have a list of model numbers if you're interested. The less use the TV has had, the sharper the image will be. 15Khz pre-100Hz Panasonics and the higher-end Blaupunkts with RGB inputs are also good. Some retro gamers rate the B&O MX series of CRTs as well - they all do RGB, but it's worth noting that they have a darkish grey panel of glass over the screen that dulls the image quite a bit. The other alternative for the earlier consoles are the professional monitors like the coveted Sony PVM/BVMs. They produce a fantastic image but tend to be heavily scanlined so it depends if you like that. The very top of the line for these (and probably the best 15Khz CRT ever made) is the Sony BVM-20E1E (BVM-20E1U in the US). Some of the BVM/PVMs also do 480p.

As I say, any of these CRTs would also be fine for Gamecube, Xbox, Dreamcast etc. - but generally only go up to 480i (interlaced) and these consoles are capable of displaying in 480p (31Khz) which is a step up from interlaced 480i and gives a cleaner and more stable image. If you're looking for the absolute best experience, the aforementioned retro gaming nuts covet the high end progressive scan (31Khz, 480p) presentation monitors like the Sony PGM-2950 or the NEC XM29/XV29 plus. These are quite hard to find but produce arguably the best 480p image possible - absolutely gorgeous - and have no lag. You'd need a USA or Japanese Gamecube with component cable (expensive!) to do progressive scan though. The Dreamcast has a particularly clean 480p image via VGA - which these monitors also accept. There are other good 15Khz retro gaming monitors - I have a list somewhere. The advantage of the NEC is that it has electromagnetic focus so will never lose it's sharpness. It also does 240p very well so could be an all-in-one solution, but the 240p image is heavily scanlined - which many people seem to like, but looks 'unnatural' to me, especially with the N64.

If you just wanted a single large 4:3 CRT TV for all consoles, DVD and laserdisc, a 29" pre-100Hz Sony (with RGB) or Loewe E3000/3001 chassis TV would be a great choice and less heavily scanlined than the NEC. You can adjust the overscan in the service menu as well as other geometry settings. Any larger and the N64/PS1 will start to look pretty rough. I would try a few until you find one that still has a sharp image. A lot of them are a bit blurred now from overuse. This guy has a nice blog on 15Khz CRTs in Australia.

I use separate CRTs for 240p and 480p consoles to get the best image for each type. I like to keep pre-GC/PS2/Xbox consoles on a TV no larger than 25" to keep the low-res graphics from looking too pixelated. The NEC monitors come in 29" and 37" sizes, but the Gamecube era consoles look better on the 29".

Here's my current setup: Loewe E3001 chassis 15Khz TV (25") to the left for 240p (since raised a little higher), and the 29" NEC XV29 plus on top for 480p. The 20" Sony BVM-20E1E monitor underneath is just there for reference really. Although the photo doesn't show it very well, the images are all really sharp and vibrant.

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Edited by andyk2003, Jan 22 2016, 04:06 AM.
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D.J Cat
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I have 5 68cm (some bigger) CRTs in the house.

We went through a phase of collecting as many as possible, mostly for smash tournaments and players.
We have given away heaps, well over 10 and we're left with all the massive ones 😂


Oh, we name our CRTs.
They all have a story and much character.
Yes, we even have them name tags.
The current ones are Shannon, Berta, Ganon (The big powerful one), Trevelyan (Its a "Goldeneye" TV...) And Nikki (it has an actual audio option called "SuperBass)
...you're welcome.

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andyk2003
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^ Awesome! Love this :)
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andyk2003
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Just got my Gameshark V3 to test out the recent developments re. disabling the N64 filters to produce a sharper image. There are some images in the thread that show the effect.

The effect of removing the filters is quite obvious & definitely works - but whether the effect is desirable is subjective. I'm not that keen on it - I haven't found a game yet that I prefer with the effect. Perhaps this would better benefit third party games that used the N64's AA poorly (i.e. Body harvest).

Mario 64, with it's simple gouraud shading, looks quite clean as it is and uses the N64's filters to great effect. It looks quite a bit worse with the filter removed. The other games I tested (Mario Kart and Zelda), while looking slightly clearer, also end up looking 'downgraded' to me - as though they're actually running at a lower resolution.

I find that although the N64's AA filters make the image softer, a sharp CRT counters the effect to some degree as the phosphor matrix of an aperture grille/shadow mask provides a certain amount of definition. You end up with an image that is smooth but quite defined as well - but defined in the right way, not by heavy pixelation.

Personally, I've come full circle on my mission to find the best N64 image. I've bought some of the best CRTs ever made, tested/bought some the most up to date scaling hardware (UltraHDMI, Framemeister etc.) looked into modern PC shaders, tested this new filter removal hack - and I keep coming back to the same conclusion; to me, the N64 looks best with a simple RGB mod on a decent low-use CRT TV.

I've now come to feel that even if some method eventually comes along that somehow surpasses the good old CRT TV, I won't care. I love the CRT image, & the feeling of playing the N64 just how I played it back in the day takes me back to my early N64 days - as if I never stopped playing...
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andyk2003
Feb 17 2016, 06:27 PM
Just got my Gameshark V3 to test out the recent developments re. disabling the N64 filters to produce a sharper image. There are some images in the thread that show the effect.

The effect of removing the filters is quite obvious & definitely works - but whether the effect is desirable is subjective. I'm not that keen on it - I haven't found a game yet that I prefer with the effect. Perhaps this would better benefit third party games that used the N64's AA poorly (i.e. Body harvest).

Mario 64, with it's simple gouraud shading, looks quite clean as it is and uses the N64's filters to great effect. It looks quite a bit worse with the filter removed. The other games I tested (Mario Kart and Zelda), while looking slightly clearer, also end up looking 'downgraded' to me - as though they're actually running at a lower resolution.

I find that although the N64's AA filters make the image softer, a sharp CRT counters the effect to some degree as the phosphor matrix of an aperture grille/shadow mask provides a certain amount of definition. You end up with an image that is smooth but quite defined as well - but defined in the right way, not by heavy pixelation.

Personally, I've come full circle on my mission to find the best N64 image. I've bought some of the best CRTs ever made, tested/bought some the most up to date scaling hardware (UltraHDMI, Framemeister etc.) looked into modern PC shaders, tested this new filter removal hack - and I keep coming back to the same conclusion; to me, the N64 looks best with a simple RGB mod on a decent low-use CRT TV.

I've now come to feel that even if some method eventually comes along that somehow surpasses the good old CRT TV, I won't care. I love the CRT image, & the feeling of playing the N64 just how I played it back in the day takes me back to my early N64 days - as if I never stopped playing...
well said, man :yeah:

good to hear your search ends. now, i hope you put your energy in just enjoying the thing! ;)
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Mantis128
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Thanks for the help man. I actually fond a guy was giving away a hardly used TV for free but it was too late, already taken. :bowser: Gonna try and get any CRT by the end of June.
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Mantis128
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Sorry for DP. I just got a Philips 29PT5026/79 for free from some guy waaay out in the mountains.
It's 29 inch, has S-Video, standard AV and component inputs. It uses a "real flat picture tube" which I think is bad but it has 50/60 HZ display. Oh and it looks very new for a CRT from the country.
Edited by Mantis128, Apr 14 2016, 09:12 PM.
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andyk2003
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As long as it doesn't have an excessive amount of hours on it, that'll be a great N64 TV. Some retro game perfectionists don't like the flat tubes because they can have geometry problems but it's not usually significant enough for most people to care or even notice. Nice looking TV too :)
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Mantis128
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Still haven't tested out that CRT but after watching My Life in Gaming's RGB series I've decided to look into PVM's with RGB. I was wondering what a good small entry level PVM is for testing the waters. I've seen iddy biddy little Sony PVM's but I was wondering if there's a better alternative for small cheap pro CRT monitors.

I've been interested in picture quality since I was a kid, so I think it's time to really get into getting optimal video.
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andyk2003
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It depends on your preferences & is subjective, but these are my thoughts...

The PVMs are good but have less bloom than CRT TVs. Bloom is when the horizontal lines of resolution blend vertically into one another in the brighter areas of the image, giving that traditional consumer CRT look. Because the N64 only outputs a 240p image, there's a black space - normally (but incorrectly) referred to as a scanline - between every alternate horizontally drawn line and because the PVMs and other pro monitors don't bloom as much as CRT TVs, those scanlines look very prominent on them.

To me, this heavily scanlined effect looks odd & unpleasant with the N64 for a couple of reasons. One is that the strong scanlines 'break up' 1st gen 3D graphics up in a weird way; 8/16 bit sprites are uniform and simple in their makeup and look good with stronger scanlines, making them sharper and more clearly defined - whereas using a 20" or larger PVM with the more 'unpredictable' nature of the N64's 3D graphics breaks up the image, making it look less cohesive. The other is that these monitors are sharper than TVs, which gives a much more pixellated look in general - again, fine for 2D stuff (although I still prefer a TV), but makes the N64 look quite 'blocky'. The N64's output (even when using RGB) is probably the hardest of all the consoles to get a really good image from, but to me the characteristics of a consumer TV with it's softer look, less prominent scanlines and scanline bloom is 'kinder' to the N64 as the effect smooths the image and gives a softer, more cohesive look.

The PVMs come in various quality levels, the lower level being the 500 or 600 line models (20L2, 20M2, 20N6 etc.) and the higher being the 800 line variants (20L4, 20L5 etc). The higher the line count, the sharper and more scanlined the image will be. The 800 line models are very scanlined (closer to the BVMs), so if you really want a PVM for the N64 I'd go with a 500/600 line model.

An advantage to the PVMs is that, if you're in a country where the CRT TVs don't have RGB inputs, they will take RGB with a modded BNC cable (as long as the N64 is RGB modded) - but on the other hand, decent RGB-to-component converters are lag free and easy to find, if a little pricey. 20" is the traditional size for 240p gaming on PVMs, but if you don't mind going to a small screen the 14" PVMs have thinner scanlines and a less pixelated image due to the condensed image, so will suit the N64 a little better. This guy is a fan of the N64 + 14" PVM. Personally 14" is too small for me & I much prefer a low-use 25" CRT TV (My old 25" PVM-2530 looked awful - really thick scanlines).

There are other, alternatives for pro monitors - i.e. JVC, Panasonic, Ikegami etc. Not long ago I went on a mission to find a pro monitor that's the absolute oposite to my BVM or higher line PVM - i.e. the least heavily scanlined I could find - to get the full range of what pro monitors have to offer. After some research I settled on an Ikegami TM20-17R. These are 20" low line count (600), but also shadow mask, which have still less delineated scanlines due to the triad phosphor layout. To me, even these are too pixellated and scanlined for the N64 - so I felt satisfied in letting go of the idea of using pro monitors for the console. The only catch is most CRT TVs have been heavily used so have gone soft. It's possible to find low-use ones, however - i.e. if it's only ever been used occasionally in a guest room etc.


As I say, this is all subjective - so it might well be worth taking your N64 to test on a PVM selling locally to see if you like the image. As for entry level (600 line) 20" PVMs, the PVM-20M2, 20L2, 20M2MD and 20L1 are some of the late-produced 20" models which are a good choice as they're likely to have less hours than the older 1954Q/2044qm/2042qm models. There are 25" and 29" versions as well as other larger options (PVM-2530, PVM-2950, PVM-2730qm, NEC XM29 etc.), but the scanline/pixellation problems become even more pronounced on those. If you end up not liking the PVMs, it might be worth looking into the softer 20" Ikegami TM20-17R/TM20-18R (both 600 lines) for a different image style...

Edited by andyk2003, May 5 2016, 03:21 AM.
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Mantis128
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Thanks for the info. One last question, is there a simple way to convert JP-21 to BNC, and do they have JP compatible TVs outside Japan? For a few reasons I've decided to get a Japanese N64 to mod for RGB and HDMI, and also ditch getting a SNES and just get a Super Famicom
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andyk2003
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You can get JP-21 to Euroscart and a JP-21 to BNC cable from here. They'll make up any cable you want if it's too obscure to have in stock...
Edited by andyk2003, May 9 2016, 01:03 PM.
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Mantis128
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Got around to testing that CRT, it doesn't work....

OK after much research, comparing etc I've decided to make the XM29 my long term goal, so I have to ask. Just how rare are they? Can they be found with consistent and persistent searching, or are they nigh impossible to come by?
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andyk2003
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XM29s are quite rare and don't come up too often. It depends on where you are as well - I'm in the UK and mine was the first to appear on eBay for a couple of years apparently. Think they'll be a little easier to find in the US though. If you're intending get it shipped to you, make sure to get it shipped on a pallet or it'll be very likely get damaged in transit.

Bear in mind that the NECs are *very* scanlined with 240p stuff, much more so than a similar sized TV. Fine for 2D if you like heavy scanlines, but it doesn't look great with the N64 to me (although matter of taste). I only ever use mine for 480p, which looks fantastic on it.

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