mClassic is Marseille’s cost-reduced external scaler
Can an HDMI cable or adapter improve video quality output over HDMI? That sounds insane when you talk about a pristine digital signal. I thought the same thing when Marseille offered me a chance to review the mClassic. I’m TR’s resident console peasant, so of course I said yes. This external HDMI doohickey connects a PC or console to its HDMI cable and applies some post-processing filters to the image.
You may have heard of Marseilles before. The company makes mCable Cinema Edition and the mCable Gaming Edition, two other external upscaling solutions built into HDMI cables. These cables apply different effects for different uses, as their names indicate. The Cinema Edition upscales video and adds a sharpening effect in an attempt to make low-res video look like a 1080p or 4K feed. Meanwhile, the Gaming Edition adds an antialiasing filter to the upscaled, sharpened image. Both cables cost up to $140, depending on how long you want it to be.
Enter the mClassic
The mClassic is an dongle that brings the price down to $99, but keeps the mCable Gaming Edition’s features intact. Marseille turned to Indiegogo to fund mass production. As of the time this review went live, Marseille had already raised most of its $50,000 goal. Buyers who jump in on the pre-order will be able to pick up an mClassic $79, a $20 discount, while the very earliest of early birds who make it into the first 250 pre-orders can get their mitts on it for $59. While backing crowdfunding campaigns is risky, Marseille has successfully shipped its mCables for two years now. Because of that, we’re not too worried about whether Marseille will deliver the mClassic. We’re far more interested in what the product delivers. For that, the company sent us a pre-production unit to test.
Marseille recruited old-school rapper and NWA founding member OG Arabian Prince, who was a fan of the mCable, to be a designer and consultant. In a surreal conference call with both Arabian Prince and Marseille CEO Amine Chabane, the artist also known as Professor X said that he was interested on getting involved with Marseille because he wanted to find a way to cut costs and get the mCable’s postprocessing effects into more peoples’ hands. Yes, I’ve gotten my “six degrees to Dr. Dre” down to one.
The mClassic is rather handsome in its box, which contains the dongle, a short HDMI male-to-female extension cable, and the required micro USB power cord. There’s no charger included in the box, but the mClassic drew adequate power from the USB ports of both my TCL 55P605 4K TV and TCL 40S325 1080p set. The HDMI extension is handy for devices like the Nintendo Switch’s dock, which has limited room for plugging in an HDMI device. The big “m” logo on the back of the mClassic means that the dongle won’t fit in the Switch dock without the extension, so including it in the box was the right move.
The most important question is, can the mClassic deliver what Marseille promised? Let’s find out.
So many use cases
Marseille makes some bold claims about all of its upscaling products, mClassic included. First, the company claims that using the mClassic with your PC or modern-day console is like a graphics card upgrade, thanks to its combination of upscaling, antialiasing, and sharpening effects. Second, it claims that the mClassic can make your retro consoles look “HD.” Third, the mClassic purportedly adds no lag while it does its thing. The mClassic scales sub-1080p resolutions up to full HD, and 1080p video scales to either 2560×1440 at 60 Hz or 4K at 30 Hz depending on what the display supports. The device only supports HDMI 1.4, so 60 Hz UHD is off the table.
mClassic with one quarter of an Earth Dollar for scale
The mClassic has no analog input, so for non-HDMI device you need to convert the signal first. Fortunately, I have a couple options: the Open Source Scan Converter—first introduced in our Mega Sg review—and a RetroTINK 2x, which converts S-Video and composite signals to 480p HDMI. To put Marseille’s claims to the test, we’ll look at a variety of modern systems and consoles from yesteryear. We’ll also see if the mClassic can make 720p gaming on a Ryzen 5 2400G look like 1080p.