Have it your way
The mClassic has a three-way toggle to easily switch between its three modes. The first position is a bypass. Unlike the mCables, you don’t have to remove the mClassic to turn off its features. The middle position is to enable scaling for a 16:9 image, and the final position is to scale 4:3 images. Each position corresponds to a status LED built into the switch. While in bypass mode, the LED is off. In 16:9 mode, the LED is green, and blue signifies a 4:3 image. To help us see how it connects to a system, Mr. Super Nt came over to play.
Light is green, picture is clean
Having this aspect toggle is a big win, because many cheap analog-to-HDMI devices only output 16:9, stretching a retro console’s image. As we learned in the Mega Sg review, analog signals have samples, not pixels. That means it’s impossible to know the aspect ratio of an analog signal. You might argue that having a box without a switch is dumb and that defaulting to 16:9 is even dumber, and you would be correct, but it’s nice that Marseille anticipated this need.
Using the mClassic is easy enough. Plug the male HDMI connector into your source (console or PC) and connect the female end to a typical HDMI cable. Add USB power and you’re good to go. The unit does not work in reverse—I found this out the hard way—so be sure to orient it correctly. The mClassic has a huge non-removable M logo right by the connector, and it’s pretty bulky, but Marseille included a short HDMI extension in the box. The unit blocked the audio input on my OSSC but the extension corrected that issue. Now all that’s left to do is test this thing on, uh…seven different rigs.
Our testing methods
we did our best to deliver clean benchmarking numbers. Wait, wrong review.
To get clean images, I picked up an AVerMedia Live Gamer Mini USB 2.0 streaming device. This little guy can capture 1080p video at 60 frames per second and encode them to H.264 video or capture still images. Throughout the comparisons, you’ll see images that have processing enabled and disabled.
The images won’t have the same physical dimensions, though. This is intentional, because I felt it was more important to show you the unprocessed lower-resolution image than it was to find a common multiple and scale it. Each image is a link that opens the original-resolution file in another tab, so if you want to mess with that, you can.
The word “retro” means so many different things depending on your age. To me, it means the 8-bit and 16-bit era of consoles. To my 11-year-old daughter, it means the Wii U. For Marseille, that term seems to indicate something in between. In particular, the company says it gets some pretty nice results from an upscaled GameCube. The mClassic can handle all of that, if the console has an HDMI connection or you have the requisite analog-to-digital converter. Does the mClassic help preserve our gaming heritage, or muddy it up?
The Sonic blue color means you’re in retro mode
For older consoles, I used a RetroTINK 2X designed by Mike Chi, which converts any composite, S-Video, or component analog signal to HDMI at 480p. I got this little guy from Castlemania Games. I did my original hardware testing with this device rather than the Open Source Scan Converter that outputs higher resolutions, since I wanted the mClassic to do most of the heavy lifting. We’ll see retro games at higher resolutions from other solutions anyway, and those results apply to the OSSC.
The first system I tried with the Genesis. In bypass mode, things went as expected. The RetroTINK (and HD Retrovision’s YPbPr cables for the Genesis) did all the hard work and the mClassic sent the unmolested signal to the TV. In retro mode, the mClassic added its upscaling, sharpening, and antialiasing filters to the image. Let’s take a look at an example from Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition.
Genesis with RetroTINK 2X at 480p, unprocessed
The result was something like 2x Scaling and Interpolation, which really rounded off the corners in the image. You might have tried 2xSaI in an emulator or the Scaler menu of Analogue’s FPGA consoles. This kind of scaling is a matter of taste, but I don’t like it on older games like these.
The retro mode came in handy, incidentally—in the regular Upscaled mode, the mClassic stretched the image to fit an HDTV, which is wrong. 16:9 is very, very wrong in this context. Flicking the switch to Retro mode pushed the game back into its native pillarboxed 4:3 aspect ratio.