Marseille’s mClassic reviewed

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.

mClassic connected to Analogue Super Nt in Regular mode

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

As always, 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.

Retro consoles

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?

mClassic in retro mode

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.

Sega!

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.

RetroTink 2x 480p no processing from mClassic

Genesis with RetroTINK 2X at 480p, unprocessed

RetroTink 2x 480p with mClassic retro processing enabledGenesis with RetroTINK 2x at 480p, upscaled to 1080p by mClassic

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.

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Ben Funk

Sega nerd and guitar lover

24 Comments
    • Durante
    • 2 weeks ago

    As far as I know I was the first person to implement (and come up with?) this idea, a bit over 8 years ago:
    https://www.neogaf.com/threads/fxaa-for-all-ps3-and-xbox360-games.438638/

    Interestingly, back then some people already asked for a “plug and play” product version of it, which this seems to be. I’d argue it was actually more relevant back then, with many high-end (at the time) console games on 360 and PS3 releasing with no or inadequate AA.

    Reply
    • Dangit Bobby
    • 3 weeks ago

    Why do you call it an “Earth Dollar” when it’s only available in America?

    Reply
    • AnonymousCoward
    • 3 weeks ago

    In regards to the Nintendo Switch use case: setting the Switch to 720p in docked mode does *not* improve its performance since the device downscales the 1080p output.

    Reply
    • jihadjoe
    • 3 weeks ago

    Did you test how much input lag it adds when doing processing? TVs with built-in sharpening or smoothing effects usually add a ton of lag so when gaming it’s almost always been better to turn that crap off.

    Reply
      • Ben Funk
      • 3 weeks ago

      That’s one thing I would have love to have tested, and if someone wanted to provide the gear, I’d happily still test it. The Time Sleuth is probably the least expensive version of what I’d need:

      https://shop.dansprojects.com/time-sleuth-lag-tester.html

      Reply
      • sirdrak
      • 6 days ago

      Less than 1 ms. I have the mCable Gaming Edition and there is no appreciable lag

      Reply
    • DPete27
    • 4 weeks ago

    It looks like a great product that works. Especially for consoles. Seems $100 is a bit high and that ~$75 would attract a larger market via gifting but…

    Reply
    • Waco
    • 4 weeks ago

    I mean, it’s cool and all, but I just can’t see myself ever paying for something like this given the cost and not ultra-significant improvements in IQ.

    Reply
      • Aaron Vienot
      • 4 weeks ago

      I could see myself spending $100, if I still had time to play console games more often. Getting the visual cleanup with the option to un-stretch the HD image would be pretty useful with the N64 and HDMI converter combo I have kicking around.

      Reply
        • ludi
        • 4 weeks ago

        Hah…just doxed myself. Was still logged into my WP account. But everyone will know soon enough anyway.

        Reply
          • Ben Funk
          • 4 weeks ago

          dundunduhnnnnnnnn

          Reply
          • superjawes
          • 4 weeks ago

          Had you not replied, no one would have known, Aaron…IF THAT IS YOUR REAL NAME.

          Reply
        • LMAO

          Reply
          • deputy dawg
          • 4 weeks ago

          YOU DONE MESSED UP A-A-RON!

          Reply
        • Ben Funk
        • 4 weeks ago

        N64 seems to be getting a lot of love with this thing. Several YouTubers seem to like the effect with Rogue Squadron and Mario 64. I don’t have an N64 because it’s a terrible system. 😆

        Reply
          • superjawes
          • 4 weeks ago

          You’re just a Sony shill!

          Reply
            • Ben Funk
            • 4 weeks ago

            I was a Sega shill back when I shilled for consoles. 😀 The early release of the Saturn caught me by surprise so I didn’t get a Saturn at launch, but by November of 1995 I had saved my pennies and bought one for Four Hundred Dollars expecting the next awesome Sonic and Streets of Rage titles. And my Saturn experience didn’t stop me from buying a Dreamcast, either.

            I even married a Sega shill. My wife had a Master System when we were dating. Not sure where it wound up, though.

            • superjawes
            • 3 weeks ago

            (Nested reply limit reached!)

            @FunkyPants I just had to take a shot as a resident Nintendo Fanboy. Had every console that wasn’t the original or a Virtual Boy. I acknowledge that the PS1 was a great console to widen the market, and it highlighted some of Nintendo’s issues (especially with the GC and PS2 era).

            Sega…I just kinda feel bad. Even if the Dreamcast could have survived the PS2, it wasn’t going to survived the PS2 + XBFirst.

          • ludi
          • 4 weeks ago

          Super Smash Brothers. Argument refuted.

          Although I do wish I had a classic Sega. Neighborhood friend had one when I was young and we wasted many hours on that thing. I ran quite a few Sega games on emulator for a while in college a while after, but haven’t done anything with that in a while. Can’t quite convince myself to pick up one of the retro-console kits, due to many competing uses for money.

          Reply
            • Ben Funk
            • 3 weeks ago

            Smash is alright. Melee was so much better, though. The GameCube is underappreciated, for sure.

          • usacomp2k3 (AJ)
          • 3 weeks ago

          N64 Mario Kart is the best version ever.

          Reply
    • chuckula
    • 4 weeks ago

    Thanks for the review Funky!

    Since my main display is now 2K but I do find older games to be quite fun, it’s interesting to see different solutions that allow these games to be more playable at resolutions that were not dreamed of when the games were written.

    Reply
      • deputy dawg
      • 4 weeks ago

      I hooked up the old Xbox 360 to my 2K display and it didn’t look great… it would be interesting to see how much this would improve things

      Reply

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This