Marseille’s mClassic reviewed

Do you have something a little less retro?

Marseille talked about how good the results were from the GameCube with progressive scan outputting to an HDMI adapter like Insurrection Industries’ Carby. I don’t have a GameCube or a Carby, but I do have the original Xbox. This system outputs a native 16:9 480p image in just about every single game if you have a component cable, which I do.

The Xbox is plugged into an inexpensive Portta YPbPr to HDMI converter box. This converter doesn’t have a frame buffer and therefore no upscaling in the box but it doesn’t add any perceptible lag. The downside is that this particular converter can’t handle 240p content (480i is the lowest resolution supported), so many PlayStation 1 and 2 games are right out. It’s perfect for the Xbox, though, and should work well with a Wii outputting 480p, too.

It’s connected to the Xbox using a third-party YPbPr component cable. There’s some analog noise in these images, but that’s not the mClassic’s fault. That noise is representative of the kind of analog signal that many folks will be feeding a converter, so it’s a good real-world test.

Need for Speed Underground 2

For a 480p game test, I busted out Need For Speed Underground 2, which a fun open-world racing game with great-feeling arcade controls and a high-adrenaline early 2000s soundtrack. It also looks pretty nice and has some high-contrast areas that should make it easy to see what the mClassic can do.

NFS Underground 2 unprocessed

NFS Underground 2 original

Need For Speed Underground 2 with mClassic

NFS Underground 2 processed by mClassic in Retro mode

Ignore the weather difference, as the game’s weather changed while I was taking screen caps. I kept flipping the mClassic processing effects on and off, and eventually the Live Gamer Mini stopped acknowledging the unprocessed 480p signal. I got my picture back by restarting the console, but getting the car in that exact spot again was impossible.

Anyway, even with the change of weather, the mClassic’s effects are obvious, but I’m not sure that it helps. What was a blocky, pixellated wall is totally smoothed over by the antialiasing, and then sharpened. While the textures weren’t highly detailed to begin with, even more detail gets lost.

The upscaling isn’t magic, either. You still can’t read the license plate, which would be possible if the resolution was actually higher (it says UNDERGROUND, by the way). Like everything else with the mClassic, it’s a matter of taste, but it’d be nice to have a way to set the effect’s level to get exactly what you want.

Amped 2

Amped 2 unprocessed

Amped 2 at 720p unprocessed

Amped 2 processed by mClassic

The same game at 1080p, processed by mClassic in Retro mode

Some games on the OG Xbox support higher resolutions, too. Amped 2 looks decent at 720p, for instance, and the mClassic antialiases the image nicely. Unfortunately, the analog noise is amped (heh) up quite a bit. The Xbox has just awful, noisy high-def YPbPr output, so there’s rainbow banding, but we can ignore that. In the above photo, the boarder’s model is pretty clean, all things considered. Even though this guy won’t stand still, you can still see that the mClassic neatly rounds off the puffs of his coat. I think we might have just found mClassic’s calling—we’ll find out when we test the PlayStation 3.

On the other hand, a handful of 2D games on the system, like Capcom’s Arcade Classics Collection or Marvel vs Capcom 2, the smoothing turned to smearing like Street Fighter II on the Genesis. Thankfully, bypass mode is just a flick of a switch away.

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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

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