Marseille’s mClassic reviewed

mClassic and the Nintendo Switch

The Switch is an interesting use case because it relies on a low-power ARM SoC provided by Nvidia’s Maxwell graphics architecture. At launch, several games struggled with performance. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild famously ran better in portable mode than it did while docked because it couldn’t handle native 1080p graphics in docked mode. The Wii U version, which only made it up to 720p, ran better than a docked Switch, too. Nintendo eventually fixed those issues with an update.

However, some Switch games (Diablo III, for instance) run at sub-1080p resolutions to keep the action moving smoothly. Can the mClassic smooth over those edges better than whatever methods the games themselves employ?

To find out, I locked my Switch in 720p mode while docked, and then captured three images from Super Mario Odyssey. There are four images here, and I think that they basically speak for themselves, but I’ll talk about them anyway.

Switch Super Mario Odyssey 720p unprocessed

Super Mario Odyssey in 720p mode, mClassic off

First let’s look at the Switch in 720p mode with the mClassic disabled. This should basically replicate what the game looks like in handheld mode. As you can see, the bench and rail in the background have quite a few jagged edges in them. The bass player and Mario both have pretty jagged edges to their rounded hats. We’ll treat this image as a baseline, and see what the mClassic can do with it.

Super Mario Odyssey at 720p with mClassicSuper Mario Odyssey in 720p, processed by the mClassic in Regular mode

Well here’s a surprise. Even with the mClassic on, the image was still captured at 1280 x 720. I double-checked both the unit and AVerMedia RECenter’s settings, and it showed that the image was coming through at 720p. It seems likely that since we’d been using Retro mode up until now, the Regular mode processes at the image’s native resolution. I’ve contacted Marseille for confirmation, and will update this when I get an answer. Even with the lower resolution, you can see the effects of the processing in the bottom rung of the rail and bench seat. The two characters’ hats are also smoothed over. Despite the lower resolution, I think the mClassic did some nice work to this image.

Super Mario Odyssey unprocessedSuper Mario Odyssey in 1080p with the mClassic disabled

When it comes to easily boosting image quality, it’s hard to beat a higher resolution. According to Digital Foundry, Odyssey runs at 900p, but when action demands more performance, the resolution can dip down to 810p or even 720p. The image above doesn’t have a whole lot going on, and as a result, the detail is much finer than the 720p image above. Mario and his compatriot have much more detailed outfits than they wore at 720p. You can still see some jagged edges on the bench and railing, though.

Super Mario Odyssey at 1080p with mClassicSuper Mario Odyssey in 1080p, processed by mClassic in Regular mode

Can the mClassic fix those issues from the previous image? In a word, “yeah, kinda”. If you zoom in, you can see the railing does have the antialiasing filter applied, but you can still see the stairtstep effect.The characters’ hats have been softened a bit. Overall, the scene looks better under close inspection, but I had a hard time noticing those effects on these cartoony Switch graphics when I was playing the game.

Low-end PC Hardware Enhanced by mClassic

Finally, we’re going to take a look at what the mClassic can do for a basic PC trying to play 3D games. In this test, I played Typing of the Dead: Overkill at 1280 x 720 with and without the mClassic. Unlike consoles, the PC can switch resolutions, so it’s time to see how the mClassic does against real 1920 x 1080.

Our test subject is a Ryzen 5 2400G, which has Radeon Vega 11 graphics, with 16 GB of Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-3000 memory. Since the Ryzen’s integrated graphics struggles just a tiny bit at 1080p, I slapped a Radeon RX 560 2 GB from Sapphire into the machine for higher resolution tests. Despite the relatively low amount of VRAM, this card has no problem running many games that cause the Ryzen to stutter at 1080p at the higher resolution. This test will determine if your $100 is better spent on a graphics card or the mClassic.

Without further ado, let’s check out the images.

Typing of the Dead: Overkill

Typing of the Dead Overkill with no processing at 720pFirst is Typing of the Dead: Overkill at 720p with no processing.

Typing of the Dead Overkill with mClassicNext up is Typing of the Dead: Overkill at 720p, upscaled to 1080p by the mClassic.

Again, the mClassic helps a bit, just like we saw with Uncharted 3. The mClassic smoothed over the aliased sections of the image, although they seem to stick out a bit more in this scene than they did previously. It’s obviously not a full-resolution 1080p image, though. Let’s see what that looks like.

What about native 1080p?

Typing of the Dead Overkill at native 1080pHere’s Typing of the Dead: Overkill at native 1080p with an Radeon RX 560 2 GB graphics card. 

The difference between 720p upscaled by the mClassic and native 1080p is night-and-day different. In this case, your $100 is probably better spent on an upgraded graphics card (or saved up towards one). That doesn’t just apply to this scenario where we’ve gone from integrated to discrete graphics, either. That $100 is a big chunk of a new graphics card. To get the most out of PC games, we think you should go that route.

The mClassic can also upscale 1080p to 2560 x 1440. Subjectively, it looks better than 1080p, but not as good as native 1440p content. The mClassic can also scale 1080p and 1440p content to 3840 x 2160 UHD. Unfortunately, the mClassic only supports HDMI 1.4 so you only get 30 Hz. 4K seems like a bad idea given those constraints. If given the choice between 1440p at 60 Hz or 2160p at 30 Hz, I pick the lower resolution every time.

On the other hand, the mClassic’s 4K upscaling could be useful on an Xbox One or PlayStation 4, since many of those games don’t run any faster than 30 frames per second on those systems. If you have an upgraded Xbox One X or PS4 Pro, I’d instead use those consoles’ higher native resolutions. While most games on Xbone and PS4 don’t support native 4K, the drawing techniques they use—like checkerboard rendering—are convincing.

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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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