DCHDMI Versus 480p 'HD' Dreamcast Cables

As I'm sure you're aware by now, there are a range of 'HD' options now available for the Dreamcast. What it's important to note though, is that all of these so-called HD cables are not actually delivering a true high definition image. Yes, they use a HDMI connector that plugs into your display, but this image is 480p and is being drawn directly from the analogue VGA output of the Dreamcast. Regardless of what you've probably seen or read on some other websites, the various HD cables from Pound, Hyperkin, Beharbros etc., are not magically transforming Dreamcast games into high definition experiences. That's impossible.
Now, that's not to say that any of the devices from the aforementioned brands aren't worth your time. They totally are, with both the Pound and Beharbros options being perfectly acceptable ways of connecting a Dreamcast to a HD flat panel display with the minimum of fuss. The thing is, while the games still look fine using these cables and boxes, there is an alternative device that really does improve image quality immeasurably without the need for an external upscaler. That device is the internal DCHDMI mod from citrus3000psi and chriz2600; and we reviewed it recently here at The Dreamcast Junkyard.

One of the most important benefits over the 480p cables though, is that the DCHDMI is putting out the correct screen aspect ratio. See, the VGA signal the cables use only uses the inner 640x480 of the 720x480 frame. So the TV displays the the whole 720x480 in a 4:3 format. This basically squashes the entire image. All of the VGA to HDMI cables have this porblem, but the DCHDMI doesn't do this. There are both VGA and 480p options built in to the DCHDMI menu, and the 720p option because some homebrew titles use the extra 80 pixels.
What I've seen from some commenters though, is a desire to actually see some kind of comparison between what the 480p 'HD' cables offer, and what the DCHDMI in 1080p mode (960p windowed) is kicking out. The DCHDMI, it's worth noting again, is an internal board that also packs an FPGA and which is wired directly into the GPU of the Dreamcast. It's taking the digital image directly, and there is no analogue conversion, so naturally it will be doing things the HD Link and Gekko or Akura are not built to do. That's not the point of this article and video though. This is simply a comparison...and seeing is believing. Here you go:


It's probably worth viewing the video in the highest quality available to get the full effect, but the superiority of the internal mod is pretty clear. Naturally, the DCHDMI will be more of a faff (and markedly more expensive) than just plugging a cable in to your console, but it's good to know that the options are available.

You can pre-order the DCHDMI here, should you so desire. The Beharbros Gekko is available here, and the Pound HD Link is available here.

Related articles:

So What Exactly Are Those Weird Anime Games In Your Dreamcast Collection?

Avid fans of the Dreamcast are most likely already aware that the console enjoyed a much longer life in its home country of Japan (the last officially licensed Dreamcast game, Karous, was released in 2007). For this reason, as well as the fact 90s console developers had a track record of thinking Western gamers were frightened of anything even slightly unconventional, there is an extensive list of Japan-only Dreamcast games just waiting for fans to import. The best part is that so many are playable without knowledge of the Japanese language. All you need is a boot disc or a modded Dreamcast and voilà! you've unlocked another section of the Dreamcast library. Check out our A to Z of Dreamcast Games if you want to know the best Japan-exclusives to get your mitts on.

However, for every playable game, there are just as many that are unplayable for anyone who isn't fluent in Japanese. Anyone who is insane enough to try and collect a full Japanese set will soon realise that there is plenty of "filler" - the kind of stuff you only buy for the sake of checking another game off the list and not because you are actually going to be able to play it. You know, those games with the anime girls on the front. Crap like this:
 
Some might mistakenly call these things "dating simulators", but that's a different kettle of fish entirely. No, these are "visual novels", and they do exactly what they say on the tin, they are novels with visual elements. Boot any of these up and you'll be greeted with nothing more than walls of Japanese text and images of anime characters making various expressions. They are a very niché style of game that have never had a big following outside of Japan, especially back in the early 2000s (hence their Japanese exclusivity). Some may debate whether or not they are actually games at all, but they're still something I'd recommend to keen readers and anime fans alike. 

Their "gameplay" more or less consists of reading text and occasionally answering a multiple choice question on how the main character should react or respond in a certain situation. That might not sound all that interesting to some, but I like to look at visual novels as a more visual version of a choose your own adventure book, and being a fan of anime, the artwork contained within is something I'm familiar with. A lot of the stories are enjoyable, and believe it or not, the plots aren't always romantic; there are visual novels that focus on genres like sci-fi and mystery, for example. I'm such an advocate for these anime-centric pieces of flashy reading material that I even wrote a whole article on my website Alt:Mag defending their case.

TR Fight Stick & Beharbros Working To Bring Custom Dreamcast Console Shell To Market

There is a market for custom Dreamcast console shells, and we all know it. The standard white ones yellow like crazy after a few years, and even with a nice peroxide bath they still go yellow again in time. Yes, there are the black special editions such as the R7 and SEGA Sports models; and there are the official and unofficial aftermarket coloured console shells, but they now fetch silly money on certain auction sites, so for the average Dreamcast gamer they aren't a viable option.
We recently ran an article here at The Dreamcast Junkyard asking whether a new run of official coloured console shells from SEGA would be a viable money spinner, and the general consensus was a deafening yes, but obviously no-one at SEGA gives a flying toss what we - or the Dreamcast fan base - has to say, so it obviously fell on deaf ears. Fret not though, as somebody else has heard the aforementioned call.
SEGA says "no!" - or rather...nothing.
Enter TR Fight Stick, a firm known for creating top quality custom fight sticks. Working in conjunction with Beharbros, the fine people behind the Akura, Toro, Hanzo and Gekko Dreamcast display adapters, TR Fight Stick might well have the answer to all of you custom Dreamcast console shell needs.
TR Fight Stick have previously created - as the company name may suggest - a range of high quality, metal-cased custom fight sticks and arcade cabinets. Their pedigree is pretty much confirmed at this point, and if you need any proof of this please feel free to visit their website and take a look. That they are working with one of the Dreamcast community's most highly regarded hardware creators on this project fills us with optimism.
We spoke to Yunus Emre Soğukkanli from TR Fight Stick to get the low down on this exciting new project. Here's what he said:

"My regular job is as a stunt coordinator and action director, but game consoles - and especially arcades - are my lifestyle. It's a special hobby for me. I've always made arcade stuff for myself as a hobby. But this year I decided to produce things for other people, simply because so many people ask me to sell my projects to them. So I produced the TR Fight Stick, and people loved it.

"I love the Dreamcast and I've always wanted to build a good quality Dreamcast shell. I think it will be a good introduction to my work for other people. I will produce it in both metal and wood. It will be look better and be more effective in terms of colour degradation and heat transfer I think."
- Yunus Emre Soğukkanli - TR Fight Stick

We can't wait to see how this project pans out, and that Beharbros is also involved fills us with a lot of confidence. BBS Products are always of the highest quality and if SEGA won't step up to the plate and give us genuine replacement shells for our consoles at a reasonable price, we hope TR Fight Stick and Beharbros can step in to their shoes.

It's probably worth noting that it does look (at this point, anyway) that this mod is only for Dreamcasts without an optical drive, but hopefully this will change in the near future. Keep your eyes peeled for further developments on this exciting project.
What do you think? Will you be in the market for one of these console shells? Let us know in the comments, on Twitter or in our Facebook group.

Links: