One of the most significant difficulties dealing with the retro video gaming lover is the fundamental idea that console systems and video games created for CRTs are an anxious suitable for modern-day flatpanel innovation, not least since today’s screens do not even accept the video outputs of timeless video games makers. Various services are readily available to bridge the space, however none rather provide the quality of straight modding initial hardware to provide a completely digital HDMI option. That’s what the PS1digital from Black Dog Technology does: a different board is installed inside an initial PlayStation, transforming its internal signals to a beautiful digital output – and it’s fantastic.
If the idea sounds familiar, we’ve covered the work of Black Dog in the past, particularly with the DCHDMI – now renamed DCdigital – which does the exact same thing for Sega’s Dreamcast. In bypassing the initial analogue video and audio outputs of the host console, these mods provide the outright finest possible image quality. From console to flatpanel, the whole pipeline is totally digital from start to end up. In the case of the PS1digital, the signal is unfiltered and so pure that our frame-rate analysis tools work as anticipated – a circumstance that’s just possible with the cleanest of signals.
The PlayStation is a fascinating console. Alongside Sega Saturn, it was the last house console where the large bulk of the library in fact performed at simply 240p, with a smaller sized subset of titles running at a greater resolution by means of interlaced 480i. Even prior to the arrival of the PS1digital, there are still some excellent alternatives readily available for utilizing initial hardware on a contemporary screen. The Framemeister, OSCC and Retrotink all do a great task, and the easiest option – the Rad2x cable television (based upon Retrotink) – provides a really remarkable 480p output. The Hyperkin PlayStation HDTV cable television is finest prevented. Another good plug and play option is merely to run your PS1 library on PlayStation 3. All consoles run all video games by means of software application emulation.
The PS1digital is the perfectionist’s alternative, though: no emulation, no analogue to digital conversion – and an entire host of exceptional onboard alternatives. The set installs inside the initial maker, its PCB needing relatively professional setup onto the existing motherboard. The seldom utilized serial port on the back of the maker is changed with the brand-new HDMI port, with a practically smooth combination thanks to the addition of a 3D printed support plate. For the supreme fan, Black Dog is aiming to bring back serial performance either by means of a dongle or by means of the PS1digital’s internal WiFi chip, which intends to provide the exact same experience however without the requirements for wires. Yes, the gadget does have WiFi performance – which’s simply the start of its performance.
Via an incorporated FPGA, PS1digital deals a host of alternatives to the user. While video gaming, holding down L2, R2, square, x and start offers you access to a menu for accessing all of its functions. That begins with resolution, where VGA, 480p, 960p and 1080p alternatives are readily available – all of them being integer scaled for accuracy clearness. My suggestion is to opt for 1080p, which provides an ideal scale with black borders. For a more ‘full-screen’ result, 960p does without the black bars leading and bottom, however many display screens will present extra scaling.
Further alternatives permit much deeper customisation – restricted and complete variety RGB are supported, in addition to gamma changes and your option of deinterlacing alternatives. For the smaller sized variety of PS1 video games that run in 480i interlaced mode, you can select in between ‘bob’ and ‘weave’ alternatives. The previous acts to completely deinterlace the image with some shimmer obvious as an outcome, while the latter generally enables the interlace weave to stay undamaged. Other alternatives consist of the capability to imitate scanlines (and this is among the very best applications I’ve seen) in addition to the addition of the hq2x scaling filter which intends to settle pixelated edges. The PS1digital is likewise upgradable by means of firmware updates – the primary factor it has WiFi performance.
Needless to say, the output quality of a modded PlayStation console is second to none – it’s essentially impossible to improve upon the internal digital quality the PS1digital delivers. As the video above demonstrates, the output wipes the floor with the sub-par Hyperkin HDTV product and provides extra clarity over the Rad2x cable. Interestingly, PS1digital even offers additional clarity over the PS3’s HDMI output – particularly when it comes to handling 480i signals. PlayStation 3 does do a good job in running PS1 games, but remember that at its heart it is still software emulation.
It’s difficult to level criticisms at PS1digital because ultimately, the price premium you’ll pay completely removes all analogue to digital conversion from the video output pipeline. The Rad2x cable is a simpler, cheaper solution of course, but it is still using the analogue output of the machine and while its 480p signal is very good, you’re still left with the task of scaling it – a job that’s usually performed in a sub-optimal way by a modern display. The PS1digital takes care of everything for you – to the point where the only criticism you can level at it comes down to the nature of the PS1 content itself.
The PlayStation’s lower colour depth dithering mode was used on a lot of games and while the look passed muster on a CRT, it doesn’t present particularly nicely blown up in pristine digital quality to a flat panel display. Similarly, there’s nothing that a video output mod can actually do to address the affine texture warping issues that affected a lot of the PlayStation’s library. In that sense, PS1digital is as good as you’re going to get but those looking for the ultimate modern solution for original PS1 gaming also have to contend with lower quality elements of the design. The CD drive’s laser was never particularly robust and could fail easily – not good for preservation. I’m certainly looking forward to the upcoming optical drive replacement units that will eliminate this weakness in the original hardware once and for all.
It may sound like I’m stating the obvious at this point but the PS1digital is an excellent product – and one I strongly recommend acquiring once it becomes available. I’ve spent a week with the unit, revisiting a wide range of games in putting together this review and the whole process serves to highlight why a mod like this is so welcome. It all comes down to the library of games you have to play: wide-ranging, extensive, brilliant, with a massive array of incredible experiences that still hold up today across all genres. In fact, when looking back at the PS1/Saturn era – in my eyes, we never had it so good. With that in mind, it’s great to be able to revisit that remarkable library – and short of acquiring a good CRT monitor for retro play, this is the best you’re going to get.