Since TVs shifted into the glorious realm of HD, there’s been a bit of a battle going on in the world of retro gaming. Relying on RGB output was arguably the most sensible way of extracting the best possible picture from your consoles in the CRT-filled ’90s, but that isn’t always the case now (in fact, many modern TV sets have removed connections like SCART entirely, and those that do have them rarely handle the analogue signal well).
This has opened up the door for a wide range of AV solutions for retro gamers, including upscalers like the OSSC, RetroTINK2x and Framemeister (which, on a basic level, take the analogue signal and turn it into something your modern TV can play nicely with, and they do a pretty amazing job) as well as cheaper, ‘plug and play’ cable options – most of which have historically offered less-than-stellar results. Until now, that is.
Produced by UK firm Retro Gaming Cables in collaboration with RetroTINK, the RAD2X range of cables aims to offer low-latency analogue-to-digital conversion along with upscaling and even an optional smoothing filter for good measure. RAD2X cables cost £53.99 each and have been produced for the Sega Genesis / Mega Drive, Sega Saturn, Sony PlayStation and Nintendo 64 / Famicom AV / SNES / GameCube – the latter covering multiple systems thanks to Nintendo’s adoption of the legendary ‘Multi-Out’ port. Futhermore, the Mega Drive RAD2X cable has optional adapters which allow it to be used with other systems, such as the Neo Geo and PC Engine. Unlike competition products, none of these requires an additional power source, with the exception of the PlayStation example.
The cable itself plugs directly into the back of your console, with a transparent plastic box on the other end that houses the tech which makes the RAD2X tick. This then connects to your television via a Mini-HDMI-to-HDMI lead. Unlike many of the stand-alone scalers we mentioned, there’s no tinkering required here – this really is a plug-and-play solution that works flawlessly each time. Latency is measured at around 53 microseconds, according to the manufacturer, and we’re in no position to argue that – there’s no noticeable input delay from what we can see.
Compared to SCART, composite or S-Video connections, the difference in picture quality is striking, with images looking sharp and colourful (and scaled correctly), while audio is equally impressive. The ‘smoothing’ filter might not be to everyone’s tastes (we certainly prefer to see those lovely boxy pixels), but there are certainly instances where to makes the image look more visually pleasing – and it’s there if you’re a fan of that kind of thing. The only thing missing is the option to enable CRT-style scanlines, which is one of the big attractions of devices like the OSSC.
While they don’t come cheap – especially when compared to other, lesser HDMI cables on the market – the RAD2X cables perform so much better. Another bonus is the fact that one cable (the Nintendo Multi-Out one, for example) can often service several machines. While serious AV fanatics might miss the ability to muck around with various settings and add things like scanlines to the mix, the RAD2X series is arguably the best option for anyone who simply wants to run their vintage hardware on a modern TV with the minimum of fuss and effort, and comes highly recommended.
Thanks to Retro Gaming Cables for supplying the RAD2X cables and adapters used in this review.