Does TV-Out just plain suck? (s-video)

So I’ve been polishing off my MAME cabinet, and the last move was getting a nice big TV set to replace the little 15" computer monitor I’d been using to test the system.

In the store, there wasn’t a lot of choice. My video card has VGA, DVI and S-Video out. My possibilities, then, are straightfoward:

I can either get a cheapo TV with only coax in, and have an RF modulator convert S-Video to coax.

I can get a TV with S-Video in, and just run S-Video from the card to the TV.

And that’s really it, because I couldn’t find an RF modulator that converted S-Video to composite, which is the only other real choice: my VGA out seems pretty useless for hooking up to a TV, and the DVI would only be useful if I dropped hundreds and hundreds on a HDTV. No.

I plumped for the S-Video, and it looks rather poorer than I expected. I’ve hooked s-video up before for TV-Out, and remember it being bad, but I just assumed I had configured things wrong.

It looks considerably worse than, say, my XBX or PS2 on s-video. Is there a reason for this? Everything from 640x to 1024x produces nearly unreadable text.

It’s not so bad it can’t be read, but why so bad? Even 640x480 is annoying. It makes me wonder how horrible coax would have looked!

At the end of the day, I’m going to be running stuff like the god damn New Zealand Story on it, so it won’t matter much. But the “why is this worse than console S-Video?” is getting to me a little. My suspicion is that the TV-out controller on my card (Radeon 8500) is somewhere between “meh” and “Bah!” on the quality scale.

Does TV-Out just plain suck?

Yes. I don’t know why, but TV-Out always produces a blurry unreadable picture.

I assumed it was because NTSC only has 525 lines to start with. So even at 640x480, any pixel pretty much only takes up 1-2 scan lines. Then you only get half of that with each frame thanks to interlacing. NTSC is an old format, so reading fine text on it was never part of the plan.

Are you using XP? Try changing everything to a large font size and large icon size.

  1. I tried that, it asked for the damn disk, which I now have to fish out. So I’ll have to do it manually in the desktop properties when I get home tonight.

I’ve been tempted to find a copy of media center edition, but I don’t know anyone who has it, and don’t know if it’s worth bothering with.

My guess is the component handling TV-out on a console is a dedicated signal-outputting device ($$$), while the component in my old video card is likely just an electronic switch splicing the vga signal into the s-video port’s connectors.

As an experiment, tonight I’m going to hook up my x800 XT card, which came with all sorts of TV-out adapters and marketing, and see if that does it better. And I’ll hook up the old’ dreamcast to see if I just got a shitty TV set.

I have a MAME cabinet as well with a 27" TV using s-video from an ATI Radeon 9800 Pro (overkill I know but it’s just what I had). I previously used a Geforce 2 MX as well.

I find no problem with the image for MAME games… from the basics to more recent stuff. But I did do some tweaking. There are a lot of command line parameters you can use to tweak the graphics, such as increasing the line width and brightness in vector games. Plus you should experiment with basically any parameter that affects image until you get it how you’d like it.

When Windows loads, you can’t even read the desktop icons?

I also tweaked Windows a bit, using large icons and text but I could still read it smaller.

I can read it. I’m just disappointed. I expected too much.