One of the biggest challenges facing retro game enthusiasts is the basic concept that console systems and games designed for CRTs are not suitable for modern tablet technology, not only because today’s screens do not even accept the video output of classic game consoles. Various solutions can be used to close the gap, but none of the solutions can provide direct modification of the original hardware to provide the quality of an all-digital HDMI solution. This is what Black Dog Technology’s PS1digital does: install a separate board inside the original PlayStation and convert its internal signal to the original digital output-great.
If this concept sounds familiar, then we have discussed the work of Black Dog before, especially the work of DCHDMI (now renamed DCdigital), which is the same as Sega’s Dreamcast. These modules provide the absolute best image quality when bypassing the original analog video and audio output of the host console. From console to tablet, from beginning to end, the entire process is completely digital. In the case of PS1digital, the signal is so pure and unfiltered that our frame rate analysis tool can work as expected-this is only possible when the signal is purest.
PlayStation is an interesting console. Together with Sega Saturn, it is the last home console, and the vast majority of the library’s content actually only runs at 240p resolution, while a smaller subset of titles runs at a higher resolution via interlaced 480i. Even before the arrival of PS1digital, there are still some good options for using original hardware on modern screens. Framemeister, OSCC and Retrotink all performed well, and the simplest solution-Rad2x cable (based on Retrotink) provides an impressive 480p output. It is best to avoid using Hyperkin PlayStation HDTV cable. Another good plug-and-play solution is simply to run your PS1 library on PlayStation 3. All consoles run all games through software emulation.
However, PS1digital is the purist’s choice: no emulation, no analog-to-digital conversion-and many excellent built-in options. The kit is installed inside the original machine, and its PCB needs to be professionally installed on the existing motherboard. The rarely used serial port on the rear of the machine is replaced by the new HDMI port, which can be integrated almost seamlessly due to the inclusion of a 3D printed backplane. For the ultimate fans, Black Dog hopes to restore the serial function through a dongle or PS1digital’s internal WiFi chip, which is designed to provide the same experience without the need for wires. Yes, the device does have WiFi capabilities-this is just the beginning of its capabilities.
Through the integrated FPGA, PS1digital provides users with many choices. During the game, press and hold the L2, R2, Start, Square and X keys to access the menu to access all its functions. Start with the resolution first, which offers VGA, 480p, 960p and 1080p options-all of these options are integer scaled to improve accuracy. My recommendation is to use 1080p, which provides perfect proportions with black borders. In order to obtain a more “full screen” effect, 960p cancels the black bars at the top and bottom, but most displays will introduce additional zoom ratios.
Other options allow for deeper customization-limited and full-range RGB support, as well as gamma adjustment and non-interlaced scanning options of your choice. For a smaller range of PS1 games running in 480i interlaced scan mode, you can choose between the’bob’ and’weave’ options. The function of the former is to completely de-interlace the image, resulting in some faint flashes, while the latter basically keeps the interlaced weaving intact. Other options include the ability to emulate scan lines (this is one of the best implementations I have seen), and hq2x scaling filters designed to eliminate pixelated edges. PS1digital can also be upgraded through firmware updates-this is the main reason it has WiFi capabilities.
Needless to say, the output quality of the modular PlayStation console is second to none-it is basically impossible to improve the internal digital quality provided by PS1digital. As shown in the video above, this output wiped the floor with inferior Hyperkin HDTV products and provided higher definition via Rad2x cables. Interestingly, PS1digital even provides higher definition on the HDMI output of PS3-especially when dealing with 480i signals. PlayStation 3 does a good job of running PS1 games, but remember that in essence, it is still a software emulation.
It is difficult to criticize PS1digital, because in the end, the price premium you will pay completely eliminates all analog to digital conversion in the video output pipeline. The Rad2x cable is of course a simpler and cheaper solution, but it still uses the analog output of the machine, and although its 480p signal is very good, you still need to scale its task-usually a suboptimal way in modern displays. PS1digital will handle everything for you-so far, the only thing you can criticize is the nature of the PS1 content itself.
PlayStation’s lower color depth dithering mode has been used in many games, although the appearance is out of place on CRT, the original digital quality presented on flat panel displays is not particularly good. Similarly, the video output module cannot really solve the affine texture distortion problem that affects many PlayStation libraries. In this sense, PS1digital is as good as what you will get, but those looking for the ultimate modern solution to the original PS1 game must also deal with the lower quality elements of the design. The CD drive’s laser has never been particularly robust and is prone to failure-not conducive to preservation. Of course, I am looking forward to the upcoming optical drive replacement unit, which will completely eliminate this weakness in the original hardware.
It seems that I am saying this is obvious, but PS1digital is an excellent product-I strongly recommend you to buy it before you buy it.I have spent a week in this unit, reviewing many games and putting them together, the whole process is highlighted why Such mods are very popular. All of this boils down to a library of games that you must play: wide-ranging, rich in content, brilliant, with an incredible variety of experiences that are still applicable to all types today. In fact, when looking back at the PS1/Saturn era-in my eyes, we have never had such an outstanding performance. With this in mind, it’s great to be able to revisit this excellent library-and there is no need to buy a good CRT monitor for retro playback, which is the best you will get.