The PC-Engine

Ah, the good old PC-Engine (Turbografx-16). It has a good reputation for fun 8-bit games with 16-bit quality graphics, giant sprites, and vibrant colours. So, of course I want to try to get RGB video from it.

Now, the PCE system itself is so tiny, the electronics are tightly packed onto two boards, meaning that putting the RGB amplifier that the PCE needs inside of the PCE itself is almost impossible. However, AV Boosters for the PCE are cheap, and are quite empty and spacious inside, so that's a good solution.

An even better solution (meaning playing CD games) is to put the RGB amp inside of one of the CD systems available for the PCE, so that's what I did...

Image thanks to Jason Hill

Ah, but first the problem of opening the CD system presents itself. It uses really odd (moreso than "gamebit" screws) inverted-star shaped screws with a protrusion in the centre of the hole, meaning the simplest way to open up the SCD-ROM casing is to heat the screws, melting the plastic around them, then yanking away. So, yeah, the case is opened, but 2 of the 5 screwholes are now unusable. It's OK; I put regular phillips-head screws in the other working screwholes, and all is good.

Next, I soldered together a little RGB amp (specs here) and wired its inputs to the pins of the feature-laden expansion connector (at bottom). There is a ton of space to the right of the CD mechanism for placing a PCB, so that's where I taped down -- sloppily, as you can see -- my PCB, resting on top of a paper sheet, as otherwise it'd be resting on bare metal shielding.

The final step is to wire up a connector to the RGB monitor, and install it into the case. Putting it in the top half of the casing gives it just enough clearance (you may need to place it higher than pictured) above the aforementioned metal shielding, and you're good to go.

Let's rate the PC-Engine! (Note that I am not comparing composite quality against RGB quality, but rather each quality against the best that Composite or RGB has to offer, respectively.)
Composite Quality
RGB Quality

The PC-Engine has the capability (through composite) to enable or disable NTSC artifact reduction -- meaning some ugly interference/dithering in bold colours can be eliminated. Most games do this; however, some games (like those by Taito and some by NEC Avenue) have this artifact reduction turned off. This means that their images (when paused or at title screens) look dithered and noisy. Not great.

Overall, though, the PCE's composite video is superb. The PCE is known for its bright and sharp composite display, so it gets a high rating from me. The switch to RGB makes the image quite a bit clearer, so it's even more sharp and amazing.

My only warning is to be careful when constructing the RGB amp. I built it as instructed, and everything looked good when I connected it to my PCE. But when I connected the same amp to my SuperGrafx, the image suffered from some nasty image shearing. I discovered that disabling the amplification of the comp.sync line eliminated this shearing, and didn't make a difference to the clarity of the RGB video. So, try this if you experience these problems initially with your RGB amplifier.

Now, you can see what I mean on the SCREENSHOTS PAGE,

or return to the main page.