Feature: How to Hook Up a Sega Dreamcast via HDMI

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Like many retro gamers, my living room is now home to an over-sized flat panel display. While this is great for modern game systems, Blu-ray players, and even my old HD DVD player, it’s not ideal for classic consoles. For whatever reason (foresight perhaps), Sega offered a VGA cable for the Sega Dreamcast that allows games to be presented in glorious 480p (640x480 progressive scan). Additionally, this output removes a lot of filtering that softens the image to reduce the appearance of “jaggies.”

This clean, progressive, signal is perfect for modern televisions. You can buy a new VGA Box from Racketboy here (or search Amazon/eBay, but I’ve always had good luck with Racketboy products). Sadly, the Sega Dreamcast’s VGA signal doesn’t play nice with all modern flat panels. On my television, the colors are not correct. I still have no idea why, but it is a common problem.

So I’ve been looking for a reasonably priced way to hook the Sega Dreamcast up to the big screen and still take advantage of the Dreamcast’s progressive (480p instead of 480i) output. HDMI seemed like the obvious choice. I’ve used Monoprice for my cabling needs for a long time. It’s a great alternative to the overpriced nonsense you get at Best Buy. The copper used in Monster Cables doesn’t come from magical fairys, it comes from the same suppliers every other cable manufacture uses.

Back on topic, in addition to the Racketboy VGA cable, I’ve purchased the following gear from Monoprice:

5351 - 1.5 ft VGA cable with stereo audio. This small short cable will connect the video signal (VGA) and audio signal (3.5mm stereo) from the Racketboy VGA cable to the: 6191 - VGA to HDMI Converter. This is where the magic happens. This box converts the analog signals to digital and outputs HDMI. (needs be plugged into an outlet) 3954 - 6ft HDMI cable. This cable takes the output from the HDMI converter to the input on the back of your television. I got mine in orange, in honor the Dreamcast.

The total price, without shipping, was $36.44. Yes, you read that right, $36.44. None of that $100 converter box foolishness. The above gear will allow us to connect the Sega Dreamcast up to a television via HDMI.

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So how well does it work? In short, it’s excellent. Everything looks amazing, and there appears to be no signal/detail loss in the conversion from analog (VGA) to digital (HDMI). The circuitry in the Monoprice VGA to HDMI converter produces a picture indistinguishable from native VGA. Additionally, I have not noticed any lag (delay) at all. The picture is perfect. On the audio side, you are getting 2 channel stereo sound. And again, nothing seems to be lost in the conversion from analog to digital.

The only problem I’ve had with the VGA to HDMI converter box is when it is first plugged in. The image appears slightly dark. After 60 seconds the screen fades all the way to black. Unplugging, then plugging the HDMI cable back into the box eliminates the problem. The image returns to it's correct brightness and stays that way. As long as the converter box remains plugged into the wall, the problem never returns. Very strange.

So, if you are looking to move your Dreamcast in to your main room, the above supplies will get the job done.

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