Sears TeleGames Pong
Atari 7800 ProSystem
Nintendo Entertainment System
Super Nintendo Entertainment System
PLAYSTATION 3 (60GB, fully PS2, PS1 compatible)
OG Game Boy
Game Boy Color
Game Boy Advance SP
Game Boy micro
Nintendo DS Lite
Hello D-Toid! In case you missed it, this is a two-part series (unless I decide to make another part, who knows). The first part mainly dealt with what you need to know when buying a HDTV for your gaming needs. Part 2 will mainly deal with how to get the most of your HDTV in relation to gaming but it can also apply toward hooking up DVD players, etc.
DISCLAIMER: I'm not responsible for you getting the wrong HDTV or wrong cable or whatever. This is meant to help people, but I am human (as far as you know) and I might not have everything 100% right. I am pretty confident on most of this though. On that note, if any of this needs to be corrected, please let me know in the comments so I can make the changes. Thanks. Also, keep in mind this guide is meant for US readers. I'm not versed in the different cable types and resolutions of other countries.
Now that you have a HDTV, the last thing you want to do is hook your console up to that old school RF adapter. Even your dusty NES can do better than that. Naturally you want to go with the best available connection for the console you're using. First though, you'll need to understand what connections are better than others and why.
I'm assuming most everybody knows better, but here it is anyway. Unless you're hooking up an Atari 2600/5200/7800 system where you have no choice, avoid these at all costs. They're functional but the worst kind of connection you can use, quality-wise.
Composite (RCA cable)
Really unless you’re using your grandma’s TV, you can probably do better than these also. This is the best you can do for the NES though. Most old TVs at least have S-Video so it’s better to go with those for the other consoles if you’re still stuck with a SDTV or are using old consoles. That leads me to…
S-Video is the next step up and has better color quality than composite. For gaming, S-Video cables will come along with white and red composite audio cables and many times, will have the standard yellow video cable as well so you can use the cable on a composite connection or a S-Video connection. S-Video is pretty much going to be the best you can do on most consoles made before the PlayStation 2 (before 2000). S-Video and below cannot transmit HD signals or progressive scan – the best you can do is standard SDTV 480i resolution.
Right, so now we get into EDTV and HDTV connections. Component can transmit 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i and sometimes 1080p and is a huge difference over S-Video and below. I say sometimes because it depends on what you’re doing and which console. The Xbox 360 will support games at 1080p but not HD-DVD movies with the add-on drive. For that, you would need to use VGA or HDMI. DVDs on the 360 can be upscaled to 480p via component – no higher.
This should be familiar to you all as I’m sure you have at some point connected a computer monitor to a PC using this connection. This kind of connection can also be found on select HDTVs. While it’s meant for hooking up a computer, it could be used to hook up game consoles as well. On a HDTV, you will typically have the VGA port itself along with ports for white and red RCA cables for sound. This is typically better picture quality than component and useful if you are hooking up a Xbox 360 without a HDMI connection or a Dreamcast. Be aware though that you can only use certain resolutions through the VGA port on most HDTVs. For instance, the highest mine will go is 1024X768. You’ll need to consult your TV manual for details. If you haven’t bought the TV yet, you should be able to download the manual from the TV manufacturer’s website.
This is currently the best kind of connection you can get. It supports all the way up through 1080p and combines the best quality video along with the audio connection in the same cable. You’ll want to use this one as much as possible. The PS3 can upscale DVDs to 1080p when using a HDMI cable.
Best connections for each console With that out of the way, I’m sure some of you are wondering what the best connection is for your particular console, so here we go without further adieu:
Xbox 360 – HDMI if you have one of the newer ones with the port for it. If not, then VGA. If you don’t have a VGA connection on your TV (since they aren’t common), then component is the next best thing. All games for the 360 will display in HD, some even in 1080p. This applies to original Xbox games that are compatible with the 360 as well.
PlayStation 3 – HDMI. If you have an older HDTV with no HDMI port, component is the next best thing. All games for the PS3 will display in HD, some even in 1080p.
Wii – Component is the best. The Wii doesn’t do HD (just ED) but it does do progressive scan and widescreen and for that, you’ll need a component cable. Not all games support progressive scan and widescreen but most do and Virtual Console games do as well. GameCube games that support 480p (most of them) will display at 480p on Wii also with the component cable.
Xbox – Component is the best. As far as I’m aware, all original Xbox games can do 480p with some doing 720p (very rarely). To get progressive scan working, you’ll need the component cable.
GameCube – Component is the best. Most GameCube games support progressive scan and you’ll need a component cable to use it. The Game Boy Player can output in progressive scan as well. Unfortunately, this cable won’t come cheap and you’ll want to have one of the earlier models of the GameCube. There are cheap component cables on eBay that connect to the normal multi-AV port but those are not worth using. Earlier models of the GameCube had a digital-AV port in the back for plugging in the component cable. The port was removed on later GameCubes to reduce cost. The only cable that can plug into this port is the official cable made by Nintendo. Nintendo no longer makes them though so they go for about $50 or so on eBay. eBay also lists the official Japanese component cable for around the same cost – those will work too.
PlayStation 2 – Component is the best. A lot of games are in progressive scan, especially the newer ones.
Dreamcast – VGA is the best, believe it or not. It’s not HD but it will display 640X480 and most games support it. The next best is S-Video.
NES , Genesis – composite is the best. The NES redesign will only work with a RF adapter.
Atari 2600/5200/7800 – RF adapter is the only choice.
More info on connection types can be found at Amazon's HD 101 guide. For more info on which games support what resolutions and whether they support widescreen or not, check out the HDTV Arcade forums. When you get there, click "HD Game Database" at the top and select the console the game appears on.
Gaming mode Once you have everything all hooked up, you'll want to know about this. Most newer HDTVs have a "gaming mode" that you can use to reduce gaming lag and this is especially useful in older consoles. For more info on gaming lag, please see Part 1 and to see if your HDTV has this mode, check your TV manual or look up the manual on the TV manufacturer's website if you haven't bought the TV yet.