Bought one of those active upscaler HDMI cables solely for my PSTV and the results were interesting

Discussion in 'PS Vita - Console, Accessories and Hardware' started by moonblood666, Jan 19, 2019.

  1. moonblood666
    OP

    moonblood666 GBAtemp Fan

    Member
    5
    Feb 24, 2014
    Gambia, The
    So since my (very) old 720p TV died last summer and I've gotten a used 1080p 42" TV as a replacement I somehow lost interest in my PSTV since the decline in terms of visual quality was quite heavy compared to my 720p TV. As to be expected since there are 2 scaling steps in between (544p -> 720p -> 1080p). For a long time I've searched for a solution and just recently I found out about these upscaler HDMI cables which utilize a chip that basically add anti aliasing to the scaling and generally sharpens the edges as well.

    So few days ago I bought a Sagemcom UP200 cable which uses the previous revision of the mcable chip by Marseille as I got it very cheap on Ebay (14€). Didn't expect anything and only wanted to experiment a bit since 14€ isn't a big loss (compared to the original cables by Marseille themselves which cost 100$+)... And was actually surprised... But not universally...

    For those who don't know what I'm talking about, here the neogaf thread about those cables.

    My initial reaction: The difference in picture quality is perceivable but more subtle than the marketing might make one believe. The upscaled PSTV output (720p) to 1080p looks sharper than upscaled by my TV, no question and the aliasing is surprisingly reduced (can be seen as early as on the Bubble Menu) making the image less "noisy" while sharpening the edges. If you go close to the screen you actually can see that some kind of filter is applied to the edges of the text like when you use an emulator though much more subtle than let's say the 2xSai filter in certain emulators. It's absolutely not the ugly bilinear low quality filtering you see when using built in upscalers of TVs. More like FXAA but without the blurryness. Also the colors are a bit more accentuated.

    The game I tested it first with was Zero no Kiseki Evolution. I was rather impressed by how well the scaling algorithms work on the 2D sprites in combination with the less noisy (less aliased) 3D backgrounds. There is a sequence with a train arriving at Crossbell station (3D environment) while some passengers (2D sprites) walk by and I was totally taken aback by how clean the image looks and how well the sprites and 3D elements "pop out". Also the text looks much sharper. The character portraits in the main menu look extremely sharp/crisp even when getting closer to the screen.

    Then I tested Sora no Kiseki SC Evolution. The image was not as clean and sharp as it was the case with Zero no Kiseki Evolution as the game utilizes some kind of "fog" effect in some environments, making it much harder for the chip to detect edges. But I would say it still looks better than with a normal HDMI cable. Some foliage elements like grass actually looked quite a bit sharper now as well as the character portraits and the text. But it's very subtle.

    Next game was Utawarerumono Mask of Deception... and it looked much less impressive in the 2D segments and as washed out as if I was using my TV as the upscaler. Same with the visual novel Chaos Child. I'd go as far as to say that Chaos Child looked much blurrier than with my standard HDMI cable.

    The next game I tested it on was Trails of Cold Steel 2... And it looked absolutely horrible. While there was not much aliasing, everything looked extremely blurry... Much worse than with a normal HDMI cable. BUT: text boxes and HUD elements looked sharp as if it were in native resolution.

    At that point I had a theory why some games look amazing while others don't... In short: It's either because the chipset has problems with the already upscaled PSTV image and its already softened edges and/or the chip works best with strong contrasts. So I think the edge detection works really well when there are clear borders. With 3D content and high contrast 2D it's truly impressive, while with some 2D stuff like visual novels with a lot of shading and softened color transition not so much. Especially if the 2D images are pre rendered in 540p upscaled to 720p by the PSTV and the scaled by the chip.

    So I tested Persona 4 Golden... With a 544p resolution hack applied (because P4G doesn't natively run in the Vita inernal resolution)... And had my jaw dropped. As expected the high contrasts of P4G are perfect for the scaling. So much that the 3D in the game as well as the high contrast HUD elements looked as if I was playing the game on a Vita emulator in native internal 1080p. The 2D portraits though looked a bit blurry compared to the clean and sharp edges of the environments and the HUD elements though it still felt cohesive. All in all P4G looked stunning and much better than with a normal HDMI cable... I played it on my old 720p TV last summer in the native PSTV resolution (so without upscaling) and it still looked much cleaner and sharper with the upscaler cable on my current 42" 1080p TV. So for comparison reasons I booted the game up on my Vita Slim... In short: It looked as good with the cable as in native 540p on my Vita (except the character portraits!!!). That was quite impressive. I'd actually say the 14€ investment for the cable was worth it just for P4G alone. I can't overstate how good it looks with the cable. This feels really close to how a HD remaster should look like.

    I am Setsuna was maybe the highlight so far when it comes to clarity. I have the PS4 version as well and if some of the HUD elements weren't clearly low res I would't see much difference compared to the PS4 version here. It may be because the game has very strong contrasts, but the 3D environments and textures looked amazing. The heaviest use of this cables AA filter and edge sharpening I've seen so far was at the text boxes. The text looked incredibly crisp/high res. This also came at a price: Basically the text sporadically was "broken" on some letters. I don't know if it's because of the used font or because of the smaller font size. If anyone has played some Playstation 1 games on emulators with a specific filter applied knows what I'm talking about. Despite that I found Setsuna to be the most impressive example of what this scaler cable is capable of. The trees in the first town with their very subtle color transition from autumn red to orange fading into the white of snow looked really impressive considering that it's basically native 544p upscaled to 1080p and one would normally expect a huge decline in color intensity. It even seems this cable corrects the color loss that the PSTV introduces while upscaling from 544p to 720p. I have yet to see a game on my PSTV look this good on my 42" 1080p TV. In addition to that Setsuna was a nice benchmark to test the scaler cable's input lag since the game's controls or rather movements of the characters respond very directly compared to the other games tested. In short: I couldn't detect any additional input lag. If it's below 1ms as stated by their marketing... Realistically I doubt it... But at least the lag is so miniscule that it is barely perceivable. The scaler chip is definitely faster (or at least not slower) than my TVs built in upscaler, so it makes no difference whether I bypass my TV's scaler by feeding it pre upscaled 1080p or the other way around.

    Muv Luv Extra on the other hand just looked decent. Like with the other VNs I've tested with the cable it's clear that the scaler has problems to detect the edges on the native 544p backgrounds and sprites. It may look better than with the TVs upscaling but not by much. Some of the sprites that have stronger/thicker outlines though do look considerably sharper. The text though looks extremely clean and sharp as it has a black outline, so the edge detection works flawlessly.

    Steins;Gate 0 though looks really blurry. Interesting enough: In the beginning of the game you see some character sprites from the first Steins;Gate which have a different art style with stronger outlines and more contrasts and details. These look gorgeous when using the cable. But once the VN switches to the current character designs they do look much less sharp. The chip clearly has some problems detecting the edges sometimes. Also the text and some HUD elements seem to be very blurry.

    Overall... It becomes more and more clear that VNs are just not suited for this upscaler cable... Which is a shame...

    My conclusion: these cables are not universally suited for the PSTV as the algorithms are programmed to work with native 720p and not upscaled 544p, but with some games the results are beyond my wildest imagination (I am Setsuna). Some games look exceptionally good (Zero no Kiseki Evo, Persona 4 Golden), others blurry (some VNs, Trails of Cold Steel). The problem with using it on the PSTV is that the PSTV already upscales to 720p on its own, so with some games which have not the best contrasts to begin with the chip on the cable struggles with the edges. Also if the content has smooth color transitions and a lot of shading on 2D content (P4G character portraits) the chip doesn't sharpen the edges. If there are high contrasts or clean color transitions (Zero no Kiseki character portraits and sprites, P4G HUD) it's actually quite impressive to look at. Games that run below the Vita's native resolution in their 3D (as I suspect Tails of Cold Steel 2 does) are a blurry mess.

    All in all it's really an interesting device. The PSTV with it's internal upscaling is far from optimal to use these cables on, but with the right games the results are truly impressive. I just wish there was a passtrough mode to deactivate the post processing with the problematic games. Either way I think in the worst case the problematic games just look like with a normal HDMI cable, in the best case though the results are truly astonishing. I wonder why TV manufacturers don't implement such chips into the TVs out off the box.

    It definitely breathed new life into my PSTV.
     
    Last edited by moonblood666, Jan 19, 2019
  2. leon315

    leon315 POWERLIFTER

    Member
    10
    Nov 27, 2013
    Italy
    One image is worth 1000 words, you took so much effort to describe your experience, why don't take some time to make some screenshots?
     
    leonmuse likes this.
  3. moonblood666
    OP

    moonblood666 GBAtemp Fan

    Member
    5
    Feb 24, 2014
    Gambia, The
    Because I don't have any capture device. I could make some off screen photos, but I doubt that would be beneficial.
     
    leonmuse likes this.
Quick Reply
Draft saved Draft deleted
Loading...