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Are you a Classic Gamer? Consider an Atari 5200, it's better than you may think!


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As per your #2, I also highly recommend the Atarimax multicart solutions.  The 5200 library is small enough to fit everything on one SD card (including tons of homebrews and XL conversions).  They cost about $130 new, and 100% worth every penny. 

I just sold one.  So looking for one used is also an option. 

Edited by RickR
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29 minutes ago, RickR said:

As per your #2, I also highly recommend the Atarimax multicart solutions.  The 5200 library is small enough to fit everything on one SD card (including tons of homebrews and XL conversions).  They cost about $130 new, and 100% worth every penny. 

I should have mentioned in the video that the price of the Atarimax is considerably less than the shipping alone would be on a dozen or so separate cartridge purchases.  Oh yeah and all those cartridges take up a lot of space.  Yes, the Homebrews and Conversions add quite a few titles into the mix.  With those two items, three if you need the HDMI converter, one will have everything necessary to bring it up-to-date for maximum enjoyment.

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1 hour ago, Justin said:

Can the HDMI output device handle converting an Atari 2600 video output to HDMI as well? 2600 TIA is pretty wild.

I would imagine it can but I'm not sure how it would handle those games with odd scanline counts which, is what you are alluding too?

My only suggestion in regards to the video is two things I noticed:

1st. is that you still have everything stretched widescreen 16:9. As you have a Sony TV same as I do in my game room, Use the WIDE button on the remote to set it to normal or zoom 1 to better fit the game on the screen without stretching it. It also helps with some of the vertical bars that are still able to seen in some instances like when you were showing Chess.

2nd is that the audio appears to be out of sync on that last game that was shown? Was the audio recorded separate from the video?

Thank you for including me in your video! I didn't expect that and hopefully I don't come across as some babbling fool in the process?

Edited by CrossBow
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42 minutes ago, RickR said:

I thought your part was excellent.  The text on Rescue on Fractalus is a really good example. 

Well I happen to really like Fractalus as well so it is good game to show the differences between them. Another one that is excellent to use is Jungle Hunt on the last scene with the cannibals and our girlfriend hanging over the large caldron. In composite, the tree almost looks like it is on fire because of the color bleeding and general "compositeness" of the combined signal. But on s-video you can clearly see the difference in the details on each individual pixel and color used.

Scene from Jungle Hunt on composite (CVBS)

52_cvbs_JH.jpg.e1e46d7257cc025eb97f9b6cadf0afe7.jpg

 

And here is the same scene through s-video.

52_svid_JH.jpg.47d2f070cb6a557daac8f696f3737aaf.jpg

 

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Very well done and some excellent points made. I've been spending more time with my 5200 lately and I'm considering a UAV mod.

I'd also add that @CrossBow did a fantastic job with a 7800 UAV install for me June 2020. Top rate work, communication and service throughout. It's a vast improvement over both RF and my LHE modded unit.  

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IMG_0014.JPG.f953f1e271a60e646bd23402d91918d6.JPG

I spent some time on the 5200 today and then seen this post.  I still say the 5200 holds its own in the mix of things...and it survived the famous game crash along with other consoles.  I brought out games I had but never spent any quality time on.  Playing these games I was able to discover a side of the 5200 I had never seen before.  Games I played were Pengo, Zone Ranger, Blue Print, Realsports Baseball (finally found one), RS Tennis, Soccer, and Football, Popeye (although I had this one many moons ago), Zaxxon, and Jungle Hunt.

Zone Ranger was a bit difficult for me but I had fun with it and enjoyed the graphics.  It looked like an arcade game.  Very nice. I liked the voice in RS Baseball.  Nicely done game.  I enjoy sports games when it's about the sports instead of the team rosters.  Soccer was a bit sluggish but playable.  Tennis was hard even on the novice setting.  you have to use the keypad buttons to direct the ball which became cumbersome.  

As much as I love the 5200 I have to say that the controllers were easier to use with my 8 year old hands than they are with my 47 year old hands.  I can't spend as much time on the system as I would love to these days.  Those controllers just cause hand cramps after a while.  Not as bad as the 7800 controllers do, though.  Still, the 5200 remains my go-to for some classic arcade fun.  And while others will suggest controller alternatives I like to keep things original so I will continue to deal with the originals.

 

IMG_0015.JPG.e1a0a95c61f78deacd5fd85bb4760561.JPG

That image is my 5200 using just RF on a 17" LCD TV.  Doesn't look half bad actually.

The 5200 does have a lot offer to those willing to take the time to actually learn the system...by its rules...not everyone else's rules.  Harness the system's controls, then learn the games it has.  If one can sit and give it and themselves quality time to learn the curve one might be impressed with the 5200's offerings.  It's what I did when I received one when they came out and that way of approaching a 5200 for the first time still holds true to this day.  It's a very misunderstood console.  The controllers, as much as I hate to admit to it, are the system's short comings, but as long as they are working then by all means give them a long overdue exercise and play some 5200 games!

16 hours ago, - Ω - said:

Oh yeah and all those cartridges take up a lot of space.

Yea...but they look pretty good all lined up on a shelf 😉 

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10 hours ago, Sabertooth said:

Very well done and some excellent points made. I've been spending more time with my 5200 lately and I'm considering a UAV mod.

I'd also add that @CrossBow did a fantastic job with a 7800 UAV install for me June 2020. Top rate work, communication and service throughout. It's a vast improvement over both RF and my LHE modded unit.  

The UAV really is a wonder and I say one of the best upgrades a person can make on their classic Atari systems. I also agree that the LHE is no where near the quality of what the UAV can provide, but there are those that believe the LHE is good enough or in some cases still a better option. The LHE is still made but sold under Winzmod on ebay. 

The UAV does a great job with s-video on the 5200. But it makes sense as the UAV was originally designed for the Atari 8-bit computer line. The 2600 and 7800 were added later with the rC and rD versions of the UAV. The 5200 has the same video as the 8-bits so it makes sense it would work so well with it.

 

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My concern with that crisp and beautiful SVIDEO output is that you lose some of the intended color effects that were meant to be there.  Pixels of different colors next to each other could produce more colors.  Yes it's fuzzy.  But it was meant to be there.  Emulation of most machines on your PC look as crisp and sharp as the SVIDEO output, but are missing some of the intended color effects.  I know Stella includes the ability to emulate the scan line effects, and that's what makes it look more original. 

For text, the crisper output is a clear upgrade.  But for games, I think it misses a little something. 

I'm just throwing this out there not as any complaint or criticism. Just pointing out that crisper output may be removing some intended color effects. 

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7 hours ago, Atari 5200 Guy said:

That image is my 5200 using just RF on a 17" LCD TV.  Doesn't look half bad actually.

I agree.  It looks better than "half bad" if you ask me.  I play my 5200 on a small LCD screen too.  Maybe that's the key...once you move to a big screen, the upgrade is more necessary as the defects become more pronounced. 

 

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20 minutes ago, RickR said:

I agree.  It looks better than "half bad" if you ask me.  I play my 5200 on a small LCD screen too.  Maybe that's the key...once you move to a big screen, the upgrade is more necessary as the defects become more pronounced. 

 

This is accurate but also some LCDs actually handle it better than others. Good example is that my big Sony in the game room doesn't do well with any RF sources. Most of them have horrible snow interference and color bleeding or streaking across the screen. Heck EVERY single Intellivision I've connected to my LCD in the game room, will cause the image to bounce up n down. Every single Intellivision... But on my small cheap little Insignia brand LCD I use on the bench they come in looking really good. In fact I send burn in test shots to my clients that show their console playing a game both through RF and composite/s-video. And they are surprised by how clear the RF looks in those pics.

So yes, the TVs themselves can make or break on whether you want to use RF or not. As I mainly game in the game room, I had to do video upgrades to my consoles so I could play them without horrid noise and other stuff that detracted from playing them.

As for the colors...yes you are correct on this as well. Any game that uses artifacing of the NTSC signals will not look right through these upgrades. Far as I know, there aren't any 5200 games that made use of this that were officially released. But plenty of 8-bit stuff did on the computers. Nearly all of the pinball games on the 8-bit will look like white or purple striped graphics through s-video. Plug in composite or RF and you suddenly see those sections were colored in. But it must not bother the 8-bit community too much because most of them are running their Atari computers through some form of AV upgrade and totally cool with no longer having those artifact colors work. 

BTW, there are 2 games on the 7800 that make use of artifacting that are effected by the UAV upgrade. Jinks and Tower Toppler. Jinks isn't affected nearly that bad and is still quite playable, but Tower Toppler looks bad through s-video as the stripes of solid colors that created the artifacting effect show through. As a result, on Tower Toppler only the bonus stages look correct as they didn't use artifacting effects for the colors in that section of the game. Even on composite, the colors still aren't correct on Tower Toppler. 

TT is the only game that is impacted in a negative way with a UAV upgrade. That is why I keep the RF intact on the ones sent to me unless my clients specifically state to remove it.

Here is an old pic of Tower Toppler I took through composite on my LHE upgraded 7800 years ago. Both the composite and s-vid are more clear through a UAV but still show the same issues in regards to color artifacts not working properly.

TT_CVBS_LHE.jpg.6cbf4cf02c372ce194c0302616d420fe.jpg

 

And here is what that same shot looks like through s-video. You can see that the colors being shown weren't actually there in the signal but were due to errors in the signal being interpreted by the tuner. As a result of the much cleaner signal of s-video, you lose this artifacting effect and see the actual signal that was being sent.

TT_SVID_LHE.jpg.810405176fb7be6dd2f780359da3c590.jpg

 

So yes, you lose some color definition going s-video but only if the game/games were programmed to specifically abuse this effect through NTSC. Far as I know this is not a PAL thing and is why PAL games use different palettes in them. Same thing with even newer systems that used dithering as that is a similar effect to create transparencies when the console didn't have the ability to do so. Jaguar games and Genesis games used a LOT of dithering and that is also lost in the move to cleaner signals.

 

Edited by CrossBow
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1 minute ago, RickR said:

"color artifacts" -- those were the words I was looking for.  THANK YOU! 

 

BTW the same thing is true with upgrading to RGB also. Color artifacting no longer works the cleaner and more clear the signal becomes. Programmers took advantage of the color artifacting to make games appear to have impossible colors or to blend in hues of colors that couldn't actually be shown. 

I still prefer to have the perfectly stable and clear picture presented by the upgrades on my larger TV in the game room so I'm okay with the few games being affected by it. 

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2 hours ago, CrossBow said:

But it must not bother the 8-bit community too much because most of them are running their Atari computers through some form of AV upgrade and totally cool with no longer having those artifact colors work. 

I like the fact that people out their are using their talents to create these upgrades to help these old machines. As for myself...I believe in preserving the original integrity of all the hardware I have in my arsenal of gaming hardware.  I could not modify any of them.  I deal with whatever way they produce their signals.

3 hours ago, RickR said:

It looks better than "half bad" if you ask me.  I play my 5200 on a small LCD screen too.  Maybe that's the key...once you move to a big screen, the upgrade is more necessary as the defects become more pronounced.

With modern LCD screens, no matter their age and resolution capabilities, it has been a mixed bag of results.  Most manufacturer's give those LCD displays just enough RF knowledge to accept the signal while others have maintained a rather impressive RF image quality.  Most LCDs I've tried mess up the colors on most games including the 5200.  That 17" is the first one I've found that doesn't.  Analog is no more thanks to it being "outlawed" these days.  So it is rather difficult to find a nice LCD display that can accept the original signals from these old systems without messing up the image.  

That LCD image is from a 17" Best Buy branded TV that is 10 years old this month (October) and was a cheap Goodwill find.  Everything RF I've thrown at it has looked really good and appears to be chocked of most interference.  

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14 minutes ago, Atari 5200 Guy said:

With modern LCD screens, no matter their age and resolution capabilities, it has been a mixed bag of results.

I agree with you @Atari 5200 Guy, and the Atari 2600 is the worst offender in this category.  For whatever reason, the 2600 doesn't work well -- like it's not quite the exact "Channel 3" tuning...it's a little off and modern TV's don't quite work with a variant signal.  Thus, I have zero issue doing a composite or more mod on them.  UAV on 2600 or 7800 seems like a really good idea, and I might pursue that one. 

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Well, the main problem with the 2600 (And 7800 running 2600 games), is that many of the games, including those from Atari themselves. Weren't keeping to the strict scanline counts properly. On CRTs this doesn't matter so much, but LCD are NOT very tolerant of this loose programming. As a result there are 2600 games that will NOT display properly on LCDs and even a UAV or any video upgrade is NOT going to correct for this. 

Even RGB modded 2600s do not work on some displays and scalers properly due to scanline programming issues in the games themselves. Here are a few examples I can name off the top of my head and what their issues are on modern displays:

- Moon Patrol. Game will play fine, but the title screen has the wrong scanline programming. As a result it will either show up scrambled or rolling, or give you a black screen completely when the title screen comes up. The Tink2s devices were bad with this game and the Tink5x is a little improved.

- Empire Strikes Back. Game plays fine but scanline count programming comes into play when you blow up the AT-ATs. The screen normally flashes lots of colors but will cause modern TVs to blank out for a second or just go screwy when it happens. Again, the tink5x seems to handle this game better.

- Asteroids. The game plays fine, but as it uses a LOT of flicker to generate the rocks, you will see odd lines through the rocks instead of solid colors due to the scaler in your TV or other device not liking the interlace video and not handling it properly. Not much can be done about this...

- Starmaster. I've been told the game will constantly blank out on the Tink2x and is unplayable but I believe works okay on the Tink5x.

- Buck Rogers. The game will play fine but the title screen will cause issues with scalers. This is the ONLY game that my Extron has issues with. On my Extron the title screen is completely scrambled and rolling crazy fast. Once I press the reset switch, the game screen comes up and looks fine. 

So those are just a few I know right off hand. There are others that will cause issues at certain parts. So yeah an AV upgrade isn't going to correct for programming errors in the games that cause the issues. The games themselves would need to be fixed. 

And as I stated above with my Extron. Buck Rogers is the ONLY game I've found to have any issues for me. All the other examples I listed do not show any problems on my Extron. So this goes back to the scaler being used being part of the problem in how they handle non standard scanline counts in a game.

 

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On 10/7/2021 at 8:45 AM, RickR said:

I agree.  It looks better than "half bad" if you ask me.  I play my 5200 on a small LCD screen too.  Maybe that's the key...once you move to a big screen, the upgrade is more necessary as the defects become more pronounced. 

 

I agree, on a smaller screen the RF may have looked better, but on the 42" screen it looked muddy/blurry and game play was not enjoyable, at least to me.  The composite output was an improvement, but man that S-video output is the bomb on a larger screen.  I've actually started playing the 5200 when I have a moment or two now.

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48 minutes ago, - Ω - said:

I agree, on a smaller screen the RF may have looked better, but on the 42" screen it looked muddy/blurry and game play was not enjoyable, at least to me.  The composite output was an improvement, but man that S-video output is the bomb on a larger screen.  I've actually started playing the 5200 when I have a moment or two now.

I agree that the upgrade on the 5200 is really a night and day difference. It is actually that way on most of the consoles.

One thing to point out as @RickR is correct in regards to some games not looking correct with these upgrades. Far as I know there aren't any released 5200 games that used the color artifacting tricks on them. I know there are a few protos out there like Miniature Golf that would have relied on it and lots of the Atari 8-bit stuff will only look correct through RF or composite but it seems Atari and the games programmed for the 5200 didn't really use this color trickery back in the day. That means that in the case of the 5200, that the s-video looks really good. I've not tried the Sophia upgrades which, provide digital and RGB outputs, but I assume they would just be a more sharp image of what s-video provides now and I honestly feel that the s-video is excellent enough as it is.

 

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