|July 17, 2000||In the Beginning||6:26 AM|
I can't tell you how important it is for you to read the PC2JAMMA section about monitors and TV displays related to MAME. There are a ton of different formats of arcade monitors (historically speaking if you are looking to upgrade an old already existing arcade game) and you can pick some very different types of displays. I would recommend trying to get a 25-27" display for the best overall play on all of the various vertical, horizontal, and newer NeoGeo style fighter games. Galaga (vertical) looks fine on a 27", even though you are not using a lot of the side area, while horizontal games also look fine (size and aspect ratio-wise).
Computer monitors offer the highest resolutions, crispest colors, widest PC support with various video cards, and are also, unfortunately, the most expensive, and generally you have to settle for a smaller size. They also tend to exaggerate the "jaggies" in the older lower resolution games under MAME. Basically, the same thing that delivers high resolution and clarity on a computer monitor, kills the whole "feel" and look of an older arcade game. There are ways to get MAME to insert "scan-lines" to emulate some of the nostalgia, but you just can't get the same look out of a computer monitor, IMHO.
Arcade monitors come in vastly different flavors. Most of the new styles are simply RGB 19, 25 and 27" TV picture tubes, and will run you from $250-$600 for even a fairly low-medium resolution monitor. Also, from the PC2JAMMA, it looks like there are only a couple video cards (namely the ATI) that support native register level programming of the chipset by MAME for all of the lower frequencies needed by arcade monitors.
Finally, there is the TV option. This is the path that I chose, and I'm very satisfied with it. A 27" color TV can be found these days for around $250. Even cooler, is that you can pipe CATV into the coax and switch between watching TV on your Arcade box, and the S-Video input from the computer.
Make absolutely certain that whatever you do here, you get an S-Video capable video card and TV.
I didn't think it would make a huge difference...it DOES. With the normal old RCA Composite video, the screen was blurry and washed out. Straight lines, and text were wavy and undistinct. Many of the smaller images (like ships and bullets in Galaga and the main character in Guantlet) were very poor looking and smeared. Text Scores and Initials were almost unreadable (especially bright white or red colors). I was extremely disappointed. Switching to S-Video made all the difference in the world. I had two 27" TV's available, and could drive both the Composite and S-Video (as well as the PC monitor) all at the same time, and did side-by-side comparisons. There is a huge difference. I actually like the S-Video TV mode the best. Even better than the PC Monitor, just because a lot of the jaggies that are present in lower resolution games ends up getting sort of averaged/smeared together in an analog anti-aliasing way...grin. So, just make sure to go with S-Video. You also want to make sure that there are audio inputs (and I wanted audio outs to be able to run to the separately powered computer sub woofer and satelites for watching TV).
Now, I did have to play around with the options a while to get the BEST display. Right now, the important ones that seem to give me EXCELLENT aspect ratios and size for ALL of the games (vertical, horizonal, even the NeoGeo type games) is to be sure to run with the -ntsc option and -640x480.
Update!! Just put in a new 30" Vizio LCD 16:9 flat panel display. It fits (barely) with the speakers on the bottom (one of the few that I've found like this). And, it is using a DVI input from the new ATI Radeon 9200. I also installed my Xbox in the cabinet with wireless 2GHz controllers from Logitech and a hidef pack (this LCD supports up to 720p natively!!!). The Windows picture is excellent and has tons of more room than the old 800x600 (at 1280x768).