Video Mode Comparisons

First, let me preface this by saying it’s not a tremendously scientific experiment. Although I made sure my major camera settings didn’t change, there are a lot of factors on the monitors themselves that I’m not sure how to control or don’t have the ability to compensate for, and some results I can’t interpret in terms of what is causing what I see as differences and shortcomings. Also, I’ve made the images quite large, larger than usual, because it can be hard to discern the detail when they are small.

And nothing new or unexpected is happening here. This is just a light comparison in how much improvement can be achieved by using the best output mode. Anyway, here’s what I did.

First I put my MZ-700 up to the task. I connected it by both composite video (to my NEC PC-TV455) and by digital RGB (to my Sharp CZ-600DB) and then loaded the game “Ottotto”. First with lights on:

Then with the lights out:

The digital RGB is of course much clearer. I kind of feel that composite should have been better than it appears to be, though. But I’ve tried the composite output on another monitor, and it’s about the same. I wonder if something is not working quite right in the composite output circuitry.

Next I changed everything. The computer for this round is the Sony HB-F1XD (MSX2). The monitors are the same, but this time their functions are swapped – the PC-TV455 gets analog RGB and the CZ-600DB gets the composite. I shot it with both BASIC and the game Last Armageddon. Again, lights on:

And same scenes with the lights off.

And again, the analog RGB looks much nicer. It’s also noticeable on the MZ-700, but especially on the MSZ2, which displays kanji, the big difference is in the clarity of the text. Although my Sharp X1 Turbo Z in high-resolution mode by far provides the clearest text, upgrading from composite to RGB is still tremendously helpful in terms of clarity. Also, the color palette is surprisingly different, and some of it may be down to settings on the monitors, but at least to some extent, the color differences exist even if used on the same monitor.

Umm, also, if anyone knows how to remove that gigantic “P.”, I’d be really grateful! I think it requires the remote, which I don’t have.

Sony HB-F1XD

This machine is one of Sony’s MSX2 models. It features an attractive black and gray case with red accents and many LEDs and a couple of gadgety-looking slide controls to make it look cool. And indeed, it does look cool! I really like the style. The built-in floppy drive is a very nice touch, too.

It was purchased as a tested-working system, so it was no surprise that it booted right up. MSX 2 and MSX have BASIC on ROM, so I could begin using the system immediately.

I only have one game that is specific to MSX 2 – an RPG called Last Armageddon. I chose it because of its bizarre visuals. All of these photos are from the intro.

Of course, there is a big difference in image quality between MSX and MSX2. It is higher resolution and has a larger color palette. It also has analog RGB output, which grants a large increase in clarity. This is tremendously helpful in reading kanji, as the characters are too much of a blur for me to read over composite. Still, the Sharp X1 Turbo Z is much much clearer.

I enjoy the MSX2 quite a bit more than my first MSX machine. Although the MSX had a keyboard and a cassette port for loading tape-based games, cartridges got a much bigger push, and you just connect a joystick and start playing the games, so it really felt more like using a console than a computer. Of course, that was just my experience based on what was cheaply and easily available to me at the time; MSX is a fully capable computing platform, too, but these disk games with all their swapping and having a game that requires keyboard interaction really gives me a more solid computing experience.