Tested: RGB quality of the Super SD System 3 for PC Engine

Fabio Michelin
May 26, 2018 · 6 min read

[Para versão em português deste artigo, clique aqui.]

It sounds like a dream: a device connected to the PC Engine that gives access to 100% of its game library. An FPGA that emulates the CD-ROM² and its System Cards, including the mighty Arcade Card. All this and RGB output too. However, is this dream called Super SD System 3 really worth the asking price of 240 euros?

Released recently by Terraonion, the miraculous device had a troubled launch, some issues with its features, and a subpar RGB output left their new customers worried, but the company was willing to solve those problems, delaying delivery of the product and even providing replacements for those already delivered, so their customers would not have to deal with these drawbacks.

Very well built device
Latest revision of the board, with the RGB signal revised

We tested the second revision of the device, with its RGB circuit revised and with the capacitor C60 soldered in the correct orientation, and not inverted like some of the first units shipped. The installation is very simple: you plug the device on the back of a PC Engine (worth mentioning that it is compatible with PC Engine, CoreGrafx, CoreGrafx II and SuperGrafx systems, any console that you can use with a CD-ROM² extension — hybrid consoles with CD functionality like the Turbo Duos are not compatible), connect the power cable to the console, and plug an RGB SCART cable — it’s the same as the one used by Genesis 2, with a mini-DIN connector with 9 pins. Of course, we also have to prepare a microSD card with the games and BIOS files of the System Cards. The device offers the following features:

  • Support for CD games in ISO or CUE/BIN format. Compatible with the entire library of CD games, including those that requires the expensive Arcade Card.
  • No need to have a System Card plugged into the console.
  • Play all HuCard or Turbochip standard games.
  • Mini-DIN 9 standard AV output (same as Genesis 2). Supports composite video and RGB with CSYNC.

But what we here on RGB Inside really wanted to do was to put its RGB signal under the scope, of course. So after plugging the SCART cable here in our Framemeister, what did we think of the Super SD System 3? Let’s get down to this analysis of the RGB signal and see what we found out!

For comparison’s sake, we used a CoreGrafx 2 console with RGB mod installed by GamesCare, also including the replacement of ceramic capacitors to remove the jail bars. This console is connected to an Interface Unit with a CD-ROM² unit.

On the other side we have a PC Engine console connected to the Super SD System 3. Both consoles are using RGB SCART cables made by RetroGamingCables wired with CSYNC.

Both consoles hooked to the Framemeister, which is using the 5x profile made by FirebrandX and outputting a 1080p image.

In the following pics, we see that even though Terraonion claimed that they solved the problems of the RGB signal of their Super SD System 3 device, there’s still a long way to go in order to get an optimal signal. The RGB image is very noisy and suffers from a lot of interference, and the same can be said of the audio, especially when you emulate the CD-ROM — you can hear a humming noise, especially when the game is loading.

Our PC Engine reference unit, carefully modded by GamesCare staff, showed a much better RGB signal. Thanks to Retro RGB for the information shared and also to Tim Worthington for the ceramic capacitor mod info.

Here are the screens. And please click on each one to enlarge and see full details — wait a few seconds for the photo to fully load in the highest quality.

PCE RGB
Super SD System 3

In this screen capture of the 240p Test Suite it is clear the amount of noise in the solid colors that the Super SD Sytem 3 displays.

PCE RGB
Super SD System 3

Now let’s move on to the games, starting with one of the most iconic title of the platform: Bonk 3.

PCE RGB: notice that there’s some faint noise on solid colors, but this is characteristic of the Framemeister, unfortunately
Super SD System 3
PCE RGB
Super SD System 3: notice how the blue is affected by a strange noise

Another fan-favorite (actually, a favorite of mine and my friend Alex’): Dragon Spirit. Another example of how the Super SD System 3 suffers with noisy solid colors via RGB.

PCE RGB
Super SD System 3
PCE RGB
Super SD System 3

Now starting for the CD-ROM games. The Super SD System 3 runs them very well. Audio is bit off, but good quality nonetheless. Image quality continues the same, unfortunately… Let’s see with Dynastic Hero.

PCE RGB
Super SD System 3
Zoomed in view (click to enlarge)
PCE RGB
Super SD System 3
PCE RGB
Super SD System 3 — very noisy RGB, especially on gray

Finally, we have two videos to compare both solutions. You can notice the humming noise in the audio of the Super SD System 3, as well as its inferior RGB signal (watch full screen at 720p60).

PCE RGB
Super SD System 3

And that’s it! In my opinion, it’s very clear the difference of an RGB signal following standard specifications and the RGB signal offered by the Super SD System 3. Of course, if you will just use it with a CRT screen, like a PVM monitor or a consumer TV using a HD Retrovision cable (which is compatible with the device), it’ll be harder to notice the noise, due to the nature of the analog TV. But if you use a flat TV combined with a Framemeister or OSSC, the issue can be very annoying. It can be argued that it is worth ignoring these problems for the convenience of being able to play all PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16 games without the need to have a CD-ROM² unit or even expansion cards, but, in my opinion, the 240 euros investment should pay for all these features AND a crystal-clear RGB image!

Thanks everyone for reading this. Let me take this opportunity to recommend our YouTube channel, our Facebook page, our Facebook group and our crowdfunding campaign — if you liked this article, please consider contributing so we can keep creating content like this.

And a special thanks to the my friend and customer of GamesCare Thiago Moya, who kindly lended his Super SD System 3 unit for our tests.


Originally published at medium.com on May 26, 2018.

RGB Inside

Fabio Michelin

Written by

Fanático por games, moder GamesCare, redator, perseguidor da crocância!

RGB Inside

Para amantes de retro games e entusiastas do pixel perfeito. For retro gaming lovers and perfect pixel enthusiasts.

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