When it comes to getting the best possible image quality out of your retro console of choice, you usually have to jump through a few awkward (not to mention expensive) hoops. That was certainly the case with the GameCube until very recently; the best way of running the system in the past was via Nintendo’s own SCART (if you’re in Europe) or Component (if you’re in the US) cables, the latter of which offered a digital signal which was unique to the console at the time. In an uncharacteristically forward-thinking move, Nintendo included digital output in the GameCube years before the PlayStation 3 shipped with HDMI support out of the box, but it never saw widespread use, outside of being converted to analogue signal by the aforementioned Component cable – which now sells for exorbitant sums online.
History lesson completed, we can be thankful in 2018 that Nintendo decided to include this digital output in the GameCube, because it has allowed industrious modders to create an open source standard which allows crisp HDMI output from the console. We’ve already reviewed the GC Video Plug ‘n Play 3.0 and EON GDHD, and now EON is back with the Mk-II model of the latter; it’s the same basic unit but with some impressive additional features that make it the most comprehensive option for those who are keen to get the most mileage out of their vintage system.
The Mk-II is easy to confuse with the original Mk-I. The box is near-identical aside from the Mk-II logo, and the unit itself could easily be mistaken for the older model. It’s only when you begin using this newer variant that the advantages become glaringly apparent (on a side note, you’ll need to make sure you have a DOL-001 model number GameCube, as Nintendo actually removed the digital AV port from the later hardware revision).
The sharp and totally lag-free HDMI output is the same, but this time around we also have an analogue socket built into the unit itself. This might seem odd to anyone planning on just using the GCHD to play games on their modern-day flatscreen, but it effectively means that US and Japanese GameCube consoles can be forced into outputting an RGB signal via the appropriate cable (it also supports Ypbpr or RGsB and output). If you’re looking to use a legacy display with your console then this is a solid option, but it also allows you to do things like capture from HDMI while outputting to a separate PVM. Again, this is a niche market we’re talking about here, but it’s worth mentioning nonetheless. On the audio side of things, the inclusion of a 3.5mm headphone socket – which doubles as a digital audio socket thanks to mini-Toslink support – makes things even more comprehensive.
Again, it’s worth stressing that not only does the GCHD Mk-II offer the best image quality imaginable – yes, even better than via the now-elusive Component cable – you get totally lag-free output; all of the GameCube HDMI adapters based on this open source tech are notable for not adding any latency, period. The downside is that there’s no scaling done by the unit at all, so how the picture looks on your TV is very much down to how well its internal hardware handles 480p and 480i signals. Not all modern TVs are created equal and even at Nintendo Life Towers we noted a marked difference between makes and models.
EON has certainly left no stone unturned in the creation of the Mk-II, but there are still things we wish were present. Insurrection Industries’ Carby – which uses the same open source project as its base – comes with a handy remote control to access the OSD (the Mk-II requires you to input a button combo on the GameCube controller). The Carby also comes with a HDMI cable in the box – not a massive concern considering how ubiquitous these things are these days, but worth mentioning. It’s also worth pointing out that the Carby is around half the price of the Mk-II.
Still, the Mk-II’s additional features will make a difference to the right person, and if you happen to be that person then the additional outlay isn’t going to be too much of an issue – especially when you consider how eye-wateringly expensive the official Component cable is, and will no doubt continue to be as time goes on. At the time of writing, it’s the best single-purchase solution for the GameCube right now.
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