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GameCube Video Display and HDTV Guide

by: lordnikon

This guide will help you get the best video signal quality possible from your Nintendo GameCube.
Note: RGB/SCART Cables have yet to be properly researched for this guide.


A total of 4 different video cable options exist for the GameCube:
  • RF Switch
  • Composite
  • S-Video
  • Component
The GameCube uses the same connection as a Super Nintendo and N64, allowing you to use RF/S-Vid/Composite on any of these systems. However the Component cable uses a special port, referred to as the digital port. First generation Gamecube models used this connector. Unfortunatly Nintendo later removed this port to save costs in hardware menufacturing.

RF-Switch is the very worst display option. This should be a last resort. Only use this cable if you are connecting to an old SDTV that has no other connection options other than RF Switch.

Composite (Yellow Cable) is the standard video cable that comes with the GameCube. In my experience the GameCube looks a tad blurrier in Composite output when compared to other systems using the same cable type. So obviously we want to upgrade and improve the video signal by choosing a better cable. Where we go from here all depends on whether you are using an SDTV or an HDTV, and what type of input connectors your TV has.

S-Video on an SDTV

If you are using an SDTV, and it supports S-Video, then buy the S-Video cable. When I first used an S-Video cable on my Cube, the improvement over composite was incredible. Here you are going to see the largest leap in video performance for the money. Tracking down a quality S-Video cable can be a bit tricky since many were made with poor shielding, resulting in a strange Hexagonal overlay that makes the picture quality worse rather than improves it. It looks a lot like signal interferance. The Madcatz cable with a triple connector for PS2/XB/GC with the grayish/clear cable lining, as well as the official Nintendo GameCube S-Video cables, have proven to work perfectly. Though there may be others that simply havn't been identified yet. (I only know from what I own and have personally tested.)

Just make sure if you decide to connect the Madcatz cable to multiple systems at once, that they are not powered on. You may have to have the cable only connected to 1 system at a time, as it can impact the picture otherwise.

Component on an SDTV

Component is better than S-Video, but the improvement ratio from S-Video to Component is a bit less than Composite to S-Video. You will get a very sharp picture, and more vibrant colors. If you want to go all out and get the Component cable for an SDTV, you won't be dissapointed, but these cables are a bit pricey. So an S-Video cable may be good enough if you have an S-Video port.

Though maybe you have an SDTV that has only Composite and Component. If that is the case, save your pennies and buy a Component cable. It will be worth it. If you play your console for long hours, never settle for composite if you can upgrade.

Display lag and HD Signal Processing

SDTV's render in two primary modes: 240p and 480i. The "i" after 480 stands for "Interlaced". Which means it displays two sets of signals alternating on odd/even lines of the TV. GameCube games will run in 480i on SDTV's.

HDTV's have a native fixed pixel resolution. Video is rendered in "progressive scan". Your TV could be 720p, or an even higher resolution at 1080p. While SD displays and older CRT Computer monitors can switch resolutions, HD displays can only render in 1 resolution. Therefore if you connect your GameCube to an HD Display, of the many signal processing procedures that take place, it will: 1) convert the signal from interlaced to progressive and 2) scale the image to a higher resolution.

Re-processing the video signal takes time, which creates a subtle delay that can be easier felt than seen depending on the games you play. Not only this, but the process of scaling a smaller image to a larger size degrades picture quality.

Choosing a cable for your HDTV

Up until now, we have been talking purely about the video cable affecting picture quality. However now the TV inversly impacts the picture, and we have "display lag" to deal with. So what do we do?

This is where the advantages of the Gamecube's Component cable come into play. Most GameCube games support an alternate mode, "480p", which renders the display signal in Progressive Scan. This only works when using the Component cable on a display that supports Progressive Scan. Simply hold the "B" button as the console starts up to invoke this mode.

Using a Digital Port capable Gamecube, with a Component cable, on an HDTV in Progressive Scan mode, gives you the best display quality output the Gamecube is capable of, while mitigating the display lag as much as possible. By rendering in 480p this cuts the process of de-interlacing a 480i signal into Progressive scan out of the equation. Eliminating this can often cut your display lag in half.

Sure, the Gamecube Component cable is pricey, but it is worth the money if you put long hours into playing your Cube.

Wait, but what about the Wii?

"Can't I just use a Nintendo Wii? The Component cables are so easy to find for that system!"

Ah... well, no you shouldn't use a Wii, for 2 important reasons:

1.) The networking functions for GameCube games do not work on the Wii.
2.) The Component signal for the Wii is worse than that of the GameCube.

That's right, the Component output signal for the Nintendo GameCube is actually better than the Wii.

This image comparison was taken from a thread over at forums. While it can be argued that the Wii screenshot is out of focus, notice the shadow edges on the gold metalic areas of the Wii screen. There is clearly some sort of filter being applied to the 480p output from the Wii.
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