The ColecoVision holds a special place in retro gaming history as one of the top video game consoles of the early 1980s. Released by Coleco in 1982, the ColecoVision featured arcade-like graphics and audio capabilities that rivaled top home computers of the era. It was also capable of playing Atari 2600 games with an adapter module.
While the ColecoVision’s peak popularity was short-lived due to the video game crash of 1983, it remained a beloved console for its advanced graphics, controller with a number pad, and excellent arcade ports. Like many vintage systems, connecting the ColecoVision to a modern HD television can present challenges. But with the right cables and adapters, rediscovering your classic ColecoVision games is not out of reach.
In this guide, I’ll go over the best methods for hooking up your ColecoVision to modern TVs, along with tips for troubleshooting signal issues along the way. Let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
- The ColecoVision outputs an analog RCA composite video signal natively.
- High quality shielded cables help prevent interference with the signal.
- Composite to HDMI adapters provide the simplest digital conversion.
- Avoid RF connections for anything beyond simplicity of setup.
- Check your TV’s input lag and enable game mode for optimal responsiveness.
ColecoVision Connection Methods:
The ColecoVision console itself outputs audio and composite video signals through two RCA ports on the back:
- Composite – Single yellow RCA plug carries the 240p video signal.
- Audio – Red and white RCA plugs output stereo sound.
Newer TVs do not have native composite inputs and use HDMI instead. So conversion is required to display properly on modern sets. Here are your options:
Composite to HDMI Adapters
This is the most straightforward way to connect:
- Adapters convert the analog composite signal to HDMI for modern TVs.
- Models like the RetroTINK 2X and Rad2x provide lag-free passthrough.
- Connect your ColecoVision using high quality shielded RCA cables.
- Enable any special modes on adapter like 240p/480i for best image quality.
- Plug adapter into HDMI port on TV and select corresponding input.
Direct Composite Input
If your TV has composite inputs, you can connect directly:
- Use a high quality shielded RCA composite cable.
- Plug yellow connector into yellow video in, red/white into audio in.
- Select composite video input on TV menu.
- Enable game mode on your TV to minimize lag.
- May require adjusting TV video settings for optimal image.
This method works but is dependent on your TV having composite inputs.
Connecting via old-school RF coaxial connectors should be a last resort:
- Requires RF modulator to convert ColecoVision signal to RF.
- Picture quality is greatly reduced compared to direct video connections.
- Connect coaxial cable from RF box to antenna input on back of TV.
- Video/audio quality is subpar but easy to set up.
Avoid RF unless no other connection options exist. Image and sound suffer greatly.
Optimizing Display Settings:
Once connected, optimizing game display may require adjusting the following TV settings:
- Input Mode – Set input to Game Mode reduce lag. Set to 240p/480i mode if available.
- Aspect Ratio – Adjust to 4:3 or Original mode to avoid stretching.
- Sharpness – Increase slightly to compensate for composite artifacts.
- Brightness/Contrast – Calibrate for optimal white/black levels.
- Color – Boost color saturation a bit but avoid overdriving colors.
Some TVs may lack granular calibration options, so do your best with available settings.
Here are some common problems and solutions:
No Video/Audio Output
- Ensure RCA cables are properly secured at both ends.
- Try different cables in case of a faulty wire.
- Verify TV input mode matches cable connection.
Black and White Picture
- Use a shielded composite cable instead of unshielded.
- Check that yellow connector is in video in, not just audio.
- Adjust antenna connections to RF box if using.
- Clean cartridge and console connections with isopropyl alcohol.
- Ensure audio cables are fully plugged in on both ends.
- Try a different set of RCA audio cables.
Game Display Too Dark/Bright
- Calibrate TV brightness, contrast, and color settings.
- Adjust in-game brightness levels if option is available.
Proper cabling is key for maximum video quality and minimizing issues. With some tweaking of cables and TV settings, your ColecoVision should display nicely on any modern screen. Just be ready to troubleshoot as needed.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is the best cable option for connecting a ColecoVision to a 4K TV?
For 4K HDTVs, your best bet is using a high quality composite to HDMI adapter like the RetroTINK 2X or Rad2x Pro. This will provide crisp 1080p upscaled video without lag.
Do I need to mod my ColecoVision for it to work on new TVs?
Thankfully, no. The ColecoVision doesn’t require any internal modifications to work with modern TVs. As long as you have the proper cables, it can output native 240p video signals that modern sets can display.
Will cheap composite cables work okay?
It’s better to avoid cheap composite cables. They frequently cause interference and signal degradation. Spend a few extra dollars on high quality shielded cables to get the cleanest video output.
My TV only has an antenna input – can I still use my ColecoVision?
Yes, but you’ll need an external RF modulator connected to the ColecoVision via composite cables, then connect the RF signal to your TV antenna input. This results in lower quality but works in a pinch.
Do ColecoVision games support HD resolutions?
No, the original ColecoVision hardware maxes out at 240p resolution. Games will be upscaled when displayed on HDTVs but won’t be enhanced to true high definition. The standard definition era will look excellent regardless.
Why is my ColecoVision image distorted or rolling?
Try gently cleaning the system’s cartridge slot with isopropyl alcohol and cotton swabs. Also ensure your RCA cables are securely connected. Faulty cables can introduce interference causing video issues.
Hooking up the ColecoVision may take a bit of experimenting, but the results are worth it. With a quality connection to your modern TV, experiencing top arcade-style games like Donkey Kong, BurgerTime, and Lady Bug will transport you right back to the golden age of gaming.