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S-Video provides a significant jump in analog video quality over composite connections. It keeps luma and chroma signals separate for reduced noise and crisper visuals. However, modern HDTVs primarily use digital HDMI inputs.
To get the best picture out of retro systems, an S-Video to HDMI upscaler is needed. But with many budget converters to high-end scalers available, which option is right for you?
- Look for upscalers that support 480p, 720p and 1080p output resolutions.
- Upscalers using advanced processing chips like Faroudja DCDi will achieve better video quality.
- Additional features like scanline generators, color controls, and zero latency modes are worth the extra cost for enthusiasts.
- All-in-one upscalers that also add HDMI from composite, component, and even RGB inputs provide flexibility.
- Try to find comparison reviews matching your use case – gaming vs video – and types of source devices.
Why Upscale S-Video to HDMI?
S-Video separates color and brightness signals over two wires rather than combining it into one video line like composite. This enables clearer color definition and reduces interference.
On a CRT TV, S-Video can look nearly as sharp as RGB while using the same connector as composite. But on modern fixed pixel displays like LCD, plasma, and OLED panels, the low 240p/480i resolution of S-Video starts to show.
By upscaling to 720p, 1080p, or higher, retro game consoles and VCRs can gain:
- Increased detail and clarity
- Reduced dot crawl and noise
- Lag reduction compared to composite
- Ability to capture gameplay in HD via HDMI
Upscalers let you get the most out of classic S-Video sources on modern displays.
Testing Criteria for Best Upscalers
With a wide range of upscalers available, it helps to have criteria to judge which are the best options:
- Video Processing – Chips like Faroudja determine scaling quality.
- Output Resolutions – 1080p preferred. 480p min for most S-Video sources.
- Input Latency – Lag between source and display.
- Response Time – Video delay through the upscaler.
- Configurability – Control over resolution, aspect ratio, etc.
- Price – Budget scalers can be under $50 while high-end exceed $300.
- Features – Scanlines, color controls, noise reduction, etc.
Testing and reviews focus on video quality, lag, and features for the price. Match the upscaler to your needs – gaming vs video playback – and choose the best fit for your budget.
Best Budget S-Video to HDMI Converters
If you just want basic S-Video upscaling to HDMI at the lowest cost, there are budget converter options under $50:
- 480i/480p/576i/720p upscaling
- 2x scaling minimizes lag
- Under $20
- 480p/720p/1080p modes
- 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios
- $35 price point
- 480p processing with line-doubling
- Open source firmware
- $50 introductory price
These basic converters provide decent HDMI conversion of S-Video without much customization or advanced processing. But they work well for casual retro gaming and video playback.
Mid-Range Upscalers for Enthusiasts
For retro gaming and home theater enthusiasts, step-up features and processing start in the $100 to $200 range:
- 480p/720p/1080p upscaling
- Low-lag game modes
- Extensive configuration options
- 480p to 1440p processing
- Custom firmware options
- 5x zoom modes
- Plug-and-play console cables
- Zero lag with passthrough design
- Built-in scanline generator
These provide advanced scaling, near-zero latency, and premium connectivity for discerning gamers and home theater fans. Flexible control over scanlines, aspect ratio, color, and resolution takes full advantage of high-end displays.
Best High-End S-Video Upscalers
At the top end, Framemeister and some professional upscalers exceed $300. These add high-quality video processing, extensive tweaking parameters, and connectivity lacking in budget converters:
- Faroudja processing
- Low 14ms latency
- Advanced color, gamma, etc controls
- HQV video processing
- 3D comb filtering
- Extensive aspect and sizing
- Multiple S-Video inputs
- Ultra low sub-1ms lag
- Professional calibration
For critical video analysis or high-end home theater integration, these pro-grade scalers deliver elite upscaling and connectivity. The cost may only suit die-hard enthusiasts, but the quality surpasses other solutions.
Some other unique and specialty converters merit mention:
RetroTINK Ultimate – All-in-one upscaler for composite, S-Video, component, and more. Open source multi-system connectivity.
UltraHDMI – N64 HDMI mod ditches S-Video for pure digital video output. Expensive but ultimate 1st-party solution.
mClassic – Post-processing add-on rather than scaler. Uses AI processing for HDMI sources. Can stack with other upscalers.
OSSC – Open Source Scan Converter provides hardcore customization. Latency under 1ms but requires technical expertise to configure.
Some retro gaming fans have found ways to build their own upscalers on the cheap:
- Raspberry Pi – Using Pi 2/3/4 and open source software like RetroPie
- PC with Capture Card – Using HDMI capture devices and processing video on PC
- Video Encoders – Encoder chips combined with Arduino/Raspberry Pi
These DIY solutions require electronics expertise but allow customization and very low input lag. Performance depends heavily on the algorithms and components used.
Best Upscalers for: Gaming vs Video Playback
- RetroTINK 5X Pro
- RetroTINK 2X-SCART
- RAD2X Cables
For Video Playback
- Lumagen Radiance
- Micomsoft XRGB-mini
- Kramer VP-729
- Portta PET0301S
Gamers need fast response time and low latency. Video watchers want maximum processing power and picture optimization. Select an upscaler that best fits your primary use case.
Upscaler Comparison Table
Here is a comparison table of key specs for some popular S-Video to HDMI upscaler models:
|Portta PET0301S||720p||Low||No||Under $20|
|RetroTINK 5X Pro||1440p||<1ms||Yes||$150-$200|
|RAD2X Cables||1080p||0ms||Yes||$75+ per cable|
How to Choose the Right Upscaler?
With so many S-Video to HDMI converters and upscalers to choose from, it can be tough to pick the right one. Here are some tips:
- Set a budget – Upscalers range from under $50 to over $400. Decide how much you can spend.
- Consider your use case – Are you a retro gamer who needs low latency? Or watching video requiring top processing?
- Check connections – Some upscalers support composite, component, RGB in addition to S-Video.
- Compare reviews – Professional reviews like RetroRGB provide in-depth comparisons and lag testing.
- Buy adapters – Double check TV connections and get any adapters needed for your upscaler.
- Shop return policies – Testing the upscaler with your devices helps make sure it works for you.
- Future-proof – Getting maximum outputs like 1080p or 1440p ensures you can upgrade TVs later.
Upscaling S-Video to HDMI allows enjoying retro games, VCR tapes, laserdiscs, and more on modern TVs. While basic converters get the job done, advanced upscalers provide even better quality, lower lag, and maximum configurability for discerning enthusiasts.
Carefully considering your budget, latency needs, and connectivity will ensure you select the right upscaler. Do some research, read reviews, and try out competitors to find your optimal balance of affordability, performance and features.
Frequently Asked Questions
What resolution does S-Video support?
Standard S-Video typically supports 240p or 480i resolutions. Some later game consoles like Dreamcast can do 480p over S-Video.
Do I need an upscaler for 480p sources?
Most HDTVs support 480p over component for DVD players. But an upscaler is still recommended to deinterlace and scale 480p to 720p or 1080p.
What inputs do I need on my TV?
For an external upscaler, you need at least one HDMI input on your TV. Some scalers also provide pass-through composite/S-Video connections needing those legacy inputs too.
Why does my upscaled image look soft or blurry?
This is likely due to poor deinterlacing of 480i video or using a low quality scaling algorithm. Higher end upscalers will provide sharper pixel rendering.
Why is my upscaled image distorted or squished?
Incorrect aspect ratio or overscan settings on the upscaler could result in geometric distortion. Adjust the HDMI output settings to match your display.