EON Super 64 HDMI Adapter Review

By
x
Gaming:
Shaan Joshi

Reviewed by:
Rating:
4.5
On July 19, 2019
Last modified:July 22, 2019

Summary:

EON's Super 64 HDMI adapter is a must-own for anyone looking to jump back into gaming on the Nintendo 64.

While the gaming community continues to hold out hope that Nintendo will (hopefully) choose to bring some of their back catalog of games over to the Nintendo Switch — and no, I’m not counting the paltry offering of NES titles — several retro enthusiasts have taken it upon themselves to engineer new products for old systems, allowing gamers to easily connect their aging consoles to modern displays. Late last year, EON Gaming revamped their flagship GameCube HDMI Adapter, and they’ve since set their eyes on yet another beloved piece of Nintendo hardware.

Enter the Super 64, the first-of-its-kind, plug-and-play adapter that connects the Nintendo 64 up to modern TVs and monitors over HDMI. Plugging into Nintendo’s proprietary Multi Out port, EON’s new hardware cleanly taps into the console’s S-Video signal and upscales it to 480p. From there, all you need to do is plug in an HDMI cable, and you’re home free — no external power required.

So, there’s a lot of questions to answer, but before we dig into the technical specs, it’s worth noting just how much love EON has put into the Super 64. Aside from the premium packaging, the adapter itself is lovingly crafted. It’s somewhat bulky plastic housing fits perfectly into the recess on the back of the console, and a plastic lip on the bottom helps to prevent strain and stress when you plug in an HDMI cable (some of which can be rather heavy, depending on their length and thickness).

With that out of the way, let’s talk about what’s going on under the hood. Not unlike other upscalers on the market, the Super 64 is taking the Nintendo 64’s 240p video, line-doubling it, and converting it to a digital signal, which is then sent to your TV or monitor over HDMI. The process is pretty similar in the event you’re playing a game that runs in 480i (which typically requires the official Expansion Pak), but in this case, the Super 64 is simply bob-deinterlacing the image. Either way, the end result is a digital 480p signal that most TVs are able to accept over HDMI.

For the most part, the Super 64 does follow through on its promise of plug-and-play gaming, though there are a few edge cases and potential hitches that are worth pointing out. As mentioned, most TVs don’t have a problem accepting 480p over HDMI, but not every TV does a great job at scaling the image up to its native resolution. The adapter itself does not add any perceptible lag (any delay would be on the scale of nano or microseconds), but you will be at the behest of your display of choice, as some panels and manufacturers have more input lag than others.

Lastly, there are a handful of Nintendo 64 games that switch resolutions on the fly, jumping back and forth between 480i and 240p. While the few games that do this tend to only switch once or twice, a few games alternate resolutions quite often, and unfortunately, this causes a short desync/black screen, which lasts around 1 second (or less). To be fair, this is a byproduct not of the Super 64, but of most analog to digital converters. Some of these instances will be unavoidable (accessing the Bomber’s Notebook in The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, for instance), while others can be circumvented — for those playing Resident Evil 2, I strongly recommend you opt to play with a stock jumper module over the Expansion Pak.

So, no lag, clean digital 480p over HDMI, and no external power connector. Anything else? Well, the Super 64 has one more trick up its sleeve — Slick Mode. As the name suggests, this is a visual effect that can be toggled off and on at will, thanks to a tiny button on the side of the adapter. Once you enable it, the video feed will be run through a filter of sorts, rounding out jagged edges that will be noticeable if you’re hooking your console up to a 1080p or 4K display.

Now, some pixel purists will balk at the idea of adding yet another post-processing mode into the mix. For those who aren’t aware, the Nintendo 64 already applies its own form of hardware anti-aliasing on every frame and, worse yet, there’s another horizontal blur that’s added on top of that, all before the image makes it to your TV or monitor. Now, in the age of the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and high-end PC gaming, these effects don’t necessarily sound like a bad idea. However, when you consider that the Nintendo 64 is — for all intents and purposes — outputting a low-res 240p image, you’ll begin to wonder if these were even needed in the first place. In fact, if you’ve ever wondered why the N64’s visuals seem softer and blurrier compared to say the original PlayStation or Sega Saturn, these post-process effects are probably to blame.

Which begs the question: is Slick Mode even worth turning on? Frankly, it’ll largely be up to your personal preference. While the Nintendo 64’s visuals are a touch soft for my liking, they do end up taking on a more jagged, pixelated look once you’ve blown them up on your HD or UHD display. In this case, some text, UI elements, and artwork can benefit from the Super 64’s vertical filter. If you take a look at the screenshots from Super Mario 64 below, you’ll see how turning on Slick Mode smooths out Mario’s mustache and hat, as well as the “Press Start” icon.

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