Need to convert component video (YPbPr) to RGB, or RGB to component video? There are transcoders and converters on the market that can do both of these things, but it’s rare to find a little box that can do both. The Keene RGB2C is one such device that can, making it a very flexible little box of tricks. After we recently uncovered a small but significant image quality issue with the Startech Transcoder we were keen (no pun intended) to thoroughly test this transcoder. Still readily available from Keene electronics here in the UK, could this little box be an ideal solution for your gaming setup?
Configuring and cabling
The Keene transcoder is cased in a sturdy plastic shell measuring roughly 9cm by 7cm by 4cm. It’s the same enclosure that Keene use for their Syncblaster black box devices. As well as the two female SCART sockets, the exterior of the unit has a bank of DIP switches and a 12 volt DC power connector. Since the unit has a SCART input and output, the first thing you are going to need to do is figure out the cabling. To use the device to transcode from component to RGB, for instance, you would typically plug a SCART cable into the input then use an adapter such as the one shown on the right here to get the required component video output. Keene can provide these adapters, as well as breakout cables that allow the transcoder to connect to D-SUB15 (VGA) connectors too.
Once you have figured out the cabling situation, you need to configure a few DIP switches and buttons on the unit. By toggling the push button on the unit you can switch between RGB to YPbPr and vice-versa. The other DIP switches allow you to configure sync. You can add and remove sync on green and configure which of the SCART output pins carries the sync signal, meaning the transcoder should work perfectly in a wide range of setups. Remember that most SCART to component breakout adapters don’t cater for audio, so you may need a further adapter to extract the stereo audio signal from the SCART cable.
Testing the Transcoder
Once everything was cabled up, we set about testing the transcoder in YPbPr to RGB mode. We used the Gamecube, the Wii and the original Xbox, both with and without the XRGB Mini in the chain. We also ran the same test screens that caused the Startech transcoder to exhibit the purple tinting problem we recently discovered.
In testing the transcoder performed extremely well. 240p worked perfectly across the board, but 480i signals inexplicably caused problems when used with our DVDO Edge video processor. When using the Keene transcoder we had to set the output frame lock on the processor to the “Unlocked” setting. Why this is we weren’t able to determine, this certainly wasn’t the case with the Startech transcoder. There were no issues with 480i signals when using the XRGB Mini.
480p worked perfectly across all our test devices too. The Keene transcoders image quality was perfect, with no degradation to the image that we could detect. The unit is of course a pure transcoder, there’s no upscaling or conversion. This means of course that if you feed 480P in, you get 480P out, the unit does NOT upscale or downscale, so you need a processor or display that can handle this (most SCART TVs will not handle 480p input). Remember too that it’s a common misconception that 480p is the same as 640×480. 480p is actually 720×480, but if you feed that signal into many displays through the VGA port, it is incorrectly processed as 640×480 and that can result in a squashed image or other problems. That’s not the transcoders fault, the transcoder just converts the signal as it is, with no further upscaling or processing.
Unfortunately, 480p is the highest resolution that the Keene transcoder will handle. Feeding the device a 720p signal from our Xbox resulted in an image with incorrect colours. Had HD resolutions been supported too, we’d have had no hesitation in replacing our Startech transcoder with the Keene model, a real shame.
We briefly tested the transcoder in RGB to YPbPr mode. We connected our RGB modded Nintendo 64 to the transcoder and tried both 240p and 480i modes and encountered no issues, other than the image seemed to be slightly dimmed. We should point out though that our entire capture chain is now setup for RGB, so this actually meant the signal was being converted from RGB to component via the Keene, then back to RGB again further down the chain. By stripping away some of the needless re-conversion it’s likely the image wouldn’t have been dimmed at all.
During testing we captured a range of screenshots to compare the transcoder to the native component video signal, and we’ve put those up on a gallery page here.
Another AV product we’re keen to recommend
With the RGB2C, Keene have delivered another high quality AV product. The units image quality is flawless across all the tests we tried, including the test screens that caused issues on the Startech transcoder. It’s a real shame then that the unit cannot support resolutions greater than 480p, if it could it would easily be the perfect solution for any setup. As it stands, the unit is ideal for users looking to transcode Gamecube and Wii games into RGB, or for users in the USA looking for a high quality RGB to YPbPr transcoder to use with consumer CRT televisions. At £69.99 the unit is a little pricier than the cheaper eBay transcoders, but is more flexible and has excellent image quality. As long as you don’t need HD resolutions, you won’t be disappointed with this little black box.