As the industry continues to turn its back on analogue connections in favour of digital, those of us running classic gaming systems find it harder and harder to get converters and connectivity helpers. Fortunately, the retro gaming community is more than stepping up to fill this niche with affordable, home-engineered products that fill the gaps left by the bigger manufacturers. One of the most prolific producers of such hardware is Turkey based Beharbros.com, who are famous for their range of excellent Dreamcast VGA boxes. We took a look at their premium Toro VGA box back in February. Now, Beharbros.com are back with another new product, namely Garo, a component video (YPbPr) to RGB (VGA or SCART) transcoder. The last transcoder we reviewed, the StarTech Component transcoder ultimately ended up disappointing us, can the Garo go one better?
The Garo is pictured at the top of the article. As with Beharbros.com’s other products, the unit comes in a simple open plexi-glass case. You can see the component video and audio inputs and you might be able to make out a SCART output on the right. Around the back of the unit there’s a D-Sub15/VGA style connector next to the power connector and on the opposite edge to the SCART socket there are several switches. We’ll come to the switches in a moment. The Garo immediately scores points over other transcoders by offering the option of either SCART (RGBc) or D-Sub15/VGA (RGBHV) output. Since component video can output in both 15khz and 31khz resolutions, this makes the unit compatible with a lot more setups. If you’re intending to connect the unit to a HDTV that supports SCART and VGA inputs, keep in mind that the transcoder will pass any and all resolutions to either output, which means there’s nothing to stop you feeding a 31khz signal down the SCART connector. Although it is unlikely, doing this could damage your TV. Since publishing the review we’ve also learned that the SCART output of the Garo does NOT have the auto RGB selection pins connected, meaning it won’t work on some TVs that rely on this. Nevertheless, connectivity wise the Garo is the best equipped transcoder we’ve seen, though an additional 3.5mm audio output next to the VGA connector would have been nice for certain setups.
With a SCART output the Garo is potentially ideal for use with the XRGB Mini. By bypassing the Mini’s D-terminal/component input you can (in theory at least) get a better picture by feeding in the transcoded signal via the Mini’s RGB input.
Power is supplied to the unit via a standard 9 volt power supply. This isn’t included with the Garo, but can easily be obtained in most countries. Once powered on, the green power LED glows rather brightly, which looks cool, but may end up dazzling.
Scanlines with everything
As a neat little bonus, the Garo has three switches on one side of the unit. These control the units in-built scanline generator. You can toggle the scanlines on or off, set their width (for higher resolutions) or change them between even and odd lines. The scanline generator worked well in our tests. It’s best with 480p content of course. Note that there’s no way to control the darkness of the scanlines.
So, the all important question is how does the Garo perform with transcoding? To test that question, we first hooked the unit up to an Xbox console. Here the Garo performed brilliantly. 480i, 480p and 720p were transcoded perfectly and were indistinguishable from the original component video picture. We played at least an hour of Soul Calibur 2 and experienced no picture drop-outs or incorrect colours from the transcoder. Both RGBHV (VGA) and RGBC (SCART) outputs worked perfectly.
After this promising start we switched over to the Wii. Here things didn’t go quite as smoothly as before. When using SCART output, the picture quality was generally excellent, but the old purple tint problem that plagued the Startech transcoder unfortunately reared its ugly head here too. At certain times, the image exhibited a small band of purple/pink discolouration across the image. The tinting only seemed to appear on the Wii’s menu screens and only when using SCART output from the Garo (rather than VGA). Nevertheless, it was disappointing since we had hoped to use the unit to bypass the XRGB Mini’s D-terminal inputs and this necessitates the use of SCART output from the transcoder.
When the purple tint wasn’t present, the picture quality was perfect, just like when we used the Garo with the Xbox. It’s really a shame to have to point this out after Beharbros.com very kindly loaned us this review unit. It should also be noted that while looking for a solution to this problem, several other Garo users posted pictures of their Wii consoles and stated that they didn’t experience this problem at all, so it’s a mystery why it affects our console so much.
Overall then, we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Garo if you need a component to SCART or VGA/RGBHV transcoder. It’s definitely the best one out there for gamers and the extra scanline features are the icing on the cake. Just keep in mind this kind of conversion can be problematic, especially where the Wii is concerned.