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    VGA Box FAQ by SCutting

    Version: 1.8 | Updated: 06/21/03 | Search Guide | Bookmark Guide

    ****************************************************
    ********     Sega Dreamcast VGA Box FAQ     ********   
    ****************************************************
    
    Answers to common questions about the VGA box for 
    the Dreamcast. What it will do, what it won't do.
    
    NOTE: This FAQ is specifically referring to the official
    Sega VGA box, but is also largely applicable to the various
    3rd-party ones available. 
    
    
    Revision 1.8   21st June 2003
    
    Written by: Steve Cutting <scutting@optusnet.com.au>
     
      with help from: Raymond McKeithen II 
                      Brian Osserman
                      Albert Davenport
    
     
    
    ------------------------
    On to the Questions....
    ------------------------
    
    Q: What is the Dreamcast VGA box?
    A: A device that lets you connect your Dreamcast to a PC-style VGA 
       monitor, for the sharpest possible picture.
    
    ------------------------
    
    Q: Will the VGA box allow me to run games in higher resolutions ?
    A: No. Games will still run in 640x480, or 320x240 for lo-res games. 
       The same as when displayed on a TV.
    
    ------------------------
    
    Q: Will the VGA box allow me to display an external video source on 
       my VGA monitor ?
    A: No. The VGA box has no external inputs. It is for Dreamcast only.
    
    ------------------------
    
    Q: Will the VGA box allow me to connect my other console    
       (PSX/Saturn/N64/etc) up to my VGA monitor ?
    A: No. See previous question
    
    ------------------------
    
    Q: Will the VGA box allow me to have both my Dreamcast and PC hooked
       up to my VGA monitor at the same time, so that I can use either
       without having to unplug cables ?
    A: No, not with the official Sega VGA box. However there are 3rd-party
       ones available which have this feature. The only way to achieve this
       with the Sega VGA box is by using either a VGA switchbox, 
       or a multi-input monitor. 
    
    ------------------------
    
    Q: Is the VGA box like those "upscan converters" that other companies
       sell ?
    A: No, it's completely different. It doesn't do any video>VGA
       conversion at all, because the Dreamcast can output standard VGA 
       anyway. The VGA box just switches the Dreamcast into VGA mode and 
       provides the VGA connector.
    
    ------------------------
    
    Q: How good is the picture when displayed on a VGA monitor ?
    A: Quality is identical to a PC in 640x480/60Hz mode. The Dreamcast 
       has a VGA type chipset like those used on PC video cards.
    
    ------------------------
    
    Q: Is the picture on a VGA monitor still interlaced like on a TV ?
    A: No. Therefore there is none of that comb-like tearing effect you 
       sometimes see in games on a TV, which is caused by the odd/even 
       lines of the picture being drawn at different times. See previous 
       question.
    
    ------------------------
    
    Q: Can I select different refresh-rates with the VGA box, like I can
       with my PC video card ?
    A: No. The refresh-rate is fixed at 60Hz.
       
    ------------------------
    
    Q: What outputs does the VGA box have ?
    A: 
    
       On one side:   VGA (15pin D)
                      Audio (PC speaker style mini stereo jack) 
    
       On other side: Composite video (RCA)
                      S-video (4pin mini-DIN)
                      Audio L/R (2x RCA)
    
       There is a switch to select between VGA and TV mode. In TV mode
       you can use either the composite or the S-video output. The switch
       is actually labelled "PC/TV".
    
    ------------------------
    
    Q: Does the VGA box require its own external power supply ?
    A: No
    
    ------------------------
    
    Q: How big is the VGA box ?
    A: About 10x8x2.5 cm (4x3x1 inches), with a short lead that plugs 
       into the Dreamcast's audio/video port.
    
    ------------------------
    
    Q: Do all games work in VGA mode ?
    A: No. There's a small number of games that do not support VGA mode. 
       
    ------------------------
    
    Q: What happens when I try to load a non VGA compatible game in VGA
       mode ?
    A: The game will not load at all.
    
    ------------------------
    
    Q: Why don't all developers include VGA support ?  
    A: Good question. Put it down to laziness. Some obviously feel that
       since only a fraction of Dreamcast owners have the VGA box, it's 
       not worth the effort supporting it. 
    
    ------------------------
    
    Q: How can I tell if a game supports VGA mode before I buy it ?
    A: Look on the back of the CD case. "VGA" will be listed if it supports
       it. Even if it doesn't have VGA support listed though, it still might
       work in VGA mode. In this case, the best thing would be to just ask in
       the rec.games.video.sega newsgroup. Chances are someone who owns the 
       game will be able to tell you. 
    
    ------------------------
    
    Q: Is there any way to force a non VGA compatible game to run in VGA
       mode ?
    A: Yes. Many people have reported success with a trick which forces 
       such games to run in VGA mode. This trick involves flipping the
       switch on the VGA box during the boot process, which is something
       that the VGA box instructions advise *AGAINST*. If you're not 
       comfortable doing this, then skip to the next question. If you ARE
       comfortable doing this, then follow these instructions: 
    
       1. Switch off the Dreamcast and monitor, and set the VGA box switch
          to the TV position. Turn the volume down on your speakers, to
          allow you to hear the Dreamcast's drive spinning.
       2. Put in the game disk and turn on the Dreamcast.
       3. Listen to the drive. You will hear it start spinning at slow speed
          to check the disk. After a couple of seconds you will hear the 
          drive speed up. At this point, flip the VGA box switch to the 
          VGA position. 
       4. Wait about 10 secs as the game continues to load. Turn the monitor
          back on, and hopefully the game will now be running in VGA mode. 
    
       NOTE: You can leave your monitor on the whole time if you like. It's
             just that some older VGA monitors go haywire whilst the VGA box
             is in TV position, because there is no VGA signal present. Most
             newish digital monitors will quietly go into a standby mode when
             there's no VGA signal present, in which case you can just leave
             it on the whole time.
        
       This trick has been found to be successful on SOME non VGA compatible
       games, but not all. Therefore there is no guarantee that this trick
       will work with the game you're trying. 
     
       Thanks to Albert Davenport <adavenpo@iphca.org> for sending me this
       info.
    
    ------------------------
     
    Q: I do not want to attempt the trick mentioned in the previous question.
       (or I did and it didn't work for a particular game). What other 
       options do I have for displaying non VGA compatible games ?
    A: The simplest way is to just hook a TV up to the VGA box as well, and 
       switch to TV mode for these games. Another way is to buy an upscan
       converter (such as the XRGB-2) and connect this to the S-video output
       of the VGA box. When playing a non VGA compatible game, you flip the
       switch to go into TV mode, and it can then be displayed on your VGA
       monitor via the upscan converter.
    
    ------------------------
    
    Q: I have heard some people mention "VGA-enhanced" games, which suggests
       that some games feature enhanced graphics when run in VGA mode. Do such
       games exist ?  
    A: No. Running in VGA mode can just bring out details in games that you
       wouldn't normally pick up on a blurry TV using a standard AV lead. On 
       the other hand, it can also bring out flaws that might be un-noticeable 
       on a TV (such as poor textures). The graphics will still be the same 
       when displayed on a TV.
       
    ------------------------
    
    Q: Does the Sega light-gun work with the VGA box on VGA monitors ?
    A: Yes
    
    ------------------------
    
    Q: Will the Japanese VGA box work on my US Dreamcast ?
    A: Yes 
    
    ------------------------
    
    Q: I notice there are various 3rd-party VGA boxes around. Are they as 
       good as the official Sega one ?  
    A: As explained earlier, the Dreamcast outputs the VGA signal itself,
       so all the VGA box really does is provide the VGA connector. 
       Therefore you shouldn't find any significant difference in picture 
       quality between various brands. The only real difference you might
       find is build-quality. 
    
    ------------------------
    
    Q: Which brand VGA box is the best ?
    A: Personally I have only ever used the Sega one, so I can't comment on 
       other brands. See above.
    
    ------------------------
    
    Q: I have seen companies advertising "VGA cables" for Dreamcast. Are 
       these the same thing as a VGA box ?
    A: These cables just provide VGA and audio outputs, but don't have
       composite/s-video outputs to enable use on a TV as well. If you don't
       want the ablility to switch between VGA and TV, then one of these 
       cables is all you need.
    
    ------------------------
    
    Q: Does running in VGA mode have any effect on framerates/slowdown ?
    A: No
    
    ------------------------
    
    Q: Well the VGA box sounds cool. Should I get one and a big VGA monitor,
       or just a big TV instead ?
    A: Up to personal preference. The picture on VGA is super-sharp, but this
       in turn means that the Dreamcast's 640x480 resolution might look a bit 
       pixelly to you on a large VGA monitor, especially if you're sitting up
       close like you would with a PC. This is just up to personal taste of
       course. Lo-res 320x240 games like Marvel vs Capcom do look *VERY* blocky
       on VGA though. A TV hooked up via S-video or SCART-RGB will give you a
       blurrier but much more arcade-like picture, which many people prefer
       for lo-res games in particular. 
       
       So..
       VGA box + monitor     = Razor-sharp and PC-like picture. Really shows 
                               off the high detail level in various games, such
                               as the superb textures in Soul Calibur.
       S-video/SCART-RGB TV  = Not as sharp, but more arcade-like picture. Better
                               suited to lo-res 2D games in particular.
    
    ------------------------
    
    
    That's all for now!  Please email me if you have any comments, or anything 
    to add to the FAQ.
    
    
    
    

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