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Confession time: retro macs aren't my only hobby. They might not even be my main hobby. Here's what one entire corner of my office looks like:

 

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I'm a pretty big fan of retro videogame consoles, specifically the Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64, Sega Dreamcast, and original Xbox. Getting them to look good on a modern display is pretty difficult, so my entire setup (with a couple of exceptions) uses S-Video cables, which connect to a little line-doubler box called a RetroTINK. It takes 240p or 480i input from the consoles, and converts the video to 480p over HDMI with super minimal input lag.

 

It looks pretty great! Unlike what most HDTV's do with 280p vide, pixels are nice and sharp, and there's no perceivable input lag. But I don't think I need to convince this community about the nostalgia of playing retro games on a real CRT. The ultimate CRT for playing retro games is a special type of display called a PVM, or Professional Video Monitor. If you aren't familiar with PVM's, they are CRT's that are built for professional environments such as medical imaging, television broadcasting, or security. They are usually rack-mountable, and also feature special inputs such as S-Video, Component, or even true RGB. Some of them can also do more than typical 480i, achieving 480p, 720, or 1080i in some cases. They're also usually judged by their amount of "television lines"; the amount of resolvable vertical lines that can be displayed on the screen.

 

Sadly, with the advent of LCD's, most PVM's got thrown in the trash, just like our beloved Macs. After searching Craigslist and Facebook marketplace almost daily for 2.5 to 3 years, I finally found one - a Sony PVM-14N5U. No component or RGB input - just S-Video and Composite, But at $150, I couldn't resist (and my setup is mostly S-Video anyway). These typically go for $200 to $400 on eBay, plus shipping. Here's one the seller's photos:

 

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I offered the seller $120 sight-unseen, and he took it! The trick is that it was located about 5 hours away from me, yikes. I asked around, and ended up finding a friend of a friend who lives where this came from in northern-ish Idaho. We made contact on Facebook, and he agreed to pick it up for me (this was about 4 days ago).

 

By sheer coincidence, he was days away from headed to the sand dunes on the Oregon Coast, which is easily 10 hours away, but exactly where my parents live! He sent me pictures of it in the storage compartment behind the cab of his semi truck. I am super, super appreciative of his efforts with the moving blanket. Keep in mind that I've never met this guy!

 

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After he got his campsite set up on the sand dunes, he took the PVM across the dunes to meet my dad to pick it up. Seeing this picture was 50 percent hilarious, and 50 percent terrifying!

 

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About 30 minutes later, I got this photo from my dad. This is the first good photo I've seen of it. A bit more scuffed up than I'd hoped for... the metal part could probably be repainted.

 

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My brother is going to visit mom and dad in about a week, or my dad might just fly it over for me in his airplane, if he decides to come over to Idaho for a quick visit. After 2 1/2 years of looking, I am really, REALLY stoked to finally get a PVM!

 

Now, about that Macintosh Color Classic...

Edited by PotatoFi
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9 hours ago, Trash80toHP_Mini said:

Very nice, is that a 14" diagonal CRT? Most of the PVM's I've seen in use were smaller tubes?

Yep! Specs say 13 1/8" viewable. I think that's about the right size for my setup. Looking forward to getting it... I don't think I've ever even seen a PVM in person.

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The PVM-14N5 and PVM-20N5 can be modded into PVM-14N6 and PVM-20N6 models. If you look at the service manual for these models, you can find what parts the RGB enabled 6 models have that the non-RGB 5 models don't. Installing these, as well as making hole in the back for the connectors, can give you RGB if you want it.

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Posted (edited)
15 hours ago, Daniël Oosterhuis said:

The PVM-14N5 and PVM-20N5 can be modded into PVM-14N6 and PVM-20N6 models. If you look at the service manual for these models, you can find what parts the RGB enabled 6 models have that the non-RGB 5 models don't. Installing these, as well as making hole in the back for the connectors, can give you RGB if you want it.

This was the piece of information that tipped the PVM-14N5U into my favor. I don’t see myself doing the mod, but it is very nice to know that it’s just a few components away!

 

I wonder if I can buy additional front panel switches somewhere, since the PVM-14N5U has fewer buttons than the 6U?

 

@Daniël Oosterhuis, you seem to have domain knowledge here. Anything else I should know?

Edited by PotatoFi
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Very interesting stuff!

I have a Sony PVM-14N5E (which I believe is the identical European version of the US model) and I am very intersted in trying to RGB mod it. I had googled some, but it hadn't occured to me to do it with the US model number. The thread linked by PotatoFi looks interesting, and it's actually the only thread I've seen to say that the mod really worked (others have just suggested that it should work).

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14 hours ago, PotatoFi said:

This was the piece of information that tipped the PVM-14N5U into my favor. I don’t see myself doing the mod, but it is very nice to know that it’s just a few components away!

 

I wonder if I can buy additional front panel switches somewhere, since the PVM-14N5U has fewer buttons than the 6U?

 

@Daniël Oosterhuis, you seem to have domain knowledge here. Anything else I should know?

I have a 20N5E that I've intended to RGB mod, but never got to. I believe the front panel buttons are just plastic pieces that push against standard microswitches. So you could just make your own hole for a switch, or if you don't want a different looking button on the front, have the RGB button on the back.

 

There's essentially a resistor or two, which depending on whether it's installed or not, will signal the microcontroller to enable or disable the RGB features, given the PCBs for the N5, N6 and SSM-14N5/20N5 (composite only CCTV model, in a pretty white color) are all the same. 

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Nice find, and definitely has a good story to go with it!

I don't use a CRT for most of my retro gaming anymore(I use an OSSC or Retrotink as an upscaler to hook up to my LCD), I definitely wouldn't turn one down at a good price like that!

I do have a small JVC professional CRT, like 9", that I use for my Apple II, Commodore 64, and other 8 bit computers with a composite output

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Posted (edited)
10 hours ago, MindWalker said:

I have a Sony PVM-14N5E (which I believe is the identical European version of the US model) and I am very intersted in trying to RGB mod it. I had googled some, but it hadn't occured to me to do it with the US model number. The thread linked by PotatoFi looks interesting, and it's actually the only thread I've seen to say that the mod really worked (others have just suggested that it should work).

Okay, first off I am shocked to hear that not one, but two people on the forum have the same PVM! I didn't think this one was that popular or common!

 

As for the RGB mod... maybe at some point, we can do a better job at documenting this! Although right now, I must admit that I'm pretty content with S-Video. Probably an American thing. GUNS, APPLE PIE, HAMBURGERS, TRUCKS AND S-VIDEO! HECK YEEEAAAAHHHHHH 'MURICA!!!!!

But seriously, I love knowing that RGB is possible on this display.

9 hours ago, Daniël Oosterhuis said:

I have a 20N5E that I've intended to RGB mod, but never got to. I believe the front panel buttons are just plastic pieces that push against standard microswitches. So you could just make your own hole for a switch, or if you don't want a different looking button on the front, have the RGB button on the back.

It might even be as simple as a small flexible tab on the front panel! It's just nice to know that the option is there.

8 hours ago, Torbar said:

Nice find, and definitely has a good story to go with it!

I don't use a CRT for most of my retro gaming anymore(I use an OSSC or Retrotink as an upscaler to hook up to my LCD), I definitely wouldn't turn one down at a good price like that!

Thanks! I have been very, VERY happy with the RetroTINK. The built-in scaler in my 2009-era Sharp Aquos does a pretty good job of cleanly upscaling 480p, so once I get that out of the RetroTINK, I get pretty good results. OSSC looks extremely cool. For a long time I really wanted a Framemeister, but the RetroTINK really has been doing the job.

 

My plan to run S-Video to both the RetroTINK and my PVM, so I can basically run both simultaneously (obviously, I'll only play on one at a time).

 

One thing I do not know yet is if the S-Video passthrough on the PVM works even when the PVM is off, and if it has any effect on display quality.

Edited by PotatoFi
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Hahaha.... this thread is awesome.  I have had one of these monitors sitting in my garden shed for several years now.  It's been holding up a pile of gas cans and a bag of concrete mix :lol:

 

Had no idea they were worth anything or that they were desirable.  I was going to use it for a home security system monitor.  Maybe I'll dig it out and see if it still works - pretty sure I dug it out of the trash, plugged it in once, and stacked things on top of it.

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16 hours ago, Brett B. said:

Hahaha.... this thread is awesome.  I have had one of these monitors sitting in my garden shed for several years now.  It's been holding up a pile of gas cans and a bag of concrete mix :lol:

 

Had no idea they were worth anything or that they were desirable.  I was going to use it for a home security system monitor.  Maybe I'll dig it out and see if it still works - pretty sure I dug it out of the trash, plugged it in once, and stacked things on top of it.

Please do! I'd love to hear more about it!

 

Yes, professional video monitors are super, super desirable for retro videogames. But, they're kinda like a Macintosh Color Classic. To 99 percent of the population, they're just junk, so saving them before they go into the landfill is half the battle. If you want to know why they're special, check out this video by My Life in Gaming.

Edited by PotatoFi
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It's here!

 

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As planned, I'm running S-Video from my analog consoles > S-Video switch > Pass through PVM > RetroTINK 2X > LCD TV. There might be a teeny tiny loss of quality by the time it hits the LCD but I am not sure. That's about 6 * 3 = 18 feet of cable before it terminates, so if I can, I'm going to find shorter ones.

 

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For "only" a 500-TV-line display, with "only" S-Video, I am really happy with how it looks! The pictures don't quite capture it, but they get you close.

 

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I also tried out some 480i content on it with Metroid Prime for Gamecube. Looks pretty good! Not quite as shocking as 240p, but good.

 

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Success! I probably won't do the RGB mod for it right now, but it's nice to know that the option is there if I'd like to upgrade. I plan to play through Mario 64 on it first - Nintendo 64 games look absolutely great on this.

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The paint on the metal shield was pretty scratched up, so I decided to pull it off, sand it with 320 grit sandpaper, 600 grit sandpaper, and paint with an all-purpose spray paint. I think it came out pretty good. Darker than I intended.

 

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