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I found out all my SmartTVs don't work because they are too modern for my old computer.

I am a young owner of a Commodore 64, so please bear with me as this machine is a decade older than me.

I do have AV-video-wires that I got from eBay.

Question

Before, I make my purchase on Ebay what older television sets would work with the Commodore-64 given I use the AV-video-wires?

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    Do any of your 'smart' TVs have AV inputs? – Bruce Abbott Aug 20 at 4:40
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    I'd be damned if Samsung flat TVs don't work. My 5 year old Samsung TV works with Oric & Amiga CD32. What do you mean by "don't work" ? – Jean-François Fabre Aug 20 at 6:30
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    @Jean-FrançoisFabre That looks like to be a different issue. The problem with devices like the Commodore 64 is the 240p issue. These old computers and consoles output 262 scan lines per field, instead of the NTSC standard 262.5. The symptoms of lack of 240p support in a modern digital TV is not displaying anything. The Nintendo 64 problem looks to be colour space problem. The N64 is outputting RGB and the TV expects YPbPr (or S-Video or component) or vice versa. – Ross Ridge Aug 20 at 16:27
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    You might consider purchasing an actual monitor instead of a television set. The C64 was released at a time when people were just starting to get into computing - but everyone had an analog TV they could use as a display. This was driven by convinience and availability, but color and clarity were always better when your computer was connected to an actual composite monitor. With some searching on ebay you might find a reasonably priced Commodore 1701 or 1801 that will be a perfect fit for your new C-64. – Geo... Aug 20 at 17:00
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TL;DR If you don't want to rely on an intermediate device, such as a "scan-doubler", then you need a screen that includes analog inputs and internal electronics capable of displaying a low-definition 240p video signal.

The real issue is the inability of those screens that do have the composite video input to correctly deal with a signal source that only sends the odd or even field (at 60Hz) rather than sending both fields interlaced (at 30Hz). Most of the retro computers and consoles that produce NTSC/PAL do so with a non-interlaced output. Interlaced NTSC/PAL is only common on the Amiga, and it is rarely used (without a scan-doubler) because there is too much "flicker" on a CRT screen at 30Hz to be usable for text display and most games.

My experience is that modern LCD TV's that have the necessary composite analog, S-video, or component style inputs can work fine with an interlaced, 480i, signal. But they will experience all sorts of syncing issues if you try to use a non-interlaced 240p signal. What a scan-doubler actually does is promote the 240p to 480p, thus eliminating the sync problems caused by 240p and also eliminating the "flicker" problem on CRT's by getting rid of interlace.

Such a 480p signal also has a 31.5kHz horizontal frequency, doubled from the original 240p 15.75kHz, and is compatible with "VGA" inputs, if you separate out the RGB and sync portions as separate inputs. So, that's why most "scan-doubler" solutions output to a VGA connector.

There are LCD screens that support 240p, but they are becoming more and more rare as this use case dies out. I have two Dell "1080p" monitors (Model #U2410, actual resolution 1920x1200) that support 240p. These monitors are already 10 years old and newer monitors tend not to support 240p.

Your best solutions for a C64, in my opinion:

  1. Acquire a old, compatible, CRT monitor that supports the chroma/luma ("S-video") output of the C64.
  2. Acquire an external scan-doubler along with any VGA compatible monitor, either CRT or LCD.
  3. Try to find a used LCD with 240p support. Dell and BenQ are the most common.

Since this situation is already well-understood, none of the solutions are particularly cheap. Old LCD's with this added capability, and virtually all old CRT's, now fetch somewhat "premium" prices. Fortunately, scan-doublers are becoming cheaper and more pervasive. You might investigate the retroTINK.

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Modern smart TVs may have analog inputs, but they are very "picky". They often do not work with older computers. My two Smart TVs cannot display even Amiga nor Atari ST, although they provide Composite input, RGB SCART, etc. So I have one very old TV for all my retro machines. The problem is nobody can say if your TV will work with your C64 before you try it.

One possible way is to buy any PAL-to-VGA or PAL-to-HDMI (Composite-to-VGA) converter / scandoubler, but the result does not satisfy me (there are some video artifacts on the screen and picture shakes sometimes). Maybe the expensive ones do their work better.

But a couple of years ago I have found a gadget on eBay / AliExpress, named "Car rear camera PAL display parking blah blah..." It cost around 30 USD and it is 4.3" or 7" LCD color display with PAL input (composite video). It is pretty small, but the picture is perfect, much better than the picture from any XXX-to-VGA (XXX-to-HDMI) converter I ever saw.

I have tested it with ZX Spectrum (with video signal output), Atari 130, Commodore 128 as well as my hobby "Arduino-based computer with monochrome PAL output". Unfortunately, I have not tested it with the C64, but I believe it should work together.

ZX Spectrum + PAL parking display Atari 130XE + PAL parking display

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    Those PAL camera displays are often used for making portable versions of consoles, and don't usually consume a lot of power. A way to find one display that may work is looking for Youtube videos of people making a portable version of something, and check which display they used. Sometimes, they provide Amazon affiliate links, which gives them a small kickback from buying something from their link. Why do the research when someone already did it and put the results for you? – Ismael Miguel Aug 20 at 14:57
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    I am an American, I think PAL might not work. Is this a NTSC vs PAL thing? – Travis Wells Aug 20 at 15:46
  • @TravisWells yes, PAL was the European standard and NTSC the American version. – Digital Chris Aug 20 at 18:32
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    Bruce Lee! I played that. – Almo Aug 20 at 18:42
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    Those camera displays usually accept both PAL/NTSC and larger ones (7", for trucks) accept anything 9..32V for power. – fraxinus Aug 21 at 17:56
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Assuming the problem is that your smart TVs don't have any analog video inputs, the Retrotink-2X upscaler, about $100, converts component, S-Video, and composite to HDMI.

The Framemeister XRGB-Mini used to be the best option ($200), but recently it has skyrocketed in price ($500) due to parts going out of production.

On the low end, there are various "av2hdmi" converters on eBay and elsewhere that will work if you find a good one ($10). The quality won't be as good as the Retrotink-2X, and it will add a fraction of a second of lag and make high-speed gaming difficult, but it's cheap.

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  • it's cheap and sometimes it doesn't work because it doesn't do RGB, only composite. Better ask for advice first in dedicated forums before buying one. – Jean-François Fabre Aug 20 at 13:41
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    I'm a Retrotink owner, and it's a great device. No obvious latency and seems happy with non-conformant video. Also if you do feed it interlaced video, it can optionally do pure bob no weave, to avoid those comb-style artefacts. – Tommy Aug 20 at 20:03
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    @Tommy I really think it's the best option right now for composite and S-Video. – snips-n-snails Aug 20 at 20:09
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You can use the RF output of your C64. Get a Chinch-RF cable and plug it into the antenna input in your TV. Then you just have to scan for the correct channel your Commodore will use to "broadcast" (remember to select "analog"). Tested on modern Samsung SmartTV (PAL)

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I once plugged a Super Nintendo, via an AV cable, into an LG TV (made in about 2013) and there was so much lag that it was unplayable. (Though I do not recall whether I plugged it directly into the TV or routed it through a VCR at the time.) So keep that in mind.

The other thing I remember when I first got my Commodore 64 (C64) in the 1980s was the C64 would not work well with certain models of analog televisions: The image would constantly "bounce" up and down on the screen (and this happened with two different C64s that I tried). So if you're going to buy an analog TV, I'd test it first.

That said, if you're in the USA, and looking to get a dedicated analog TV for this endeavor, you may want to check out Freecycle.org where people give and take things locally, for free.

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  • Lag is a separate issue. It can almost always be fixed by changing settings on the TV, like enabling a "GAME" mode. The VCR wouldn't have been a factor, they don't have anything that would buffer or delay the analogue signal. Your LG TV, once correctly configured, would be one of the few modern TVs that would work with a Commodore 64 or a Super NES. – Ross Ridge Aug 20 at 16:09
  • @Ross Ridge I only pointed out the lag as food for thought. The VCR may have outputted analog RF to the TV(?) which could cause a conversion delay--I don't remember if the TV has such an input. There were no configuration settings in the TV that fixed the lag problem. – kackle123 dances with Monica Aug 20 at 16:27
  • Lag is a problem that affects all consoles, modern or old, and any modern TV that performs image processing on it's inputs. The more image processing the TV does the more lag the TV causes. Disabling these image processing steps, like 120 HZ or higher interpolation, removes the lag. RF modulators don't cause delays, they also don't have anything that could buffer or delay the analogue signal. – Ross Ridge Aug 20 at 16:33
  • @RossRidge I could try playing around with it again, but I'm no stranger to such things and at the time I could not find any settings that altered the 250+ ms delay. RF modulators don't cause such delays, but converting from an analog signal to a displayable digital signal could. – kackle123 dances with Monica Aug 20 at 16:43
  • @RossRidge - I agree, and have experienced this in person. I once set up a sports bar with an HD modulator system that broadcast three satellite receivers onto three different television channels, so that any one of the dozen TVs could tune into any of the three TV channels independent of each other. Half of the TVs were Samsungs, and the other half cheap TCLs, While this setup worked great functionally, the TCL TVs badly lagged the Samsung TVs when tuned to the same channel, even when disabling all advanced features. When testing the TVs with an HDMI splitter, they were in sync... – Hitek Aug 20 at 19:09

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