As described by UltraCade, the uVC Universal Video Converter automatically detects valid VGA, SVGA, and XGA signals, and then converts them to low or medium resolution output. Because it accepts any VGA signal, there’s no software required, and it will therefore support Mac, Windows, Linux, VGA out on your Dreamcast, etc. Overall, it sounds pretty versatile.
Contents of the Package
The uVC package as shipped
Top view of the uVC PCB
Bottom view of the uVC PCB
Everything was well packaged, especially the board itself, which was protected in an anti-static bag inside of a padded envelope. Can’t take too many chances with the shippers these days, I suppose.
According to their manual, the uVC comes pre-configured to work in most situations. That is, it’s configured for use with a standard resolution monitor, separated H/V sync, positive polarity, and auto-detection of the input resolution. Other than that, you simply connect the VGA cable, connect a monitor cable, and plug in the PC power plug.
6-pin connector to interface your arcade monitor
While I would imagine most situations would have a PC power supply available, it might be nice to see another power input option, for use with other devices, like a game console.
VGA and power connection points
Unfortunately, my Wells Gardner monitor did not utilize the type of monitor connector that they supplied. Making my own custom adapter cable was no problem, but it is important to note. The cable they supplied is 6 pins, whereas my monitor takes a 6 pin + 3 pin connection.
Upon powering everything up, there’s a splash screen displayed by the uVC itself. This is really handy, as it lets you know that the device is powered, and that it’s connected properly to the monitor. No need to even have VGA input yet, you immediately know whether it’s connected and working. Additionally, there are about a half-dozen LED’s on the unit itself to tell you that various components of the board are working properly. The splash screen displays two important pieces of information: The input resolution and the output resolution.
As you can see, it’s currently setup to output
standard resolution, 320x240, and I have no input connected yet. Once
you do connect an input, it immediately displays that information, before
waiting a few seconds to switch to the actual input.
My first test was to use 800x600 as an output, and everything was looking good. While Windows was incredibly hard to read, as expected, it was displayed perfectly.
Time to Fire Up a Game or Two
Things are looking great. Picture quality is excellent,
considering the monitor it’s on, and the “feel” of an
arcade monitor is definitely there. Next steps; test the other resolutions,
640x480 and 1024x768.
640x480 worked as expected, and looked every bit as good as the 800x600 tests. 1024x768, however, posed a problem. There was “tearing” at the bottom of the screen. I played with various dip switch settings, but to no avail. There is a troubleshooting section of the manual, and I thought I followed it as well. So, I sent an email off to UltraCade. The mail I got back was polite, and suggested I check dip switch 2 of the unit. Sure enough, this resolved my problem. Better yet, it was in the troubleshooting section of the manual, and I must have overlooked it, so this one was entirely my fault.
Competition in the Marketplace
There are alternatives to the uVC device, such as specially-designed video cards that output to an arcade monitor. The most popular card, however, looks only to support resolutions up to 800x600, as compared with the 1024x768 supported by the uVC. Additionally, a video card ties you to video card technology; as you want higher performance hardware in your arcade setup, you’ll need to upgrade various components.
A device like the uVC should connect to any VGA input, so whether it be the oldest or newest video card out there, PCI, AGP, or PCI Express, you’ll be able to interface them all to your arcade monitor.
Additionally, the uVC supports both 15Khz and 25Khz modes. If you’ve got a monitor that’s capable of 25Khz, you’ll have more flexibility compared to 15Khz-only VGA cards.
The uVC does exactly what it’s advertised to do. The video output is clear and the color representation is excellent. There appears to be no framerate issues, and I never saw any kind of video stutters, etc.
While I did have to adjust a dip switch to get it to work at 1024x768 with my monitor, this was simple and covered in the manual. I would like to see an additional monitor cable (9 pin variety) included. Even without, I can heartily recommend the uVC as a hassle-free solution to using a genuine arcade monitor with a MAME PC. In my opinion, this is a welcome addition to the home arcade scene.
Editor's Note: It should also be noted that there is a price to be paid for increased resolution support and portability. The uVC converter currently retails for $225.00 and is available from Happ Controls.