RGB-Compatible Video Cards
This page shows you how to install an RGB-compatible video card into your computer and configure Windows to
output the correct signal for your RGB monitor.
VGA monitors have a minimum refresh rate of 31Khz, where RGB monitors use a 15Khz refresh rate. As a result, you
need to output the exact refresh rate of 15Khz, which most video cards are not set up to do. In an
attempt to force my video card to output a compatible signal, I spent hours
trying every software tweak I could find, from using PowerStrip, to creating custom monitor drivers
to even creating a custom Intel video driver...and it was all a waste of time, because my video card (Intel
integrated video) was not compatible. Don't waste your time like I did: This page will show you how to find
video cards that are able to output a 15Khz signal.
I'll start with the easiest solution, which only works with motherboards that have PCIe (PCI Express x16) slots.
Then I'll talk about AGP & PCI solutions.
PCI Express x16 Solution - The Arcade VGA
A site called ultimarc.com has worked directly with AMD (formerly ATI) to make a graphics card that natively
outputs a signal that is RGB-compatible. Simply install the card, install the software and configure the
resolution. After you set the resolution, unplug your VGA monitor and plug it into your RGB monitor. One very big
advantage to this card is that the resolutions always stay in the setting you leave them, even during startup or
shutdown, so you won't put any strain on the monitor by temporarily having an unsupported mode passed
through. I've been using this card for awhile on both Windows XP and Windows 7 and really like it!
Also, the latest version of the card (5000 vs 3000) is slightly more powerful and fanless!
The official installation instructions can be found here: http://www.ultimarc.com/avgainst.html
They even have a utility for advanced users: http://www.ultimarc.com/arcadeperfect.html
You can purchase the video card here: http://www.ultimarc.com/store/section.php?xSec=11
AGP & PCI solutions - Compatible card +
I've built a few "arcade machine" computers that did not have a PCIe x16 slot,
which left me needing a PCI solution. Luckily, someone created a piece of software called Soft15Khz that will force
compatible video cards to output 15Khz all the time! They maintain a website of compatible cards and I chose
one that seemed to be the perfect fit for my needs: small, PCI and cheap. Check out the website
I bought the ATI Radeon 9200SE (PCI) and it worked great. I suggest referencing the site above to look for
video cards that suit your needs, but please keep this in mind: The ATI driver used for all ATI cards on that
list is only compatible with Windows XP. I was able to force it to work in Windows 7, but it was
extremely buggy and not worth the effort. Please check out the links on your right for potential
RGB-compatible cards -->
Here's all the steps I took. I recommend doing the same:
- Phisically install the video card into your PC (with the PC powered off and unplugged...obviously).
- Connect your PC to a VGA monitor.
- Start with a fresh installation of Windows XP.
- Install the video card driver; as well as any other driver the computer needs & reboot. I uploaded
the ATI Radeon 9200SE drivers
that worked for me - Maybe these will work for you?
- Copy a program called Quickres into your Windows startup folder, then run it. You can download Quickres here.
- Click on the new quickres icon that appeared in your taskbar and set the resolution to 640x480
- Run Soft15Khz and enable 15Khz for both listed outputs. You can download Soft15Khz here.
- Power off your PC.
- Disconnect the VGA monitor and plug in the RGB monitor using the special cable described below (leave
the RGB monitor OFF).
- Power on the PC and wait until you hear the Windows startup sound. This is because the computer will start
in 480p, which may be damaging to your monitor. It's best to wait until the computer has loaded and switched
to 15Khz before turning on the RGB monitor.
- Turn on the RGB monitor.
- If you're looking at your Windows desktop, everything worked. If you're looking at the screen below, either
something went wrong, or your video card isn't compatible:
- If you're getting the above screen, re-connect the VGA monitor and see if you missed a step.
- If needed, you can use Quickres to quickly change resolutions between 640x480 (which will now be 480i) and
320x240 (240p), which makes arcade games and emulated old games look great!!
I haven't personally tried any solutions other than the ones listed above, however there's a topic on the Shmups
forum that's discussing other options. If the above solutions aren't perfect for your scenario, have a look here
and see what you can find: http://shmups.system11.org/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=23303
VGA to RGB Cable:
Certain monitors, accept an RGB signal via a VGA port, allowing you to use a standard VGA cable. Other monitors
will require you to make a cable that starts as VGA and ends up in the proper format. If you're usng a SCART
switch, you may want to consider building a custom VGA to SCART cable. I built one myself and it works perfect, but
I haven't had time to update the site with a how-to guide. If you'd like to give it a try, just use VGA and SCART
pinouts and make sure to combine the H and V sync pins into the one SYNC pin on the SCART connector.
Since most RGB monitors have BNC inputs, it's easiest to just get a VGA to 5-BNC (RGBHV) cable and combine the two
sync's with a Y cable:
You can try to find a VGA to 4 BNC (RGBs) cable, however you'll need to make sure that the cable has both H
and V sync signals combined into the one SYNC cable. Most VGA to 4 BNC cables only have H-Sync coming through
the sync cable, which will not work in this scenario.
Please check out the links on the right for the proper cable (or search monoprice, amazon and the usual cable
Feel free to go back to the main VGA to RGB Monitor page. If you think
this solution may not work for you, check out the page that shows you how to convert
any VGA source to RGB!. If you're done, I highly recommend you check out the other great guides
listed on the main page...especially the RGB