REVIEW : mClassic

REVIEW : mClassic

REVIEW : mClassic

Marseille’s mClassic is an updated version of the mCable Gaming Edition that we reviewed a few years back. Many claims are made for this product, which is advertised as an external graphics card. We’ve seen it described as a 4K upscaler, a 1440p upscaler, a way to improve retro gaming graphics, and even a Switch Pro-like upgrade on social media. These are claims that should be investigated further.

The mClassic is an HDMI dongle that connects to the back of any console and allows you to apply post effects, modifications, and scaling. It is powered by a tiny USB cable and uses only 1W of power at peak to drive an onboard ASIC processor.

The mClassic dongle, a USB cable to power it, and an HDMI extender are all included in the box. You’ll need to find a power adapter for the USB, but any PC, TV, or console would suffice. The HDMI extension is supplied to allow Switch to be used while docked, as the large M shape of the mClassic case prevents it from fitting into the rear. Connecting it to the Switch, Xbox One, or even an OSSC is a breeze with all of these elements in place. The mClassic unit has a fashionable finish, with a red projecting grip and a gold-painted finish on the back end – plus, of course, the mClassic unit itself.

We concentrated our efforts on Switch because the majority of Marseille’s marketing efforts are directed. To begin with, it’s a shame there isn’t any true 4K upscaling. It would have been handy given the development of UHD TV sets, but at the very least, the other benefits of the mClassic are visible, even at max 1080p output. Color depth has been tweaked slightly, and the sharpness of character outlines, as shown in side-by-side comparisons. The contextual sharpening improves the overall presentation, albeit the effect is still slight at the highest 1080p resolution. The drawback of most sharpening filters is ringing artifacts. These appear as a thin white halo surrounding high contrast, although it’s not very noticeable.

Anti-aliasing is also provided via cable, and its efficacy appears to vary depending on the content and quality. Call of Juarez: Gunslinger came with no AA and had a stylized, cartoony look that emphasizes the stair-stepping. Anti-aliasing kicks in over saw-tooth edges on tree outlines, though pixel crawl and shimmer appear on grass when the mClassic is added to the mix. It’s a good example of edge detection in action, but unlike the mCable before it, games with 1080p output don’t activate it as strongly as games with lesser resolutions. Pokemon Sword and Shield offers modest benefits on mClassic, despite having a dynamic 1080p configuration while docked with no anti-aliasing out of the box. Sharpening those edges is the most evident change we observe there.

Rather than a smoother appearance, if anything. Surprisingly, the re-release of Virtua Racing on Switch shows it in action; it’s a 1080p game, but with so many defined edges, the mClassic does wind up treating a few along the way.

At least for 1080p playback, the biggest improvements are anti-aliasing and sharpness. The fact that dynamic resolution is extensively used in games for the system adds to the complexity. That includes first-party titles like Mario Odyssey, which has a resolution range of 900p to 720p, plus numbers in between that make the image difficult to decipher. Others, such as Rocket League, which has a sub-720p image, can be changed to 720p output from the system to provide a more straightforward signal to the classic. 

Overall, the mClassic is a worthy step up in ambition from the mCable. However, the claims made for its capabilities appear to be a little exaggerated based on the actual results we obtained from the device during our testing. The physical mode switch on the side makes it a more versatile device, and 1440p capability is a nice bonus for PC monitor users. It cannot be overstated that Dreamcast owners – and, by extension, anyone with a Gamecube and HDMI converter – will benefit from this. Power Stone has never looked so clearly presented outside of emulation, and it’s impressively calibrated for it. Even so, with any retro device, it’s up to the user to provide the necessary power.j Even said, it’s still up to the user to supply the HDMI conversion in the first place for any old gadgets. Aside from that, the gains on Switch are disappointingly less dramatic but respectable enough if you’re looking for an anti-aliasing pass. At the same time, native 4K content shows little to no improvement in my testing.

Further, there is very noticeable sound skipping and cracking issue when mClassic is connected, we noticed this on multiple devices connected be it PS3, PS TV or Switch.

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review-mclassicThe lack of 4K upscaling from 60Hz sources is the biggest drawback. For 4K TV users, this means that after receiving a signal from the mClassic - which has already done its own upscale from 480p or 720p in older games - a further upscale operation is required. Plus sound issue does not bode well for the hardware.


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