Yesterday we went over my budget picks for an audiophile stereo set-up using the stuff I actually have around and use. I spent $123. Lets see if we can beat this on video! In this post I’m including video devices including TVs, DVD, Blu-Ray, VHS and file playback.
FLATSCREEN TV: Olevia 40 inch
I got this TV used for $35. It’s from 2006. If you have a 4K Blu-Ray player you could get a much better TV, but if like me you have a lot of older components and video game consoles this is an excellent choice. It has 2 inputs each for RCA, S-Video, VGA, and Component along with a single HDMI input. It only outputs 720p, but this also means that when it upscales lower resolution devices (my NES for example) they look decent. I have many things hooked into this including my PS2, PS3, Wii U, Dreamcast, Oppo DVD player, and Pioneer laserdisc player. It’s my primary TV.
If you need a lot of outputs and want a cheap big screen TV, anything manufactured around that period of 2005-2008 or so will have the most types of inputs and be very cheap now. As far as I can tell the Olevia is still working perfectly and I’m very happy with the picture.
CRT TV: Sony Trinitron WEGA 20 inch TV
Since I have a lot of older game consoles and an extensive collection of vintage controllers, VHS, and laserdiscs, a CRT is a no-brainer. It outputs low resolution formats beautifully as they were intended, and for gaming you’re playing with zero lag on original hardware. The fact its a later model CRT also means it can take HD input. The quality of the picture it outputs can compete with and beat most flat screens due to the patented Trinitron stuff and the deeper black values possible using tubes.
I picked this up for free on trash day. You probably could too. Check craigslist. Just be forewarned for larger sized screens they can get pretty big and bulky.
DVD: Oppo 970HD
I mentioned this player in the audio article but it’s also my go-to DVD player. It’s region unlocked, plays a multitude of formats, the picture quality is great and you have tons of ouput options+a built-in upscaler. If you own a lot of DVDs and don’t own another Oppo unit, this is an absolute no brainer.
BLU-RAY: Sony Playstation 3
If you can get your hands on an Oppo blu-ray player, get that. But for the rest of us, this offers an excellent playback solution, HDMI out, 5.1 audio, SACD playback, and if modded it will play PS1 and PS3 games from .iso images with a wireless controller. I paid $20 for mine with 2 controllers, though they’re usually closer to $45-50. They’re kinda bulky tho, so if you already own a blu-ray player and don’t have a burning desire to play PS3 games, you should probably stick with the one you own. My prior blu-ray player was a Sony BDP-390, which also offered SACD playback in a much smaller form factor and was $8 used. If you’re being space conscious, I’d say go with one in that line.
VHS: JVC Pro-cision
JVC invented the VHS standard and released tons of great players that can now be gotten for dirt cheap (I’ve never paid more than $5 when I haven’t grabbed one off the street.) Mine’s from the mid-late 90s and more recent is definitely better with these since it likely means less wear on the transport meaning it will work for much longer.
These are built like tanks, have a built in RF switch for really old consoles, and you can get all kinds of weird privately released stuff on VHS. Few things in life are more fun than having some friends over, drinking a few beers and going through random piles of off-air recording VHS tapes.
Mine has S-VHS playback, which is a higher quality spin-off of VHS that never saw any commercial releases. S-VHS playback is only really useful if you do commercial tape transfer service out of your apartment or something similar. However, the fact the deck includes it means 2 things-1) it was made toward the later end VCR manufacture when the bugs had been worked out, 2) it was at least a mid-range deck, possibly better. It’ll say something like “S-VHS Quasi-Playback” on the front. The normal player is highly recommended, S-VHS playback is gravy.
It should also be noted that with VHS, the quality ceiling is pretty low, so a VCR that outputs an interesting looking warm image will often be preferable for long-term cohabitation than something that puts out picture strictly by the books. Embrace the distortion.
LASERDISC: Pioneer DVL-909
It also plays DVDs and since its close to the last model that was ever sold in the US, it’s less likely to suffer hardware failure in the near future than something manufactured in the 80s or 90s. I got an insane deal on mine ($25 since they hadn’t put stickers on at Goodwill), these can get very expensive otherwise ($350-400.) This is only a budget item if you get lucky.
However, the picture quality is great for Laserdiscs and it will play digital 5.1 soundtracks off them, which the vast majority of LD players will not.
VIDEO GAMES: Nintendo Wii/ Wii U
If you’re only ever going to own one gaming console, I would say get an original issue Nintendo Wii with the Gamecube controller ports. Why?
1) You can get one with controllers used for $10-20 at most thrift stores since 100 million were produced. Look around and deals will emerge. The one I’m using currently I got in a tub with 4 Wiimotes, 3 Gamecube controllers, all cords and multiple games for $10.
2) They’re incredibly easy to softmod with an SD card.
3) Once softmodded, they can run practically every game ever made from the 80s and 90s. Mine has 50,000 games loaded.
4) You can use more controllers wirelessly with a Wiimote through adapters than pretty much any other system including PCs.
It’s a no-brainer. The Wii U is more expensive used (~$100), but I do like using the gamepad controller and it has easier controller compatibility with 3rd party stuff than the original Wii. You do lose the Gamecube ports tho.
VIDEO GAME SYSTEMS: PS2, PS3, Dreamcast, NES, Sega Genesis
This would be its own article. If you’re just a casual gamer, the Wii will probably fulfill all your needs. However, if you like the games for any of these consoles, it’s relatively easy to play them on original hardware without paying ridiculous prices for vintage cartridges and discs. I’m not going to go into them here, but maybe in a future article.
STREAMING VIDEO: 8 year old Windows PC w/Wireless Logitech Keyboard and Mouse
Why reinvent the wheel? Just take an old PC and plug it into your TV. It will probably do a great job playing any video you throw at it so long as you’re not trying to run a 4K TV. A wireless keyboard and mouse are great remotes, and soundcards in most PCs in the last 10 years are capable of putting out excellent audio, especially when connected to an external DAC.
Anyway, I hope y’all learned something. I’m off to go play some video games.