Fixing the PC Engine’s AV Booster
So the other day I picked up a PC Engine, and I originally had big plans for it, as I’ve been a huge Bomberman fan for years now. I have an Open Source Scan Convertor, so naturally every console needs RGB! The PC Engine doesn’t come with such a thing though, in fact out of the box it’s RF only. There’s an expansion port at the back with RGB and composite video pins though, and the bundle I bought just happened to come with an “AV booster” which is really just a box that slips on the back of the expansion port and provides composite video and stereo audio output. I’ve been playing on my tiny 13” CRT at the present via the composite video connection, but I am really not a fan of CRT gaming and I want it on the big LCD!
First off, the obvious solution, there’s a bunch of folks selling RGB cables which just plug into the expansion port and have a SCART on them. The price and look of these cables doesn’t inspire much confidence, I think they’re electrically pretty rough, to be honest. There are higher priced ones as well, but you get into the territory where I may as well do an internal mod instead.
The “go to” method for RGBing a vanilla PC Engine (if you don’t have the IFU for the CDROM^2) is to simply install an RGB driver board, and put a Mega Drive 2 multi-out port where the RF out used to be. This isn’t really palatable for me for a couple of reasons, the first and foremost being that I don’t have a MD2 or anything that would use it’s video cable, but it would mean I can sell the AV Booster, which would net me back some of the money the gear to do the mod would cost.
The second approach is Voultar sells a board that’s a solder-in job for the IFU, and I think it would fit (but have not tested, obviously) inside the AV booster. This means I can’t sell the AV booster, but also Voultar doesn’t ship to Australia, and I asked and received no response.
Tim Worthington sells a generalized RGB driver board which would probably do the job (and I’d likely go the former route), but while specing out the costs I realized I’m not sure I care enough. I got five games with this lot, and I really only play Bomberman, and I won’t be playing it forever. HuCards are expensive, not many of them interest me that I can’t get for other systems, and the CDROM^2 addons are pretty steep and mechanically prone to failure… so maybe this just belongs on the shelf? I’ll leave it as-is I think.
But while having the thing apart to ponder this, a problem that occurred when I first got it returned… I thought the composite video connection was dodgy due to my super-cheap RCA cables, so this time I swapped them out again and I noticed if I touched the cable, the video signal would drop in and out. I suspected it was a dry solder joint (or other mechanical failure) on the RCA socket, and set about working out how to get it apart.
These things are a bitch. I would recommend using a hair dryer or heat gun to soften the plastic a bit, as I had to gore mine a bit to get it apart. There are zero screws, and five tabs in total… three tabs on the bottom, and two larger ones visible on the top. I used a blade screwdriver to gently pry the bottom tabs inward, then used a plastic separator tool on the inside of the front to hold it apart, while I used the screwdriver to push the tab forward, ensuring it stayed put before moving on to the next.
Once all three bottom tabs were out of their holes, I pushed a larger screwdriver gently into one of the side ones to make sure they stayed that way, then I used two plastic separators to simultaneously push the tabs in and forwards. Finally, leaving those separators in the holes to make sure none of the tabs went home again, I used a third separator to lever the plastic cover forward, exposing the board. Slide it out, and sure enough there’s cracked solder joints on the RCA connectors.
A quick reflow, and a top-up with some fresh solder, and it’s working 100% again. Took a look at whether I could mod it, and I’m not convinced Voultar’s board would fit in the gap under it, and if I had to solder a generic RGB driver into it somewhere I think I’d rather just do it in the main PC Engine case and sell off the AV booster.
I might do it anyway, but I think for now I’ll just play over composite and then it can look pretty on the shelf when I get bored with it. Only question left is do I sell off the extra games? I think I might.