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The eagle has landed! 14 months after it's first announcement and nearly 6 years after the release of the legendary XRGB-3, Micomsoft has started to ship out the new XRGB-Mini, also called FRAMEMEISTER. While the "mini" in the official name let us hope for a smaller price tag than it's older brother, the price actually turned out to be same. Micomsoft asks for 38,640 yen (currently $496 / EUR 380). This review will show if the price is justified, who's the target audience of the new Mini and what flaws Micomsoft's new baby has.


With only 295 gramms (10.4 ounces) the Framemeister is a lightweight which reminds of a chinese electronic toy and doesn't really look like a $500 video processor (just as a reminder: the DVDO Edge Green is priced at $499 as well). But well, we won't mind the looks, if the inner values are worth it, will we ? The Mini comes with a 5V power supply (100V only) and a remote control which isn't so much different from the one we all know from the XRGB-3. Also included in the box are a Scart (JP21) to Mini-Din 8 adapter cable, a printed manual and a 512MB micro-SD card. You don't get a D-Terminal to RCA/Cinch adapter cable, which is a shame, since there was one included with the XRGB-3 and those cables aren't easy to find outside of Japan. If you're going to buy the Mini, make sure to get such a cable as well.

The front of the Mini features a composite video input and one for s-video along with analogue stereo audio. On the left there's a Mini-Din 8 input which can be used for 15khz RGBs sources. (If you want to build your own adapter cables, the pinout is available here on the wiki). Contrary to the other XRGBs where the Scart input could be used for component as well, this one's really limited to RGB. On the back we get one HDMI output, two HDMI inputs, one D-Terminal along with stereo audio inputs, a micro-SD slot and a mini-USB connection. Obviously missing from the "full package" is a VGA input for systems like Sega's Dreamcast and a VGA output for analogue displays or to utilize faster (or less processed) VGA inputs on current LCD or Plasma sets.


Although expensive, quite quirky and only available directly from Japan, the XRGB-3 turned out to be *the* best video processor for anything 240p-related. Naturally this raised the bar and put the expectations for the new Mini to a very high level even before it's release. The XRGB-3 offered two completely different processing modes. One with razor-sharp scaling up to WUXGA but without scanline emulation (B0) and a linedoubling mode with 480p output only, but with the option to display scanlines (B1). While B0 was compatible with most sources, B1 was troublesome with many sources. The XRGB-Mini promised to unite those two modes into one, new, easy-to-use engine.

When first connected to a TV set, the Framemeister is set to a rather compatible 480p output. Using the on-screen menu, the resolution for the HDMI output can easily be set to 480p, 720p, 1080i and 1080p. Micomsoft discourages the use of  1080i though, because of the prolonged processing time (480i gets deinterlaced to 480p, then scaled to 1080p, then reinterlaced for the 1080i output). The on-screen menu is completely in english and very easy to navigate (firmware 1.04 offers a language switch).



The Volume Control on the remote is available for embedded PCM only, either from one of the HDMI inputs or from one of the analogue inputs. If you're running a system which delivers bitstream audio (DD5.1 or DTS), the controls won't work.

From the number of processing modes, the new Marvell QDEO Kyoto G2 processor inside the Framemeister seemed a bit complicated, but most of the processing modes available turned out to be same with just minor differences in color saturation. Standard is a motion- and pixel-adaptive deinterlacer suited for 480i and 1080i material. Movie, Anime and Natural use the same deinterlacing setting. Anime's simply boosting the saturation and contrast. Game1, Game2 and Master modes are using a more simple, field-based deinterlacing mode, which comes with a bit of vertical screen shake (typical Bob'ing effect). Game1 uses the standard color settings, Game2 uses the Anime color settings and Master adds scanlines to the Game1 mode. Picture is a 2:2 deinterlacing mode for static images. Given that the Marvell processor is quite powerful (it's the same processor used in the highly-praised Oppo BDP-93 Blu-Ray player), it's a shame that Micomsoft didn't include filmmode deinterlacing for 3:2 sources.

The zoom settings allow a 1:1 (for 480i/p sources) or a 2:1 (for 240p sources) display using the "Scale x1" mode. This results in large black borders on all four sides, but is nice for capturing purposes as it allows to capture in 720p and cut away the borders for a pixel-perfect 1:1 capture. Standard is used for 4:3 images, while Normal 2 preserves the source's pixel ratio. Letterbox zoom settings are available for 4:3 letterbox Games like Biohazard 4 on GameCube or PSP systems. There's no continuously adjustable zoom or overscan setting though.

Most of the menu options are pretty self-explanatory. You get controls for all the processing modes and zoom settings which are available from the remote already. You get two sets of resolution settings, one for the HDMI modes and one for the DVI modes (here you'll find all the typical PC resolutions from 640x480, 1024x768, 1360x768, up to 1600x1200 for 4:3 screens and 1920x1200 for 16:10 screens). One submenu is reserved for Marvell-related settings. Here you set the deep color mode, adjust the skew and influence the horizontal and vertical scaling engine. Game and video presets are available for the Marvell scaler as well. Skew is used to adjust the horizontal scaling when a game uses a wider resolution than 4:3. Using a bad skew setting can cause a minimal amount of shakiness on vertical edges. We're really talking minimal, so minimal that I didn't even notice it on my first test sessions.


The Marvell QDEO Kyoto G2 and 1200p screens: Unfortunately the XRGB-Mini does not really support LCDs with 1600x1200 or 1920x1200 resolutions. While both resolutions are available in the DVI settings, the active gaming remains limited to 1080p lines of video. This is fine for 16:9 material which gets displayed as 1920x1080 on 16:10 displays and as 1600x900 on 4:3 displays, but it's disappointing for classic 4:3 material which gets displayed in 1440x1080 with black borders on all four sides. You can chose a lower resolution to get rid of the borders, but this means a certain loss in sharpness as your display has to rescale the input.


My first test run was done with a classic 480i source. 480i was the dark age of gaming which started with late PS1 games and lasted through the whole Playstation 2 era. The XBox1 was lucky enough to have 480p available on most titles already. GameCube had 480p support on many major titles in the NTSC countries and the Dreamcast had VGA support for most titles as well. Today 480i remains the crown discipline for every deinterlacer. 480i60 video requires a motion- and pixel-adaptive deinterlacer which the Marvell QDEO processor can offer. Deinterlacing on real 480i titles looks very nice. The detail level is outstanding and the sharpness is great. On 240p titles which are output as 480i (most of the classic collections on the PS2) the deinterlacing engine can get a bit agressive and you'll notice a few artefacts here and there. Chosing the "Game" processing mode instead of "Standard" applies a single-field deinterlacing to the input signal (comparable to what the XRGB-3 does in B1 mode). This causes a little a vertical trembling. The picture looks good, but not as sharp as with the XRGB-3's B1 mode. The scaling engine offers two presets (Game and Video) and adjustable scales for both the horizontal and the vertical scaling. On several 480i titles, the "Game" setting looked just wrong (stepping artefacts on all diagonal edges), but setting the scaling to Video fixed this nicely. Using the manual settings for the vertical scaling (moved the slider from 6 to 8) I was even able to fix the dropshadows on 480i material in Standard processing mode (tested with SvC Chaos on the PS2). If you increase the slider too much, the scaling gets very blurry, so I'm not sure what Micomsoft intended by offering the manual adjustment (to this degree). Unfortunately the manual scaling settings are not saved, but deleted once you chose one of the presets.

One thing I already expected to be bad (and which turned out to be ugly indeed) is the sharpness option. This one's handled by the Marvell as well and it's just as bad as on all the other Marvell machines out there (including the Oppo BDP-93 Blu-Ray player). The sharpness slider can be adjusted from 0 to 32. It should be set to 0 for everything from 480p to 1080p. On 240p and 480i it can be set to 1 or 2 without doing too much damage. I found that adjusting the horizontal and vertical scaling options was a much more subtle way to add a little sharpness to all SD and ED input resolutions. On the lower settings, the sharpness control adds a "waxy" look to the image, similar to what you would expect from an agressive NR control on your TV set.


Playstation Games on the Framemeister: PS1 games look amazing on the Mini. If a PS2 with component output is used for playback, a little bit of noise of visible in dark grey areas of the screen. Other than that, there's nothing to complain about.


The Framemeister truly shines with all 240p signals I've thrown at it so far. 240p signals are recognized on all analogue inputs. No deinterlacing is applied. For 240p it doesn't make a difference if you chose Standard or Game processing. Meister is the same, just the with added scanlines. Without any doubt, the Framemeister takes the top position for any 240p processing devices. By using different output resolutions (480p, 720p or 1080p) you can chose different sharpness levels. On 1080p the processing looks absolutely razorsharp. With the right scaling options it looks just as nice as on the XRGB-3 (in B0 mode). As long as the scanlines are rendered the way they are in 1080p (see box about scanlines below), 720p is my favorite output resolution. It's not as razorsharp as 1080p (because of the TV's additional scaling), but it looks at least as good as the XRGB-3 in B1 mode. With 480p output the picture's still very nice, though a bit softer than the XRGB-3's 480p output - more like what classic Faroudja linedoublers would deliver.


Bugs in the current XRGB-Mini firmware:
there's a little chroma-shift on the red channel on certain sources (e.g. with a PS2). All reds are shifted to the left for about 1-2 (source) pixel(s). This causes a shift of about 2-3mm on a large television sets. Can be cured by setting the Mini to RGB output (instead of YCbCr), but might be TV-dependent as well.
- another bug is the way scanlines are displays on high resolutions. While they look great with 480p and 720p output, it's just ugly with 1080p output. Instead of darkening just a single pixel line, two lines have to be darkened.
- V-Sync doesn't stay off (once switched off), so the Mini can't be used for capturing right now. (semi-fixed in 1.04 FW)
- the Framemeister easily loses it's lock on 576i and 288p signals. I ended up with a black screen several times and had to restart either the Mini or the source to get my picture back. (Menu's were still working, just the source signal wasn't displayed anymore)
- scanlines are often displayed on the wrong lines on 480i and 480p content (odd instead of even / even instead of odd).
- the Mini needs a long time (10+ seconds) for resyncing once the input signal changes or for a HDMI handshake.


The uspcaling of already progressive ED or HD signals (e.g. 480p through component or 720p from a XBox360 through HDMI) looks nice. It will take a few minutes to fine-tune the H/V scaling options, but eventually it will look just the way it's supposed to look. I'm not the biggest fan of processing HD formats. A few years back many TVs really sucked at upscaling 480p or 720p to their native panel resolution, but most modern TV sets do a quite acceptable job on scaling progressive signals. I don't think I would route my XBox360's signal through the Framemeister unless I'm a HDMI-input short. If you know my other upscaler reviews, you know that I like really good scaling. The Marvell QDEO's scaling engine is good. It's better than DVDO/ABT's scaling engine as it doesn't introduce any ringing (unless you pump up the sharpness setting), but it's not as good the Optoma's scaling engine. By chosing the right scaling options, the picture kinda gets close though. With the current firmware there's a bug with processing a 480p component signal from a PS2. There's a chroma-shift in the red color channel, which causes all  reds to shift a few pixels to the left (compared to the luma channel) - this blurs the picture a bit. The pictures shows the video preset to the left and the game preset to the right. You can also see the chroma-shift. Depending on your TV set, the chroma-shift can be fixed by setting the Mini to RGB output using the color space option.


Playstation 2 Games on the Framemeister: 480p games suffer from a chroma-shift right now. 480i is deinterlaced quite nicely and the scaling engine is good. 240p looks stunning of course.


A big problem of the XRGB-3 was it's analogue processing. It was very sensitive to noise and produced a shaky sync on it's output. Many sources could only be used by activating a low-pass-filter (LPF). The Framemeister does not have such a setting. Overall it's analogue processing is excellent. There's still a manual A/D level setting available, but I couldn't tell much difference in adjusting it manually. Most of the sources I used didn't show any noise. Using a component (or D-Terminal) cable on the PS2 still shows some noise though, especially in dark grey areas or when the brightness setting wasn't properly adjusted. I wouldn't call it a deal breaker, but it's still annoying. 15khz from a PS2 using a RGB cable instead is noise-free.

The other big hickup on the XRGB-3 was it's compatibility with the various sources. For years I had to keep a Faroudja-based linedoubler on hand just to be able to play my PC Engine from time to time. Some Mega Drive models required special settings on the XRGB-3. My model 2 saturn unit showed a little bend on top of the picture. MVS was basically impossible to use with the XRGB-3's B1 mode and everyone who has used a XRGB-3 knows of the infamous AFC setting which could be used to cure bending on the top of the picture, but which introduced a little shakiness on the output signal. BEGONE you compatibility problems! Over the past days I've used a bunchload of systems with the Framemeister, ranging from the classics like Super Famicom, Mega Drive and PC Engine to Playstation 1 and Saturn, PS2 and XBox360. And they all worked flawlessly without any hint of bending or instability (well, I had to change my PC Engine's RGB cable, but that's something I can live with). I was especially impressed how flawlessly the Framemeister handled a PGM and a NeoGeo MVS system connected through a supergun. I had honestly expected sync issues, framerate issues and god knows what else, but everything worked fine on both my Sony LCD TV and my NEC LCD monitors. Outstanding !


When is the XRGB-3 a better choice than the Framemeister ? The XRGB-Mini is a great machine. It's up to date, fully HDMI compatible and works flawlessly with everything I've thrown at it so far. Still the XRGB-3 has it advantages. It has got a massive number of inputs (mutiple D-Terminal inputs, a 2nd RGB input on the back, a processed VGA input for Dreamcast), it can provide a genuine 480i CRT-look with a "hint" of scanlines. It's a bit sharper than the XRGB-Mini on lower resolutions (especially in B1 with 480p output) and above everything else, it's got proper UXGA (1600x1200) and WUXGA (1920x1200) modes with razorsharp fullscreen scaling. The XRGB's B0 mode is currently sharper for sources affected by the chroma shift (PS2 and GameCube). The XRGB-3 will also handle your Seibu Kaihatsu PCBs (Raiden Fighters...) with a nice 54Hz to 60Hz framerate conversion. The XRGB-Mini currently can't handle a 54Hz input. If you prefer a very sharp picture and would like to use a 20" or 21" 4:3 LCD or a 24" 16:10 LCD, the XRGB-3 might - despite all it quirks - be better suited for you.


The Framemeister provides two status info screens. A short one which is accessable through the remote. It shows the input resolution, the output resolution, status about the V-sync lock and the sound format (PCM or Bitstream). A more in-depth info screen is available from the menu (called "Full Status"). The 4-screen info provides detailed information about the input signal (incl. the exact refresh rate with two decimal places), the output signal, the delay caused by the processing and the number of hours the Mini has been used and how often it has been booted up. The output screen always says "60Hz V-sync locked", but I checked this with another processor and the HDMI rates are really "bend" according to the input. That's even true for PGM or MVS which run at 59.18Hz. Once you unlock the V-sync, the output refresh is shown as 59.94Hz (Standard NTSC and HD timing). So far I haven't found any source on which I had to unlock the V-sync. With unlocked v-sync the studder is quite obvious. I wouldn't call this playable anymore. It's neccessary for video capturing though.


Super Famicom, Mega Drive & PC Engine Games on the Framemeister: This is pure goodness. All vintage systems I've tried so far look amazing, don't need additional adjustments and don't show any compatibility issues at all. I'm using a vintage-1990 Super Famicom which means what you can expect an even sharper image from newer machines (they changed the board layout in 1992). All screenshots are taken with 720p output from the Mini, so 1080p would be even sharper.


A word about the processing delay: the XRGB-mini is fast, really fast! In fact, it's so fast, that I don't even understand how it works. I haven't measured the actual delay(s) yet, but from a comparison with the XRGB-3's B1 mode, the Mini doesn't "feel" any slower. The delay is supposed to be shown on the full status screen. Depending on the input resolution, the output resolution and the processing mode, the delays shown range from 1.03ms to 9.83ms. Even with proper 480i deinterlacing the delay is shown is with practically no delay. The weird thing about this is that a pixel-adaptive video deinterlacer needs to buffer at least two fields to be able to compute a new frame with information from both fields. Even weirder is that Micomsoft themselves state in the manual, that for timing-critical games the game mode should be used (instead of Standard mode) - though the Standard mode doesn't rate any slower (judging from the info screen). I'll look into this sometime soon, but any way this turns out: the Framemeister is fast enough to support even the most hardcore bullet hell shoot'em ups (or Bemani or whatever is your cup of tea).


Scanlines using the "Meister" mode: One of the Framemeister's processing modes is called "Meister". It's the same as Game1, but adds scanlines to the picture. Scanlines can be applied to all analogue 240p, 480i and 480p sources. Contrary to the XRGB-3, which displayed "classic" scanlines on 240p material and CRT-like 480i scanlines on 480i content (and no scanlines at all on 480p sources), the Mini applies "classic" 240p scanlines to all the signals. The scanline density can't be adjusted (yet). And while the scanlines are not 100% black (as on the XRGB-2), they're still a bit on the heavy side (with HD output selected). If you know the XRGB-3, then the Mini's scanlines can be compared to a setting of about 125 on the XRGB-3 if the Mini's set to 720p. With 480p output they're much lighter, similar to a 180 setting on the XRGB-3. Scanlines look great on 240p material, but don't look good on all 480i/480p titles. On most of 480i games I tried (Sengoku Ace, PS2 Metal Slugs) the scanlines were applied to the wrong field (e.g. to the even lines, while the odd ones would have looked better).

The Framemeister applies different kind of scanlines to different output resolutions. For a 480p output you get the typical look with every second line darkened (or blacked out). On 720p you get a dark line, a lighter one and one original line of pixels. On 1080p the Framemeister applies very thin scanlines (only 1 darkened line for every 4 lines of pixels) which looks ugly and will hopefully get fixed in the future. Output resolutions with 768 lines (XGA and WXGA) don't look good with activated scanlines, the scaling is uneven. The same is true for some of the DVI output modes. All higher resolutions (960p, 1050p, 1080p) are bugged by the thin scanlines.

Here's a digicam comparison for 480p (top left), 720p (top right) and 1080p (bottom):


Sega Saturn Games on the Framemeister: a flawless presentation through the Mini. I use a japanese 21-pin Scart cable which actually uses composite video instead of pure sync. For testing I used both a model 1 and a model 2 Saturn machine, with various kinds of RGB cables (composite video as sync, pure sync) - they all provided the same (stunning) results.


50Hz PAL sources on the Framemeister: PAL content is currently a problem. While the Marvell processor can easily handle 50Hz input, unfortunately Micomsoft didn't bother to include the proper output timings. 576i signals are recognized and converted to 60Hz output timings. 288p signals are accepted as well, but are shown as 240p and treated as such (meaning, a some lines get cut off and the signal's converted to 60Hz). The framerate conversion from 50 to 60Hz is done quite ok and you would actually be be able to play a slow-paced RPG, but of course it's far from ideal for any fast action game with smooth scrolling backgrounds. LCD and plasma sets sold in Japan and the USA most can most often only display 60Hz signals, even though HDMI supports 50Hz and 60Hz on all HD timings. TVs sold in Europe can easily handle 720p50, 1080i50 and 1080p50, so we can only hope that Micomsoft will add a software switch to support 50Hz output timings as well. Ideally 50/60Hz are automatically recognized, so the Framemeister will switch between 720p50 and 720p60 (or other resolutions) on it's own..


PGM and NeoGeo MVS Games on the Framemeister: with their output refresh rate of 59.18Hz they're far from the NTSC standard (59.94Hz). That's something which caused lots of problems with the XRGB-3 and other processors. The Framemeister handled both systems perfectly - with full v-sync lock. For PCBs with non-standard refresh rates (e.g. Seibu boards with 54Hz output) you still need a XRGB-3. The Framemeister can't handle those (yet).


So where does the mini stand in comparison to the many other video processors I've tested in the past ? With nearly $500 it's obviously a high-end machine which isn't suited for everybody. If you planned on getting a XRGB-3 soon and you don't belong to the few people who need pixel-perfect scaling with 1200 lines of video (for 24" 16:10 LCD screens) or PAL functionality right now, get the Mini instead. It's so much easier to use and it will certainly get more attention from Micomsoft in the future (regarding firmare updates and such). At about a third of the price you can still get a Faroudja-based processor like the Videon or Vigatec along with a SLG3000 for scanlines. If you have VGA available on your display or TV, those are still valuable and good alternatives. At about $250 to 350 you can get an iScan VP30 plus SLG3000. The VP30 offers much more options for actual movie and TV processing, is *at least* as good as the Mini on 480i deinterlacing and isn't bugged by the Edge's ringing scaling engine. It's just not as sharp on raw 240p processing as the Mini. Pair any of the above processors with a Gefen VGA to DVI (or HDMI scaler) and you get a powerful combination able of handling 288p and 576i content along with full scanline support. That's something the Framemeister can't do and who knows if Micomsoft will be able to add PAL support after all. If your majority of games consist of PS2 RPGs and 240p isn't your main focus, the DVDO/ABT processors might be a better choice for you. Second hand Edge units are available for around $350.


A word about firmware updates: Micomsoft already released two updates shortly after the machine's release and the actual update process is really ease. You simply put the FW folder onto the included Micro-SD card, insert it into the Mini and connect the power adapter to the it. The update takes about 30 seconds. After that you should do a full software reset using the menu's option.


Conclusion: Micomsoft has delivered! The Framemeister is huge step forward in terms of usability and compatibility. Gone are the days when scanlines required a VGA connection, gone are the problems with dropouts, shakiness or special requirements for RGB cables. With the Framemeister you don't need an second video processor for optimal results. The XRGB-mini performs great right of the box. There are a few minor drawbacks (ridiculous 1200p modes, missing 50Hz support, ugly scanlines on 1080p output), but the positive aspects easily outweigh the few (fixable) quirks. All hail the new king (for 240p processing) !!


Additional thoughts after a month with the Mini: I don't really get Micomsoft's market positioning of the Mini. As the XRGB-3 successor the obvious main goal was fantastic 240p processing and that is where the Mini truly shines. Except for the (currently) missing support for PCBs with non-standard refresh rates (e.g. Seibu boards with 54Hz), the Mini is the very best 240p processor out there. I found the whole HDMI processing to be rather expendable though. I don't see the need for processing a 360 or PS3 (except for getting proper letterboxing on a 16:10 screen) and I would have wished for a cheaper unit without HDMI inputs and one or two more component inputs instead. The missing VGA input is an oversight as it would have been nice to connect a Dreamcast without transcoding to component first. 480p processing could have been even better. Another complain I have is that you have to manually tune in the scaling options *a lot*. Different sources require different setting and there are hardly two sources which work fine with the same settings.


This review will updated in Q2 2013 to accomodate all the fixes made the Framemeister's firmware by now.


Wishlist for future firmware upgrades:
- ability to adjust the scanline density manually (fixed)
- ability to chose between even and odd lines for scanline overlay (especially for 480i and 480p) (fixed)
- add a 240p x 3 scaling mode for the 720p output (this would allow even scanlines on 768p displays)
- make sure the V-Sync switch does work. Currently it switches back to auto by itself. This is a must for capturing.
- add 50Hz output modes (either manually or automatically), 576p50, 720p50, 1080i50, 1080p50. The Marvell can do it.
- add saving slots for picture settings / scaler settings (ideally for use with the A, B, C buttons on the remote)
- enable scanlines for 480p on the HDMI inputs (e.g. for XBox360)
- 31khz support for the Mini-Din 8 input (if technically possible) (fixed)
- masking function for the edges (for example to covert the colorful overscan on Mega Drive games)


The new XRGB-mini Framemeister can be bought from SOLARIS JAPAN
at reasonable prices and with "friendly" customs declaration.



(C) Tobias "Fudoh" Reich, 2008~2012
Framemeister review published on december 18th, 2011
last updated on january 23rd, 2012



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