Typical noobish questions from a first-time MSX buyer!

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By bobrocks95

Supporter (8)

bobrocks95's picture

06-02-2021, 23:22

I'm going to try and make these brief since I have a lot of questions! I have done my best to do as much reading as possible, so please forgive me for asking as much as I do... These hopefully lean more towards opinions and advice rather than hard facts I missed when researching.

- MSX2 vs. MSX2+. There aren't a lot of games that look like they use the features of the 2+, but a floppy drive is also standard on a 2+, which could be helpful (I will be getting a flash cart but maybe you can load backups onto floppies)? Seeing Turbo R prices quickly dissuaded me, but I'm not seeing a huge difference on Yahoo Japan between a 2 and a 2+. Opinions welcome here on how useful a 2+ is for purely games.
--- Closely related, MSX-MUSIC. Standard on most 2+'s which is a big reason to get them, but also included from what I understand on a Carnivore2 flash cart- this seems to kind of negate the other main advantage of a 2+.

- Do I need to look into any other audio support, like MSX-AUDIO, or do games not use that? I see a Konami SCC and SCC+ mentioned? From what I've gathered those chips are either built into original carts or emulated on the 3 major flash carts.

- Recommended step-down converter for someone in the US? Unless I can replace internal components to make a unit multi-voltage, 120V is going to exceed the 100V +- 10% value that I've seen. Units with external power bricks look like they use proprietary connectors, so I can't just get a new power brick like I did with my Famicom. I'd love to not have another big electronics thing plugged in though!

- Uh, what actual resolution does an MSX run at? Do I need a multisync CRT with 15/24/31kHz support, or is it a purely 15kHz (240p/480i) machine and I can just plug it into a CRT or my OSSC?

Thank you all in advance!

If this should be moved to Hardware or another section please let me know.

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By hamlet

Scribe (3565)

hamlet's picture

07-02-2021, 14:56

Welcome to the MSX bobrocks95!
Lot of questions, which most of you answered for yourself. Let me mention, that there is no perfect MSX machine and I think MSX is not ment to be so. With the slot architecture, you can simply add and drop features, you can upgrade most MSX2 to MSX2+ and even first gen machines can make use of audio and graphic add-ons. A FPGA based multi-cartridge will help you at the start but sooner or later you will discover other possibilities, better or easier solutions (or more retro-ways to express your love to the system. Wink)
Any machine will be a good start, add a multicart and connect it to an old crt telivision and you will soon discover what is the next item you adore most.

By Louthrax

Prophet (2400)

Louthrax's picture

07-02-2021, 15:12

Welcome bobrocks95,

Quick answer about your last question: OSSC works very well with my MSXs here (even the interlaced modes if you configure it correctly).

By Daemos

Paragon (1948)

Daemos's picture

07-02-2021, 15:48

Heeeey welcome to msx. You will love it and sometimes hate it. Enjoy your experience because its fun. Now if you have the chance to find yourself a real msx, go for it. I have played and tried many many many machines and emulators but nothing beats the real thing.

Ohw and megaflashrom scc+sd or carnivore2 is a must have. It will greatly enhance your msx life.

Msx2 vs msx2+: not so much. It is a matter of preference. Get a msx2 and slam a v9958 in there and its about to be a msx2+. Iy the end its all great fun.

By sdsnatcher73

Paragon (1846)

sdsnatcher73's picture

07-02-2021, 15:50

MSX2 Will be a good starting point. There are many European models that also had the disk drive (which only became more mainstream later on in Japan). Philips VG8235 or NMS8245 are nice all-in-one machines and were very popular over here in the Netherlands. The VG8235 has a 360kB drive but can easily be upgraded to 720kB (which includes an upgrade of the Disk ROM). You can write images from a flash cart with several tools back to disk (and it is needed in some cases where emulation of the disk drive from flash cart fails). A Japanese equivalent would be the Sony HB-F1XD. Also a very well build all-in-one which came with a direct driven floppy drive (but those can still fail). Also they have bad caps on the video board which need replacement. The European machines came with 128kB RAM where the Japanese mostly had 64kB, not a big deal when using a flash cart with 512kB or more Wink. I recommend changing the main ROMs on a European model to the new 2.2 release (msx2newdrv by FD’s). That way you can set the default frequency to 60Hz.

MSX-Audio is nice but not actively supported in games (mostly in demos from Europe). SCC will be in the original game cartridge (like VRC6/7 on Famicom). Flash carts support the SCC well, for Snatcher / SD Snatcher it will help to have a working disk drive because compatibility of these games is best when the flash cart is put in SCC+ only mode.

Getting a 100V stepdown or 230V step up (depending on whether you go Japanese or European) converter is a good idea. You’ll find many suitable models on Amazon.alternatively you could have the internal transformar rewound, I read someone had this done on a turbo R and it worked very well. This should work on both European and Japanese models.

You’ll get the best picture through RGB, most Japanese models feature an 8 pin RGB output (but some have the RGB21 pinout or something more obscure). European models have SCART output. 15kHz analog RGB monitors will work nicely (if it works with a Super Famicom or Mega Drive on RGB it should work with MSX as well). OSSC is great for MSX but may require some tinkering in the settings to get everything working perfectly. A CRT will accept all signal variations without issue.

Hope this helps!

By Manuel

Ascended (17868)

Manuel's picture

07-02-2021, 15:51

Hi,

Just some things I wanted to correct or inform you about:

bobrocks95 wrote:

- MSX2 vs. MSX2+. There aren't a lot of games that look like they use the features of the 2+, but a floppy drive is also standard on a 2+, which could be helpful (I will be getting a flash cart but maybe you can load backups onto floppies)?

No, floppy drive is not standard on a 2+. E.g. the Sanyo PHC-35J is an MSX2+ without floppy drive (and without MSX-MUSIC extension).
What you know for sure if you have an MSX2+ (compared to MSX2):1) you have the V9958 video chip, which has better support for hardware scrolling than the MSX2 V9958, especially in horizontal direction. 2) you have 128kB of VRAM.

As for 1): not too many games use it Like a few dozen at most. As for 2): almost all MSX2 machines also have 128kB VRAM, so it's not that relevant Smile

Quote:

Seeing Turbo R prices quickly dissuaded me, but I'm not seeing a huge difference on Yahoo Japan between a 2 and a 2+. Opinions welcome here on how useful a 2+ is for purely games.

Depends which games you want to play. If it's one of these few dozens (at most), you need it.

Quote:

--- Closely related, MSX-MUSIC. Standard on most 2+'s which is a big reason to get them, but also included from what I understand on a Carnivore2 flash cart- this seems to kind of negate the other main advantage of a 2+.

MSX-MUSIC is easy to get, but it's nice if it's implemented already, either in your MSX itself or in the flash cart you might wanna use like the Carnivore 2.

Quote:

- Do I need to look into any other audio support, like MSX-AUDIO, or do games not use that? I see a Konami SCC and SCC+ mentioned? From what I've gathered those chips are either built into original carts or emulated on the 3 major flash carts.

MSX-AUDIO was mostly supported in Dutch scene games. You can check for any of these chips on http://generation-msx.nl/
MSX-AUDIO supported in https://www.generation-msx.nl/software/result?q=&searchtype=...

SCC is supported mostly by of course the games that have the chip built in the cartridge, some early demos from the 90's and a few other scene productions.

Again: https://www.generation-msx.nl/software/result?q=&searchtype=...

And yes, most flash cartridges support them to play the very popular Konami games.

Quote:

- Uh, what actual resolution does an MSX run at? Do I need a multisync CRT with 15/24/31kHz support, or is it a purely 15kHz (240p/480i) machine and I can just plug it into a CRT or my OSSC?

15kHz is all it outputs. MSX was made when there were only CRT's so that should work. But look at available connectors. In Europe, everyone prefers using analog RGB (with SCART on the CRT), things are different in the US, I understand.

By sd_snatcher

Prophet (3448)

sd_snatcher's picture

07-02-2021, 16:06

Here's my POV on the topics you asked. Others might think differently:

  • MSX2 vs MSX2+: There are very few MSX2+ software, and the community doesn't care to much to support it either. The main advantage is that the majority of MSX2+ models come "with everything on top": MSX-Music, Floppy drive, Kanji driver, easier internal RAM expansion etc. If you get an MSX2, be sure to get a Flash cart that has most of these features (and SCC+)
  • MSX-Music and SCC+ are a must. There were ubiquitously supported. Having an MSX without those is like having a retro MS-DOS PC without a SoundBlaster compatible card. Note: Many flash carts feature a SCC+ reproduction chip inside.
  • MSX-Audio: A lot of 90's European software only supported this extension. On the Japanese side, nearly all software that support it also support the MSX-Music
  • Step-down converter to 100V: It's not necessary for the majority of MSX brands (specially the trio Sony/Panasonic/Sanyo), since they were built with a larger tolerance in mind. But there's one exception to this rule: Machines from Toshiba are very picky with the voltage. DO NOT USE them over 100V or they will overheat. In fact, they already tend to overheat even at the nominal voltage.
  • Resolution: All MSX models use 15kHz. All Japanese games are 60Hz (aka NTSC), and most of European games are 50Hz (aka PAL). Any MSX2 or higher can switch between 60Hz or 50Hz by software. MSX2 or higher will mostly use 240p, with some games/demos/PixelArt using static screens at 480i. You can plug it to any CRT and the OSSC will run fine too. The RGB connector pinout is standard in the majority of machines, with the few exceptions listed on [url=https://www.msx.org/wiki/RGB_(8-pin_DIN_45326)#Mitsubishi_.28Japan.29.2C_National.2FPanasonic_.28except_the_FS-A1WSX.29.2C_Sakhr.2C_Sony_and_Yamaha_computers_.2B_Sanyo_MSX2.2F2.2B_computers]this article[/url].

Some other questions that you didn't ask, but are frequently asked:

1) Recap: Japanese machines were built with excellent quality capacitors, so they rarely need to be replaced. But there are some notable exceptions that need some specific caps to be replaced ASAP:

  • Any MSX that has the famous HIC-1 video daughterboard. The FS-A1 is listed there, but the info was incorrect. It doesn't have the HIC-1 inside
  • Sanyo MSX2+: floppy drive SMD electrolytic capacitors
  • Sony MSX2+: Nichicon PTH mini-elcos (present on the FM sound circuitry)
  • As a rule of the thumb, any SMD capacitors and PTH mini-elcos should be replaced. Normal size PTH capacitors are fine

2) Battery

Some MSX2 models feature a NiCad battery inside to keep the Real Time Clock data settings. If you don't see an AA battery compartment on the machine, it has an internal NiCad battery that must be removed ASAP.

On the machines that use AA batteries for the RTC, they're not strictly necessary for playing games. That said, IMHO it's a PITA to lose your settings every time you turn the machine off. My approach is to use USB rechargeable Lithium batteries. But be sure that they're really Lithium and no NiMh. Lithium batteries do not leak. One on these charge lasts a long time, so I also use them for other devices like the Playstation remote controller. These batteries made by Etinesan have excellent quality and I've been using them for many years now. I also have the ZNTER brand and they're also very good. There are many other brands, but I don't know anything about their quality.

Some MSX cartridges (as well as some Sony MSX2/2+ machines) have a Lithium coin battery inside. These never leak, but if they have no charge, the cartridge will loose its settings. On Sony MSX2/2+ machines these coin batteries have a dual purpose: They keep the Kanji Driver settings, and also keep the RTC settings for some minutes, while you replace the main AA batteries.

3) Other hardware problems and fixes

Engineers are not perfect, so some MSX models are known to have design mistakes. I compiled a list of hardware fixes in this page.

4) Region Lock / differences

Any MSX is capable or running any software from any region without problems. There are some nuances though:

  • The only game that is really region locked is the original Metal Gear 1 cartridge. But there are patches to fix this.
  • MSX1 machines can't switch between 60Hz and 50Hz video. This causes European machines to run Japanese software 16.6% slower than it should. Just like it happened with many consoles of the era, like the Megadrive (aka Genesis), SNES, SMS, NES etc
  • MSX2 or higher machines can switch between 60Hz and 50Hz by software. Most MSX2 or higher games will set the correct mode, and most European software have an option to allow the selection. SofaRun also allows you to set this per-game.
  • European and older Japanese MSX models don't have the Kanji ROM inside. Some games that require this will show garbage characters on screen, but it's not common. An external Kanji cartridge can be used for such cases.

By sd_snatcher

Prophet (3448)

sd_snatcher's picture

07-02-2021, 16:19

5) Other software/hardware topics

  • Nextor and SofaRun and MultiMente are a must. Be sure to have them
  • Joystick/joypads: MSX have a standardised 2-button joystick, backwards compatible with Atari 1-button joysticks. As a rule of the thumb, DO NOT use 2-button joysticks/joypads from other systems without an adapter, as it might fry your MSX. If you want to use easier to find joypads, an easy and cheap solution is to build or buy a JoyMega adapter. Most of us here have the excellent 8bitDo M30 joypad connected via JoyMega.
  • Mouse: Not many games use the mouse, but it's used on the majority of GUIs and many of the Graphic/Music editing software. Your best option is to purchase (or built it yourself) a PS/2 mouse adapter. There are two main flavours: Anikun/MSXpro and NYYRIKKI's.

By Pac

Guardian (6245)

Pac's picture

07-02-2021, 19:02

bobrocks95 wrote:

- MSX2 vs. MSX2+. There aren't a lot of games that look like they use the features of the 2+, but a floppy drive is also standard on a 2+, which could be helpful (I will be getting a flash cart but maybe you can load backups onto floppies)? Seeing Turbo R prices quickly dissuaded me, but I'm not seeing a huge difference on Yahoo Japan between a 2 and a 2+. Opinions welcome here on how useful a 2+ is for purely games.

Whatever computer you buy, if you want to enjoy the MSX world as much as possible, the minimun recommended specs are an MSX2, 128kB of RAM, MSX-MUSIC, SCC and a combo (mass storage) cartridge like MegaFlashROM SCC + SD, Carnivore2, GR8NET, etc.

You can even buy a simple and cheaper MSX2 computer (without FDD nor 128KB RAM) and add the missing hardware via a combo cartridge or with the real cartridge expansion (remember that there are only 2 cartridge slots available in most cases! Wink ). Try to find the solution that best suits your wallet. Smile

By Briqunullus

Champion (341)

Briqunullus's picture

07-02-2021, 19:07

I have returned to MSX'ing about a year ago. I have my original two machines, a MSX1 and a MSX2. I don't feel like I miss out on anything. I do most stuff on openMSX nowadays and even that one I have set to a MSX2 machine. So, get yourself a MSX2 and you'll be absolutely fine.

That said, if there is virtually no price difference between a MSX2 and a MSX2+ then I would get a MSX2+. Smile

By bobrocks95

Supporter (8)

bobrocks95's picture

07-02-2021, 22:20

Oh my gosh so many posts to read through, thank you all so much! I will try to respond to all of these later today but I think everything's been covered! I didn't win the Yahoo Japan auctions I woke up early for, but I will keep looking!

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