RetroUSB has recently posted a beta firmware and update tool that allows for custom color palettes to be added to their AVS: An FPGA-based NES that outputs 720p HDMI and plays original NES and Famicom cartridges. Unfortunately, beta v1.50b1 also seems to break Game Genie support, so if you’re happy with the current palette choices, I don’t recommend updating! More info below…
To get both the beta firmware and “scoreboard” update software, head to the download section of the website, as beta software isn’t available on the main page: https://retrousb.com/downloads/
Purchase the AVS (in stock, no pre-order): https://www.retrousb.com/product_info.php?cPath=36&products_id=78
– Download the latest firmware and scoreboard software, which are currently at v1.50b1, but may be updated by the time you read this.
– Connect a MiniUSB port from the AVS to your computer.
– Load the scoreboard software, then power on your AVS.
– Click on Transfer, then Custom Palette – Do NOT click on “Upgrade Firmware” if you’d also like a custom palette.
– You’ll then need to point it to the latest firmware .bin file. PLEASE NOTE: You’ll need to upgrade the firmware along with the color palette each time you load a new custom palette, regardless of what firmware is already loaded.
– Next, it will ask for the palette file. You can load any NES palette in .pal form. My favorites are the smooth, wavebeam and Sony palettes, but since smooth is already an available option, I’ll be loading the Sony as my custom:
– The AVS’ firmware will now update and the .pal file will be injected as well. The lights on your AVS might flash during this process, but don’t touch it until the scoreboard software lists “Done” as shown below:
New Custom Palette:
After upgrading, once you enter the menu, you’ll have the option to select all the previously available color palettes, as well as the custom one you just loaded. Unfortunately, you can only have one custom palette loaded at a time and it’s simply labeled “Custom”, not the .pal file name. It would be nice if we could add multiple, but this is certainly better than nothing:
Here’s the three built-in palettes, as well as the Sony one I loaded in. There’s arguably no “right” palette, as NTSC composite video could produce different colors based on your TV. As a result, everyone who owned a NES as a kid, might remeber the colors slightly different than someone who grew up with a different brand TV. I recommend just picking the one that your eyes prefer most: (click for full-sized):
Bugs / Feature Request:
This beta firmware seems to break Game Genie support. Please remember that this is the nature of beta and the reason why Brian hasn’t listed either the software or firmware on the main page yet!
For me personally, the custom palette is more important than GG support, however the built-in “smooth” palette from the previous firmware is excellent, so if you use cheats, just wait until an official release.
I’m also still hoping for a feature that allows you to use the AVS on CRT’s: If a 480p, 4:3 mode was added, people could use a VGA monitor with scanlines turned on to mimic the look of a 240p TV, simply by connecting an HDMI to VGA converter. I demo’d this in a previous video and the results are quite good!
Also, it may be possible to add a feature that would make this compatible with all standard CRT’s, by outputting a 240p-like signal. Then you could use an HDMI to YPbPr converter to connect the AVS to any CRT with Component Video inputs. That includes both RGB monitors and consumer-grade TV’s! I’m not sure if that’s even possible with the AVS’ chipset, but hopefully Brian will look into it.
Overall, I still really like the AVS. It’s by far the most cost-effective, quality way to play NES cartridges on a flat-panel TV: It might not have the features of the NT Mini, but it’s a fraction of the price…and RetroUSB cares enough about their customers to actually make them available. Also, it’s light years better than any crappy clone console you’ll see, as those all add a lot of lag and process the image incorrectly.
For more info, please check out my old, but still mostly accurate review of the AVS below. I shot this before I upgraded to decent camera equipment, so it’s a bit rough around the edges, but it’s still mostly accurate; The only differences are color palette support, as well as an option for interpolation that gets rid of any shimmering you might see during scrolling.
RetroUSB also released an awesome, low-lag, wireless controller, which I reviewed a long time ago as well. As a note, an awesome 3D printed case for the controller was released after the review and you’ll definitely want to check that out tooll!