Checkmate 19″ Display (Case Only) Kickstarter

Here’s an interesting project that I have mixed feelings about:  A retro-themed, 19″ flat-panel display kit, with an absolutely beautiful case for just under $500.  To be clear: This Kickstarter is ONLY FOR THE CASE ($320) and the panel (potentially multiple choices) will be available to purchase next year for around $150.  This project requires some deeper discussion, so please check my thoughts below.

Checkmate Display Kit $320:

Let’s start with what you get, copied directly from the (bottom!?) of their Kickstarter campaign:

  • Your Kickstarter value gets you the following, a monitor (one or more) excluding the display panel which you will choose and pay for later.
    • Monitor chassis
    • panel controller electronics including remote control and cabling.
    • Stereo 3″ speakers and cables
    • External power supply
    • Strong packaging for shipping

So, why would you want to back a Kickstarter for a display with no panel?  The first reason is easy:  If you already own an (equally as nice looking) Checkmate PC case and want a display to match, this is a no-brainer.  I also think anyone who would want a retro-PC themed display without the hassles of a CRT (I love CRT’s, just sayin) would want to consider this;  There’s other options out there, but the part shortage is making them all near impossible to find.

If you like the case and want more info, the next thing to consider is the panel:  At the moment, the only panel guaranteed to work with the kit is a 19″, 5:4 (1280×1024) aspect ratio panel with about a frame of lag – This will be available for purchase next year for $150.  These specs might be fine for your use, especially the aspect ratio; According to the Kickstarter:

You should note as a workaround if you have our 5:4 monitor the firmware can also give a perfect 4:3 mode with small black bars (aka “letterboxing” above and below which you can scale to fill the screen.

I think that’s an excellent workaround and while most people would prefer an aspect ratio that matches a CRT (4:3), as long as this mode is enabled, the end result will be the same.  Some devices like the MiSTer will automatically compensate anyway, but if you’re connecting a console, computer or scaler directly it should still look fine in this mode.

The next concern you may have is lag.  If you’re planning on using this with a retro-PC setup and aren’t playing games where reaction time matters, lag won’t matter at all (no disrespect meant, I’m just being literal).  Basically, if you’re playing adventure games (think King’s Quest), a few frames of lag won’t be noticeable at all, but if you’re into fighting games like Street Fighter, KoF, etc, a frame can start to make a difference and should be taken seriously. I have some videos below that show lag testing and if you’re looking to learn more about it, a recent podcast covers quite a lot.

The Kickstarter mentions some alternative panels that may be available after it’s release, that are 17″ / 4:3, however no lag test results were published and it’s not clear what are the guaranteed options or price will be.  Please keep in mind that we’re still in the midst of a global part shortage and availability is scarce for everyone.

The last thing to mention are the input modules (pods).  I’ll admit, I’m still confused as to which module comes with the $320 kit – I don’t think any!?  Maybe just an HDMI input?  Either way, the optional modules are interesting – Some look pretty cool (the MiSTer one!) and others just don’t make sense to me…that’s up to you to decide.

The most interesting one to me is an “input pod” with every input except S-Video.  While the monitor accepts 15Khz, how it handles it is the question:  Will it try to deinterlace 240p and soft-scale like almost every panel driver ever made, or will it sharp-scale like the really impressive Arcooda monitor?  I hope this info is made COMPLETELY clear somewhere, as if the signal isn’t scaled properly, all these inputs are useless.  That said, if you can select between sharp and soft scaling like the Arcooda, I’d consider this a “must-have” addon:

So, overall, I think this is pretty cool.  My only real complaint is the completely unnecessary behind-the-scenes drama and how utterly confusing this whole thing has been.  I mean, seriously, read the Kickstarter…does any of that make sense the first time you read it?  It was equally as confusing as the 90-min pre-launch videos.  Hopefully I was able to clarify everything here in a few short paragraphs and help you decide if this is where you’d like to spend your money.

As for my opinion:  If there are reasonable panel options and if the signal is processed correctly, then I love it.  It’s more expensive than other options, but if price is an issue, get yourself a cheap 16:9 gaming monitor and a TINK Mini, GBS-C or OSSC.  Stuff like this is for people who care about aesthetics as much as performance and I’m 100% okay with that.  Either way, here’s some videos for perspective:

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