Thursday, 7 January 2021

Finlux TV

Again, supporting the local fleamarket, a television for the glorious price of 8,50€

The model is a Finlux 24" 24FLK274SVDN, it doesn't appear to have any simpler marketing name. 

It's possible the same tech appears under various different brand names. ("Finlux" has little to do with Finland nowadays.)

The feel is plasticky and it doesn't weigh much. I could easily carry it in a bag.

Last time, I whined about the lack of 50hz displays for my Raspberry Pi Amibian Amiga setup, so I figured this would do at least something to amend it, and if it didn't then the price wouldn't be high.

As a bonus it might even do composite for a real C64 and work as a computer display too?

It has two HDMI connectors, a SCART, a tiny AV and a VGA. Two USBs and an internal DVD player. The internal info-sheet shows a plethora of different modes, video file formats and inputs the TV can supposedly handle.

And that's not nearly all

I punched it in to the Amibian Raspberry using HDMI->VGA adapter, and got some kind of ugly picture to begin with.

Then I took a step back and started experimenting with the options.

Bad news

The TV fares rather poorly as a computer display. I'm not sure if I expected it to do 1080p, the specs (provided in the internal documentation) says it can but in reality the native vertical resolution is 768 pixels. (Or 720, actually)

So the TV can camouflage itself into a 1080p and 1920x1200 resolution, but the scaled picture quality is not impressive on a HDMI. I'm not fully convinced with the framerate either.

Using a Displayport->HDMI adapter a laptop refused to recognize it as a second display, which wasn't nice either.

The VGA produced quite a bad image but this is something I'm now forced to use if want it as a display for the 2nd computer, as they don't have HDMI. (It might not be too horrible as I have only very specific purposes for the 2nd comp).

Removing all kinds of automation (not that there's much) and sharpening, the image can be improved a little.

Good news

After teaching the Raspberry Pi Amibian to do 50hz, scrolling was smooth. For this, I uncommented the 50hz HDMI portion of the Amibian boot/config.txt

This wasn't initially very satisfying as the display scaling would produce artefacts for scrolling games. For this purpose I adjusted the hdmi_cvt line (for custom HDMI resolution).

hdmi_cvt=768 768 50 1

The 1 gives aspect of 4:3, 4 would give 5:4 (Amibian recommended) but does it matter as the TV sets does what it wants anyway?

In the Amibian GUI config display panel, I selected 768 x 256, unticked "correct aspect ratio" and also gave -16 v.offset (maximum), but this depends a bit on the Amiga software. Sadly there's not more offset as some modes won't fit the screen even though the height is unlikely to be more than 256.

Of course, it's worth checking if the TV is in the 4:3 state, and not for example zoom 14:9!

This way, there's at least 1:1 correspondence between display pixels and scrolling doesn't "scale" and games like Battle Squadron, scrolling in multiple directions, now scroll smoothly with no jittering and "living" lines.

Edit: I think the vertical height of the display is 720, which gives a 240*3 as a 256-height screen will be cropped a bit. I don't get how the Raspberry setting of 768 works, maybe it reverts to 720.


Ugly news

Checking the composite and RGB options, I noticed the TV can't handle these signals really, but sort of combines two frames instead of having a proper progressive display. For example if the computer flashes a black and a white frame repeatedly, the result will be a solid gray. Apparently anything that is a non-HDMI mode behaves this way.

With a "life gives you lemons" attitude I could start seeing this as some sort of extra colour mode for ZX Spectrum, but to be honest the idea of building something on a poor display doesn't appeal to me.

Edit: I tried a real Amiga RGB output too, just in case it would produce something different. The picture was actually surprisingly bearable and the frame conflation is not immediately apparent when watching games and demos. Sadly, there was a tiny hiccup all the time in the frame rate. Also, flashing black/white screens finally reveals the same result as with all the RGB and composite modes.


BMC64 and THEC64

It gets a bit weird, trying to get a "fake" C64 to work with a "fake" display. But why would it be more fake than the Amibian+HDMI? Perhaps I find the idea of connecting an Amiga to a modern display more acceptable as it has a history of pretending to be a serious computer.

Also, the THEC64 is by definition mean to interact with a HDMI so it makes sense to see if the BMC64 really functions as a complete alternative to that product.

For the BMC64 c64 emulator I had to at first activate hdmi_safe=1 to verify a HDMI image at all. This produced a 640x480 image.

I then removed the safe mode and advanced towards a custom resolution. I found it's easy to come up with a mode that looks ok at first but again "blurs" two frames together as in the aforementioned RGB and composite modes.

So I copied the parameters from the Amibian config.txt and found the BMC can live with the same 768 x 768 setup. (The config.txt scheme is common to all Raspberry installs) 

With this the 50hz flickering test is passed. Then the display border sizes and stretch factors are adjusted from within BMC. There's still something a bit un-perfect about the horizontal size but at least it matches the pixel resolution somehow.

So I ripped these lines from the Amibian config.txt:

hdmi_cvt=768 768 50 1
hdmi_group=2
hdmi_mode=87
hdmi_drive=2
scaling_kernel=8

I have this Commodore 64 videotest software exactly for this kind of purposes. (1=horizontal scroll, 2=flickering screen (the 50hz test), 3=horizontal alternating lines, 4=vertical alternating lines, 5=checkerboard)

The text is part of the BMC overlay, C64 produces the test image.

I don't see how I'm no longer allowed to "Apply scaling parameters at boot", though. 

Admittedly the "screen ratio" test would be nice to have.

With THEC64, the TV is obviously recognized by the computer and the picture is nice and clean. The 50hz test is passed, horizontal lines are ok but vertical lines have some scaling trouble. This is probably because the device insists on a correct aspect ratio. 

It is more revealing in horizontal scrolling, such as the Giana Sisters intro scroll. Playing Giana Sisters, it doesn't really bother that much.

It's pointless to try to photograph how good the display is

A more thorough head-to-head between BMC64 and THEC64 will have to wait, but I'm now thinking both have benefits. But at least with this particular TV, the BMC64 again comes up with the goods.


The verdict

Had the TV been even slightly more costly, it might have been a disappointment.

But it suits well for the originally intended purpose, connecting the Raspberry/Amibian to a 50hz TV. It even exceeds my initial expectations in that area. For these lower resolutions, HDMI mode colors are good, crisp enough and the black is extremely, deeply, black.

There's soul-searching to do, as it is now the TV would cater both as a semi-retro display and a poor man's computer display, winning more space on the desk. But it's a clear step down for some uses, as it is not CRT and not a real computer display either.

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