The original Xbox only offered analog outputs, but can display high definition resolutions. As long as you use the correct cable, you can get excellent performance from basic plug-and-play solutions. Here’s a video that explains the basics, with a full written description below:
Recommended ‘HDMI’ Cables:
If your goal is to connect your original Xbox to any HDMI target, there’s a few choices available that are essentially a component video cable with an analog to digital converter built right in. They vary greatly in quality though, so make sure you’re careful with your choice:
The best one we’ve tested so far is a solution from Chimeric Systems that’s designed specifically for the Xbox’s signals. It’s fairly priced, performs better than all the others we tested and integrates digital audio into HDMI: https://www.chimericsystems.com/product/hdmi-video-adapter
You can get cheaper cables that are similar in functionality, however there’s a pretty big difference in quality. As long as you get the right ones, it won’t ruin the experience or add lag, however the difference is pretty big (check out the video above for comparisons):
Hyperkin Xbox HDMI Cables: https://amzn.to/33Bs57c
LevelHike Xbox HDMI Cables: https://stoneagegamer.com/levelhike-hdmi-cable-for-original-xbox.html?afmc=retrorgb
WARNING: At this time, I recommend staying away from any cheap cable that offering “1080p scaling”, or in fact scaling of any kind. These solutions are most likely using a scaler chip designed for TV signals that will add a significant amount of lag to the signal. Unless there’s a specific brand that’s been tested with actual lag testing tools, it’s best to stay away from those options.
Recommended Component Video Cables:
Microsoft released official component video solutions that are high quality, however they’re no longer made, so you can only find them used. I link to eBay search results to help point you in the right direction, but please double check anything you’re buying and make sure they’re either official Microsoft products, or from the other brands listed below.
Xbox Component Video HD Pack
Microsoft released an “HD Pack” that allowed every resolution the Xbox supports, as well as SPDIF digital audio. Combining this with high quality component video cables will get you an excellent signal:
Xbox Component Video Cables
Microsoft also released direct component video cables as well: https://bit.ly/xboxcomponent
Other companies manufactured component video cables for the original Xbox, but the quality varied greatly! Some like the Monster Cables were known to be well shielded and provided a good signal, but most were unshielded, poor solutions. Also, all of the new options available we’ve tested showed both audio and video interference. Until we find a manufacturer that’s consistently selling high quality cables, I can only recommend either buying a used Monster cable, or just buying a cheap one and hoping for the best:
Monster Cables: https://bit.ly/xboxmonster
Component to HDMI Conversion
If you already own a high quality component video solution, or you’d like the option to use your Xbox on both analog and digital displays, using a simple ADC (analog to digital converter) is a great option. As long as you use an ADC that doesn’t scale, this should be an inexpensive, zero lag solution that’s compatible with all the resolutions the Xbox outputs.
Alternatively, the Open Source Scan Converter (OSSC) will accept all resolutions from the Xbox and convert them to HDMI. First, it has an automatic low-pass filter that’ll clean up some analog noise from all resolutions. Next, it’ll deinterlace 480i to a zero lag 480p signal, pass through 720p and either passthrough or double 480p – Please note that not all displays will be compatible with the doubled 960p signal
Buying an OSSC just for Xbox support might be a bit overkill, but if you’re also using it with other classic consoles, it’s an excellent choice:
Expert users might find these links to be really useful, however (respectfully), if you’re just starting out with Xbox gaming, this might be more confusing than anything else. Here’s some advanced options for power users:
Xbox Open Source Video Project (XOVP)
XOVP is a an open source design that allows people to make their own high quality plug and play solution for the original Xbox. There’s only SPDIF audio and you’ll still need shielded component video cables, but it’s awesome that there’s an open source solution out there.
Consoles4U sells an adapter that lets you use Wii Component cables on the Xbox. As long as you use high quality Wii component cables, the solution should be equal in quality to the official Microsoft solution. Unfortunately, there’s no digital audio support though, only the analog audio from the Wii cables.
High Quality Wii Component Cables: https://amzn.to/3dAzuIG
Component Video Through SCART Connector
RGC sells a component video cable for the Xbox that has a SCART head on the end, instead of RCA cables. The purpose of this cable is for people with very specific setups that can pass YPbPr through a SCART connector; Remember that the video signal itself is what matters, not the connector on the end. One example of a setup this might be a good fit for, is someone with a 2019 (or later) gscartsw, which is being sent to an OSSC or 480p-capable PVM/BVM. You’d still have to change the input on your target device from RGB to YPbPr, as this cable does not convert the signal to RGB.
RGB SCART for Modded Xboxes
People with modded Xboxes can force sync-on-green (RGsB) output via SCART in all resolutions, but this should be considered an “expert” solution and even more complicated than component-through-SCART. We’ll eventually update with a how-to guide, but beginners should stay away from this solution. More on SCART below…
SCART / S-Video / Composite Video
Composite and S-Video cables will only output 480i on all consoles. The fact that this is a low-resolution, interlaced signal means it’s a poor choice for a console like the Xbox that outputs high resolution games.
An unmodified Xbox will also only output 480i via SCART, making it a poor cable choice for this console. In almost all cases, it’ll be better to play your Xbox on a TV that supports at least 480p and even people with high quality 15KHz RGB monitors will only get a low-quality 480i signal with a stock Xbox.
All original Xbox games will run in 480i if needed, but almost every one supports a progressive scan, high quality resolution. Also, some games even support true “HD” resolutions!
- Almost the entire Xbox library of games can run at 480p, with only around 20 Xbox games that are 480i only. It’s possible for those 20 be forced to 480p with custom firmware, but not on unmodified consoles.
- Around 400 games support true 16:9 widescreen format (not stretched), across multiple resolutions. Some games boot in 4:3, then switch to 16:9 during gameplay and others are always 16:9.
- About 50 games support 720p resolution, all in 16:9. Games that run in this mode generally look amazing and have graphics that hold up with modern consoles! If you game supports 720p, definitely use this mode!!!
- Less than 10 games support 1080i resolution, however I do not recommend using this mode: The “i” in 1080i stands for interlaced signals, which don’t work well with modern flat-screen TV’s. Most TV’s add a lot of lag to interlaced signals and some look very flickery…or both. Each 1080i-compatible game also has a 720p mode and unless you’re experimenting with 1080i on a CRT (for the rare few that are compatible), just use the progressive-scan 720p mode.
- As a note, the Xbox can’t output 240p. The only 15KHz resolution it’s capable of is 480i.
More info and a chart that can be sorted by resolution is available on this website: https://en.everybodywiki.com/List_of_Xbox_games_with_alternate_display_modes