The PlayStation 2 was a shining jewel in the sixth generation of home consoles, earning legions of fans with its excellent library of games and shiny 3D graphics. However, those graphics are starting to show their age over 20 years after release, especially when displayed on modern televisions. Luckily, you can now turn those low-rez visuals into crisp and clear textures, thanks to one of the best PlayStation 2 mods I’ve seen in a long time.
The modding masterminds at PixelFX have blessed us with the release of the RetroGEM, a multi-platform HDMI mod that makes our high definition dreams a reality. In more ways than one, the RetroGEM gives the PS2 a considerable glow-up, rejuvenating the console with bold and vibrant graphics. To give you an idea of what this PS2 HDMI mod entails, I’ll break down the basics of installation, the major mod features, and my overall thoughts on the product. That said, don’t forget to check out my full breakdown video on the PixelFX RetroGEM for a much more detailed look.
The PixelFX RetroGEM PS2 HDMI Mod is a Major Glow-Up
The RetroGEM works on both the “phat” and slim model PlayStation 2 consoles, as well as other platforms like the Nintendo 64 and the original PlayStation. The kit includes the RetroGEM board, appropriate ribbon cables for your console of choice, a Wi-Fi antenna, and various mounting pieces. If you’re installing it yourself, you’ll need some soldering tools and experience, as the process requires a confident hand.
PixelFX RetroGEM Installation Basics
I’ll give you a brief overview of how to install the RetroGEM on PS2, but be sure to check my installation tutorial video for step-by-step instructions. For my mod, I used a PS2 Slim SCPH-70012 model, but be aware that there will be slight differences depending on your donor console.
To start, you’ll need to open up your console and isolate the motherboard, ensuring to remove the modular modem port if your console has it. If so, you won’t have to trim the shell to make room for the mod. On the motherboard, install the first ribbon cable around the DAC chip, soldering it flush with the board. From there, you’ll need to run two wires from the cable pads to power sources on the board for 5 volts and 3.3 volts.
Flipping the motherboard over, connect the other ribbon cable to the controller port 1 pins, soldering it in the proper orientation before connecting it to the audio chip. For my mod, I had to run additional wires between these two ribbon cables, but the final product will have a third cable for this function. Make any cuts necessary before prepping the RetroGEM per your console instructions, then drop it in place, connect the Wi-Fi antenna, and reassemble!
The Pros, Cons, and Features of the PixelFX RetroGEM
Installing the RetroGEM can be a daunting task, but you are rewarded for your hard work with some pretty awesome features. For starters, all of the features can be accessed by holding L1, R1, D-Pad Right, and the circle button on your controller. From the menu, you can adjust a variety of video output effects, including resolution, scaling, and more. The RetroGEM Basic model supports up to 720p resolution, while the RetroGEM Shiny model supports up to 1440p.
Even at its most basic functionality, the RetroGEM is an excellent PlayStation 2 mod that makes connecting the console to modern televisions stress-free. The differences between the Basic and Shiny versions are minimal, but both are priced reasonably for what they accomplish. Future updates will also add more console compatibility, making the future bright for this exemplary HDMI mod.
Overall, while the PixelFX RetroGEM might be a challenging mod to install, the benefits and convenience outweigh the difficulty of the setup. If you have the ability to outfit your PS2 with a RetroGEM, I highly recommend it. I’ve been waiting for a stellar PS2 HDMI mod for a long time, and thankfully, the RetroGEM absolutely delivered.