The mCable does several things to your image. It adds a custom kind of antialiasing to remove those jagged edges on objects, scales content up to 1080p for content that is below that resolution, boosts contrast levels somewhat, makes some tiny adjustments to color levels, and adds some sharpness.
The contrast, color, and sharpness adjustments are pretty minor and can introduce some issues. I would’ve preferred to be able to turn those off, but there is no way to choose the effects you want on. The contrast boost created an issue with my setup where it caused come crushed black levels, which meant a loss of detail, which was fixed by setting the HDMI color space to Limited or 16-235.
The most notable additions here are the antialiasing and the scaling, and they really make a big difference when both are active. The antialiasing works as a kind of smoothing filter on those rough edges you get in some games. What is interesting about the antialiasing is that it isn’t applied to the entire image evenly, which would create a smeared look that would lose a lot of detail if applied that way. There is very little detail lost and some of those jagged edges get cleaned up, but it is a pretty minor improvement on its own with 1080p content. The antialiasing definitely doesn’t clean up everything, but it does a good job of dealing with especially large and intrusive aliasing. The results are nowhere near the images Maresille is marketing it as, but it is a nice effect that does more good than harm. Sometimes the effect can appear to make parts of the image more “painted” or “smeared” which isn’t a good thing, but the effect is minor and varies depending on game.
The antialiasing works best when the scaling is applied. If the mCable is plugged into a 1080p display and the source is 480p or 720p, the cable will scale the image up to 1080p and add antialiasing to it, and those two effects combined can create a massive boost in image quality. The scaling solution used here is far superior to what the consoles can do on their own, and the antialiasing solution here really works well with the larger and more obvious aliasing that 480-720p produce. In these situations, the mCable can effectively eliminate most aliasing artifacts from these titles! The improvement here for these games is massive and well worth the cost of the cable if you really value those games.
One thing to note is that since the cable only maxes out at 1080p content, it won’t do any scaling for consoles already outputting at 1080p or scaling to 1080p. This means that for consoles like the Switch or Xbox 360, where games are often rendered at below 1080p and then displayed in 1080p format by the console, you get a better image with the mCable by setting those consoles to the rendering resolution of the game (720p). While it will still work if you keep the console set to 1080p, you get better results here if the cable does the scaling instead of the console.
I’m going to finish this review by showing how effective this cable is on different kinds of consoles & content, with the main difference being rendering resolution of the game, which is really what you have to keep in mind when considering a purchase. The cable works well, but its additions will have far more effect on different kinds of game content, so its value will depend on what you like to play.
-4K tier (PS4 Pro, Xbox One X) – Skip this cable. The mCable does zero processing of any kind on signals above 1080p. Also, these consoles are capable of high enough resolutions and more sophisticated antialiasing techniques where the mCable doesn’t have much effect on cleaning up the jaggies on these machines when plugged into a 1080p display.
-1080p tier (PS4, Xbox One, some Switch) – Unless you are hugely bothered by antialiasing, I would skip it here too. The antialiasing effect can produce some nice results at times, especially with really obvious aliasing, but the overall benefit is pretty minor for 1080p content.
-720p tier (Switch, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U) – This is the sweet spot for the mCable’s boost to image quality. The scaling and antialiasing working in tandem can provide enormous benefits to image quality. On multiple games in this tier (I tested Super Mario Odyssey and Bayonetta on Switch, MotorStorm Pacific Rift and Devil May Cry HD on PS3, and Ninja Gaiden 2 on 360), aliasing was effectively eliminated in every title, producing a much smoother look while losing next to no detail. Best results here if you change the resolution setting on you console to the rendering resolution of the game to disable console scaling, which enables the mCable to do a much better job of scaling the image to 1080p.
-480i-480p tier (Wii, Xbox, PS2, GC) – The mCable will provide a nice boost to these titles, although you’ll still run into aliasing because of the low source resolution of these titles. The smoothing will sort out a fair amount of aliasing and make what is left less severe, and the color/contrast changes work well with the more limited color outputs these consoles had. To get the mCable to work with these consoles, you will have to plug them into an intermediary device that accepts analog and will output in HDMI, which is an extra hurdle to getting these to work, and depending on the device you use to do so, your results may vary.
-Retro tier (NES up through PS1/N64) – The source resolutions on these devices are just too low for the mCable to work nicely with. The end result you get is a bad mix of overly smooth and overly sharp, like a bad version of one of those obnoxious pixel smoothing filters that retro emulators have. Maybe you could get good results with certain pieces of great retro-focused AV equipment like the Framemeister or OSSC, but I don’t have any of those to test.