The Neoya X2VGA Adapter
Back in the day when the Dreamcast was an active console with a bright future ahead of it SEGA released a nice little VGA adapter that actually worked and didn't cost too much money. Those who wanted to could easily plug the system into their monitor and get excellent graphics quality one step up from a regular TV. Obviously this should be the industry standard since the Dreamcast did it so well right? Of course not. At launch, none of the current crop of consoles had a cheap, elegant solution to plugging into a monitor without killing the image quality. I've tried a number of "universal VGA adapters" over the past year or so and I'm happy to report that the X2VGA has finally done for the Xbox what the others couldn't.The Concept
The way the X2VGA works is pretty simple. While many VGA adapters simply convert a standard 480i TV signal onto the monitor (which results in poor image quality) the X2VGA goes with the native 480p, 720p and even 1080i resolutions. Currently, a handful of old games (five I think) only use 480i which means they won't work on the X2VGA. For the rest, 480p is the standard and judging from the games I've tested, they all work great.The Setup
The basic way the X2VGA works is really simple. You plug the unit into your Xbox where the usual video connector goes and connect your audio either into the standard RCA jacks or you can use the optical input if you've got a system that needs it. Once that's done you turn the Xbox on and go to the system dashboard. The dashboard screen only displays at 480i so the picture you get when you need to change settings is poorly displayed. Only half the screen shows up on the monitor and it's fairly blurry as well. Luckily there is a "screen shift" button on the adapter that pushes the picture on the screen around so you can see the settings you need to change. In this case you want to enable the 480p, 720p and 1080i options and you can also set the display to wide-screen (required for some 720p games) if you want. That's it! You're ready to play games on your monitor.
Now if this is the same monitor that your computer uses, unplugging from your case and into the adapter every time you want to play would obviously be a huge pain. Same goes for audio, if you've only got regular PC speakers the RCA sound inputs won't do you much good. Currently, for $6.00 US Neoya will send along a VGA switcher and an adapter that will allow you to plug the RCA cables into computer speakers. The VGA switcher is nice since with it you can switch between the Xbox and the PC as the push of a button.
Keep in mind that I haven't tried the monitor switcher they offer myself, I only got the X2VGA alone without any accessories. There are some cheap switchers out there that don't offer very good image quality so I can't guarantee this one works. I haven't heard any complaints but you just never know.Playing Games
I have less to say here than you may think. I've tested about a dozen games and each of them displayed on my monitor without a hitch. They all filled the screen completely, the colors were sharp and there was no discernible blur whatsoever. That's the good part. The bad part isn't so much a limitation with the X2VGA, it's simply a side-effect of playing a game at 480p. While colors are brighter and things look sharper you also get some obvious jaggies, much more so than a normal TV using an S-video input. Normal TV's are a lower resolution and there is a slight sort of blurring involved when displaying games so the jaggies are still there but less noticeable. On your monitor using the HDTV signals there's nowhere for them to hide, even in Rainbow Six 3 the reticle is a bit jaggy.
This isn't as bad as it sounds. Once you've been playing for a good ten minutes you'll forget about the jagged edges and just enjoy the game. It takes some getting used to and some games are worse than others but they're never unplayable.Final Thoughts
I threw every game in my collection at the X2VGA and it never had issues displaying any of them. Prince of Persia, Rainbow Six 3, ESPN Hockey, SSX3 and Crimson Skies to name a few. Even older games like Buffy: The Vampire Slayer worked although that one seemed even more jaggerific than the others. Is it worth dumping your 27 inch TV with S-video to play on a 19inch monitor instead? For me, not really. I prefer to play games on the couch although there is something appealing about having an Xbox here in my office.
That's just me though. Those of you who find yourselves fighting for the TV every day or not owning one at all this is the best solution you'll find for the Xbox. Having it near your computer you could plug the Xbox into the router for Live play without running yards of cable or blowing a couple hundred on a wireless network. Neoya is selling the X2VGA for $64.95 US plus an extra $6 if you want the switcher and audio adapter for PC speakers. That price is a little steep compared to what the Dreamcast VGA unit used to cost but it's better than plugging your Xbox into a toaster. HDTV Supported GamesOfficial X2VGA Website
(the only place to buy it currently)