So you got your console, got your controller, game and power. You’re not going to get far unfortunately without a way to connect to the TV! It’s just as simple as connecting a modern console, however there are more than just the one option. Also, bear in mind the console is old – it does not natively support HDMI.
So what are your options when it comes to displaying the PS2? Here we will cover a few options you have to get the best out of your PS2.
Just want to see HDMI options? Skip to it here.
Standard Definition TV
RF (Aerial lead)
This is by far the worst option of the lot. While this was never necessarily an option, the PS1 came with the RF lead that was compatible with the PS2. This option will most likely have the most support, but unless your TV came with absolutely no peripheral ports this will not be a concern.
This option jacks in-between the cable TV connection and the RF port on your TV. The RF port is commonly known as the aerial port, since it was used to connect antennas and cable to your TV. When enabled (“I”), find a disused analogue TV channel that you’re willing to tune (0 or 99 are my choices). With the console on, set your channel to find a signal and keep going until you see the PS2 screen (or game if one is in the tray).
This option can suffer from a lot of interference, and cannot pull out information on your TV to adjust the experience, resulting in a pretty sub-standard output. With most TVs coming with some form of additional connectors, this is not the best option to take.
RCA is the option that came with PS2 by default. The distinct characteristics are connectors split into three colours; red, yellow and white. Yellow provides the video through a composite output, with the red and white connectors controlling the audio. RCA also comes with a converter that lets you plug-in to a standard SCART port, especially in Europe.
Composite does not necessarily provide the best gaming experience, but for standard definition televisions it provides the best performance in terms of compatibility. With a standard definition TV you would be hard pressed to find one without either an RCA port, or a SCART connector.
Like RF, composite unfortunately suffers from an interference issue, but the interference is hard to notice on a small display. The bigger the display gets, the easier it becomes to notice wavy and jerky lines in the display.
The SCART converter that comes with the PS2 only converts the RCA signals to the best it can achieve. However, SCART can achieve a lot more than just mere conversion. While composite is inferior, the dedicated SCART cable can transmit true RGB, a much cleaner, crisper picture.
For any standard definition TV that supports SCART, this is by far the best purchase you can get. This method does not suffer from the interference that comes with the RCA option. For the late generation wide-screen TVs that offered a resolution similar to 720p HD appear to react extremely well and provide a great visual experience.
High Definition TV
The PS2 natively supports a YPBPR , so if your TV has native component ports they may be the best supported option you can go for.
This method operates in a similar way to RCA, however the video is split into three separate component channels. Normally this method does not transmit audio, so you’ll have a 5 point connection, using the red and white audio method from composite to deliver the audio experience.
This option comes with a small caveat – unless you have a SDTV connection compatible with your TV handy, you will need to change a setting blind. Once this setting is enabled, the PS2 will know to output YPBPR instead of RGB.
HDMI is the de-facto port of the current generation of modern outputs – the kitchen sink of connections. HDMI can send huge swathes of digital video and audio in a seemingly small package. Except well, there’s the problem… digital.
Unlike the PS2’s analogue days of “don’t have spare composite ports? Grab a SCART adapter!”, we’re now in the digital days of “don’t have a spare DisplayPort? Convert to HDMI!”. It works all in the same, but you can’t mix and match analogue signals. Sadly, the PS2 came before HDMI, so no digital signals ‘ere.
That doesn’t mean it’s a hard no, however…
You can physically convert digital TV signals to analogue, and by doing so you can hook up your trusty PS2 to your HDMI TV. This is done by either a converter or an upscaler, with the latter being easier to come by.
PS2 to HDMI Converter
These are dime-a-dozen on eBay and AliExpress, and for good reason. They’re cheap (can be found for less than £5), effective, and easy to produce since they only tailor for the PS2 outputs. You can plug these in directly to your PS2’s video output, connect the Mini-USB power supply cable to a PS2 USB socket, and presto – You’ve got HDMI.
This is absolutely fantastic for casual gamers, or gaming on a budget. This will output a digital signal (I haven’t verified what resolution this is, but I believe it’s 720p) with what appears to be very mild-to-none upscaling. You might get a somewhat choppy output, but the conversion lag should be minimal as a result for those using games such as Guitar Hero.
This suffers from the same problem as the Component route if you’ve come from a composite PS2 – you’ll need to switch over to YPBPR mode on your PS2. To do this, you’ll need to hook up to an old composite TV, or perform the setting switch blind.
Does PS2 Support HD?
Interestingly, the PS2 does support (a stretch of the definition) 1080i as an optional resolution. The general populace at the time would never need to make output adjustments, so typical outputs were either PAL or NTSC, at 420p or 420i. There were however a few specialist games that provided you the option to change your resolution if your TV supported it. US copies of Gran Turismo 4 is the best example that supports an upscaled 1080i resolution.
If you really want to squeeze the best you can out of the PS2, modded consoles can benefit from GS Mode Selector (GSM), which will allow you to change the output resolution for all games. Don’t expect any HD miracles, but you can certainly reduce that TV upscaler ‘quality’.
The Blind PS2 Mode Switch
To change modes without being able to visually see the screen, try the following from a powered-down PS2:
- Turn on the PS2, wait for about 20 seconds.
- Press down, then X.
- Press down three times, then X.
- Press right, then X.
If this was done correctly, you should now be in YPBPR mode! If you were plugged in to component/HDMI converter for this process, the TV screen should now be visible.
So what did you do? The PS2 menu layout never changes. You’ve waited for the PS2 to finish the boot sequence, selected system configuration, dropped down to video output and selected YPBPR mode. Simple!
If you swap the last right-button press for left, you can go back to RGB mode. However, it’s unlikely you will ever need to do this as YPBPR works well enough with RGB for you to visually see the menu, just with a green or yellow hue/tint.Last updated: 17th February 2021