Can an $80 HDMI dongle actually do post-processing for your GPU?

(Image credit: Marseille)

The company that built a $119 HDMI cable with a built-in processing chip to make games look better is at it again, this time with a $99 mClassic dongle. It's headed to Kickstarter with some very big (and interesting) claims.

"PC gamers are able to upgrade their graphics card, while console gamers have been limited by locked hardware. Not anymore! The mClassic is here to be the world's first add-on graphics processor for videogame consoles. Yes, you read that right, the mClassic is like having a new 'graphics card', without the hassle of modifying your game console," Marseille says.

Marseille's landing page for the mClassic is full of hype and sample shots that attempt to show what kind of difference the dongle can make. The heart of the dongle is Marseille's VTV-1224 chip and a 4K chroma 4:4:4 scaler processor.

Beyond the hardware, the mClassic relies on "real-time algorithms" to balance naturalness and sharpness. There is also the claim that the "graphics post-processor analyzes and improves every single pixel for the most beautiful image with no-lag."

"mClassic’s powerful video processor analyzes each pixel in its immediate and global contexts to determine the most suitable processing per pixel with Marseille’s propriety technology called Contextual Processing. mClassic’s patented technology redraws every single pixel on the fly at 120 fps with near-zero latency and eliminates jagged edges that are smoothed over by our advanced anti-aliasing algorithm," the company explains.

Marseille is mostly marketing this to console gamers. The mClassic plugs into your Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, or any number of retro game consoles, and acts as a powered HDMI in-between for your game system and TV.

Even though it's primarily intended for game consoles, I asked Marseille if it can also be used to play PC games. It's basically a souped up HDMI dongle, so in theory it should work, right?

"Yes it can. You can use it and see immediate results if you’re streaming," Marseille told me.

I'm not sure what exactly the company means by "if you're streaming," versus plugging a PC with a mid-tier graphics card suitable for 1080p gaming into a 4K TV and playing at that resolution. Would the mClassic help? I've reached out to Marseille for clarification and am waiting to hear back.

This is the type of thing that sounds like snake oil, though it might not be. Tech Hive (a division of PC World) reviewed the mClassic's predecessor and noted that the pricey mCable Cinema Edition "does a bang-up job of upscaling and processing 1080p and lower resolution video." There's also a gaming version of that cable, and our friends at Tom's Guide noticed a "genuine visual enhancement," though with minimal improvement.

Those are different products, though. As for the mClassic, initial reactions (by PCMag and JustPushStart) are positive, for the most part. You can also check out this demo on YouTube, though there's no mention of the hardware or settings:

Marseille has not said when exactly the mClassic will land on Kickstarter, only that it is "coming soon." You can register for updates. When it does hit the crowdfunding site, it will be available at a discounted $79.