Atari 7800 console review

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Atari 7800 console review

Postby Atarifever1 » May 19th, 2007, 8:21 am

Critic, you say "In terms of technology, the 7800 was actually a small step down from its predecessor, the Atari 5200." 

That statement is a little misleading.  It used to say something similar on Wikipedia too, until some Atariage members changed it so it was correct.  Here's what they put on wikipedia:

 The 7800's technical superiority is still debated today. According to a 2003 interview with Leonard Tramiel, the Atari 7800 was essentially "a 2600 with some things put into hardware that were done in software on the 2600". [1] Although this view is held by many, the truth is the 7800 shares little architecturally with the 2600. (In fact, Tramiel's statement is more applicable to the Atari 5200, where the ANTIC drives the GTIA to produce graphics like a 2600 game's kernel drives the 2600 TIA.)

When in 7800 mode, the 2600 chips are used for sound (a cost cutting measure) and the switch and controller interfaces; 7800 graphics are completely generated by the MARIA GPU.

 The MARIA GPU is very different from other second and third generation consoles, which made it more difficult for game programmers to make the transition. Instead of a limited number of hardware sprites, the MARIA allows for a much larger number of sprites described in a list of display lists. Each display list contains sprite entries with pointers to graphics data, color information, and horizontal positioning. The same display list is used for multiple rasters with the pointers being automatically adjusted. However, managing and displaying a large number of sprites required much more CPU time (both directly and indirectly since the MARIA would halt the CPU when drawing sprites) than consoles with hardware sprites and backgrounds.

It is actually quite a bit different from the 5200. However, it is definitely a step down in terms of audio, which gives the illusion of it being a step down overall.  In other areas, it certainly doesn't seem like a step down.  Displaying more sprites is hardly a technological step backwards for example.  It also allows for a higher resolution.  On the downside I believe it has less RAM.  However, like I said, I think calling it an overall step down is a little misleading.  It's more of a step sideways.


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Atari 7800 console review

Postby chrisbid1 » May 19th, 2007, 10:41 am

i like to think of it as a step sideways

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Atari 7800 console review

Postby VideoGameCritic » May 19th, 2007, 12:28 pm

Well, what's under the hood is immaterial without the games to back it up (see PS3).  If you compare Atari 7800 games side-by-side with equivalent NES games, you'll find the NES titles are brighter, sharper, and faster. 

It's hard to compare though, because the 7800 library was full of less-demanding, older titles popular many years earlier (Ms. Pac-Man and Galaga come to mind).


Atari 7800 console review

Postby Alienblue » May 19th, 2007, 1:00 pm

This was obviously influenced by my 7800 VS. thread, which in turn was influenced by a forum on Digital Press.

But AF wasn't saying you unfairly compared the 7800 to the NES, critic, but the older 5200. The 7800 is far FAR superior to the 5200 in graphics-compare the two versions of Joust, Ms. Pac Man, and compare Galaga to 5200 Galaxian-the latter is muddy and messy compared to the smooth color and animation of the 7800. In all fairness, I prefer some 5200 games but even I admit the 7800 has much better pictures on-screen. It just has a crummy 2600 sound chip, but even that was overcome by putting sound chips in many 7800 carts. And don't forget those awful 5200 controls! For arcade buffs, the graphic superiority and 2600 compatibility makes the 7800 the system of choice.

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