Best Buy sells two devices under its Insignia house brand to help you use HDMI equipment with older devices. One of them is intended to allow you to connect old game consoles, VCRs, video cameras, or other devices with RCA outputs to an HDMI TV. This is my Insignia RCA to HDMI Converter review.
Note that Best Buy has another device that does the opposite. When you are buying one in the store, be very careful that you are buying the device you intend to get. The RCA to HDMI converter has a model number ending in zero: NS-HZ330. There’s a device with a different model number that does the opposite.
RCA to HDMI converters have gotten popular in recent years as more and more people dig out their old game consoles and other video equipment and want to try to connect to them to newer TVs. For many years, LCD and LED TVs had inputs that were compatible with those older devices. But over time, TVs have started leaving out those legacy inputs to save space and cost.
Today, if you want to connect an old game console to a new TV, the Insignia RCA to HDMI converter is one of your better options. Even if your TV has RCA inputs, it probably has a limited number of them. In that case, you can use an RCA to HDMI converter to connect additional consoles over HDMI if you have more than one vintage console you still want to use.
Setup and usage
If you hooked up other AV devices before, you’ll be at home with the Insignia RCA to HDMI converter. It connects to your TV with an HDMI cable (not included) and draws power from the included AC adapter. A green LED on the converter lights up when it’s getting power. Then you plug the RCA outputs from your older game console or video player to the RCA to HDMI converter, and set the switch in the front for 720p or 1080p, depending on the type of HDTV you are connecting to.
Power on the TV and the device, select the HDMI input you’ve connected to, and you should see video. If you get sound but no video, switch the 720p/1080p switch on the device, or unplug the yellow RCA plug and plug it back in again.
You may need to adjust the aspect ratio using the Picture menu on your TV. I keep our TVs set to auto, and in that instance, all of ours chose 16:9. Switching it to 4:3 made the picture look right from the game console.
I found the image quality usable, but it varied.
The TV you use it can make a difference
On the first TV I tried, a 20-inch LG set, the color fidelity was good and the sound was great but the image just wasn’t sharp. It looked like it was upscaled badly and then either the TV or the device was trying to smooth the image to compensate. I tried to take a picture, and of course my camera focused and made it look great, or as close to great as the N64 ever gets. But in person, I didn’t think it was great.
I asked my wife what she thought about it, to make sure it wasn’t just me. Her first reaction was, “It looks blurry.” Then she said it still looked fun, and she’d play Mario on it, but it didn’t look quite how she remembered it.
I read over 2,000 reviews on Best Buy’s site from other people who’ve bought them, and maybe 10 said the image was blurry. The majority said the image looked good. That made me think I’d found an edge case.
I tried the converter and console on a different TV, a 32-inch Sceptre set. On that TV, the output looked about how I expected. Once again, the colors were right on and the sound was great, and the image was much better. If I got up close I could spot some artifacts from the upscaling. But from a few feet away it wasn’t really noticeable. More importantly, the pixels were sharp.
On our 32-inch LG TV, the output looked sharp, sounded great, and I didn’t notice any artifacts.
Proceed with caution with 4K and 8K TVs
I’ve heard of mixed results at 4K or 8K. I don’t have one of those to test, but reviewers on Best Buy’s web site report mixed reviews. Some say it worked well with theirs and others said it was terrible. I can say the same at 1080p. It worked how I expected on one TV and not so well on another. I would expect 4K and 8K to be more of a mixed bag due to a second level of upscaling going on, but clearly some people are happy with this converter on their high-end TVs.
Alternatives to the Insignia RCA to HDMI converter
You can find cheaper converter boxes online. Sometimes much cheaper. And they even look suspiciously like the Insignia box. The enclosure is different but the ports are all in exactly the same place. The trouble with those is sometimes the color accuracy is way off, and sometimes they don’t work at all. And with the cheapies, sometimes it isn’t clear from the listing which type of conversion they do, so you can get HDMI-to-RCA when you meant to get RCA-to-HDMI. If something goes wrong, you may end up having to ship a device overseas for exchange, in addition to waiting for the device to arrive in the first place. And it won’t include a power adapter.
On the higher end, there’s Retrotink. Retrotink’s converters allow more fine-tuning and work better, at a price. They’re not as easy to use and cost more. Analog TVs were very forgiving of out-of-spec signals, and a surprising number of vintage game consoles and early home computers played fast and loose with the NTSC standard.
Convenience is worth something
Being able to go to a store local to you, buy something in retail packaging that includes a UL-certified power supply, verify the model number to make sure you are getting the right thing, and being able to return or exchange it locally in the event something is wrong with it or it just doesn’t work well with any of the TVs in your house is convenient. You’ll have to decide for yourself how much that’s worth to you. The only thing Best Buy doesn’t include is the HDMI cable. Their least expensive 6 ft HDMI cable that costs around $7 is more than good enough. And if you have a spare HDMI cable laying around, or can borrow one from another device temporarily, it will work fine too.
The Insignia RCA to HDMI converter review, in conclusion
Do I recommend it? For what it is, Insignia’s RCA to HDMI converter is fine. It’s a consumer grade device, designed to work well enough under most circumstances with a minimum amount of hassle. You can get a cheaper alternative from overseas that’s less likely to work well for you. Or you can get a more expensive alternative, a Retrotink, that you can fine tune to your specific use case. But it will cost more and you’ll have to navigate menus to fine tune it.
If you want a plug-and-play solution you can run out and buy today and be 95% confident it will work with one of the TVs in your house, the Insignia solution is right for you. It’s readily available, the price isn’t outrageous, and it lets you connect an older game console or early home computer to a modern TV with relative ease. The first combination of converter, console and TV didn’t always work as well as I’d like, but it displayed a recognizable image. And I was always able to come up with a combination that worked acceptably.
If you have a holiday weekend coming up, or just any weekend for that matter, and you want to unwind with some nostalgia but none of your TVs have RCA composite inputs, you can do worse than the Insignia RCA to HDMI converter. It is a simple, relatively inexpensive device designed to do one thing easily, and that is to connect a device with RCA outputs like a vintage game console to a modest modern HDTV. It performs that job competently, and there is a pretty good chance there is a Best Buy local to you.