Behold The 60Hz Ultra Jag!

There are three types of gamer in this world. There are the ones who just play games they enjoy, and don't really give a toss about stuff like borders and speed and PAL, NTSC and all the other guff that you can get wrapped up in. Then there are the others who like nothing more than discussing the intricacies of an RGB output or the slight differences in frame-rate between one version of a game and another. Then there are people like me who sort of straddle the two. Sure - I play import games occasionally and I do sometimes dabble with a soldering iron and tinker with the innards of various systems...but to be totally honest, I can take or leave all that stuff. As far as I'm concerned, if a game can be played - I'll play it.

This probably stems from just having PAL systems as a kid and not really having the means to investigate the 'superior' 60Hz stuff from exotic places like Japan and America. I had what I was given, and I was happy to play it. Ignorant? You bet. Did I have much of a choice? Nope! Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that the whole 'PAL stuff is crap' thing never really bothered me, and to my untrained eyes, the difference between 50Hz and 60Hz is something I'm just not arsed about.

Recently however, my learned friend and co-writer here at Do The Math (we'll call him 'Andrew') told me that via the medium of arcane magic (also known as electronics) he could add a switch to a Jaguar console that would enable me to effortlessly move hither and thither between the plain old 50Hz I'm accustomed to; and the spangly 60Hz usually reserved for the rich, famous, politically motivated and bourgeois. So I sent one of my cats - that's how I affectionately refer to my Jaguars - off to Andrew in the far, treacherous and leper-ridden North; and nary a week later it was back with me in the South, smelling strongly of coal dust...but with an additional switch festooned upon it's side:
This little nubbin allows me to switch between 50Hz and 60Hz signals. It can't be done 'on the fly' like some other mods I've seen recently (you have to turn the system off before hand) but this isn't really an issue for me. The extra calories burned by moving my hand 30cm from the switch to the on/off button and back again are negligible. Andrew also kindly supplied me with some pictures of the modification process being undertaken:
This is all very good, I'm sure you'll agree. But what about the actual differences this type of modification makes to the operation of the games themselves? Well, I have to be honest here - I wasn't really expecting to see much of a difference because I had been informed that a lot of Jaguar games were programmed by European software houses and as such are optimised for the 50Hz console. And, for a lot of the games I have tried...I have to confirm that this is indeed the case. There are a couple of things that are instantly noticeable though, regardless of the game you're playing - the visible screen is noticeably bigger in 60Hz mode and the boot sequence does run slightly faster...but for the most part with a lot of carts, this is the only real difference. However, this isn't the case with every game. Oh no.

Certain games are improved to the point that the increased speed makes them feel like totally different experiences. Games like Doom and Wolfenstein are examples of this, and Doom in particular moves so much more smoothly than the 50Hz version that it's actually quite stunning. Super Burnout too, feels a little quicker...if that's actually possible. There doesn't seem to be any particular rule at play here - some games benefit massively from the switch to 60Hz, while others (rather disappointingly) do not. One game that I thought might be sped up by the change is AvP...but alas the only difference on display is the increased real estate on the screen. This is probably more to do with the actual game engine than the frequency of the console, but I was hoping for more. That said, this is a really interesting subject and below is a selection of screen shots from various games that illustrate the increased play area if nothing else.
60Hz Vs 50Hz Doom
60Hz Pitfall
50Hz Pitfall
60Hz Boot
50Hz Boot
60Hz AvP
50Hz AvP
All in all, I'm really impressed with the modification that Andrew performed and I pretty much exclusively use the 60Hz Jag now just because of the increased screen size on my TV. It's an operation that's well worth investigating and if you're interested in having this done yourself, drop us a message in the comments section and we'll get you sorted.

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