There are two main types of NVRAM+RTC solutions for Philips CD-i players to store user data and settings: 8 KB and 32 KB. They have a built-in battery that powers the non-volatile memory and the real-time clock. These two types are not compatible and thus cannot be replaced with each other (at least, not without hardware and/or ROM modifications). There are other types, also 8 KB and 32 KB, but they concern only very few and rare devices. I point them out when necessary.
In this article, you’ll find information about the different NVRAM types and their alternatives. You’ll also find tips for repair and upgrades. If this looks familiar to you then you have probably read parts of it in my Modifications for Philips CD-i Players article before. Since the NVRAM section grew so large, I’ve completely rewritten it and will continue to update it in its own article.
Replacing blown fuses in Philips CD-i players with Mono III and Mono IV mainboards – sounds too simple to write an article about. That’s why I’m going to dig a bit deeper into the topic. An important fuse sits on the mainboard and protects the -5 V rail. I tripped (over) it by accident and was confronted with these weird symptoms that are hard to diagnose:
No video output (well, there is something, but see below)
Service Shell video output with a rolling/flickering image
The disc tray opens on its own (tray loader motor is constantly spinning)
This is an overview of the lists of capacitors and other components that I had to create in order to repair or modify my devices. Currently, all of them are already featured in my repair articles, but I will add further lists that are not featured yet or are a work in progress.
It has been on my table for a while to figure out a working Philips CDI490 RGB SCART modification. The topic caught my interest when it came up in the community on The world of CD-i last year. Back then, I thought it would be quite easy because the small 470 and 490 CD-i players share a certain mainboard (Mono IV) with their big brothers 660/00, 220/80 and 210/60. There are only some components missing that could be figured out by looking at the service manuals.
However, I couldn’t try it out back then because I didn’t have a working 470 or 490. I focused on repairing my 470 first and then adding a PAL/NTSC switch. Eventually, I bought the needed components and two broken 490s to experiment with.
This is an attempt to collect all known and available modifications for Philips CD-i players in a single article. Consider it a work in progress – I will add new information from time to time. Please give feedback if you find an error or want to add something to this article.
Due to the plethora of different models, versions and revisions of CD-i players that have been sold under the Philips / Magnavox or entirely different brands (OEM), it is virtually impossible to create one big list that contains every player. I chose a different approach with several lists to cover most of the hardware combinations: Available modifications, mainboards, and video encoders.
50/60 Hz modifications are quite simple hacks that have been figured out for almost all Philips CD-i player types with SCART connector. But what about all the CD-i players that do not have an RGB output, either because of reduced cost or because they have been sold outside of Europe? Technically, they can still be modified, but the foreign mode is pretty useless and results in a black and white picture or no picture at all.
The reason is easily explained: All Philips CD-i players have a main system clock at either 30,0000 MHz (PAL) or 30,2098 MHz (NTSC) and additional clock generators for some components. All newer players (Mono III and up) have a Brooktree video encoder and generate the colour subcarrier frequencies (PAL 4,4336 MHz and NTSC 3,5795 MHz) from the system clock. The older players with a Sony video encoder use one or two additional crystals and some more components for this task.
Some time ago, I noticed that the service manuals of most Mono II – IV boards have notes about 8 and 32 KB NVRAM types, to be set by jumpers and resistors. I never attempted to do that upgrade because most of my CD-i players feature 32 KB NVRAM or have older mainboards that cannot be upgraded. When I mentioned the possibility in this article, CD-i Fan warned me about the consequences: If device driver and descriptor in the ROM don’t support the extra RAM, then the player might not recognize it and lose the real-time clock – or it won’t work at all.
Why would you want to upgrade the NVRAM anyways? For example, the save files of The 7th Guest, Lost Eden and Burn:Cycle already take up a lot of space. Add some more games and settings, and you will soon reach the critical limit of 97-98% where the player refuses to start.
For upcoming experiments, I was in need of a working CD-i player with a Mono IV mainboard and 8 KB of NVRAM. I checked my basement and found a broken CDI470/20 that had been sitting there for years. Previous repair attempts had failed and I hadn’t bothered to look at it since.
Upon the first start, it greeted me with the memory full error:
This is a follow-up to the Serial Terminal on Atari Portfolio article. The Portfolio with the Serial Interface add-on turned out to be too limited and bulky for being a mobile VT100 terminal, and I actually never used it. For years, I was looking for an even smaller alternative and have finally found it: The Psion Serie 5mx Pro. It is basically a Psion Series 5mx (or Ericsson MC218) for the German market. The operating system (EPOC32 Release 5) of this model is not stored in ROM, but instead it is loaded from the CF card into RAM on the first start. An English version of the operating system file (sys$rom.bin) can be found here.