PPU pinout

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Pin out

   R/W -> |01  40| -- +5
CPU D0 <> |02  39| -> ALE
CPU D1 <> |03  38| <> PPU AD0
CPU D2 <> |04  37| <> PPU AD1
CPU D3 <> |05  36| <> PPU AD2
CPU D4 <> |06  35| <> PPU AD3
CPU D5 <> |07  34| <> PPU AD4
CPU D6 <> |08  33| <> PPU AD5
CPU D7 <> |09  32| <> PPU AD6
CPU A2 -> |10  31| <> PPU AD7
CPU A1 -> |11  30| -> PPU A8
CPU A0 -> |12  29| -> PPU A9
   /CS -> |13  28| -> PPU A10
  EXT0 <> |14  27| -> PPU A11
  EXT1 <> |15  26| -> PPU A12
  EXT2 <> |16  25| -> PPU A13
  EXT3 <> |17  24| -> /RD
   CLK -> |18  23| -> /WR
  /INT <+ |19  22| <- /RST
   GND -- |20  21| -> VOUT

Signal description

  • R/W, CPU D0-D7, and CPU A0-A2, are signals from the CPU. CPU A2-A0 are tied to the corresponding CPU address pins and select the PPU register (0-7).
  • /CS is generated by the 74139 (address decoder) on the mainboard to map the PPU regs in the CPU memory range from $2000 to $3FFF.
    • This signal is sometimes referred to as /DBE.
  • EXTx allows the combination of two PPUs - setting the "slave" bit in the PPUCTRL ($2000) register causes the PPU to output palette indices to these pins, and clearing said bit causes it to instead read indices from these pins (and use them to select the background color).
    • For the Vs. System and Playchoice PPUs, EXT0…2 are replaced with R, G, and B respectively. EXT3 is internally and externally tied to ground: perhaps it serves as an analog ground for the video DACs.
  • CLK is the 21.47727 MHz (NTSC) or 26.6017 MHz (PAL) clock input. It is doubled for the color generator (and then divided by 12 to get the colorburst frequency) and also divided by 4 (NTSC) or 5 (PAL) for the pixel and memory clocks.
  • /INT is an open-drain output, connected to the CPU's /NMI pin as well as a pull-up resistor.
  • ALE (Address Latch Enable) goes high at the beginning of a PPU VRAM access and is used to latch the lower 8 bits of the PPU's address bus; see the PPU address bus section of PPU rendering. It stays high for one PPU cycle.
  • PPU ADx (Address + Data) is the PPU's data bus, multiplexed with the lower 8 bits of the PPU's address bus.
  • PPU A8-A13 are the top 6 bits of the PPU's address bus.
  • /RD and /WR specify that the PPU is reading from or writing to VRAM. As an exception, writing to the internal palette range (3F00-3FFF) will not assert /WR.
  • /RST resets certain parts of the chip to their initial power-on state: the clock divider, video phase generator, scanline/pixel counters, and the even/odd frame toggle. It also keeps several registers zeroed out for a full frame: PPUCTRL, PPUMASK ($2001), PPUSCROLL ($2005; the VRAM address latch "T", fine X scroll, and the H/V toggle), and the VRAM read buffer.
    • This signal is used in the NES to clear the screen when the console is reset either by the button or the CIC.
    • Famicom ties this signal directly to the +5V rail, which is why the screen does not clear as you hold down the reset button.
    • In a dual-PPU system, it can be used to synchronize the "foreground" and "background" PPUs, or it could also be used to genlock multiple independent PPUs together. In either case, care would need to be taken to ensure that the "even/odd frame" state stays consistent between them.
  • VOUT is the shifted analog video output. For the Vs. System and Playchoice PPUs, this is only the composite sync signal.

Composite Video Output

The non-RGB PPUs used in home consoles directly output a shifted analog composite video signal from pin 21. Because of this, it is possible to modify models that only have an RF output to add a composite video output. This is the best-known composite video amplifier circuit[1]:

 |            300Ω      |
 |+                     |       +
--- Tantalum            +---------|(---------/\/\/-------+--------+
--- 4.7-47uF           /     Electrolytic    110Ω        |        |   Pin
 |               (b) |L (e)      220uF                   |        +----O } Composite
 |  [PPU.21]---------| PNP                      Ceramic ---              }   Video
 |                   |\ (c) 2SA937                560pF ---       +----O }
 |                     \    (sub: 2N3906)                |        |  Ring

The tantalum capacitor reduces a repeating 4 or 8 pixel wide vertical bar artifact. It is best to specifically use a tantalum centered in the stated range (ex. 10uF), connected directly from PPU pin 20(-) to 22(+) on the Famicom, or from pin 20(-) to 40(+) on the front-loading NES. Since this cap is targeting a specific frequency, bigger is not better for this cap -- centered in the range is better. The existing 2SA937 transistor should be removed to disconnect the RF modulator from the PPU, then reused into this circuit.

On the HVC-CPU(01) through HVC-CPU-08, the NES-CPU-01 through -11, and the NESN-CPU-01, there is no benefit from cutting any of the PPU's pins nor wrapping the PPU in foil.

However, on the HVC-CPU-GPM-01 and -02 boards, isolating pin 21 from its original trace provides a visibly significant improvement.

If your original 2SA937 is damaged or lost, you can substitute a common 2N3906, but note that its pinout is different.

 2SA937        2N3906
__ ______      /___\
| V     |      |   |
|_______|      |___|
 |  |  |        /|\
 |  |  |       | | |
 E  C  B       E B C

See also