Dreamcast:Dreamcast Model Differences
Page content & researching taken from io55.net's Dreamcast page with permission, in collaboration.
There is only one Dreamcast model, but three revisions are within it.
Models + Revisions
Models are arranged chronologically. Revisions are underneath their respective model.
Disclaimer for Japanese Dreamcasts only:
Japanese Dreamcasts have markings that are different than PAL or NTSC-U models. They don't have the typical number at the bottom with the circle around it denoting if it is a VA0, VA1 or VA2.
The best listing on the net currently explaining differences between Japanese models is located here. Ultimately the data plate on the BOTTOM of the Dreamcast is still the best spot to determine if it will work with a GD-ROM emulator but it is done differently than NTSC-U and PAL units.
The only model of this console. Up front are four controller ports, while the top has the drive, plus power & drive door buttons. The left side has nothing, and the right side has the large extension port, by default taken up by the Dreamcast’s 56k modem (which is removable). On the back is the AC out, AV out, the line/Ethernet port (depending on the peripheral installed in the extension port), and a serial port meant for link cables. There is nothing on the bottom except for the model number label and regulatory information. Later revisions have a supposedly better drive, but to the detriment of installing certain ODEs. All Dreamcasts have certain issues between the power supply board connection, but this can be fixed with just a clean, or a soldering/replacement job.
These systems can be hard to find in America, and are definitely more common in Japan. Here, the motherboard runs hotter, warranting a more robust cooling solution. Some say they have a superior build quality. To identify, go to the bottom of the system; look for the “0” in the circle, to the left of the [NTSC | U] box on the sticker.
The vast majority of NTSC-U Dreamcasts are of the VA1 revision. These can play burned discs. To identify, go to the bottom; look for the circled “1”, next to the NTSC-U code.
“VA2” (Late 2000-March 2001)
Quite rare, but not as rare as the VA0s, although this is not confirmed. Here, the drive controller is now integrated with the board itself. As of 2022 there is no GD-ROM emulator replacement for the VA2 models. Furthermore, the drive does not support playing burned discs. To identify, go to the bottom, look for the circled “2” next to the NTSC-U code.
http://www.tankgirl.info/8bit/images/sega/dreamcast/modem.jpg (removed modem, reveals EXT)
https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0049/8719/1386/products/image_ed7b0f8a-d94a-4749-9ca9-cca916f238f8_500x205.png (sticker on the bottom, showing the circled number for revision)