Saturn:Saturn Model Differences
Page content & researching collaboratively taken from io55.net's Saturn page with permission.
There are two Sega Saturn models, and five sets of revisions within these models.
Models and Revisions
Models are arranged chronologically. Revisions are underneath their respective model.
Model 1 — MK-80000, HST-3200/HST-3210 (1994-1996)
These models are easily identified by their power and reset buttons, which are angled and oval shaped. Furthermore, they have a CD access light. Two controller ports on the front, and on the back is the AC in (North American consoles have a polarized connector), AV out, and a communication port for networking. It should also be noted that Model 1s, specifically VA0 and VA0.5 Motherboards, have a DIP package BIOS and an unpopulated fan header. VA0 boards also mark it as fan on the stencil.
The only motherboard revisions for the Model 1s. Despite its solitary nature, it is important to document this revision, as board swaps can put this revision in a Model 2. Found on these are many internal and technical changes that do not impact the average user. To identify these, look for a digit ranging from 0-3 in the 3rd or 4th spot of a Saturn serial number. For details, check the Saturn PSU guide link marked with “Serial help”.
Model 2 — MK-80000A/80001, HST-3220 (1996-1998)
Unlike the Model 1, these systems have circular reset and power buttons. Furthermore, the CD access light has been removed. While these systems use two model numbers, the differences between them are internal. Several revisions of these models may have game compatibility issues or video interference. However, these consoles are a lot easier to modchip.
This is the earlier revision of the Model 2. It does not have any real problems known with it. Identified with a digit from 4-7 in the 3rd or 4th character of the serial.
These boards have only one change from the 4-7s, but it is significant. There are reports that these consoles experience noticeable video interference issues, and also appear to be a common revision for Model 2s. Because of this seemingly high frequency, this revision may be to blame for the Model 2's reputation of supposedly poorer video. Identified with an 8 in the 3rd or 4th spot of the serial.
These boards don't have the video output issues of the VA8, but they do however, have certain 68000 code issues which lead to incompatibility in several games. Identified by a letter A or B in the 3rd or 4th spot of the serial.
The last boards made for the Sega Saturn. There appear to be no reports about these boards having problems. Identified by a letter D or F in the 3rd or 4th spot of the serial.
Model Video Comparisons
The following are model comparison images from Bob from RetroRGB. In his tests, the Model 1 produced a slightly better image; but more comparisons could be done.
- https://consolemodguides.home.blog/sega-saturn-psu-swap/ (SERIAL HELP, SCROLL DOWN)
- http://evilboris.sonic-cult.net/saturn/index.php?&type=USA (to determine date/model pairings)
- https://www.obscuregamers.com/threads/saturn-games-with-compatibility-issues.1705/ (10-14 info)
- https://www.reddit.com/r/gamecollecting/comments/tzrni/best_sega_saturn_revision_to_buy/ (chip)