Sega Dreamcast

From Sega Retro

Dreamcast logo.svg
Fast facts on Sega Dreamcast
Manufacturer: Sega
Variants: Sega NAOMI, Atomiswave, Sega Aurora
Main processor: Hitachi SH-4
Release Date RRP Code
Sega Dreamcast
¥29,800 HKT-3000
Sega Dreamcast
$199.99 HKT-3020
Sega Dreamcast
DM 499,-[2] ? HKT-3030
Sega Dreamcast
? ?Ptas HKT-3030
Sega Dreamcast
1,690[3] ?F HKT-3030
Sega Dreamcast
£199.99[1] HKT-3030
Sega Dreamcast
$499.00 ?
Sega Dreamcast
R$R899.00 ?
Sega Dreamcast
? HKT-3010

The Sega Dreamcast (ドリームキャスト) is a home video game console manufactured by Sega as a successor to the Sega Saturn. It was originally released in November 1998, becoming first machine to be released in what is now known as the sixth generation of video game consoles, sharing a platform with the PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube and the Xbox.

The Dreamcast was Sega's last home video game console, and was discontinued in early 2001. Roughly 10.6 million Dreamcast consoles have been sold worldwide.

An arcade counterpart to the Dreamcast exists as the Sega NAOMI.


The Dreamcast is a small, white box with aesthetics designed to appeal to a wide-ranging audience. It was envisioned as an "128-bit" "super console", designed to leapfrog "32-bit" and "64-bit" contemporaries in the form of the PlayStation and Nintendo 64, respectively (although from a technical standpoint, its main processor deals in 32-bit or 64-bit instructions, with the 128-bit figure coming from the graphics hardware). Incidentally the Dreamcast was the last home console to use "bits" as a selling point, with processing capabilities now typically measured in other ways.

Taking design cues from the Nintendo 64 and the Sega Saturn, the Dreamcast contains four control ports, a removable modem, disc drive and an extension port (as well as the expected AV and power inputs). It is not backwards compatible with any prior Sega hardware or software (although its controller derives from the Saturn's 3D Control Pad), and operates in much the same way as the Saturn (and PlayStation) does, with a configurable settings and memory management accessed through a BIOS screen.

The Dreamcast uses a proprietary format of storage called GD-ROMs for games in order to circumvent software piracy, a strategy that ultimately backfired when the first run of discs had a high rate of defects. The format was also cracked fairly quickly (and in some cases, the pirated games were released before the legitimate versions). Sega largely had themselves to blame for the high levels of Dreamcast piracy—their use of the GD-ROM format was completely undermined by the console's support for the Mil-CD format, which allowed the console to boot from a standard CD-R. Mil-CD support was removed from the final Dreamcast revisions toward the end of the console's life.

The GD-ROM format also put the console at a disadvantage when competing against the PlayStation 2 - the PS2 used DVDs, and could therefore run DVD videos making it an inexpensive DVD player as well as a video game console. DVD-ROMs also have more storage space, allowing for bigger games (though the initial run of PS2 games used a blue CD-ROM format). Sega looked into DVD technology during the Dreamcast's development but claimed it was too expensive.

The Dreamcast was the first video game console to ship with a built-in 56k modem, with broadband adapters being made available later on in certain regions. This allowed the system to connect to the internet using a custom, fully-functional web browser and e-mail client. Many games released for the Dreamcast shipped with online play modes, the most popular being Phantasy Star Online and the Sega Sports lineup (now published under the ESPN label). Although other consoles before the Dreamcast had network gaming support, such as the Sega Saturn's NetLink and the Sega Mega Drive's XB∀ND, the Dreamcast was the first game console to include this ability out of the box and is therefore considered the first internet-enabled home game system.

The Dreamcast has a modest hacking enthusiast community. The availability of Windows CE software development kits on the Internet—as well as ports of Linux (LinuxDC) and dreamcast NetBSD operating systems to the Dreamcast—gave programmers a selection of familiar development tools to work with, even though they do not really support the high speed graphics. A homebrew minimal operating system called Kallistios offers support for most hardware, while not offering multi-tasking, which is superfluous for games. Many emulators and other tools (MP3, DivX players, and image viewers) have been ported to or written for the console, taking advantage of the relative ease with which a home user can write a CD which is bootable by an unmodified Dreamcast.

Sega released an arcade board, using the same technology as the Dreamcast, called Sega NAOMI, leading to many Dreamcast-exclusive games with a high level of arcade quality. The NAOMI has the same CPU, the Hitachi SH-4, at the same clock rate, but is more powerful in other ways, with its own updated PowerVR2 that has a higher GPU clock rate, additional RAM and VRAM, higher bandwidth, and faster ROM cartridge storage. The NAOMI released for $1995, ten times the price of the Dreamcast and more expensive than a high-end PC at the time, but cheaper than the Sega Model 3 arcade system (which debuted at $20,000 in 1996). The NAOMI was, in turn, the basis for two significantly more powerful arcade systems, the Hikaru (debuted 1999) and NAOMI 2 (debuted 2000). Sega later packaged the Dreamcast into an arcade board as the Atomiswave. While the Dreamcast is not as powerful as 1997–1999 Sega arcade hardware, including the Model 3 Step 2 (debuted 1997), NAOMI, and Hikaru, the Dreamcast rivalled the Model 3 Step 1 (debuted 1996).

The Dreamcast's PowerVR CLX2 was the basis for the PowerVR PMX1, a PC GPU released with the Neon 250 graphics card. However, the Neon 250 lacks many of the tiled rendering features of the CLX2: the tile size is halved from 32×32 pixels to 32×16 pixels (halving the fillrate), it lacks the CLX2's alpha test capability with hardware front-to-back translucency sorting (further reducing the fillrate and performance, as well as requiring the Neon 250 to render a Z-buffer, which the CLX2 doesn't need), and the tiling is partially handled by software (the CLX2 handles the tiling entirely in hardware). The Neon 250 also lacks the CLX2's latency buffering and palettized texture support while VQ texture compression performance is halved, and it has bus contention due to having a single data bus (whereas the CLX2 has two data buses). The PowerVR2 was also optimized for the Hitachi SH-4's geometry processing capabilities (rather than for a Pentium II or III), while PC drivers and software were not optimized for the Neon 250's tiled rendering architecture (compared to Dreamcast games which were optimized for the CLX2's tiled rendering architecture). The Neon 250 thus had only a fraction of the Dreamcast CLX2's fillrate and rendering performance. The reduction in performance from the Dreamacst's CLX2 to the Neon 250 was comparable to the reduction in performance from the Sega Model 3's Real3D Pro-1000 to the Intel740.

The Dreamcast (DC) was generally the most powerful home system during 1998–1999, outperforming high-end PC hardware at the time. The DC's SH-4 geometry engine calculates 1.4 GFLOPS and more than 10 MPolys/s,[6] higher than a PC with PIII 800 (1999's strongest PC CPU) and Nvidia GF256 (1999's strongest PC GPU) which calculates 800 MFLOPS[7][8] and 6.7 MPolys/s.[9] The DC's CLX2 has an additional 200 MFLOPS for tiled rendering, and has a fillrate of 3.2 GPixels/s with opaque polygons[6] and 500 MPixels/s[10] (500 MTexels/s) with translucent polygons, higher than the V3 TV SE's 200 MPixels/s (400 MTexels/s) and GF256's 480 MPixels/s (480 MTexels/s). The DC's 800 MB/s CPU–GPU transmission bus[6] is faster than the V3's 533 MB/s AGP bus (2x AGP 2.0) and has a higher effective bandwidth than the 1064 MB/s transmission bus from a PIII 800EB (133 MHz FSB) to GF256 (4x AGP 2.0)[11] due to the DC's more efficient bandwidth usage, including its lack of CPU overhead (from operating system) and the CLX2's tiled rendering architecture: textures loaded directly to VRAM (freeing up CPU–GPU transmission bus for polygons), 8:1 VQ texture compression (higher than V3's 4:1 compression and GF256's 6:1 S3TC compression), on-chip tile buffer (no need for Z-buffer), and deferred rendering (no need to draw, shade or texture overdrawn polygons). The CLX2 was the first GPU to support order-independent transparency (which the V3 and GF256 lacked) and Dot3 normal mapping (which the V3 lacked, and a year before the GF256).[12] The CLX2's rendering throughput is 7 MPolys/s,[6] with game engine performance peaking at 5 MPolys/s;[13] in comparison, a Celeron 300A 450 MHz[14] (100 MHz FSB,[15] 364 MFLOPS)[16] with V3 TV (183 MHz) renders 750,000 polys/s,[17] a PIII 800 (800 MFLOPS) with V3 TV SE (200 MHz) renders 1.8 MPolys/s, and a PIII 800 with GF256 has a peak rendering throughput of 6.7 MPolys/s[9] and peak game engine performance of 2.9 MPolys/s.[18] DC game engines rendered 50,000–166,666 polys per scene (3–5 MPolys/s),[13] while PC game engines of 1999 rendered up to 10,000 polys per scene[19][20] (1–1.6 MPolys/s).[15] Character models in particular were significantly more detailed in Dreamcast games than in PC games during 1998–1999.[21]

Compared to the rival PS2, the DC is better at textures, anti-aliasing, and image quality, while the PS2 is better at polygon geometry, particles, and lighting. The PS2 has a more powerful CPU geometry engine (6.2 GFLOPS Emotion Engine), higher translucent fillrate (2.4 GPixels/s), and more main RAM (32 MB, compared to DC's 16 MB), while the DC has more VRAM (8 MB, compared to PS2's 4 MB), higher opaque fillrate (3.2 GPixels/s), and more GPU hardware features, with CLX2 capabilities like tiled rendering, super-sample anti-aliasing, Dot3 normal mapping, order-independent transparency, and texture compression, which the PS2's Graphics Synthesizer GPU lacks. With larger VRAM and tiled rendering, the DC can render a larger framebuffer at higher native resolution (without needing Z-buffer), and with texture compression, it can compress around 20–60 MB of texture data in its VRAM. Because the PS2 has only 4 MB VRAM, it relies on the main RAM to store textures, but the PS2's CPU–GPU transmission bus for transferring polygons and textures has a bandwidth of 1.2 GB/s; while 50% faster than the DC's 800 MB/s CPU–GPU transmission bus, the DC has textures loaded directly to VRAM (freeing up the CPU–GPU transmission bus for polygons) and texture compression gives it around 2–6 GB/s of effective texture bandwidth. DC games were effectively using 20–30 MB of texture data[22] (compressed to around 5–6 MB),[23] while PS2 games up until 2003 peaked at 5.5 MB of texture data (average 1.5 MB). PS2 games up until 2003 rendered up to 7.5 MPolys/s (145,000 polys per scene), with most rendering 2–5 MPolys/s (average 52,000 polys per scene);[24] in comparison, DC game engines rendered up to 5 MPolys/s (166,666 polys per scene), with most games rendering 2–4 MPolys/s (average 50,000 polys per scene).[13] The DC is more user-friendly for developers, making it easier to develop for, while the PS2 is more difficult to develop for; this is the reverse of the 32-bit era, when the PlayStation was more user-friendly, and the Saturn more difficult, for developers.


Main article: Dreamcast consoles.

Japanese Dreamcasts can be identified by the triangle at the front of the unit. Though the power LED is identical across all regions, the piece of plastic attached to the lid of the Japanese model is transparent, while in North America it is grey.

For a full list of special edition Dreamcasts, see Special Dreamcast Models.

Technical specifications


  • Main CPU: Hitachi SH-4 (RISC, 2‑way Superscalar)[6][25]
    • Operating frequency: 200 MHz
    • Units: 128‑bit SIMD vector unit with graphic functions, 64‑bit floating‑point unit, 32‑bit fixed‑point unit
    • 128‑bit SIMD @ 200 MHz: Vector unit, geometry processor, graphic functions, DMA controller, interrupt controller[26]
    • 128‑bit graphic computational engine: Calculates geometry and lighting of polygons, creates display lists of polygons for tiling, DMA allows SH4 access to VRAM and PowerVR2 access to Main RAM, store queue mechanism (allowing high‑speed packet transfers between Main RAM and VRAM)Media:DreamcastDevBoxSystemArchitecture.pdf[27]
    • Bus width: 128‑bit internal, 64‑bit external
    • Bandwidth: 3.2 GB/s internal, 1.6 GB/s external
  • Fixed‑point performance: 360 MIPS
  • Floating‑point performance: 1.4 GFLOPS (7 MFLOPS per 16 MB/s)
  • Geometry performance: More than 10 million polygons/sec, with lighting calculations (140 FLOPS per polygon)


Graphical specifications of the Dreamcast:Media:Dreamcast Hardware Specification Outline.pdf[28]Media:DreamcastDevBoxSystemArchitecture.pdf[27][29]





BIOS Revisions
BIOS Version Machine Download
1.004 Sega Dreamcast (Commercial-Early) 1.004 (Japan) (info) (912 kB)
1.01d Sega Dreamcast (Commercial) 1.01d (North America) (info) (886 kB)
1.01d (Europe) (info) (886 kB)
1.01d (Japan) (info) (885 kB)
1.011 Sega Dreamcast (HKT-0120 Devbox) 1.011 (HKT-0120 Devbox) (info) (992 kB)

Other specifications

  • Operating Systems:
  • Inputs: Four ports that can support a digital and analog controller, steering wheel, joystick, keyboard, mouse, and more
  • Dimensions: 189mm x 195mm x 76mm (7 7/16" x 7 11/16" x 3")
  • Weight: 1.9kg (4.4lbs)
  • Modem: Removable; Original Asia/Japan model had a 33.6 Kbytes/s; models released after 9 September 1999 had a 56 Kbytes/s modem
  • Sega Dreamcast Broadband Adapter: these adapters are available separately and replace the removable modem
    • HIT-400: "Broadband Adapter", the more common model, this used a RealTek 8139 chip and supported 10/100mbit
  • HIT-300: "Lan Adapter", this version used a Fujitsu MB86967 chip and supported only 10mbit
  • Storage: "Visual Memory Unit" (VMU) 128 Kb removable storage device
  • Input devices: (4 custom controller ports)
  • Output devices:
  • Add-ons:


Main article: History of the Sega Dreamcast.


List of games

Main article: List of Dreamcast games.

Launch titles


North America





Magazine articles

Main article: Sega Dreamcast/Magazine articles.

Promotional material

Print advertisements

ODCM US 01.pdf

Print advert in

Official Dreamcast Magazine (US) #1: "September 1999" (1999-08-24)

ODCM US 01.pdf

Print advert in

Official Dreamcast Magazine (US) #1: "September 1999" (1999-08-24)

ODCM US 01.pdf

Print advert in

Official Dreamcast Magazine (US) #1: "September 1999" (1999-08-24)

ODCM US 01.pdf

Print advert in

Official Dreamcast Magazine (US) #1: "September 1999" (1999-08-24)

Arcade UK 10.pdfArcade UK 10.pdf

Print advert in

Arcade (UK) #10: "September 1999" (1999-07-27)

DCUK 01.pdf

Print advert in

DC-UK (UK) #1: "September 1999" (1999-xx-xx)

ODM UK Preview.pdfODM UK Preview.pdf

Print advert in

Official Dreamcast Magazine (UK) Taster (1999-xx-xx)

ConsolesMax FR 02.pdfConsolesMax FR 02.pdf

Print advert in

Consoles Max (FR) #2: "xxxx xxxx" (xxxx-xx-xx)

DDOM DE 01.pdfDDOM DE 01.pdf

Print advert in

Dreamcast: Das Offizielle Magazin (DE) #1: "Oktober 1999" (1999-10-xx)

DDOM DE 01.pdfDDOM DE 01.pdf

Print advert in

Dreamcast: Das Offizielle Magazin (DE) #1: "Oktober 1999" (1999-10-xx)

MAN!AC DE 1999-11.pdf

Print advert in

MAN!AC (DE) #11/99 (1999-10-06)

MAN!AC DE 1999-12.pdf

Print advert in

MAN!AC (DE) #12/99 (1999-11-03)


Arcade UK 10.pdf

Print advert in

Arcade (UK) #10: "September 1999" (1999-07-27)

Television advertisements

Other advertisements


Hardware diagrams



  1. File:CVG UK 215.pdf, page 59
  2. File:NextLevel DE 1999-0910.pdf, page 6
  3. File:ConsolesMicro FR 01.pdf, page 15
  4. File:CVG UK 216.pdf, page 52
  5. 5.0 5.1
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 6.12 6.13 Sega Dreamcast: Implementation (IEEE)
  7. Automatic Performance Tuning of Sparse Matrix Kernels, Volume 1, page 14
  8. Cluster Computing, page 9
  9. 9.0 9.1 Benchmarking T&L in 3DMark 2000, Beyond3D
  10. 10.0 10.1 File:Edge UK 067.pdf, page 11
  11. AGP Peak Speeds
  12. PC Magazine, December 1999, page 193
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Test Drive: Le Mans, Planet Dreamcast, IGN
  14. 20th anniversary Pentium specs leak – will this be the modern era’s Celeron 300A? (ExtremeTech)
  15. 15.0 15.1 '95-'99 PC Comparisons
  16. Recent Advances in Parallel Virtual Machine and Message Passing Interface, page 301
  17. 3DMARK 2001SE Benchmarks
  18. Actual HW T&L perfomance of NVIDIA GeForce/GeForce2 chips, IXBT Labs
  19. PC Magazine, December 1999, page 203
  20. Unreal Modeling Guide, Unreal Developer Network
  21. 21.0 21.1 DF Retro: Shenmue - A Game Ahead Of Its Time, Digital Foundry
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 Hideki Sato Sega Interview (Edge)
  23. 23.0 23.1 How Many Polygons Can the Dreamcast Render? (Dreamcast Technical Pages)
  24. Reaching for the Limits of PS2 Performance: How Far Have We Got?, SCEE, 2003
  25. File:SH-4 Software Manual.pdf
  26. File:SH-4 datasheet.pdf
  27. 27.00 27.01 27.02 27.03 27.04 27.05 27.06 27.07 27.08 27.09 27.10 File:DreamcastDevBoxSystemArchitecture.pdf
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 28.3 28.4 28.5 File:Dreamcast Hardware Specification Outline.pdf
  29. 29.0 29.1 File:PowerVR2DCFeaturesUnderWindowsCE.pdf
  30. 30.0 30.1 File:DreamcastDevBoxSystemArchitecture.pdf, page 94
  31. File:DreamcastDevBoxSystemArchitecture.pdf, page 165
  32. 32.0 32.1 VideoLogic's 100 MHz PowerVR Series2, Dreamcast Technical Pages
  33. 33.0 33.1 File:DreamcastDevBoxSystemArchitecture.pdf, page 42
  34. 34.0 34.1 34.2 File:DreamcastDevBoxSystemArchitecture.pdf, page 98
  35. 35.0 35.1 35.2 35.3 File:PowerVR2DCFeaturesUnderWindowsCE.pdf, page 9
  36. 36.0 36.1 36.2 SEGA Dreamcast: Programming Hints
  37. File:PowerVR2DCFeaturesUnderWindowsCE.pdf, page 11
  38. File:DreamcastDevBoxSystemArchitecture.pdf, page 120
  39. File:DreamcastDevBoxSystemArchitecture.pdf, page 116
  40. 40.0 40.1 40.2 40.3 File:Dreamcast Hardware Specification Outline.pdf, page 22
  41. Optimizing Dreamcast Microsoft Direct3D Performance, Microsoft (1999-03-01)
  42. Tiling Accelerator Notes
  43. Zombie Revenge (21 January 2000)
  44. PowerVR (Dreamcast Hardware)
  45. Dreamcast Comparison
  46. Quake III Arena vs Unreal Tournament (IGN)
  47. Dreamcast homebrew - winter terrain and light bloom (YouTube)
  48. Dreamcast homebrew engine: More dynamic shadows and lighting (YouTube)
  49. PowerVR: The Second Generation (February 21, 1998)
  50. File:Dreamcast_Hardware_Specification_Outline.pdf, page 23
  51. Neon 250 Specs & Features
  52. File:DreamcastDevBoxSystemArchitecture.pdf, page 13
  53. 53.0 53.1 File:Dreamcast Hardware Specification Outline.pdf, page 18
  54. File:DreamcastDevBoxSystemArchitecture.pdf, page 102
  55. File:DreamcastDevBoxSystemArchitecture.pdf, page 152
  56. 56.0 56.1 File:DreamcastDevBoxSystemArchitecture.pdf, page 199
  57. 57.0 57.1 File:DreamcastDevBoxSystemArchitecture.pdf, page 138
  58. Computer Graphics: Principles and Practice (Page 868)
  59. 59.0 59.1 File:DreamcastDevBoxSystemArchitecture.pdf, page 95
  60. PC Magazine, December 1999, page 194
  61. Floating-Point Calculations
  62. VideoLogic's 100 MHz PowerVR Series2 (Dreamcast Technical Pages)
  63. Vintage Game Consoles: An Inside Look at Apple, Atari, Commodore, Nintendo, and the Greatest Gaming Platforms of All Time (Page 277)
  64. Homebrew Test
  65. File:DreamcastDevBoxSystemArchitecture.pdf, page 103
  66. Dreamcast & Saturn Specifications
  67. File:SH-4 Software Manual.pdf, page 25
  68. File:DreamcastDevBoxSystemArchitecture.pdf, page 17
  69. File:Dreamcast Hardware Specification Outline.pdf, page 14
  70. File:Dreamcast Hardware Specification Outline.pdf, page 6
  71. File:DreamcastDevBoxSystemArchitecture.pdf, page 49
  72. File:DreamcastMagazine UK 03.pdf, page 7
Sega Home Video Game Systems
83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11
SG-1000 SG-1000 II Mega Drive Mega Drive II
SC-3000 Mega-CD Mega-CD II Genesis 3
Sega Mark III 32X Dreamcast
Master System Master System II
AI Computer Game Gear
Pico Beena
Sega Dreamcast Hardware
 Dreamcast Variations   Special Dreamcast Models
 Console Add-ons   Dreamcast Karaoke | Dreameye
Game Controllers   Controller | Arcade Stick | Fishing Controller | Gun (Dream Blaster) | Racing Controller | Maracas | Twin Stick | Keyboard | Mouse
Controller Add-ons   Jump Pack (Third Party) | Microphone | VMU (Third Party)
Controller Connectors DC Tsunaident 123 | Dream Connection 2 in 1 | Dream Connection 4 in 1 | Dream Connection II | Super Converter 3 | Total Control | Total Control 2 | Total Control Plus | Total Control 3 | Total Control 5
Development Hardware Dreamcast Dev.Box | Controller Box | Dreamcast Controller Function Checker | Sound Box | GD-Writer | C1/C2 Checker | Dev.Cas | Dreamcast GD-ROM Duplicator
Online Services/Add-ons   Dreamarena | SegaNet | WebTV for Dreamcast | Modem | Modular Cable | Dreamcast Modular Extension Cable | Broadband Adapter | Dreamphone
Connector Cables   5-Pin Cable | Audio Cable | RF Adapter | Scart Cable | Stereo AV Cable | VGA Adapter

Dreamcast MIDI Interface Cable | Neo Geo Pocket/Dreamcast Setsuzoku Cable | Taisen Cable

Misc. Hardware   Action Replay | Code Breaker | Kiosk | MP3 DC | MP3 DC Audio Player | Treamcast
Unreleased Accessories   Dreamcast DVD Player | Dreamcast Zip Drive | Swatch Access for Dreamcast | VMU MP3 Player
Arcade Variants   Sega NAOMI | Atomiswave | Sega Aurora