Clock rate

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The clock rate of various components in the NES differs between consoles in the USA and Europe due to the different television standards used (NTSC M vs. PAL B). The color encoding method used by the NES (see NTSC video) requires that the master clock frequency be six times that of the color subcarrier, but this frequency is about 24% higher on PAL than on NTSC. In addition, PAL has more scanlines per field and fewer fields per second than NTSC. Furthermore, the PAL CPU's master clock could have been divided by 15 to preserve the ratio between CPU and PPU speeds, but Nintendo chose to keep the Johnson counter structure, which always has an even period, and divide by 16 instead.

So the main differences between the NTSC and PAL PPUs are depicted in the following table:

Property NTSC (2C02) PAL (2C07) Dendy RGB (2C03) RGB (Vs. 4) RGB (2C05)
Master clock speed 21.477272 MHz ± 40 Hz
236.25 MHz ÷ 11 by definition
26.601712 MHz ± 50 Hz
26.6017125 MHz by definition
Like PAL Like NTSC
CPU Ricoh 2A03 Ricoh 2A07 UMC 6527P Ricoh 2A03
CPU clock speed 21.47~ MHz ÷ 12 = 1.789773 MHz
Same as NTSC Amiga clock ÷ 4
26.60~ MHz ÷ 16 = 1.662607 MHz 26.60~ MHz ÷ 15 = 1.773448 MHz
Same as PAL Amiga clock ÷ 4
APU Frame Counter rate 60 Hz 50 Hz[1] 59 Hz[2] Like NTSC
PPU Ricoh 2C02 Ricoh 2C07 UMC 6538 Ricoh 2C03 Ricoh 2C04-0001 through 2C04-0004 Ricoh 2C05
PPU clock speed 21.477272 MHz ÷ 4 26.601712 MHz ÷ 5 Like PAL Like NTSC
PPU dots per CPU cycle 3 3.2 3 Like NTSC
Height of picture 240 scanlines 239 scanlines Like PAL Like NTSC
Nominal visible picture height (see Overscan) 224 scanlines 268 scanlines Like PAL Like NTSC
"Post-render" blanking lines between end of picture and NMI 1 scanline 1 scanline 51 scanlines Like NTSC
Length of vertical blanking after NMI 20 scanlines 70 scanlines 20 scanlines Like NTSC
Time during which OAM can be written Vertical or forced blanking Only during first 20 scanlines after NMI Like NTSC Like NTSC
"Pre-render" lines between vertical blanking and next picture 1 scanline
Total number of dots per frame 341 × 261 + 340.5 = 89341.5
(pre-render line is one dot shorter in every other frame)
341 × 312 = 106392 Like PAL 341 × 262 = 89342
Vertical scan rate 60.0988 Hz 50.0070 Hz Like PAL 60.0985 Hz
Color of top border Always black ($0E)
Side and bottom borders Palette entry at $3F00 Always black ($0E), intruding on left and right 2 pixels and top 1 pixel of picture Like PAL [3] Like NTSC[4]
Color emphasis
(with correlating bit in PPUMASK)
Blue (D7), green (D6), red (D5) Blue (D7), red (D6), green (D5) Like PAL Blue, green, red (full scale)
Other quirks Early revisions cannot read back sprite or palette memory Missing $2D and $3D greys Permutated palette PPUCTRL and PPUMASK are swapped; revision ID in PPUSTATUS (D4-D0)

Some frequencies in the above table are rounded.

The 2C03, 2C04, and 2C05 PPUs were all found in Nintendo's Vs. System and PlayChoice-10 (a.k.a. PC10 or PC-10) arcade systems. Famicom Titler, Famicom TVs, and RGB-modded NES consoles would use either the 2C03 or a 2C05 with glue logic to unswap $2000 and $2001. (Later RGB mods used a 2C02 in output mode and faked out all palette logic.)

The color emphasis bits on the PAL NES have their red and green bits in PPUMASK swapped

The authentic NES sold in Brazil is an NTSC NES with an adapter board to turn the NTSC video into PAL-M video, a variant of PAL using NTSC frequencies but PAL's color modulation.

Dendy is a clone of the Famicom distributed by Steepler and sold in Russia. The chipset in Dendy and several other PAL famiclones (6527P+6538) is designed for compatibility with Famicom games, including games with CPU cycle counting mappers (e.g. VRC4) and games that use a cycle-timed NMI handler (e.g. Balloon Fight). This explains the faster CPU divider and longer post-render period vs. the authentic PAL NES.

To compensate for these differences, you can detect the TV system at power-on.