This page was last modified 08:57, 20 November 2021 by Gdx. Based on work by NYYRIKKI and Mars2000you and others.
MSX2 logo



This article gives basic information about the successor of the MSX1 standard: MSX2.

MSX2 standard definition

Standard features Obligatory:

  • CPU Zilog Z80A compatible at 3.579 MHz (8-bit)
  • 32kB BASIC/BIOS ROM and 16kB Sub-ROM (MSX-BASIC version 2.0 or 2.1, the latter has the possibility of a RAMdisk bigger than 32kB in BASIC).
  • RAM: Minimum of 64kB
  • Video Display Processor: Yamaha V9938 (backward compatible with TMS-9918 and TMS-9928).
  • At least 70 keys (including five programmable function keys, Graph, Code/Hangul/Kana/РУС, Select, Stop and four arrow keys. Caps and Accents/Dead keys are optional), QWERTY with JIS or 50 Onjun key layout for Japanese keyboards.
  • General Instrument AY-3-8910 Programmable Sound Generator. 8 octaves and 3 sound channels.
  • RTC compatible with RP5C01
  • Connectivity
    • One connector for tape/data recorder. Transfer speed: 1200 or 2400 baud in MSX-BASIC (FSK format). The speed can be altered though, with some POKEing or easily in Machine Language programs.
    • At least one expansion BUS or cartridge slot. Usually it is the cartridge slot. An expansion BUS must have the standard 50 pin. The pins -/+12V and Sound IN may not connected on expansion bus.
    • Two General Purpose port. The connector is a normal 9-pin D-connector, male. (Game controllers, graphic tablet, mice, paddle controllers are optional)
    • One Printer interface

Standard features Optional:

  • Memory Mapper, makers have to use it for computers and memory expansions more than 64kB RAM.
  • Kanji Display
  • Floppy disk drive interface
    • 16kB Disk ROM including the Disk-BASIC and MSX-DOS1 kernel
    • One or two 3.5 inch 1DD/2DD/2HD floppy disk drive, many MSX2 computers have a 1DD or 2DD 3.5" floppy drive built in (2HD is supported by the MX-2021 only)
    • OPLL YM2413, 9-channel FM synthesizer)
    • 16kB FM-BASIC ROM
  • MSX-AUDIO with up to 256kB of sample RAM
  • RS-232C
  • Light pen
  • MSX-Interface (J3125 chip)

Graphic capabilities

Screen modes from 0 to 3 are the same as on MSX1, except that in screen 0 an 80 column mode is available and that the colors can be selected from a 512 color palette.

The modes are of course provided by the Yamaha V9938 video chip and boil down to the following additional graphic modes (in MSX-BASIC):

Mode Resolution Colors Size per screen
4 256×192 pixels 16 of 512 RGB 16kB
5 256×212/424 pixels 16 of 512 RGB 32kB
6 512×212/424 pixels 4 of 512 RGB 32kB
7 512×212/424 pixels 16 of 512 RGB 54kB
8 256×212/424 pixels 256 (no palette) 54kB
9 only on Korean MSX2 see SCREEN text mode using screen 5 or 6

Note: the 424 lines can only be displayed in interlaced mode.

What are the screen modes used for?

  • Screen 4: almost the same as screen 2. Used in some MSX2 games, e.g. Pennant Race 2 and Space Manbow by Konami. It's a pattern mode, making it very fast.
  • Screen 5: used by many MSX2 games, because there are 4 pages available
  • Screen 6: used by DTP programs, some MSX-DOS GUIs and some disk magazines. Examples:
    • Aladin
    • Dynamic Publisher
    • SYNTAX (Danish disk magazine)
  • Screen 7: used by some games and most disk magazines and some drawing programs. Examples:
    • Cheese (drawing tool by NEOS)
    • Graph Saurus V2.0 by BIT²
    • Sunrise Magazine, by Sunrise
    • Xak, by MicroCabin
  • Screen 8: used for displaying digitized images or drawing nice pictures. Not used much for games due to lack of possibility to redefine colours like in the other MSX2 modes, because it has only two pages, and because the performance speed is half that of screen 5. Examples:
    • Breaker by Radarsoft
    • Graph Saurus V2.0 by BIT²
    • Video Graphics by JVC
    • Video Graphics by Philips
    • ZOO by Radarsoft
  • Screen 9: used on Korean MSX2 computers and consoles for a better display of the Hangul characters; it is also used for the Hana characters, but only on the Daewoo CPC-400 and CPC-400S computers.


MSX2 software was and is supplied on 360kB and 720kB disks and as well in (Mega) ROM modules, but of course the (old?) MSX1 software can also be used on this MSX, in any medium.

What do I need to run the newest MSX2 software?

  • MSX2 computer with at least 128kB RAM/128kB VRAM. MSX models may only have 256kB printed on their case, which could be a bit misleading as this figure includes 128kB VRAM, leaving you with 128kB main RAM. People tend to stick to 256kB main RAM as unofficial standard. Apart from some cracked games, not a lot of software really requires 256kB main RAM, Japanese games usually work with 64kB main RAM even. Having more RAM can be helpful in situations where tools such as music trackers offer song space according to the amount of installed RAM.
  • Double sided disk drive (3,5" 720kB) and for convenience a SCSI/IDE harddisk/ZIP drive
  • MSX-MUSIC or/and MSX-AUDIO or MoonSound music cartridge(s) if you like to enjoy better sound. Moonsound support isn't as widespread as MSX-MUSIC and/or MSX-AUDIO though, and the amount of installed Moonsound SRAM may be important. The original Moonsound was sold with 128kB SRAM, the maximum amount of SRAM is 2MB. There's not really a common standard, but a few years ago 640kB was promoted to become one. Newly produced Moonsounds ship with more SRAM however.
  • A small amount of products requires a GFX9000 graphic card

Optional extras are more RAM and a 7MHz Z80H kit (for any MSX model).

Links to MSX2 software can be found on this page: MSX2 Software.


See the list on the page about the MSX2 Computers.