HD Stuff

A few bit’s and pieces on HD. Firstly, my TV. Had no real issues with it apart from a bug with the 360 (and maybe hi-def content in general) in that the colour red (and oranges) would cause some ghosting of the image on the screen. Nothing major and certainly nothing that could be spotted in game. You could see it especially on the dashboard and in PGR menu’s although changing the dashboard theme removed the issue.

However I picked up TopSpin last week which looked gorgeous until I played my first tournament on clay. Uggggggghhhhhhhhh. Fugly and difficult to watch – felt the whole image was blurry. Luckily for me the next day saw the latest firmware release for the TV which solved the problem. Good stuff Philips – only took 4 months.

I still don’t know whether providing the facility to upgrade your TV’s firmware is a good idea. In one respect it allows Philips to address issues through the life of he TV. However it also allows them to ship a ‘buggy’ product knowing it can be addressed in the long term. How many users though will:

  • Know about the firmware release
  • Know how to apply it
  • Have the confidence to do it

People I know have issues applying a firmware release to a DVD writer worth about £60 never mind to a TV worth £1800. For me it’s great but I’m a geek. For average users it’s just not good enough.

Other HD news is a rumour – Microsoft will announce their HD-DVD add on at E3 next month and it will be priced at $100. That sounds stupidly cheap. If it’s true then I can see a lot of people picking up the device. Hopefully they’ll add an HDMI socket to the player as well – HDMI is the new scart and I’m still surprised they went with component rather than HDMI on the 360. Time to make amends.

I’m still looking for an HDMI switch box. As I’ve mentioned HDMI has become the standard way of hooking up HD sources yet most screens still only have one socket. If your a switch box manufacturer then the next couple of years is the time to make money. By year end I’ll have the DVD player, Sky HD, PS3 and probably the 360 via the HD-DVD add on all using HDMI. So it’s definitely a five way switch box which looking at those on the market will cost between £150 and £350. Ouch. Octava is my first choice as there is now a UK distributor and it’s the cheapest. Gefen do a 4 way HDMI and audio switch box but it’s over £300. I would rather get a new amp with some HDMI inputs than pay that much. So it looks like Octava unless I turn up a bad review in avforums. I’ll post an update once I have the box and tested it.

7 Comments

  1. I’m still amazed that no-one in the AV industry has realised that one thing that puts a lot of buyers off is the abundance of differing and confusing terminology. I’m a geek (lite) and I have trouble with it… SCART, RGB, Component, HDMI, S-thingy, Aux that, DIV this…

    This also rings true for the entire ‘firmware’ update thing. I wonder how many ‘tv repairers’ will add that to their adverts soon “Firmware updates ONLY £50!”.

    What they need to remember is that, for most people, a TV is something that you plugged an aerial into. Belatedly you might have had a video or DVD player as well but even that’s a bit new-fangled…

  2. Personally I hate HDMI. Specifically for it’s reliance on protected content. It’s essentially DVI + Audio + Protection. Why do I hate it? Because if you buy an HDMI selector, you can’t simply use a DVI to HDMI adaptor to hook up sources such as the PC or the 360 because those devices don’t output protected content, so the TV (and the AV Amp switcher I have) can’t display that source.

    My only option is a DVI switcher. One that’s HDCP compatible. That lets me convert any HDMI signal to DVI and send that to my TV, allowing me to mix both protected and unprotected sources. However, this is still no solution for the 360 as it currently outputs over VGA (analogue) and whilst I can (and do) convert that to DVI, it’s not digital, and therefore any HDCP compliant DVI switcher (again £300) can’t cope.

    Unless there’s a switch box out there that can cope with DVI, HDCP, and both Analogue and Digital, then in this next generation era I’m stuck with swapping cables.

    It’s particularly crap that the Denon amp I have bosts component to HDMI conversion, yet no TV with HDMI will support an HDMI signal that’s not got HDCP, and HDCP isn’t added during the conversion from component/DVI to HDMI. Thus the Denon amp switching is as useless as the TV.

    I’m not even convinced there’s any significant picture quality gain over HDMI/Digital DVI rather than analogue component or analogue DVI/VGA. It’s just a fudged up mess that makes owning multiple HD sources impossible to manage.

  3. Gordon – totally agree and that’s my whole issue with firmware. Great in theory but not practical for mass market applications that everyone including mum’s and grannies should be able to use. Geek (lite) is a bit of a stretch though.

    Graham – agree to a point but have no qualms with HDMI. Tidy socket that carries everything I need. Excellent. Whether I’ll still have that opinion when I’ve got my switch box and multiple sources only time will tell.

    New terminology and technology will never leave us I’m afraid. Too much money to be made…look at how many different flash memory formats there are. What a joke.

  4. Just been reading on AVForums that SKY HD is now going to be broadcasting only in 1080i. They say that the digibox will be able to convert the signal to 720p for those that want it. As yet nobody knows how that scaling is done. However I read that on all current HD displays, if you feed it a 1080i signal, the TV does the easiest conversion, which apparently is do downscale the 1080i to 540p, then upscale that to 720p.

    In essence if you feed a 1080i signal into an LCD display then all you really end up with is an upscaled SD feed rather than the HD feed that was broadcast. Or at least that’s how it sounds. Unless of course it downscales from 1900x1080i to 1900x540p then scales that to 1280x720p. In which case at least it’s still got lots of vertical lines to work with.

    It’ll be interesting to find out how the scaling is done in the Sky Box too as this potentially makes a mockery of HD on any screen which can’t natively do 1080i. Currently there’s only the Philips 37PF9830 that can do that, and given the issues I’ve had with Philips this year, when I finally get shot of mine, Philips will be the last manufacturer I’d go with.

  5. If you read the whole avforums post it is full of conjecture, misinformation and guesswork…a bit like your comment. I’m in the camp of ‘wait and see’ – I’m not going to spend weeks worrying about something that I can’t control and have no influence over.

    If 1080i is really as bad as you suggest then why do I not see any difference from the 360 or the DVD player when I select 1080i instead of 720p?

    As for Philips I have no major issue with them. Great TV and I’ve not seen a 32inch LCD picture that’s looked better.

  6. It would seem that when they say scale down to 540p and back up, they mean 1900x540p right enough. So not so bad.

    Maybe depends on what you’re looking at. Not so obvious on images but text is horrid. Try running XBMC on 1080i and it’ll do your head in. Horrid. Just horrid. On moving stuff with no text it looks much the same, but if you’ve got sensitive eyes, there’s a flicker to the image that drives them nuts. I can’t watch 1080i with my contacts in for instance. Instant migraine.

  7. Hehe. Just noticed you comments with the TV. Yup, Philips TVs have a great picture, but when there’s a problem they don’t want to know. They refuse to do anything with mine, though the dealer is willing to come to a compromise on an exchange for another model.

    Tempted as I was with the 37PF9830, there’s just too many complaints about it on AVForums, and as I say, Philips haven’t been helpful with my current 32PF9986 so unfortunately I’m just not willing to take the risk (though I came close to downsizing to yours since it’s been trouble free).

    In the end, I reckon I’ll swap for one of the new Sony V2000’s. It’s not the image quality of the Philips that’s put me off them, it’s what they do for you when the hardware fails, and as far as I can see they wriggle out of any liability and leave you hanging with a bad taste in your mouth.

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