HDTV Sources – Hi-Def DVD players, Games Consoles, Cable and Internet

30 April 2007 No Comment

No matter how good your HDTV is, the picture will only be as good as the source from which it comes. A cheap old DVD will only feed a cheap old picture to your HDTV, so if you want exceptionally high quality TV, you’ll need to make sure your sources are up to the job. Of course, as with everything HDTV, that’s easier said than done!

HDTV-capable DVD players

Original DVD players were designed for analogue TV sets, as HDTV hadn’t been invented yet, and so output their content at 480i (i.e. 480 vertical lines of pixels, interlaced). That said, even a super-cheap DVD will look exceptionally good on an HDTV compared with a standard analogue TV, even if the DVD player doesn’t support one of the HDTV formats.

More recently, however, newer HDTV-ready DVD players have come on the market that give truly outstanding results. This being HDTV, though, it’s not simply a case of buying an HDTV-ready DVD player – there are a variety of formats and options that you must consider first (as if choosing an HDTV set up wasn’t complicated enough already!)

HD-DVD vs Blu-Ray

The first thing to consider is which Hi-Def DVD format you’ll choose, and here we enter the great HD-DVD vs Blu-Ray battle. Each of these represents a different way of encoding and broadcasting Hi-Def DVD pictures to your HDTV, and like any good technological battle, neither is compatible with the other.

Toshiba HD-DVD player
Choose an HD-DVD player (left), for example, and you can only play HD-DVD disks; equally, choose Blu-Ray (below, left), and you’ll only be able to play Blu-Ray disks.

Your choice, therefore, depends on which format you think is going to win in the market, as the losing technology will soon find itself without any movie companies providing content for it.
Sony Blu-Ray player
Yes, it’s the great VHS vs Betamax battle all over again; and, surprise surprise, Sony is one of the battlers again (it was Sony who created the doomed Betamax format), with Blu-Ray being its own technology battling the Toshiba-created HD-DVD. So, which to choose?

As far as the most popular standard, it’s too early to tell at the moment, as both technologies have only just been introduced. Even if one of the technologies nudges ahead of its rival, it doesn’t mean it’s going to win the war.

Sony, for example, has its own movie studios, which of course are releasing Blu-Ray only DVDs. When Spiderman 3 comes out on DVD later in the year (or early next year), it’ll be Blu-Ray only, which may give Blu-Ray the edge lead over HD-DVD. However, it may only be a temporary edge, as if other studios support HD-DVD, then HD-DVD will soon overtake Blu-Ray.

Whether Sony will ever support HD-DVD is an interesting question, but if Blu-Ray stalls and HD-DVD becomes the de facto standard, it would have no choice but to support both technologies. Only time will tell, though, and it’s way to soon to even make a guess as to which technology will win.

HD-DVD and Blu-Ray in VideoGame Consoles

In an effort to increase the adoption of Blu-Ray, Sony has put a Blu-Ray player inside every PS3, so if the PS3 takes off in similar numbers to the PS2, Blu-Ray has a secure future.

Unfortunately, though, PS3 currently isn’t selling all that well, and Microsoft have released an HD-DVD player for their X-Box 360 (which, compared with the Nintendo Wii, is also not selling all that well!). So the idea of putting a Hi-Def DVD player of one technology or another inside a games console in an effort to drive adoption can’t be relied upon as an indicator of future success.
LG BH100 HD-DVD and Blu-Ray player

Fortunately, some enterprising electronics companies are selling dual HD-DVD and Blu-Ray players, which are capable of reading both formats in the one device. LG, for example, recently announced the LG BH100 Super Multi Blu Player (left), while Samsung have also announced that they’re working on a similar dual player as well.

Unfortunately, these players cost an absolute fortune (the LG BH100 is set to cost $1200), and so the whole Blu-Ray vs HD-DVD battle might best be left to the early adopters at the moment, as although the quality of both standards is superb, there’s a real chance to make an extremely expensive mistake at this early stage of the market.

Interestingly, all HD-DVD and Blu-Ray disks store their content in full 1080p format, but some of the players can only output it in 1080i format. It’s therefore worth checking to see what HDTV format the player can output before deciding to purchase it.

DVD Upscalers

Another way of getting Hi-Def pictures from a DVD player is through what’s known as upscaling. This is where a DVD player reads normal (non-Hi-Def) DVDs that would usually be destined for a standard analogue TV, and converts them into a Hi-Def format before sending them to the HDTV via their HDMI output.

Denon DVD-2930
Denon, for example, produce the DVD-2930 (left), which takes standard DVDs and upscales them to 1080p, with the added detail filled in by clever software in the DVD player that interpolates the colour the pixels that are not there in the original DVD.

The success of these types of DVD player is dependent upon the sophistication of the upscaling algorithms within the DVD player, so always read the reviews first (and see the results for yourself, if possible) before buying. It’s also worth noting that although these deliver 1080p HDTV, it’s not true HDTV, as the missing detail that’s filled in isn’t real – it’s only estimated by the algorithms.

Note that both Blu-Ray and HD-DVD players will perform upscaling for original (non-Hi-Def) DVDs.

HD Games consoles

Microsoft XBox 260 HD-DVD
We’ve already mentioned Sony’s PS3 and Microsoft’s XBox 360, but it’s worth including them as sources in their own right, as both games machines are capable of outputting their games in Hi-Def format. Indeed, if you want the get the most out of these consoles, then you absolutely need an HDTV on which to view them, as they don’t look all that different from their predecessors on standard analogue TV.

PS3 games support 1080p, courtesy of its Blu-Ray player and Sony’s intent on pushing Blu-Ray into everyone’s home, while all XBox 360 games must support at least 720p. In practice, all XBox 360 content, from games to HD-DVDs to standard DVDs, will be upscaled to full 1080p by the XBox 360 (if you’re HDTV supports 1080p). Both consoles come with full HD support out of the box, so you don’t need any extra cables or converters to enjoy HD output.

As for the Nintendo Wii, it’s designed around the games that than technological superiority, so it doesn’t support HD at all – just good old 480i (although the picture quality is apparently better when using component cables and an HDTV).

You can read more on Microsoft’s XBox 360’s HD output at ColdForged.

HDTV Broadcasts

Another source of HDTV pictues comes from HDTV broadcasts by companies such as Sky and Virgin Media (i.e. the satellite and cable companies). Most satellite and cable companies offer an HD service, but it’s usually only at 780p or at most 1080i; at the time of writing (April 2007), no TV broadcasts are being made in 1080p.

Of course, in order to receive HD from your satellite or cable provider, you’ll need to buy a special HD-ready STB, and these aren’t cheap. Both Sky and VirginMedia in the UK offer HD STBs, which also come with a variety of Personal Video Recorder (PVR) features, such as the ability to record shows onto their internal hard drives.

HD Internet Content

Finally, there’s an increasing amount of Hi-Def content on the Internet, and this will increase in time. Both Apple’s QuickTime and Microsoft’s WMD media-encoding formats support full 1080p HD, and with camcorders having supported HD for a number of years now, it’s easy to record whatever you want in HD and upload it onto the Internet.

The only downside is the huge filesizes that HD content creates, as HD requires a lot of bits to encode its high definition content. Although these filesizes won’t decrease, bandwidth and hosting costs will, while download speeds will increase, so although full HD over the Internet is impractical at the moment, it will become increasingly popular in the coming years.

 
  1. 1). HDTV Formats and Resolutions
  2. 2). HDTV Connections – from HDMI to Composite Video
  3. 3). HDTV Sources – Hi-Def DVD players, Games Consoles, Cable and Internet
  4. 4). HDTV Aspect Ratios
  5. 5). HDTV Plasma TVs vs HDTV LCD TV – which is best?
  6. 6). HDTV Info Summary
 

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