Pioneer Plasma vs Samsung LCD
Just not for gaming!

While the format war gets the most attention these days, our old favorite, — no, not 720p vs 1080i — is still kicking: Plasma vs LCD. With each new generation a manufacturer improves its previous best model and with the latest Samsung LED powered LCD (LN-T5281F), Sound and Vision Magazine thought it was time for another technology shoot out. The wait was in LCDs court, as the last time both went head to head, it wasn’t even close, and while LCD is still no match for Plasma, it was closer than ever. In fact, even though both sets sell for almost the same price, the Plasma (Pioneer DP-5010FD) bested the best LCD they ever tested in every category — including glare — except detail, which was a tie. The biggest discrepancy between the two was viewing angle, which is labeled Uniformity on the scorecard and requires one to sit directly in front of the set, or suffer an inferior experience. The real irony here is that although the three seasoned AV experts on the panel agree on which produces the best picture, the average consumer probably prefers the “LCD’s dynamic pop” and unrealistic bright colors to the almost perfect realistic colors of the Plasma.

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Hybrid LG Monitor Packs HDMI and 1080p Support

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LG has been busy revamping its LCDs lately and the company’s latest model, the 22-inch M228WA, appears to be the star player with am HDMI port and 1080p capability. In addition, the LCD can be easily paired with another display via its USB interface (there’s also DVI). Add to that a speedy 2ms response time and 3,000:1 contrast ratio and you got yourself a mighty fine display (even though we wish it were slightly bigger in screen size).

LG M228WA: 22-inch LCD Monitor with HDMI [PC Launches]

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Can’t wait to get our flOw on this week!

This isn’t news so much as it is a reminder — the hotly anticipated flOw is due out this week. Hitting the PlayStation store on February 22nd at an as-of-yet undetermined price point (si nce it’s pretty high-profile, we wouldn’t be surprised if it was around $10), this musical and biological adventure is bound to be endless fun. For a while. Here’s what Sony’s official site has to say about the features of the game:
  • “Full HD at 1080p – Vibrant environments.
  • Dynamically Adjusting Experience – Customize your game experience.
  • Multiplayer mode – 1-4 players; same screen
  • SIXAXIS™ wireless controller – Gamers can use the analog thumb stick or take advantage of the SIXAXIS™ wireless controller motion sensors to glide, flit, and flOw through the abyss.”
We weren’t aware there was an abyss involved! There are five different creatures for you to choose from and a difficulty that changes depending on your skill level. It’s going to be great and, in certain cases, a great musical backdrop for that “chill” party you’ve been planning.

HDMI 1.3 on deck for 2007

Unless you’ve got a PlayStation 3, we can probably peg the number of HDMI 1.3-equipped devices in your home right now at exactly zero. However, if you’ve been waiting for Deep Color displays and receivers that support all next generation audio codecs like DTS-HD Master, Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus there are plenty of devices on their way in 2007. According to EETimes online, Sony and Mitsubishi will be debuting new TVs (like Mitsu’s Laser rear projecting HDTV) that take advantage of the wider color gamut afforded by HDMI 1.3. Besides xvYCC, 32-bit Deep Color support will increase color accuracy on upcoming TVs. Denon might not be ready to jump into the HD DVD / Blu-ray battle, but it’s got several 1080p and HDMI 1.3-compatible receivers on the way including advanced audio and video processing capabilities. We should see one more HDMI 1.3 device this year when Toshiba releases the HD-XA2 HD DVD player, but the real treats will be waiting at CES 2007.

[Thanks, Brian]

Read – HDMI 1.3: Better DTV images, sound in 2007
Read – Denon’s HDMI 1.3 Receivers “scheduled for mid-year introduction”
Read – Why today’s best HDTVs aren’t worth buying

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1080p Does Matter – Here’s When (Screen Size vs. Viewing Distance vs. Resolution)

I’ve read various articles debating the importance of the 1080p. I want to set the record straight once and for all: if you are serious about properly setting up your viewing room, you will definitely benefit from 1080p (and even 1440p.) Why? Because the 1080p resolution is the first to deliver enough detail to your eyeball when you are seated at the proper distance from the screen. But don’t just take my word for it: read on for the proof.

There are a few obvious factors to being able to detect resolution differences: the resolution of the screen, the size of the screen, and the viewing distance. To be able to detect differences between resolutions, the screen must be large enough and you must sit close enough. So the question becomes “How do I know if need a higher resolution or not?”. Here is your answer.

Based on the resolving ability of the human eye (with 20/20 vision it is possible to resolve 1/60th of a degree of an arc), it is possible to estimate when the differences between resolutions will become apparent. Using the Home Theater Calculator spreadsheet as a base, I created a chart showing, for any given screen size, how close you need to sit to be able to detect some or all of the benefits of a higher resolution screen. (Click the picture below for a larger version.)

Resolution vs. Screen Size vs. Viewing Distance Chart

What the chart shows is that, for a 50-inch screen, the benefits of 720p vs. 480p start to become apparent at viewing distances closer than 14.6 feet and become fully apparent at 9.8 feet. For the same screen size, the benefits of 1080p vs. 720p start to become apparent when closer than 9.8 feet and become full apparent at 6.5 feet. In my opinion, 6.5 feet is closer than most people will sit to their 50″ plasma TV (even through the THX recommended viewing distance for a 50″ screen is 5.6 ft). So, most consumers will not be able to see the full benefit of their 1080p TV.

However, front projectors and rear projection displays are a different story. They make it very easy to obtain large screen sizes. Plus, LCD and Plasma displays are constantly getting larger and less expensive. In my home, for example, I have a 123-inch screen and a projector with a 1280×720 resolution. For a 123-inch screen, the benefits of 720p vs. 480p starts to become apparent at viewing distances closer than 36 feet (14 feet behind my back wall) and become fully apparent at 24 feet (2 feet behind my back wall). For the same screen size, the benefits of 1080p vs. 720p start to become apparent when closer than 24 feet and become full apparent at 16 feet (just between the first and second row of seating in my theater). This means that people in the back row of my home theater would see some improvement if I purchased a 1080p projector and that people in the front row would notice a drastic improvement. (Note: the THX recommended max viewing distance for a 123″ screen is 13.7 feet).

So, how close should you be sitting to your TV? Obviously, you need to look at your room and see what makes sense for how you will be using it. If you have a dedicated viewing room and can place seating anywhere you want, you can use this chart as a guideline. It’s based on THX and SMPTE specifications for movie theaters; the details are available in the Home Theater Calculator spreadsheet.

Recommended Seating Distances and Resolution benefits (small)

Looking at this chart, it is apparent that 1080p is the lowest resolution to fall within the recommended seating distance range. Any resolution less than 1080p is not detailed enough if you are sitting the proper distance from the screen. For me and many people with large projection screens, 1080p is the minimum resolution you’d want.

In fact, you could probably even benefit from 1440p. If you haven’t heard of 1440p, you will. Here’s a link to some info on Audioholics.com. It is part of the HDMI 1.3 spec, along with 48-bit color depth, and will probably surface for the public in 2009 or so. You’ll partially be able to see the benefits of 1440p at the THX Max Recommended viewing distance and the resolution benefits will be fully apparent if you are just a little closer. I’ve read of plans for resolutions reaching 2160p but I don’t see any benefit; you’d have to sit too darn close to the screen to notice any improvement. If you sit too close, you can’t see the far edges of the screen.

In conclusion: If you are a videophile with a properly setup viewing room, you should definitely be able to notice the resolution enhancement that 1080p brings. However, if you are an average consumer with a plasma on the far wall of your family room, you are not likely to be sitting close enough to notice any advantage. Check the chart above and use that to make your decision. And remember, the the most important aspects of picture quality are (in order): 1) contrast ratio, 2) color saturation, 3) color accuracy, 4) resolution. Resolution is 4th on the list and plasma is generally superior to LCD in all of these areas. So pick your display size, then measure your seating distance, and then use the charts above to figure out if you would benefit from the larger screen size.

Gamer’s Guide to HDTV Purchases

Buying an HDTV may be straightforward if you’re either cheap or have the brain of an eight-year-old, but what if you’re a gamer. Oh wait, you’re already covered with the second option. We kid, we kid. But seriously folks, getting a TV that helps you not get curb-stomped in Gears of War is a different job than buying one that makes Tom Cruise look as good as possible in Mission Impossible.

Dean Takahashi of the Mercury News says—after 10 paragraphs that don’t even mention gaming—that the Xbox 360 only has games currently at 720p, whereas the PS3 has about half its games supporting 1080p. He recommends a TV with HDMI for the PS3, but if you have a 360 you’re going to have to go with component. After testing with all of three TVs, two of which were 720p, he recommends you go 720p until 1080p becomes more widespread in gaming.

So yes, Dean takes 34 paragraphs to say that you don’t really need a 1080p set, because it’s hard to tell the difference between 1080p and 720p.

THANKS! Gamers are totally set for the HDTV revolution now. ~where’s that eye rolling icon when you need it!

Buying an HDTV: What do Gamers Need To Know? [Mercury News via Kotaku]

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Microsoft gloat over PS3 HD ‘issue’

No 720p fix?

As you’ll probably know if you’ve been keeping abreast of the latest gaming news over the last couple of weeks, the PlayStation 3 has something of a technical problem concerning high-definition support. Put simply, on older HD boxes that sometimes don’t support 720p resolutions, the PS3 is currently only offering 480p – which is the same as the current generation of games consoles.

Last week Sony promised a patch to fix the problem, but it appears the solution may be more complex; the PS3 not supporting such high-definitinon TVs at a hardware level. Promises of a fix have also subsequently disappeared though the platform holder do assure us they are looking into the problem.

Now Microsoft’s Andre Vrignaud (Xbox Live technical strategy director), speaking on his personal blog, has twisted the knife into Sony over this problem, stating a fix could be very difficult: “…it appears there’s no internal hardware scaler in the PS3. As reported, it appears the PS3 is unable to output a consistent signal to your TV based upon your desired selection (ie, what your TV supports). This means that while I might want to play Resistance in 1080i, if the game doesn’t support it the console drops down to a lower-common denominator of 480p. The game then tells me that if I want to play in the best quality, I need to quit out, go to the dashboard, change the PS3’s resolution to 720p, and then relaunch the game. Oh, and when I return from the game, I’m obviously still at 720p, and not the 1080i I’d prefer to navigate the dash with. I experienced this myself and I can tell you it’s hugely frustrating.”

Vrignaud concluded: “This issue also affects people who have older HDTVs that only support 480i/480p and 1080i (not 720p – this was pretty common with earlier CRT HDTVs). These folks have no way to scale the game’s output to 1080i, and are thus forced to play in 480i/p. This smells of the console being rushed to market, and I’m not holding out any hopes for any significant fix. It’s bad, and feels like something Sony would have fixed if possible. My guess is the ‘fix’ they’re working on is going to be a bit of streamlining in the dashboard (perhaps a switch to automatically change back to 1080i/p when returning from a game), but the core issue isn’t going to be fixed. I hope I’m wrong, though, for the sake of all those folks having problems.”

More bad news for Sony? Quite possibly, though given this expert’s employer it would be rash to write-off Sony’s chances of satisfying owners of older HD sets, even if at the moment the situation is ambiguous. We’ll keep you posted.

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