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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Seriously, I do other things than watch HDTV 

I also play video games.

My brother Mike asked about the new TV, and I sent him a summary too good to hide in email. Some of this was covered in previous posts, but what the heck.

It's a Digimate 37" TV.

We got it at Future Shop for $1500. It was sort of an end-of-the-line deal for a TV they
apparently brought in for the Boxing Day sale. It doesn't seem to be available, at least from Future Shop, any more.

There's some really good things about this unit, and some other things that aren't so good.

The really good things: true 1080i (1920x1080) resolution (surprisingly, there's a lot of supposedly "high-end" TVs that have a lower native rez, and downconvert). Lots of inputs, including ones that let me use it as a really good computer monitor. Super cheap. Big enough for our room (we sit, maybe a foot or two closer to the TV than you guys; no more).

The bad: no built-in HD tuner (minor issue). No easy way to use the 1080p glory of the panel (mostly a potential issue, and the DVI and SVGA inputs will pass an effective 1080p). no HDMI (minor issue). Two sets of Component inputs, but can only do HD signals on one of them (pretty annoying issue, but fixable for $60). Can't scale letterboxed standard-def pictures in two dimensions to fill the screen (picky issue, but would be really nice for viewing shows on TV channels like TCM, where they regularly show movies letterboxed) no HDCP on the DVI interface (major issue! Hulk smash!!)

HDTV buying is a morass of crazy details right now, and probably will be for about 12 months. There's also fun hidden costs, like having to buy a box and possibly a subscription to use your fancy new TV. So far, I think I could fix all of the issues I'm having, but it would be pricey. I'd like to buy a computer to hook up to it as an in-line scaler ($100-400), a shady box to fix the HDCP issue ($400), a component switchbox to let me mux a bunch of stuff into the component HD input ($60) and an HD PVR box ($700 instead of $200 for my lowly non-PVR box).

I think it's important to think very clearly about what you want to hook up to your TV, and to buy accordingly.

If I had to do it again, I might still buy the same unit: the picture is great, and the HD stuff just works. but my dream TV would be this one, but with maybe three full-HD component inputs, an HDMI input, that scaling feature I talked about, and HDCP on at least one of its inputs. The HDCP thing is a fairly big deal in the long term, but minimal practical effect now. The scaling thing is annoying part right now. I should probably just suck it up and buy the $60 switch box to fix the HD input thing.

Sorry I didn't put in too many links, I'm on day three of being home sick, and, well, I don't feel like it.

Aren't component inputs analog? Seems an all digital path is best--at least it is with my system.


When you can get digital source material, then yes, digital inputs (eg HDMI, DVI-D) are the way to go. In most cases, the difference is likely to be subtle: Component outputs aren't that noisy.

Most AV devices, at least the ones older than a year or so, are not outputting digital signals.

The current batch of HD set-top boxes seem to mostly be capable of digital output, and new computers usually have DVI-D abilities, but except for a few fairly special upconverting DVD players, other devices will likely be pushing a signal through analog video outputs. For example, my Playstation 2, an XBox 360 (at least until the HDDVD kit comes out), and most other consumer AV stuff.

My preference for numerous component inputs reflects that, though HDMI is catching on quite quickly.
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