Wednesday, February 28, 2007

PRESS RELEASE: Silicon Image Supplies Samsung With HDMI(TM) 1.3 Transmitter for Blu-ray Disc Player and HDMI 1.3 Receiver and Switches for HDTVs

VastLane(TM) HDMI 1.3 Transmitter, Receiver and Switches Enable Leading-Edge Video and Audio Capabilities for Samsung's New Blu-ray Disc Player and HDTVs.

SUNNYVALE, Calif., Jan. 31 -- Silicon Image,Inc. (Nasdaq: SIMG), the leader in semiconductors for the secure storage, distribution and presentation of high-definition content, today announced that Samsung Electronics has selected the VastLane(TM) SiI9134 HighDefinition Multimedia Interface(TM) (HDMI(TM)) transmitter chip for itsBD-P1200 Blu-ray Disc player and the VastLane(TM) SiI9125 HDMI receiverchip for its new plasma, LCD and DLP HDTVs. In addition, Samsung selected the new VastLane HDMI 1.3 switches, SiI9181 and SiI9185, for its new HDTVs. Samsung launched the new HDMI 1.3-enabled Blu-ray player and HDTVs at the2007 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Silicon Image was the first to market with the most advanced HDMI 1.3 transmitters and receivers. The VastLane SiI9134 is an advanced HDMI 1.3transmitter that enables Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD and DVD players and recorders to transmit Deep Color(TM) content for the highest-quality imagefor the consumer. The SiI9134 supports up to 1080p resolution at 60Hz and12-bit color depth, and supports Dolby(R) True HD and DTS-HD high bit-rateaudio formats to deliver a rich digital video and audio experience. The new Samsung BD-P1200 Blu-ray Disc player adds support for HDMIversion 1.3 by using the SiI9134 transmitter. Among other features of HDMI1.3, the new BD-P1200 player incorporates Consumer Electronics Control(CEC) functionality, which enables a single remote control unit to operate the player, TV and other audio/video (A/V) products. With the BD-PP1200model's HDMI connections, consumers will get superior A/V quality, with incredible ease and convenience of use. The new Samsung plasma, DLP and LCD HDTVs add support for HDMI version1.3 through the SiI9125 receiver and the SiI9181 and SiI9185 HDMI 1.3 switches. More and more source devices with HDMI 1.3 support are appearing on the market, including Blu-ray players and the PlayStation 3 from Sony. The new Samsung HDMI 1.3-enabled HDTVs allow consumers to enjoy the highest resolution video and audio capabilities enabled by those source devices.

At CES 2007, Silicon Image announced the new VastLane SiI9125 receiver, designed for use in HDTVs. The SiI9125 HDMI receiver enables HDTVs todisplay Deep Color content transmitted by a new generation of consumer products, such as the Sony PlayStation 3 and high-definition DVD players. It supports HDMI 1.3 functionality and provides HDTV manufacturers with a cost effective means of implementing dual HDMI inputs for simultaneous connection of multiple HDMI source devices, such as a DVD player and a set-top box to an HDTV. This enables HDTVs to display Deep Color content inbillions of colors with unprecedented vividness and accuracy. The built-in High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) decryption engine securesthe digital link to enable transmission of high-definition video and audio. SiI9125 supports both Super Audio-CD and DVD Audio, including 7.1-surround audio at 192 kilohertz (kHz) and stereo audio at 192 kHz. Also at CES 2007, Silicon Image unveiled the first generation of its family of VastLane HDMI 1.3 switches. The new HDMI 1.3 switches enable multiple HDMI source devices to connect to HDTVs with frequency of operation up to 225MHz, allowing consumers to enjoy Deep Color content. Based on the HDMI 1.3 specifications, SiI9181 and SiI9185 are advanced HDMI1.3 switches that enable manufacturers of HDTVs to provide a cost effective method of adding additional HDMI ports to the latest HDTVs. The SiI9181 andSiI9185 provide a low cost method of transmitting high-definition digital audio and video, giving consumers a truly all-digital experience. New integrated features help lower system cost and provide enhanced features, such as built- in support for the Consumer Electronic Control (CEC) functionality and integrated Extended Display Identification Data Random Access Memory (EDID RAM).

The HDMI 1.3 specification more than doubles HDMI's bandwidth and adds support for Deep Color technology, a broader color space, new digital audio formats and automatic audio/video synching capability ("lip sync"). HDMI1.3 supports 10-bit, 12-bit and 16-bit (RGB or YCbCr) color depths, up from the 8- bit depths in previous versions of the HDMI specification. "HDMI 1.3 is gaining traction in the marketplace, with the support of top-tier HD DVD and Blu-ray player manufacturers as well as TV makers,"said Dale Zimmerman, vice president of marketing at Silicon Image. "We are pleased that Samsung has chosen the Silicon Image transmitter, receiver and HDMI 1.3 switches to unleash the full potential of the new Blu-ray Disc standard and latest generation HDTVs. As consumers become more demanding about HDTV performance and image quality, HDMI 1.3 support stands out as a clear market differentiator." Silicon Image offers one of the most robust and comprehensively tested technology platforms in the consumer electronics industry. Silicon Image'sexperience associated with shipping more than 100 million HDMI/HDCP andDVI/HDCP semi conductor solutions helps to significantly improve cross product interoperability. Silicon Image implements HDCP using its own copyrighted firmware stack, and performs a triple validation process in the programming of its HDCP keys to prevent duplicate key programming, selective authentication problems and corruptions. This validation, complemented by one of the most advanced and thorough testing programs through Simplay Labs, allows OEMs to virtually eliminate issues with cross platform compatibility. The Simplay HD Testing Program has verified the SiI9134, SiI9125,SiI9181 and the SiI9185 for HDMI 1.3 compatibility. The Simplay Program provides compatibility testing for high definition (HD) consumer electronics devices such as HDTVs, set-top boxes, audio/video (A/V)receivers and DVD players, helping manufacturers to achieve compatibilityand deliver the highest-quality HDTV experience to consumers.

The Blu-ray next-generation optical disc format was created by a group of the world's top consumer electronics companies, including Samsung. The format is intended to meet consumer demand for playing and recording high-definition content, which far surpasses the video quality DVD can handle. About HDMI. HDMI is the first and only consumer electronics industry-supported,uncompressed, all-digital audio/video interface. By delivering crystal-clear, all-digital audio and video via a single cable, HDMI dramatically simplifies cabling and helps provide consumers with the highest-quality home theater experience. HDMI provides an interface betweenany type of audio/video source, such as a set-top box, DVD player, or A/Vreceiver and an audio and/or video monitor, such as a digital television(DTV), over a single cable. About Silicon Image, Inc. Headquartered in Sunnyvale, Calif., Silicon Image, Inc. is a leader in driving the architecture and semiconductor implementations for the secure storage, distribution and presentation of high-definition content in the consumer electronics and personal computing markets. Silicon Image createsand drives industry standards for digital content delivery such as DVI, HDMI(TM) and Serial ATA (SATA), leveraging partnerships with global leaders in the consumer electronics and personal computing markets to meet the growing digital content needs of consumers worldwide. With a proven track record of improving cross-product interoperability, Silicon Image has shipped more than 100 million HDMI/HDCP and DVI/HDCP semiconductor solutions and offers one of the most robust and comprehensively tested technology platforms in the consumer electronics industry through the Simplay HD(TM) Testing Program of Simplay Labs. Simplay Labs, LLC, awholly-owned subsidiary of Silicon Image, is a leading provider of testing technologies, tools and services for high-definition consumer electronics devices such as HDTVs, set-top boxes, audio/video receivers and DVD players, helping manufacturers to achieve compatibility and deliver the highest-quality HDTV experience to consumers.

Silicon Image is the leading provider of semiconductor intellectual property solutions for high-definition multimedia and data storage applications. For more information, please visit http://www.siliconimage.com. NOTE: HDMI(TM) and High-Definition Multimedia Interface are trademarks;or registered trademarks of HDMI Licensing, LLC in the United States and other countries. All other trademarks and registered trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Forward Looking Statements This news release contains forward-looking information within the meaning of federal securities regulations. These forward-looking statements include statements related to the features, functionality and benefits of Silicon Image's VastLane SiI 9134 HDMI transmitter, its VastLane SiI 9125receiver, its SiI9181 and SiI9185 HDMI 1.3 switches and products from other companies, the anticipated benefits of integration of Silicon Imageproducts with those from other companies, the benefits, features and capabilities of the HDMI standard, the anticipated growth, market acceptance and consumer demand for the HDMI specification and HDMI products, and the role of Silicon Image in meeting such anticipated growthand consumer demand. These forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties, including those described from time to time in Silicon Image's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that could cause the actual results to differ materially from those anticipatedby these forward-looking statements. In particular, the features,functionality and benefits of Silicon Image's VastLane SiI 9134 HDMItransmitter, its VastLane SiI 9125 receiver and its SiI9181 and SiI9185 HDMI 1.3 switches and products from other companies, the anticipated benefits of integration of Silicon Image products with those from other companies, the benefits, features and capabilities of the HDMI standard,the anticipated growth, market acceptance and consumer demand for the HDMI specification and HDMI products, and the role of Silicon Image in meeting such anticipated growth and consumer demand may differ materially from what is currently anticipated. In addition, see the Risk Factors section of the most recent Form 10-K or Form 10-Q filed by Silicon Image with the SEC. Silicon Image assumes no obligation to update any forward-looking information contained in this press release.

SOURCE: Silicon Image, Inc. & Press Release

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

COMPUSA GOING OUT OF BUSINESS?

If you live in the United States, then there's a chance your local Compusa is closing. According to Wikipedia, it was confirmed today that 126 stores are closing including all stores in Atlanta, St. louis and Chicago. Everything is discounted 10-30% off, maybe more as the closing date edges closer. I don't have a list of closing stores so give your local store a call before running down there. They own a total of 229 stores throughout the country so this could be the first wave for this year. Keep you eyes peeled for good deals! If you get a great deal, please let us know by posting comments.

WHY IS CUSTOMER SERVICE GETTING WORSE?

There are so many issues to discuss here. It goes beyond buying high definition equipment so I won't segregate this article and constrain it to HD products. The reasoning behind this article is one that inspired me to write this blog. Certain companies are synonymous with great customer service. Verizon Wireless, Costco, American Express, and Target are a few that come to mind. When it comes to bad customer service, I have a quite a few.

Now before we go any further, let's define customer service. I feel that customer service for retail would also entail customer satisfaction and the following; shopping experience, quality products, return policy, technical support, informing consumers, care and consideration. I could throw in a few more adjectives, but you get the point. Moving on, I'll give you two bad customer service encounters I've had recently.

The first instance instance is with Dish Network. For me this is one of the worst CS experiences I've ever had. I've lived all over Europe, the Caribbean and the US, and this just takes the cake. Before signing up with Dish for their HD service, I enquired about the HD-DVR. I rarely tune-in on a regular basis to shows, so the HD-DVR was important. They were charging $199 for the lease at the time, then the monthly $7 charge. I was in no rush to get programming as I mostly watch either HD-DVD or Blu-Ray rentals from Blockbuster online. I also knew that it was only a matter of time before the HD-DVR became free, so I decided to wait. The sales person called me 4 times that week. I decided to signup when he specifically stated: 1)Dish had no plans to offer a HD-DVR for free within the next 6 months. 2) If this changed, I would be entitled to any new customers deals as a current customer. I made him confirm this and place a note of it on my account and subsequently signed on the dotted line. The install was horrible. Dish use contractors to do the install. The guy gave me a window in the middle of the day and showed up 2 hrs past that. I used up a whole days holiday and had to make up a days work because of it. Then came the second issue. Their was neither a component or HDMI cable with the install. After 3 hrs on the phone and speaking to 6 reps, half stated that a cable wasn't included, and the other half stated that there was. Eventually a supervisor shipped one out to me, which arrived 2 weeks later. The next month was filled with an array of technical issues with the HDMI port going out, losing video on standard definition channels and then HD audio dropping out. The real clencher was when they released the HD-DVR for free, two months later. As expected, I called up CS and they flat told me that it was only available to current customers. I explained my story to 5 people. The best I could get was a manager offering it to me for $100. I was escalated to two different "corporate customer service relationship" experts. The best that they could offer me was full retail value of $199. Funny that. A manager offered it for half price, and the best a corporate rep could offer was full retail value.

I entered a verbal contract based on statements and facts verified by a sales person that proved to be inaccurate and false, but Dish Network still would not honor my claim to a free upgrade.
The second instance is with Sony. I won't bore you with the specifics with this one, but this is what happened. I called up to enquire about the technical specifications about one of their XBR (their top of the line) products. I got my answer. It was contrary to everything I had read online. Now bear in mind that many sources online can be unreliable. So I called up again, and surprise surprise I got the opposite answer. I was trasferred to the "top tier" technical support who offered another answer. I repeated this whole process three times until I got to another "specialist," each time getting a different answer. On the fourth try, I got the same person, so I gave up. Conclusion? Not even Sony's top level technical staff know their products well enough to support consumer confidence! Not very reassuring for a company whose book value currently stands at almost $29Billion.

Sales people in a corporation are a different breed from the other departments. They are very aggressive, and most will do whatever it takes to close the deal. Over time, this has translated to sales people misinforming, misleading, and making false promises to customers, all in the name of commission. Some big retailers like to point out that they don't pay employees comission. Sounds good in theory, but essentially now employees are encouraged to push sales, and cross-sell without benefit to them. I'm not sure which is worse!

But there's more. Customer service that has gone overseas creates another problem. Indian and Phillipino call centers are a good way for corporations to save money, but one area that doesn't really work out is the cultural difference. American's end up being even more frustrated. I watched Dell's CS go from very good, to poor when they made this move. The foreigh CS reps were very technically minded, but not as good at communicating and relating to American consumers. Imagine an American technical support team providing technical support to Indian consumers. We would not know where they were coming from, and I really don't know what they'd think of us!

Now let's talk about an aspect that really pertains to the tech field. Technical knowledge is seriously lacking from local retailers and big corporation service desks. These crash courses employees are put on aren't worth the paper the certificates they're printed on. Have you seen what personal trainers look like in the gym these days? Most of them look like they haven't touched weights in years and carry as much fat around their midsection as the average person. But that's a separate issue. Hiring of technical staff lacks real screening and testing, and managers really need to better control escalated scenarios. Consistency is also really missing. Having one apt and 9 entry level people on a technical team is not working. You get what you pay for though. If you pay minimum wage to aiport security staff with little background in security or military experience, expect careless security breaches. Similarly poorly compensated and skilled technical staff will convey inconsistent facts and allow misinformation to grow exponentially.

As a conclusion, we realise that consumers are the victim of corporate shifts while they continuously attempt to cost-cut for higher profit and favourable stock performance. No longer will a Big Mac be the same in every McDonalds, and only some Bestbuys will take back defective products with a reasonable amount of questioning. Instead of hiring highly knowledgeable and trained staff with thorough screening and testing, we get our mate from high school who's just looking to make some extra spending money. As a result, these jobs aren't usually careers, but more of a stepping stone. From my personal experience, I will always have a Verizon wireless phone, bank with BOFA, and use my AMEX for major purchases, because outside of a small group of customer service departments that know how to treat their consumers, gone are the days where the customer is always right.


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Sunday, February 25, 2007

WHY HDTV CALIBRATION IS IMPORTANT

Calibration: Calibration is adjusting all the video output levels in the tv to give the best performance. Most people pull their newly acquired HDTV's out the box and never touch the adjustments. Some will go into the menu and adjust colors, contrast, brightness etc until they're satisfied. There are also DVD's out there that will help you "calibrate" your HDTV. Calibration allows your display to perform at its most optimal level as all the colors, blacks, contrast and other video levels are set to perfectly compliment each other. Outside of the regular menu on your remote, your TV also has a "service menu" which is usually accessed by a weird combination of button presses on the remote. Once there, things can get very confusing, as the settings have little meaning to the average person. Changing one setting here can greatly affect the video displayed, so it's recommended to not mess with this unless 1) You know what you're doing, 2) You've done major research on your specific model display or 2) You know someone who knows what they're doing.

The best way to calibrate your TV is to hire an licensed ISF technician. ISF stands for "Imaging Science Foundation." They are the industry standard to calibrating display screens. You can locate one within the united states by using this link: http://www.imagingscience.com/isf-trained.cfm. Expect to pay over $150 per input. This means your DVD player, satellite receiver and Blu-Ray player will all require separate calibration (providing that your TV has memory for independent inputs).

You can find the Digital Video Essentials calibration discs here for HD-DVD. The Blu-Ray version has yet to be announced.

JUDGE RULES AGAINST CANON FOR USE OF SED HDTV TECHNOLOGY

Canon licensed the use of surface-conduction electron-emitter displays (or SED) from Nano-Proprietary Inc., in 1999 for $5.6M. This was the much touted technology that claims to have high end CRT picture performance in a large flat panel display. It is supposed to take flat-screens to the next level. Deep blacks, amazing contrast, realistic colors, and an overall amazing picture on a 55+" screen.


When Canon took on a partner, Toshiba, as a joint venture, Nano-Proprietary saw this as a breach of licensing agreeement and a roundabout way for Canon to sub-license the technology. On December 1st 2006, NPinc. terminated the agreement. On Saturday 24th February 2007 (yesterday), U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks of Austin ruled in favor of NPinc. making their termination of the agreement official.

There has been no comment from Canon as yet, but NPinc. have made it clear that they own the technology and the patents, and any manufacturer interested in using the technology will have to license it through them. We don't know how this will turn out. Samsung who manufacture every type of display under the sun, have previously expressed interest in SED technology.

What it comes down to is long term profitability. The claim was that SED would be cheaper to manufacture than LCD and outperform it tenfold. If NPinc. don't structure their licensing to be profitable for manufactuers, sadly we may not see SED surface. This is only a possible outcome, but the effects of this ruling remains to be seen. Of course, I'll keep you posted on any further developments as this is a very big and important blow to HDTV progression as a whole.

HD SOURCES: ANTENNA, CABLE, SATELLITE

DVD's and regular cable/satellite look acceptible on HDTV's. Some better than others. But for your HDTV to shine, you need an HD source. As we get deeper into 2007, more and more HD programming is becoming apparent.

ATSC QAM TUNER: Your old tube tv's has a tv tuner built in. That was how you could add an antenna and pick up tv stations over-the-air (OTA). An ATSC QAM tuner is the same thing, except for High Definition stations. If your area is within range to pick up HD broadcast signals over the air, and your HDTV has a QAM tuner, simply plugging an antenna in the back of the tv and running a scan will pick up whatever HD channels are available. Usually these are local channels. Using a tuner on an HDTV to pick OTA HD channels usually has better picture quality than HD offerings from satellite and cable, but your content is limited. Expect nothing more than local channels, give or take a few more. Primetime shows tend to be broadcasted in HD. So for most of the time, you're "HD" stations will be mostly digital, and then in the late evening, whichever shows are broadcasted in HD will be shown as such. You'll notice that most adverts are in standard definition, and then when "24" or "Prison Break" come back on, it switches back to HD.

One very important thing to know is that there is no "HD ANTENNA." A regular indoor or outdoor "UHF antenna"(what we've been using for years with our tube tv's) is capable of receiving both standard and HD programming OTA. Most are advertised as "HD" antenna's to let consumers know that you can use them with HD equipment, or to justify the markup. What this ends up doing is potentially causing more confusion and leaves consumers thinking they need a "different type" of antenna for their HDTV. What is important when buying an antenna for your HDTV is its strength. An "omni-directional" antenna is used when your area has good reception. It picks up signal from all over. A "directional" antenna is used when you have weaker signals. Depending on reception, you may even need two directional antennas or an antenna rotator. Directional antenna's and rotators allow you to fine-tune and better pinpoint signals. You can antenna's here.

Remember some areas have OTA HD channels and some don't. There are a few websites like http://www.antennaweb.org/ where you can type in your US address and check if you have reception. But this has produced inaccurate results in two cases I know of personally. I would use their site as a guide and then buy in-store incase you need to return.






Satellite tv: The satellite company will plant a satellite dish on your roof and point it in the direction of their satellite to pickup the signal. They will run a coaxial cable around the house (make sure you're proactive in telling them where and how you want the cable run so you dont ruin your curb appeal) and drill a hole through the wall to run the cable directly into the house. They will also supply you with a receiver. The receiver may have a card in it which is removeable. This is the "programmable" part of the receiver. When you add channels, the infomation is written to the card to allow the channels to go though. In the case of high definition TV, you will need an HD receiver as a regular receiver will give you nothing more than standard definition channels. The HD receiver looks very similar except it picks up both standard and high definition programming. To be able to record satellite programming, you will need a Digital Video Recorder or (DVR). "Tivo" is a branded version of DVR. The DVR will replace your HD receiver as essentially it is a receiver with recording capabilities. Really it's just a hard drive in there. So you can subscribe to two things; the satellite HD package to get HD programming (which usually includes standard defintion programming also) and the montly charges for the HD DVR service which allows you to record both standard and HD programming. Within the US, the DirecTV channel listing is not as good as the Dish Network service. But DirecTV made a big announcement about their upcoming changes for 2007. We have yet to see anything.

Cable: Cable TV follows much the same premise as satellite. The big difference is that there isn't a dish involved. Instead they connect you to cables that have already been run throughout your local streets, and run a coaxial cable either to your cable box outside the house (if you have it), or by drilling a hole through the wall straight into your house. The coaxial cable leads to a cable box which sits ontop your tv stand and decodes your subscription. The cable box looks much like the satellite receiver and similarly can have a programmable card in it. Cable HD service in the US is very primitive. It really is no better than ota hd as far as selection. You get mostly local channels and a few additions such as Discovery HD. However, I've found picture to be far superior to satellite. If your tv has an ATSC tuner, you can run the cable straight into the back of the tv and run a channel scan without the need for a box. The disadvantage with this is that you don't get programming information or have the ability to order pay-per-view as the cable box "allows" these subscriptions.

To summarize, OTA HD channels can be had if you're lucky enough to live in an area where HD channels are broadcasted. In the US, Dish Network and DirecTV have HD programming on offer. As of February 2007, Dish Network lead the way with HD content as they aquired the VOOM HD satellite instantly giving them 13 exclusive HD channels as well as locals and a few others. DirecTV indicate that they would substantially increase their HD lineup in 2007. Cable HD channels are limited to mostly local channels such as FOX, ABC, CBS, NBC in HD but cable HD generally has better quality HD than both satellite companies.

REFRESH RATE & RESPONSE TIME

Refresh Rate: The refresh rate is the number of times a display's image is repainted or refreshed per second. The refresh rate is expressed in "Hertz." A refresh rate of 75 means the image is refreshed or "redrawn" 75 times in a second. Acceptable refresh rates for the human eye is anything over 70hz. Refresh rates pertain mostly to Plasma and CRT Tube tv's. Low refresh rates result in on-screen flicker, which can make the eye tired as the screen isn't refreshing fast enough for the human eye.

Response Time: While a CRT Tube "repaints" the picture on the entire screen, LCD's work differently. Unlike a tube, LCD's are digital in nature and pixel based. The "response time" pertains to the time it takes for an LCD to make a pixel go from active (black) to inactive (white) and back to active (black) again. It is measured in milliseconds (ms). The faster the response time, the better. Failure to do this efficiently can cause smearing or ghosting where the image of a previously displayed screen image is still on the screen after a new image is displayed. LCD's are getting progressively better at this, while 8-12ms is more common, response times have gotten as fast as 6ms with some of Sharps, Aquos line of LCD's.

BLACK LEVELS

Black Levels: As noted above, the display types' contrast ratio affects the levels in LCD and Plasma screens. This is really felt in dark or night scenes in a movie. Poor black levels will show a dark grey instead of a true black. This may not seem a big deal, but imagine an outdoor evening scene in a movie where the subject is wearing a black suit, black shirt, and black tie. You want to be able to tell the difference between the different shades of black, and you want each item to be represented accurately. Poor black levels and limited color pallete can detract from the overall experience.


The image below shows the difference in black levels between a traditional CRT monitor and an LCD. Notice how the black on the LCD is actually grey, and in turn all the other colors are affected. The red on the CRT shows as a light red on the LCD.



But there is such a thing as TOO much black. When the black is too black, then image quality may degrade in the darker areas. Reduced detail due to overly deep blacks is called "Crushed Black" as shown below. If you look at the guy on the right, you can barely see the outline of his arm against the rest of his blazer. With the lady in the black dress in the middle, you can't see any creases, or patterns on her dress, it just looks like a black patch.

CONTRAST RATIO

Contrast ratio: "The difference in intensity between the brightest white and darkest black" in the displays color pallete. The higher the contrast ratio, the better. This is usually represented for example as "4000:1 dynamic contrast ratio" or "700:1 static contrast ratio." This measurement is used primarily amongst LCD screens as by the nature of this display type, they have previously struggled to accurately display the colors "black," and "white." Plasma screens have always performed better in this area, with the current top LCD's being in the 7000:1 range and the top plasma's being in the 10,000:1 range. As of February 2007 however, LCD's are catching up with plasma's and both display types respectively demonstrated contrast ratio's of 15,000:1 and 20,000:1 contrast ratio's in upcoming models.

RESOLUTION & VIEWING DISTANCE: 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p

Pixel: The small tiny dots on the screens that make up the picture. The more pixels a screen has, the better the image. The screen you're looking at right now has lots of small pixels to make up the text, borders and images. Everything on screen right now, is a combination of different coloured pixels.

Resolution: The three types of HD resolution are 720p, 1080i, and 1080p. The numbers "720" or "1080" refers to the number of vertical pixels that make up the picture. The more pixels, the higer the resolution, and essentially the more detailed the picture. The letters (i) or (p) refer to "how" the picture is drawn on the screen.Just as you would measure a room in feet/inches and width/length, you measure screen real estate by the horizontal and vertical pixel count. Note that DVD's are standard definition with a resolution of 480p.



(i)Interlaced= in a fraction of a second, every other alternate line of the the picture is drawn on screen, and then another fraction of a second later, the other lines are filled in to create the full picture. This happens so fast, you can't see it, it looks like a complete picture. The image below shows an example of an interlaced scanned image on screen.

(p)Progressive= The whole picture is drawn on screen at once.




720p vs 1080i would create the argument that 1080i would be more detailed of a picture but 720p would be better at faster motion. For example, watching a football game on a 1080i screen, if the ball was thrown quickly across the field, the ball may blur due to the fast motion. This is a side effect of every other line of the picture being drawn as opposed to the whole picture being drawn at once.



720p vs 1080p would hands down mean that 1080p would deliver the same performance but the 1080p picture would be more detailed due to more pixels and essentially higher resolution.
1080i vs 1080p would have the same picture quality, but the 1080p screen may perform better with fast motion.


720p= 1280 lines of Horizontal pixels by 720 lines of vertical resolution with the picture drawn progressively. (1280x720)

1080i= 1920 lines of Horizontal pixels by 1080 lines of vertical resolution with the picture drawn with the interlaced method. (1920x1080)

1080p= 1920 lines of Horizontal pixels by 1080 lines of vertical resolution with the picture drawn progressively. (1920x1080) 1080p is now the subject of marketing jargon such as "TRUEHD" or "FULLHD." Just remember, HD has 3 resolutions and their use is determined by how close you'll be, and the size of the screen.

Native Resolution: So you're thinking about buying a 720p screen, but it says that it "accepts" (480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p). What does that mean? Well the screens native resolution is 720p, that means that no matter what source you use, whether VHS, DVD, HD-DVD, Blu-Ray (we'll get to that later), the tv will take whatever you're plugging into it and either "upscale" or "down-convert"to 720p. If you play a dvd that outputs at 480p, the tv will take that signal and do its best convert it to 720p. To an extent that is. The result will be far from HD, but depending at how good the tv's internal scaler is, the results will differ. Similarly a 1080i source, say an HD broadcast from your cable company will be downconverted to 720p. If you take an old photo from the 1800's and scan it into your pc, no matter how good your photo editing software is, it will only be so good. HD scaling runs off the same type of principle.


Viewing Distance and screen size: So 1080p is better than 720p an 1080i right? So why not just always get 1080p? Most likely you would get 1080p 10 times out of 10 if cost wasn't an issue. But the fact of the matter is that after a certain distance, you may not notice the benefits of 1080p. Now the rest is very subjective, and you will need to see for yourself. It also depends on how picky you are. A general guide, is that the bigger the screen, and/or the closer you are to it, the more detail your eye might demand, so there is more need for 1080p. The smaller the screen, and/or the further away you are from it the less detail your eye may recognise, so 720p may suffice. Notice i'm using the word "may/might" a lot, as perception is subjective and unique to each individual. Don't let someone else tell you what you can and can't see, no matter how far you are from the screen. If you're 10ft away from a 32" 1080p screen, chances are that you won't notice the difference between 720p and 1080p. But if you're less than 7ft away, it would be more likely that the difference is more noticeable, even on a 32" screen.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

PS3 CONTENT LAGGING OR JUST NOT THERE?

I've been reading a lot of complaints about the lack of PS3 content and how it's losing exclusitivity to the Xbox 360. As these two systems play such a big part in our HD content, I would like to address this. When Xbox 360 first came out, the inital offerings were far from "Next Generation." Luckily, it had a couple later releases such as "GRAW" that kept us entertained for most of the year. Xbox live really took gaming to the next level. A year later we're getting games such as "Splinter Cell: Double Agent" and "GOW" which scream High Definition.


So the moral of this part of the story is that it takes time for new consoles to acquire top content. The first few offerings for the PS3 are pretty sorry, but that doesn't mean the console is not good or won't have any good offerings. I've seen a lot of articles and forum posts writing off the PS3 due to lack of content. "Metal Gear Solid," and "Gran Tourismo," alone will probably be worth the wait, but we can expect to see some other great content as developers learn to program for the PS3. With Xbox 360, developers already know how to take advantage of of its capabilities as its based off current PC architecture. With the PS3, every component of it has been built from the ground up. The "Cell Processor," "GPU," and "Blu-ray drive," were all built from scratch. None of these components have any past track record. In addition, it's important to note that there is a large learning curve for programmers to take advantage of its capabilities.


By allowing users to install Linux on the PS3, they have opened the door for the open source community to start delving into the PS3's unknown area. Again, this will take time. So this time next year, if things haven't changed, maybe then we can draw alternate conclusions. As far as losing exclusive titles, I think this is a sign of developers jumping the gun a little. But then again, this is a business. Revenue needs to keep coming in, and until there are enough PS3's in homes to validate 1 million sales of a big title release, expect to see more changes. Another factor is timing. Figures, data, industry news and timing of all these factors can sway development companies to change direction. Some companies remain loyal such as Konami, this is probably where company relationships play big part. On the other side of the spectrum, Capcom have released a few titles on Xbox which led the way for "Resident Evil" (formerly a Playstation exclusive) to becoming a dual system release.

Until Ps3 sorts its game content out, lets enjoy the Blu-Ray movies on it while "Halo 3" and the barrage of other top class offerings from xbox will keep us content on the gaming side.
(Don't forget to check out my iPhone give away to support this blog!)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

PIRATES OTC AND CASINO ROYAL BLU-RAY PRE-ORDER AT AMAZON HD NOW!

The Amazon HD store is taking pre-orders for Casino Royal as well as Pirates of The Caribbean: Dead Man's chest & Curse of the black Pearl. Blu-ray prices have come down remarkably. Prices range from $23-27. Check it out here.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

EARLY ADOPTERS TO TECHNOLOGY LOSING OUT?

With HDMI 1.3 equipped HDTV's due to come out in the next quarter, we have to ask ourselves, are we losing out by buying early? I remember I bought the 3rd generation ipod for $399. No more than a few weeks later, the iPod color came out, then the iPod video, Nano, Mini, U2 special edition, Nano v2.0. I was a little irate at this. I understand that technology is changing but surely manufacturers should have some regard for their current consumers?

This pattern is repeating itself allover the tech world. More specifically to us, will the new generation of HDTV's render the past 3 years offerings obselete? The answer is; it depends. It depends on how picky your are. If you're like me, always wanting the latest and greatest; expect to pay a premium. But if you're one of the masses who just wants a big screen with a good picture, then you'll be fine. The chances are, that most people won't even notice the difference between current displays and the new specification displays on the horizon.

The nature of this business is that it's always changing, getting better, and usually getting cheaper. LCD's for example have dropped significantly in price. As a result, they toppled Plasma sales for 2006 and Plasmas now have a bit of work to do to catch up.

I think the best way to look at it is this. If you bought an HDTV 3 years ago and are troubled by all the changes, you can pride yourself having enjoyed HD technology 3 years before everyone else. Most of the older sets still hold up today in picture quality. 720p sets give 1080p sets a run for their money as long as you have a long enough viewing distance. So with HDMI 1.3 coming our way, yes it will outperform what we have now, and the HDMI group probably should have made 1.3 the standard from the beginning. But it's been a great ride while waiting for HD to further define itself.

If you're happy with what you have, then hold onto it, and wait for HD to make a significant leap before upgrading. If you're an enthusiast for the ultimate in picture quality like me, I've already sold my 720p Sony LCD and am waiting for the next generation displays to arrive. If you have yet to buy an HDTV you have two choices: 1) Wait for a great bargain on a current generation HDTV as the new ones begin arriving, or 2) Wait a little longer for the new ones to first arrive, then experience their first price drop so you avoid paying any premiums.

On a separate note. If you like what you see on my blog, don't forget to check out my iPhone giveaway page.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

AMAZON HDTV aSTORE NOW OPEN!

The Amazon HDTV aSTORE is now open. This store is specific to anything and everything High Definition. You won't find any books or CD's here, just HDTV's, Blu-Ray players, HD-DVD Players, Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and every High Def movie release you could want. If you need recommendations or technical information on a product, please feel free to contact me! Happy Shopping!

SHARP AQUOS 46" LC-60C46U $2299 AT COSTCO.

If you have a Costco near you, you'll be pleased to find that this 46" LCD is down to $2299. The Sharp Aquos have some of the best blacks of all the LCD's. The upcoming D92U series was arguably, the best picture of all flat panels at CES 2007. This series had overall good performance, but let down by major "banding" issues. I'll be writing a post next week on what banding is. Bottom line, take a look at it online, but go see it in-store first to make your decision. Also remember, in-store, the signal is split several times over all the displays and they are rarely calibrated. Thus, what you'e seeing is not a true representation of its capabilities.

Cost-co love to give their own model numbers. I could be wrong, but I believe this is a LC-46D62U, rebadged.

Update: This has been confirmed that the LC-60C46U and the LC-46D62U are the same set. The differences are the aesthetics and the lower speaker facia. Costco have been doing similar aesthetic changes with Pioneer plasmas over the past couple years and occasionally omitting certain features. Models would look different and have different model numbers (unique to Costco) but the panels would be the same. The Amazon HD store is selling the 46D62U for less!!! Check it out here

COLOR BANDING ON AN HDTV DISPLAY

The difference between display types such as LCD and PLASMA is the method or "way" used to create the picture on-screen. Each technology has it's pro's and con's as we discussed in the "HDTV 101: The Basics" section. One of the biggest issues with all the display types is "color
banding." Before I even go into this, take a look at this image courtesy of wikipedia:

The picture says it all. Doesn't it? Without even divulging into the technical aspects, you can clearly see what color banding is.

The "8 bit" and "24-bit" label refers to the number of colors. This is commonly known as "color depth" or "bit depth." An 8-bit display generates 256 colors; 16-bit, 64K colors and 24-bit, 16.8 million colors.

Whenever there are not enough colors in the pixels that make up the picture, you see the results shown under "8-bit gradient." "8-bit gradient dithered" shows a technique called "dithering" where "noise" or "random bits of information" are placed in between the pixels to try and reduce the obvious transition between colors. The result is an improvement, but overall you still have a noisy picture. By the time you get to 24-bits or almost 16.8million colors the effect of banding is reduced. Of course, this also depends on the quality of the video processing, which is why we relate to Sony, and Pioneer as top-of-the-line.

On LCD's because they work with a back light, uneven lighting of the panel can accentuate or "highlight" banding. When you first turn on or off an LCD, you can see the backlight at work before the picture comes on. This backlight is part of the reason why LCD's don't produce the best blacks; there is always light coming through even when the pixel is turned off.

The new breed of HDTV's will be looking towards producing 30-bit, 36-bit and 48-bit colors. We're talking about making a jump up to 1 billion colors. You can imagine the difference this will have on the overall picture! HDMI 1.3 will be supporting these color ranges, so expect to see a leap in picture quality over the coming months. HDMI 1.3 will allow all display types to overcome some of their previous shortcomings.

iPHONE GIVEAWAY TO PROMOTE MY BLOG....STRAIGHT UP, NO CATCH!

I'm new to blogging, it took quite a bit of patience modifying java and html code to to get the blog how i wanted it to function. But what i'm not new to is HDTV. I know my content is good, because it's driven by passion and experience. Since I launched 2 weeks ago, the blog has gotten many hits, but I would like to encourage readers to subscribe via email and rss. While I probably shouldn't give in order to receive, I really think this will help promote the blog.



So this is the deal. All you have to do is subscribe to my blog via email which is my primary requirement, AND RSS if you use it. When email and RSS subscription count reaches 5000, I will pick a random email address and ship you out an apple 8GB iPhone. The iPhone should be available around June. If it is still only available through Cingular, I will send you a check for the full retail value ($599 USD) A non US winner will also receive a check in lieu of the gadget. I will announce the winner on a post. I want one of these suckers myself, so it's hard to give one away, but my blog is more important. I want confirmation that the information i'm putting out is getting where it needs to...YOU...the consumers.

Once you subscribe, don't forget to check your email for the confirmation link (I have 7 people already subscribed that didn't confirm). Also current subscribers will be submitted automatically. I can't track Firefox RSS subscriptions, so if you use this, please subscribe via email. You can also use the email icon below to forward this post to friends or alternatively use one of the feed services to promote this offer to speed things up. Thank you all for your continued support!

BLU-RAY, HD-DVD, PS3 AND XBOX 360 ALL PLAYING A BIG PART IN HIGHDEF'S ADVANCEMENT.

So both have been out for a while now and we've had a chance to try them both. Remembering that both formats are completely incompatible, the only real test would be to watch a RECENT released title that is available to both formats, on the same hdtv that has been ISF calibrated. But more on that later.

I remember when the the first Bluray discs were released, everyone was quick to draw the conclusion that HD-DVD was superior. Actually it was down to some really inexcusably poor transfers from the movie studios. The Blu-ray format also took some time experimenting with compression techniques. Now, about 4 months after its official release, they've figured out the kinks. Despite this, both formats still receive less than great releases on a weekly basis. HD-DVD has been out longer, so they're churring out some real crackers, but Blu-Ray is to its' right when it comes to picture quality.

The way things are looking now, Blu-Ray seems to be in the pole position, but as I've stated in earlier posts, its a little too early to make broad statements. The only reason why I even mention this, is because of the exclusive studio support that has remained consistent. New HD titles are hitting the market on a weekly basis, and Blu-Ray has a lot more offerings than its counterpart. Sony's new marketing campaign is "The War Is Over!" This statement came after January BD sales exceeded that HD-DVD 2:1 in retail stores in the US. But we definitely have to remain objective. People take data like this and draw broad conclusions, but the situation needs to be viewed almost like a scientific experiment. Consistent, conclusive data and figures over a reasonable length of time should allow us to conclude a winner. Now, isn't that time!

So we move onto the PS3 and Xbox. The PS3 has been a huge catalyst for Blu-Ray. I love reflecting on the months leading up to the PS3's release. Forums were running wild with all types of speculations for and against the system. Hardly any of it was fact, just one-sided, close-minded opinions. "Blu-Ray is better than HD-DVD," "HD-DVD movies look better than Blu-Ray," "PS3 is overpriced." The list is endless. I never did buy into the PS3 is overpriced crap. I always thought is was a bargain. If millions can spend $400 on a 60GB ipod, then by comparison, the PS3 with its features and capabilities, is a steal. In the same vain, Microsoft were on Sonys neck last year for forcing Blu-Ray onto the PS3 owners. They attacked this angle by stating that "consumers should be given a choice, and early adopters should not be left out." As such, they had not included a built-in HD-DVD drive, HDMI output or 1080p resolution in the xbox 360. They addressed the 1080p issue quickly through software updates, because, if not, they would have been wounded by Sony's 1080p marketing claim alone. Now we hear rumours of a 1080p, HDMI and HD-DVD equipped Xbox 360 on the Horizon! When I total up all the accessories I bought to get my xbox360 upto scratch (wireless adpater, plug and play charger, HD-DVD, xbox live), my cost actually exceeds that off a tricked out PS3.

Pause right there. Let's remember this. All these two companies have done is battle it out using us as their playground. For the next time round, lets say between Ps4 and Xbox 720 or whatever they will be called, remember this scenario, where promises were broken, specs were changed, consumers took sides, and nothing was accomplished but more retail sales. It's all part of the consumer/manufacturer game confused even more by enthusiasts that can't be objective.

Both consoles are playing a huge part in the format war. The majority (made up of non-enthusiasts) are content with DVD's for now. This is probably a combination of cost, having not yet identified the clear difference between SD and HD, and not caring. By the end of this year, that might begin to change as HDTV sales for 2006 indicate that the increasing amount of new HDTV owners will want some hmmmmmm, HD content! Samsung owned the overall TV sales figures for 2006, while Sony had the number one spot specifically for LCD sales. I'll conclude this rambling of an article by stating something that I have yet to hear anyone else say. BOTH the XBOX 360 HD-DVD player and PS3 Blu-Ray player are incredible. Capabilities and performance are not the issue. Content is. But in a smart long-term move, Sony have effectively come up trumps, because if Blu-Ray falls off the wagon like mini-disc (and every other proprietary format they've created), I'm still left with a PS3, the most powerful video game console to date. If HD-DVD fails, I'm left with a useless piece of plastic. Maybe if that happens, I'll take it out the back and do an "office space" on it.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

THIS AND NEXT WEEKS HIGH DEFINTION RELEASES:

Thanks to High Definition Digest for these compiled release dates:

This Week: February 13, 2007:
Broken Arrow (Blu-ray)
Chain Reaction (Blu-ray)
Chronos (Blu-ray)
The Departed (Blu-ray)
The Departed (HD DVD)
Entrapment (Blu-ray)
Ladder 49 (Blu-ray)
The Marine (Blu-ray)
Phone Booth (Blu-ray)
Planet of the Apes (Blu-ray)
Reign of Fire (Blu-ray)
The Sentinel (Blu-ray)
The Usual Suspects (Blu-ray)

NEXT WEEK: February 20, 2007
Babel (Blu-ray)
Babel (HD DVD)
The Prestige (Blu-ray)
Vertical Limit (Blu-ray)
February 27, 2007
Bullitt (Blu-ray)
Bullitt (HD DVD)
Digital Video Essentials (HD DVD)
The Getaway (1972) (Blu-ray)
The Getaway (1972) (HD DVD)
Nine Inch Nails Live: Beside You in Time (Blu-ray)
Nine Inch Nails Live: Beside You in Time (HD DVD)
Stranger Than Fiction (Blu-ray)


Don't forget to read the article on why the movie studios are responsible for the picture quality on HD flicks and not the formats themselves! You can learn more about both HD formats here.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

FIRST 500,000 EUROPEAN PS3'S WILL BE BUNDLED WITH BOND!

After we had to endure Talledega Nights as our freebie here in the US, the first 500,00 European gamers to purchase a PS3 will find the blockbuster hit "Casino Royale" somewhere in the packaging. Great! The way I see it, the Europeans got a much better deal than we did. My Blu-Ray copy of Talladega Nights is currently being used as a protector for the coasters on my coffee table.

We recently talked about how a successful transfer of source material to an HD format is the key to great picture quality. Well no need to hold you breath as this flick is being transferred using a 50GB dual-layer BD disc and 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 compression. This has proven consistently great results to date, so we can expect a great looking transfer.

Now onto my next post, "anyone want to take Talledega Nights on Blu-Ray off my hands?"

LINE CONDITIONERS NECESSARY FOR YOUR HOME THEATRE COMPONENTS?

Have you ever been in the kitchen and turned on the garbage disposal and the lights in the room dim for a second then return to full brightness? That is an example of how imperfect the wiring is in a lot of homes. There are a lot of ups and downs in the current running through the sockets. It isn't a steady flow of current at the same level. This inconsistency affects everything that is connected to your sockets. For our discussion purposes, we'll talk about how that fluctuating current affects a high definition picture.

After slagging off Monster cables yesterday, I will say that there is one line of products they make that can be an essential part of any serious home theatre setup. Their line conditioners and power surge protection combo units.

You know when you connect up all the tv, vcr, dvd etc to a power strip? Well usually they have a power surge built in. What this does is "disconnect" the connection from the wall socket to your devices whenever there is an extreme surge in voltage from the socket. Yes, unknown to a lot of people, this happens. This prevents the surge from going into the TV and DVD players circuitry. These power strips that you can pick up for $20 are a poor mans power surge, but they work! The problem goes like this. You just spent over $5,000 in electronics throughout your home. If you buy a cheap surge protector (cheap because the components used to put it together are cheaply made), you risk your entire investment. If your power surge fails to act efficiently in the event of a surge, all your electronics can get fried. For this reason, it's worth spending a little money and getting a decent power surge.

What these power surges don't do, is stabilize the current. Without this, you can expect to see a certain amount of noise in your high definition picture. One example of noise in the pciture is where people or text onscreen seem to have a a ghostly aura around them. The reason? That fluctuation in current we were talking about earlier. The "line conditioners" as they're known can improve picture quality as much as 20% in some cases. The benefit of of these line conditioners is that the power surges are usually built in, making it a must have device. Going back to the Monster branded selection, they're surprisingly competitive, but the product itself is a good one!

Monday, February 12, 2007

STOP BY AND SAY HI!

I noticed that there are a lot of visitors to the site. If you guys have time, please say hi, leave comments, subscribe to either the RSS feed or get email updates etc. Feel free. Visitors are the sole reason for the blogs success. It would be great to hear from you. This lets me know that what i'm doing is definetly worth it and the information is getting out there!!

$200 HDMI CABLES?

BREIF OVERVIEW

DVI: Digital Visual Interface was a standard connector developed for High Definition video transfer. Today this has been superceeded by HDMI. DVI is still very much present as a means to interface between PC's, monitors and select HDTV's. It is partially compatible with HDMI.


HDMI: High-Definition Multimedia Interface is now the new standard for the transfer of High Definition audio and video. It is a single USB like connector that is now implemented in HDTV's, some upscaling dvd players, home theatre receivers and Blu-ray and HD-DVD drives. It also includes High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) which is the new digital form of copyright protection. HDMI version 1.3 is on its way in 2007 and claims to allow double the bandwidth from pervious versions, support for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD audio as well as upto 48-bit (1 billion) colors. This could prove a significant improvement over previous HDTV's. Currently only one HDTV supports this standard, the SONY KDL-70XBR3 70" LCD.



$200 HDMI CABLES?

Okay so I really had to say something about this. I was in Bestbuy the other day and I overheard one of the sales people talking about how the $150 HDMI cable offered better "insulation" and "picture quality." Without going into too much technical jargon and causing even more confusion, this is the basics when it comes to cables for your home theatre equipment.


ANALOG CABLES: When connecting equipment up with an analog connection, such as connecting up your dvd player or satellite receiver via a S-Video (the mouse like connector), or component cable (red, green, blue cable) the quality of the cable does matter. You need a well built, well insulated cable as signal "information" can be lost through poor insulation, distance or cheaply made connectors. This doesn't mean go out and buy a $100 component cable. There are several online retailers such as our Amazon store that sell high end component cables at around $35 for a 25ft. Markup at local retailers is HIGH. This is where they make a lot of money. Don't buy into the marketing. "Monster cables" have done a great job of conning consumers into thinking they were getting what they were paying for.




I was at CES 2007 and spent a big of time chatting with a high end cable manufacturer. I played dumb and let him do his speech. When he has finished, I let on a little, and he realised that I knew the technical in's and out's of how cables are made. His face changed, but he maintained his stance on the $200 HDMI cable. I walked away half-smiling.


DIGITAL CABLES: HDMI is already standard in all home theatre equipment. This digital connector works differently from the analog cable, because essentially, it sends the signal "digitally." This means it send "1's" and "0's" down the cable. These bits of information are assembled back together after they pass down the cable. In this instance, quality of the cable is much less of an importance than analog. Yes, you need a good connector, good shielding etc, but that's so the damn thing doesn't break and so that the signal can get from one side to the other without interruption. But once the signal makes it to the other side, picture quality is going to be as good as the source it came from. No better or worse. The only time when extra sheilding comes into play is over long distance. We have what you call "tenuation" which is loss of signal over distance. To be safe and to not get too technical, if you're going over 25ft, I would increase the AWG (American Wire Guage), in other words the guage or thickness of the cable. I would maybe increase a little more if you're going over 50ft. But again, because it's a digital signal, the difference may not be noticeable.

If you're not convinced, With the great return policies some stores have, you can take advantage and buy yourself a $200 Monster HDMI cable then go to monoprice.com and buy the same spec cable for a 1/3 or the price and do a comparison yourself! Whichever way you go, you can always return the other!

Casino Royale, Pursuit of Happyness & 40 Year Old Virgin released on HD Formats

This March, Blu-Ray will be getting three blockbuster exclusives: "Casino Royale," "The Pursuit of Happyness," and last years surprising hit "Rocky Balboa." Why are these exclusives? Well they're all from the Sony Pictures camp. I guess it helps to own a studio when you're in a movie format war.




But all is not lost, HD-DVD will be getting some exclusives of it's own. "Children of Men," and "40 Year old Virgin" will be racing to the format sometime this spring courtesy of Universal. Universal is the only movie studio exclusively supporting the HD-DVD format.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

OTA OUTDOOR HDTV ANTENNA $39.99 FROM FRYS

Here's the linky to the website. The instore purchase is cheaper and a safer way to buy in case you need to return it.
Check the HD SOURCES section of this page to learn about OTA (over the air) antenna's.

Remember some areas have OTA HD channels and some don't. There are a few websites like http://www.antennaweb.org where you can type in your US address and check if you have reception. But this has produced inaccurate results in two cases I know of personally. I would use their site as a guide and then buy in-store incase you need to return.

This is an outdoor antenna so you will need to mount it on the roof. The quality of HD channels over an antenna usually exceeds that of cable or satellite. Remember an HD Antenna is just a regular antenna. For a full explanation about HD jargon such as OTA, check here.

PANASONIC 42" PLASMA (TH-42PX60U) $1099 FROM FRYS!

OK so this is probably one of the best plasma's from last year. It is feature full with 2 HDMI inputs but it does have that odd 1024x768 resolution which does not meet or display exact 720p resolutions. Despite this, it won't be that noticeable. If you want a bargain HDTV plasma with great performance for a great price, this is a great choice. If you can buy instore I would do this over buying online.

Linky

Saturday, February 10, 2007

CLEANING YOUR HDTV SCREEN

I read a blog recently saying that you should use a certain mix of solution to clean LCD screens. You should NOT use any solution to clean an HDTV unless absolutely necessary. You actually shouldn't use just any cloth material either as the plastic or glass can get minute scratches or blemishes. You should use specific display cleaning clothes, they are made out of the same material as the cleaning cloth your get when you buy reading glasses (microfiber).

Some suggest that a 50% isopropyl alcohol and 50% distilled water mixture should be sprayed onto the cloth (never directly onto the screen!!!). But even this is not suggested unless the screen is just caked with dirt and residue, and the microfiber isn't cutting it. If you clean the screen once a week with a microfiber cloth, you won't need solution. Unless that is, you tried to throw your mother-in-law's dessert offering out the window and missed.

In any case, never, ever press hard when cleaning LCD screens!!!

GOT MY FIRST RSS SUBSCRIBER TODAY

I launched my blog 2 days ago and have since been making final modifications. Today I go tmy first RSS subscriber. Whoever you are, Welcome and thank you! Please leave a post so I know who you are. Cheers!!!!

SEARS REBATE 10% CASH BACK ON TV's $799+ OR DIGITAL CAMERAS/CAMCORDERS OVER $399 ENDS TODAY! (2/10)

If you're buying a HDTV over $799 from Sears today, print this form out and send it off to get 10% off. This also works for camcorders or digital cameras over $399.

http://forms.young-america.com/63015_70101%20HE%20Tear%20Pad%202-8.pdf

THIS AND NEXT WEEKS HIGH DEFINTION RELEASES:

February 06, 2007
American Psycho (Blu-ray)
First Blood (Blu-ray)
Hollywoodland (HD DVD)
Reservoir Dogs (Blu-ray)
Running With Scissors (Blu-ray)
The Tailor of Panama (Blu-ray)
Young Guns (Blu-ray)

February 13, 2007
Broken Arrow (Blu-ray)
Chain Reaction (Blu-ray)
Chronos (Blu-ray)
The Departed (Blu-ray)
The Departed (HD DVD)
Entrapment (Blu-ray)
Ladder 49 (Blu-ray)
The Marine (Blu-ray)
Phone Booth (Blu-ray)
Planet of the Apes (Blu-ray)
Reign of Fire (Blu-ray)
The Sentinel (Blu-ray)
The Usual Suspects (Blu-ray)

SPEILBERG SAYS "NOT YET" TO HD-DVD!

The HD-DVD group promoted the format with Speilberg titles "E.T, Jurassic Park, and JAWS." But maybe they should have had a chat with Speilberg first. Known for his hesitation in going with new and uncertain formats, Speilberg has NOT given the go-ahead on these title. Universal has since issued an apology:

"The inclusion in the January 29 update of our 'Coming Soon List' of three Steven Spielberg classics was an error on our part. The HD DVD Promotion Group expresses sincere apologies to Steven Spielberg, Universal Studios Home Entertainment and HD DVD fans for this mistake. We will endeavor to prevent any similar mistake and to provide accurate information."

Like George Lucas who has not made a decision on which format the Star Wars trilogy will end up on, we may have to wait for a decisive winner before we see these titles in an HD format.

DELL TO START SELLING SONY HDTV's.

Dell's has lost some of it's traffic to competitors like HP over the past year. After the resignation of Dell CEO Kevin Rollins in January, Michael Dell has returned to lead the company he started in 1984.

As one of the first moves since the CEO's return, Dell will be selling the premiere Sony brand on it's website with pricing competitive to retail stores. LCD's in the 40"-46" range will be provided by Sony while 37" and smaller displays will be from Dell's current line-up. Dell hope to implement other brands over time.

Friday, February 9, 2007

WHAT?? DISH NETWORK NOW LEASING HD-DVR for FREE!!

Yes it's true. The company that currently has the most unique HD Channel lineup is now giving new customers the HD-DVR for free. Previously you would have to pay $200 to LEASE the box. Now all you have to do is pay the $5-7 monthly fee for the service. Great deal if you ask me.

This is a move probably in preparation for DirecTV's HD changes for 2007. As far as I know this offer is for new customers only, but they might shoot themselves in the foot if they don't allow current customers to jump on the bandwagon.

Dish's customer service have proven to be nothing short of a pain in the rear and their "technical" representatives don't seem to be very technical! But depending on what package you go with, their specials should allow you to pick one of the HD packages with an HD-DVR for about $35-$55 a month, for 10 months. Not bad!

HD ROUND-UP

So after going full circle with Plasma, LCD and Rear Projection technologies, manufacturers have realised one thing. High end HD CRT's still rule for picture quality. Yes LCD and Plasma have done a great job of bridging the gap, but remember this blog is about facts, and it is a fact, that CRT's are still superior. Rear Projection technologies are a way to get into the HD market, get a big screen, and great picture quality, for a reasonable price. Their picture quality is not on par with LCD or Plasma.

Two manufacturers have acted upon this. Toshiba and Canon have a joint venture in their technology called "SED" (Surface-conduction electron-emitter display ). Sony themselves who make the top of the line CRT's have something they've been working on for a few years called "FED" (Field Emission Display). Both display types are claiming "the benefits and picture quality of CRT technology" in a large flat planel display!

Quite a claim! Early versions of SED technology showed up in 2006 but were absent from CES 2007. FED has yet to make an appearence. It may be at least a year before these are available let alone affordable, but in the meantime, we have the new breed of Plasmas, LCD's and RP-TV's to keep us happy.

Look out: Sharp Aquos D92U Series

Keep an eye out for this series of the new Sharp Aquos D92U series of LCD's. I got a good look at it at CES 2007 in Las Vegas. I was very surpsrised by its performance. Deep Blacks and no signs of Color Banding which has plagued the Aquos line in the past. HDMI 1.3 is not confirmed but fingers crossed! It will be available in 46" and 52" sizes. Sharp expect to ship this first quarter of 2007. I must add that outside of the 70" XBR LCD bohemoth from Sony, this was the best picture quality I saw of all display types at CES.

I'll be reviewing this LCD soon so keep posted!


Updates:

D92U specs and pics

Related Article

another related Article


Blu-Ray Outselling HD-DVD 2:1

According to the Nielsen Video Scan Ratings, Blu-Ray outsold HD-DVD's 2:1 during the first two weeks of January! This is reportedly the first independent analysis of both HDTV formats.

What does this mean in the long term? Not much. It's just a fact. We can't conclude from this that Blu-Ray is winning the war. It is way too early. However, we can say that Blu-Ray is doing well since it's release. We'll keep a close watch on developments, and in about 6 months we should be able to draw more conclusive results. Well done Sony thus far.

No doubt, the Playstation 3 has been a huge factor in sales. By including a Blu-Ray drive in the PS3, Sony have infiltrated over 1,000,000 blu-ray drives into home across the globe. Many so called "analysts" were "predicting" that the gamers would not be interested in High Definition movies. Early reports were also speculating on premature figures that those that purchased the PS3 were not buying Blu-Ray movies and concluded the format was failing. Gosh the crap we have to sift threw to get real information!!!

Thursday, February 8, 2007

BLU RAY vs HD-DVD QUALITY STANDARDS

BLU-RAY AND HD-DVD MOVIE QUALITY STANDARDS

Ok, so im not going to review the movies, as that would only be my opinion, and that is not what this blog is about! When a movie studio releases a movie on the blu-ray or HD-DVD format, the result is dependent on a couple things.

1) A successful transfer to the HD format from what ever format the movie was originally shot on. Some movies are shot on 35mm film. Others are shot on HD-CAM. Film has the ability to be transfered to any resolution. In the years to come, the ULTRA-HD format may see the light of day. The reported resolution for Ultra-HD is 7,680 × 4,320 pixels!!! That's about hmmmmm, four times the quality of 1080p! Film has the ability to be transfered to that and any other resolution.

2) The appropriate use of compression codecs used. There are several codecs being used at the moment. All are just different ways of compressing the film footage to an HD format. AVC, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, VC-1 are some of the major ones. They all have different properties. MPEG-2 for example has large file sizes whereas VC-1 has proven to have excellent picture quality while maintaining small file sizes. Superman Returns for example was shot on the much touted Panavision Genesis cameras. Both the Blu-Ray and HD-DVD versions of this film had very average picture quality. Something went wrong somewhere! Perhaps it was the compression method used?

So that's the basic run down. People have seen a poorly transfered film to one of the HD formats and judged the entire format on it. NOT the formats fault! Both formats are capable of producing a near flawless picture.

AVSForum have an excellent post with picture quality ratings for both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray. I happen to agree with 99% of the ratings, so I'll reference their site which is updated regularly:


Blu-Ray Picture Quality Ratings


HD-DV Picture Quality Ratings



Happy watching and remember to stay objective and not one-sided!!!!

YOUR FRONT PROJECTOR EXPERIENCES

Ok, so this Blog's goal is to remain objective. The only way we can educate each other is to post our personal experiences. Whether it's been an amazing or poor experience I'd like to hear about it. Even if you bought the top of the line Front Projector, if you discover a widespread problem with that model, let us know about it. Hope to hear from you all soon!!

YOUR REAR PROJECTION EXPERIENCES

Ok, so this Blog's goal is to remain objective. The only way we can educate each other is to post our personal experiences. Whether it's been an amazing or poor experience I'd like to hear about it. Even if you bought the top of the line Rear Projection Display, if you discover a widespread problem with that model, let us know about it. Hope to hear from you all soon!!

YOUR PLASMA EXPERIENCES

Ok, so this Blog's goal is to remain objective. The only way we can educate each other is to post our personal experiences. Whether it's been an amazing or poor experience I'd like to hear about it. Even if you bought the top of the Line Plasma, if you discover a widespread problem with that model, let us know about it. Hope to hear from you all soon.

YOUR LCD EXPERIENCES

Ok, so this Blog's goal is to remain objective. The only way we can educate each other is to post our personal experiences. Whether it's been an amazing or poor experience I'd like to hear about it. Even if you bought the top of the Line LCD, if you discover a widespread problem with that model, let us know about it. Hope to hear from you all soon!!!

FRONT PROJECTORS

FRONT PROJECTORS: If you want to replicate the cinema experience at home, this is the way to go. Now 1080p DLP and SXRD projectors are available for around the same price as a high end LCD or plasma. A high end HD LCD, PLASMA or CRT creates a far better picture quality than what you see in the cinema, but it depends on what you want. If would rather look at a picture filled over an entire wall in your house as opposed to a 50" screen, then you really get a "different" experience. It all comes down to personal preference. Projectors are so good now, that you may not mind trading off quality for unbelievable screen real estate.


Pros:
  • Unbelievable screen size.
  • The best projectors have very good picture quality although they are all far from equal.
  • A true cinema experience in your home.

Cons:
  • Don't expect picture quality to rival high end plasma or LCD let alone HD CRT's.
  • That's it. It's really what you're willing to trade off and what you want.

Recommendation: Panasonic PT-AE1000U Projector. One of the best projectors money can buy for the home.

REAR PROJECTION DLP

REAR-PROJECTION INTRO

Plasma and LCD are very expensive in the large sizes. Once you get past 42", things get exponentially more expensive. With 1080p resolutions now available on all displays, 50" will cost you almost a body part. A 40" or 42" is a lot more affordable. Going back to our concept of "perception" in the beginning and also introducing the factor of "substitution", manufacturers developed several technologies to address the "big screen" issue. Some consumers would rather have a huge 70" screen even if it means giving up quality. Enter the following display types; Rear projection LCD, LCOS, DLP, and as they use in the cinema, front projectors. Rear projection allows for the "blowing up" of the picture in a cost-effective manner. What we get is a huge screen in the 60"+ range with good performace. I stress "good", because as it stands now, quality IS substituted for size. When compared to Plasma, LCD or CRT's, colors will look washed out and far from realistic while, contrast, vividness, response times, and refresh rates, will look far from that of their counterparts. When you look at the specs for any of these screens, you will often see 10,000:1 contrast ratios or 5ms response times; similar specs to those of plasmas or LCD, but I urge you to physically look at the display. The nature of the technology, the way the picture is created, will produce a very different result despite their high end specifications. Now let's not compare them. Let's look at them for what they are. What you have is a huge screen cinema experience with a great picture! Let's look a little more indepth on each individual rear projection technology.

DLP:
DLP was developed by Texas Instruments. A spinning color wheel with a single DLP DMD chip OR a Prism with a 3-Chip projector are used to create the image. Both use thousands of little mirrors which reflect the results onto the display. The 3-chip (one for each primary color) creates a superior quality image. To learn more indepth about how DLP technology works, please watch this flash demo: http://www.dlp.com/dlp_cinema/includes/demo_flash.asp. DLP is currently (February 2007) one the most popular rear-projection technologies amongst consumers. A new version of DLP is planned named "Laser TV," but it is too early to know how these compare to regular DLP's.

Pros:


  • Small and light weight
  • Perfect geometry
  • Good color replication
  • Very good whites and blacks.
  • Relatively inexpensive.


Cons:

  • Scaling of non native resolution seems to worsen with lesser models.
  • Suffers from the Rainbow effect when you're eyes move from left to right. Watch this clip for a demo.
  • ftp://ftp.extremetech.com/pub/extremetech/displays/SamsungHLN4365WRainbowClip.wmv This effect is less apparent in the 3-Chip models.
  • Unwanted light created by the reflecting of the tiny mirrors has to be effectively removed. The inability to do this effectively can create washed out colors, grey blacks and less white, whites.
  • The lamp that creates the light needs to be replaced when it burns out. Thankfully however, lamp life is excellent.

Recomendation: Samsung HL-S6187W 61" 1080p DLP HDTV represents one of the best DLP screens currently available to consumers.




REAR PROJECTION LCOS

REAR-PROJECTION INTRO

Plasma and LCD are very expensive in the large sizes. Once you get past 42", things get exponentially more expensive. With 1080p resolutions now available on all displays, 50" will cost you almost a body part. A 40" or 42" is a lot more affordable. Going back to our concept of "perception" in the beginning and also introducing the factor of "substitution", manufacturers developed several technologies to address the "big screen" issue. Some consumers would rather have a huge 70" screen even if it means giving up quality. Enter the following display types; Rear projection LCD, LCOS, DLP, and as they use in the cinema, front projectors. Rear projection allows for the "blowing up" of the picture in a cost-effective manner. What we get is a huge screen in the 60"+ range with good performace. I stress "good", because as it stands now, quality IS substituted for size. When compared to Plasma, LCD or CRT's, colors will look washed out and far from realistic while, contrast, vividness, response times, and refresh rates, will look far from that of their counterparts. When you look at the specs for any of these screens, you will often see 10,000:1 contrast ratios or 5ms response times; similar specs to those of plasmas or LCD, but I urge you to physically look at the display. The nature of the technology, the way the picture is created, will produce a very different result despite their high end specifications. Now let's not compare them. Let's look at them for what they are. What you have is a huge screen cinema experience with a great picture! Let's look a little more indepth on each individual rear projection technology.


LCOS: Unlike RP-LCD that uses a chip, LCOS uses liquid crystals on a highly reflective layer to produce the images. A lof of Jargon, but essentially it is another method of sending images to the display using RP-LCD technology. Sony and JVC have respectively developed their own version of LCOS called SXRD and D-ILA (Digital Direct Drive Image Light Amplifier). Some of these displays have proven to have black levels above that of regular LCD's!


Pros:

  • Huge screen sizes
  • Full 1080p resolution
  • Very good picture quality
  • Excellent black levels
  • Good color replication
  • High contast although as mentioned before, not effectively on par with LCD or plasma.
  • Reasonably priced.


Cons:

  • Overall picture quality is not and probably never will be on par with LCD or plasma.
  • Effective colors and brightness are traded off for black levels due to the nature of the technology.

Recommendation: Sony Grand WEGA XBR KDSR60XBR2 60". Available in other larger sizes, this screen represents the best of the LCOS selection. Quality may not be on par with regular LCD, but lets face it, it's not a bad trade off to get this overwhelming screen size.

REAR PROJECTION LCD

REAR-PROJECTION INTRO:

Plasma and LCD are very expensive in the large sizes. Once you get past 42", things get exponentially more expensive. With 1080p resolutions now available on all displays, 50" will cost you almost a body part. A 40" or 42" is a lot more affordable. Going back to our concept of "perception" in the beginning and also introducing the factor of "substitution", manufacturers developed several technologies to address the "big screen" issue. Some consumers would rather have a huge 70" screen even if it means giving up quality. Enter the following display types; Rear projection LCD, LCOS, DLP, and as they use in the cinema, front projectors. Rear projection allows for the "blowing up" of the picture in a cost-effective manner. What we get is a huge screen in the 60"+ range with good performace. I stress "good", because as it stands now, quality IS substituted for size. When compared to Plasma, LCD or CRT's, colors will look washed out and far from realistic while, contrast, vividness, response times, and refresh rates, will look far from that of their counterparts. When you look at the specs for any of these screens, you will often see 10,000:1 contrast ratios or 5ms response times; similar specs to those of plasmas or LCD, but I urge you to physically look at the display. The nature of the technology, the way the picture is created, will produce a very different result despite their high end specifications. Now let's not compare them. Let's look at them for what they are. What you have is a huge screen cinema experience with a great picture! Let's look a little more indepth on each individual rear
projection technology.


REAR PROJECTION LCD: Today you see more variation on the rear-projection LCD such as DLP and LCOS. But there are still a few regular RP-LCD's on the market. RP-LCD's uses transmissive LCD chips that allows light to pass through the liquid crystal onto each individual pixel.


Pros:

  • Light
  • Large Screen
  • High Contrast and brightness
  • Lower power consumption than plasma and crt.
  • Reasonably inexpensive.


Cons:

  • Suffers from dead pixels
  • Suffers from the screen door effect due to the LCD panel being made up of individual pixels.
  • Colors have a washed out look
  • Not as vivid as regular LCD's.


Recomendation: The Sony KDF50E2000 50" Grand WEGA Rear-Projection LCD. One of the few actual rear projection LCD's available on the market. This model represents the best of the few available. Even against DLP's and LCOS, this model still holds its weight and its price point makes it a bargain for those who want a cheap alternative into the HDTV market. It must be noted that this is a 720p screen.





PLASMA

PLASMA: Until recently, Plasma's were the best way to get an affordable flat panel into your home. Around 2003-2004, retailers were pushing EDTV plasmas as HD ready, misinforming consumers. Also most current 42" plasmas are NOT true HD. They fall just short of the 720P resolution. The difference is not noticeable, but again fact is fact. If you wanted a true HD resolution, you used to have to get a 50" plasma to attain 720p. Today in 2007, this has changed. 1080p, 42", 50"+ plasmas are on the market and they look good! At the 2007 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, 1080p plasmas and LCD were everywhere. Plasmas have caught up with LCD's in the resolution department, and still maintain their benefits over LCD, but this may not be for too long.

Pros:

  • Slim
  • wall-mountable design
  • Wider viewing angle than LCD screens and better color consistency
  • Until late 2006, plasma was the best suited and most affordable flat-panel TV's of large sizes, particularly 40" and above.
  • Currently cheaper than LCDs per unit of size at larger sizes.
  • Better contrast ratio than LCD, though LCDs are improving rapidly
  • Faster response time than LCD, though LCDs are improving rapidly
  • Able to achieve darker black than LCD, though LCDs are improving (upcoming Dynamic Backlight Switching and OLED technologies)
  • Contains no mercury, unlike the back light of LCDs .

Cons:
  • Often heavier than LCD panels.
  • PDPs are fragile, making them difficult to ship and install.
  • Expensive compared to CRT and rear-projection technologies, although currently cheaper than LCDs per unit of size at larger sizes.
  • Older panels were notoriously subject to burn-in. Due to improvements in phosphors, the effect in modern PDPs is largely caused by polarization of the gas particles and can often be reversed by leaving the screen on a "snow" or static channel for an hour. Some home theater aficionados claim that, while burn-in is less likely now than in the past, it is still possible in some circumstances. Many plasma televisions have functions (such as "orbiting", in which the image is periodically moved imperceptibly) to minimize the problem. LCDs are not susceptible to permanent burn-in.
  • The display is brightest during its first 2000 hours. Thereafter, the display gradually dims. LCD backlights exhibit dimming as well, but they are replaceable. A plasma display cannot be recharged since the panel is a fixed pixel device with each pixel etched into the glass substrate. However, as the phosphors in a modern panel have a 60,000 hour half-life, most users will never see a plasma reach the end of its life.
  • At higher elevations, usually 6000 ft (1,800 m) or higher, PDPs exhibit noticeable humming or buzzing.
  • Sufferers of the DLP "rainbow effect" may encounter a similar problem with PDPs in high contrast situations. This typically manifests itself as a green flash during sudden changes from white to black.
  • Noticeable reflection especially when viewed in bright rooms.

Recommendation: The Pioneer Pro-FHD1 is the best plasma consumers can currently buy (as of Feb 2007). It resolves FULL 1080p resolution, has excellent black levels, accurate color replication and a good contrast ratio. The bad part is that it will cost you around $8,000 (down from $10,000 2 months ago) and the omission of HDMI 1.3 may be too much for enthusiasts to deal with given the price. Despite this, it is one of, if not THE best flat panel currently available.