Tuesday, November 18, 2008

HD once more

What with the economy shrinkage, the credit crunch and Christmas fast approaching it appears some retailers are in full panic slash price mode and as such it is our patriotic duty to take advantage of this while it's going on. So to that end I've been finally musing on the purchase of a HD television and have been refreshing myself as to the nuances contained therein.

First up is the new kid on the block FreeSat, at the moment the number of receivers and built-in televisions can be counted without taking off your shoes and as such still remain relatively pricey. This is annoying as, for the moment, this is the only method to receive free HD broadcasts. The option for me is to pick up a FreeView TV then down the line pick up a separate FreeSat box.

Next is the prevalence of the FullHD logo, as I mentioned in the earlier article this appeared to be an enhanced specification to the HD Ready logo - I was wrong. FullHD has no official guidelines and simply indicates that a TV has 1080 lines; that's it. The official version is HD Ready 1080p which is indeed an enhanced version of the original. 'So what?' you may cry; well it can make a difference in four ways.

The first obvious point is the "p" in HD Ready 1080p, anything with this logo has to support full progressive scan FullHD only indicates it has 1080 lines.

Secondly it's the gorilla in the corner that is HDCP the copy protection system that prevents you ripping and selling broadcast material. The kicker is that for content that demands HDCP you won't be getting HD output you'll be getting the same scaled version you'd get if you'd hooked up with a SCART cable. HD Ready 1080p requires all HDMI connections support HDCP; FullHD... [shrug].

[Update 20/11 - Something I should have made clear is that plain old HD Ready logo'd televisions also have HDCP so a FullHD HDReady television will have HDCP, but it won't necessarily have the other features mentioned here]

The third catch is 24fps playback, as I'm sure I've mentioned due to frickin' weirdness film is shot at 24 frames per second, but television is set at 25fps (or 30fps for the USA) and when placed onto VHS and DVD it was set at one of those two speeds (and format), but for Blu-ray HD content films retain their native speed. So a player that can transmit 24fps hooked to a television that can display 24fps is obviously better then one having to faff with the speeds. HD Ready 1080p at the minimum has to support 1080p@24 (although it doesn't require 720@24); FullHD once again [shrug].

Finally something that most won't even realise a process known as overscan. To put it bluntly for ye olde CRT televisions part of the tube would be hidden under the casing so you wouldn't see the full broadcast picture. In theory this should be banished with both plasma and LCD televisions but it still crops up because some HD tuners don't filter out a flickering bar that runs across the top of digital broadcasts. So to remove the bar you enlarge the picture a little and lose some of the top and bottom, but to keep the same ratio you have to also lose some of the sides. HD Ready 1080p demands that 1080 signals can be displayed without overscan.

So after all that everyone should be on the look-out of "HD Ready 1080p" logo'd televisions. Are their any out there? Yes, just difficult to find as there are plenty of "HD Ready" televisions that do 1080p, but aren't "HD Ready 1080p". Look for the logo demand nothing less.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Phil. I'm buying my mum a TV for Christmas, and presumably I will be unable to avoid the mess that is HD.

I need to start doing some research, because I have no clue how much this stuff costs. Last time I looked, TVs using LCD technology had a starting price of about £6,000 or so. However, now it seems that you can only buy LCD TVs, so I'm hoping the price has decreased.

I also haven't looked at TVs since this "HD" rubbish was invented. It seems silly to me the amount of fuss people are making about very slightly higher picture quality. It's not like we're talking about a very significant difference, after all.

Anyway, last time I looked at TVs, you bought a TV and it worked. Usually there's an RF input and one or more SCART inputs. I gather that today there are about 4-dozen different connector technologies? (I have to wonder why.)

Anyway, what do you think of my chances of finding a TV with 3 SCART inputs on it??

FlipC said...

Had to make an update to the entry with regards to the fact that HD Ready televisions have HDCP so if it has both FullHD and HD Ready it's got at least something. Still want the 24fps and the pixel-matching though.

Anyway prices are still falling - a standard 32" 720 HD Ready television from Sony is around the £400 mark with 1080's being higher.

As to getting 3 SCART connections you're probably going to have trouble 2 seems to be the standard with 2 or 3 HDMI inputs and maybe component.

OOC what would you need three for? Remember a lot of boxes have pass-through SCART connectors which'll knock one connection out for you.

FlipC said...

Just to prove you've got to watch out for these things the Panasonic 32LZD85 is HD Ready with 1080p, 24fps, overscan switch, and as a bonus 100MHz RRP £948.99 and available at Amazon for £699.99; however do a search for that model and you'll spot it again at £489.99. Oo bargain - until you realise it's the 32LXD85 which is a 720p model.

Still some say that at this screen size you won't notice the difference between 1080 and 720 and in every other detail it's nigh on a duplicate... nah still looking at the Z.

FlipC said...

Yeesh and the fact that Panasonic don't use the HD Ready 1080p logo for this model on their website, but it does appear on their PDF'ed manual.

Anonymous said...

The VHS box uses SCART. The DVD player uses SCART. The BT Vision box uses SCART.

OTOH, I do have a mechanical SCART switching box, so it's not so critical.

I had a look online and it seems you can get something reasonably nice for £300. However, apparently this exists only online. In all the real-world shops I visited, you have to pay quite a bit more.

(I was looking at getting mum a TV for her birthday, but that's tomorrow. Ebuyer can sell me a very cheap TV, but it'll take days to arrive. And then I'll have to take time off work to go collect it from the post office.)

In other news… apparently BluRay players cost less than £6,000 now. (I found one in… uh, Tesco, actually. Like, WTF?)

FlipC said...

You should have two SCART connections on the Vision box one to output to the TV and the other to I/O the VCR; that'd knock one required lead out.

As for getting it for her birthday make it a bumper Xmas present instead.

Anonymous said...

Of course, even if Blu-Ray players have come down in price, the cost is still far more than I'm willing to pay. I'll buy a Blu-Ray player as soon as I can play the disks in mplayer at native resolution with my existing monitor. Until then, I'll just stick with DVD, since I won't get any more fidelity out of Blu-Ray anyway.

FlipC said...

And of course while it may well be that Blu-Ray players have come down in price, the media itself is still priced higher then normal DVDs