When you think back to the dark ages of the nineties — just four terrestrial channels and the inevitable snowflakes on your screen if you were in a poor reception area — it just wasn’t a very good time for free television in the UK. Fast forward to today, and dirt-cheap Freeview boxes are getting their inevitable, in fact somewhat belated, upgrade to HD. The Humax HD-FOX T2 will cost a predictably hefty £170 ($270) at launch, but as its kind starts to infiltrate the market that price should suffer an equally appropriate precipitous fall. Offering decent media streamer capabilities via wired Ethernet, the T2 stands out with its attractive GUI and blisteringly fast channel scanning, while giving you pretty much exactly the performance you’d expect from a high-quality Freeview HD box. The UK HD rollout is set to start in earnest this March and you can learn more about it at the links below.
In this interesting fate of TiVo piece in Multichannel news this week, littered among all the reasons TiVo may or may not make it through the next couple of years was this little gem about the new DirecTV TiVo HD. Previously promised to be released during 2009 and then delayed until sometime in 2010, Multichannel news now says it is actually anticipated in the spring of 2010. Which means that if it doesn’t get delayed again, it will have taken just under two years since the announcement for it to hit the street. Does that sound ridiculous to anyone else?
Low-Cost, Extremely Energy Efficient 100-inch Diagonal Displays Fast-Tracked for 2010
October 28, 2009 – Los Gatos, CA – HDI Ltd. announces it has entered into a manufacturing agreement to mass produce their proprietary 100-inch diagonal Laser-Driven 2D/3D Switchable Dynamic Video Projection Televisions. HDI Ltd.’s 2D/3D switchable system delivers a stunningly superior 2D image, with a 50% greater resolution than today’s digital cinemas, and derives its greater-than-high definition stereoscopic 1920 x 1080p “3D” image quality from two RGB laser-illuminated Liquid Crystal on Silcon (LCOS) micro display imagers. At full 1080p HD, the HDI Ltd. screen refreshes at 360 fields per-second on each eye, the fastest refresh rate on any mass produced television or projector.
HDI Ltd. has completely eliminated the adverse effects, such as migraines, dizziness, nausea, and motion sickness, long associated with inferior and expensive shutter glasses and substandard 3D technology. HDI Ltd. delivers the most immersive, comfortable, and natural 3D viewing experience in the world with low-cost and light-weight proprietary polarized glasses. Technology journalist Richard Hart called HDI Ltd.’s picture quality, “the smoothest yet, and smoothness means no headaches,” and Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computers, stated, “Without a doubt, the best demonstration of 3D technology I have ever seen.”
In addition, HDI Ltd. displays draw 80% less power than existing 2D plasma displays of the same size, offer a 95% reduction in manufacturing pollution, and a 100% reduction in harmful chemicals and radioactive components currently used in existing televisions. At 10-inches thick, HDI’s 100-inch diagonal display weighs 75% less than equivalent Plasma and LCD displays, and is anticipated to have a street price potentially 60% less than current 2D flatscreen Plasma and LCD displays.
HDI’s September 2009 announcement of their potential new standard for switchable 2D/3D television technology came on the same day several major manufactures announced plans to release new energy-guzzling plasma televisions with 3D capabilities via shutter glasses, all of which featured price tags as much as 100% or more than current 2D televisions.
HDI Ltd. quickly caught the interest of the consumer electronics industry and, as reported on Variety.com, top execs, engineers and S3D experts from six of the eight leading television manufactures recently crowded together into HDI Ltd.’s tiny Los Gatos lab to see their prototype 100-inch, rear-projection S3D television.
David Cohen of Variety.com reported, “HDI’s approach shows the promise of laser-driven 3D TV could be a reality surprisingly soon,” and Sean Portnoy of ZDNet said, “We could be looking at a Holy Grail of sorts for the next generation of television.”
According to co-founder Ingemar Jansson, “The first production-run of 100-inch HDI Ltd. 2D/3D switchable displays should quickly put product into a multitude of B2B and public demonstration venues.” He’s mum as to when leading American retailers will be able to put units into homes, but stresses that the simplistic and inexpensive design and manufacturing techniques required to produce HDI Ltd. televisions, “will have product in the marketplace faster than one would expect,” and adds, “either with the HDI logo or that of another leading manufacturer.”
Offering a thought on the fact that California appears poised to be the first state to ban power-guzzling big-screen TVs, Jansson states, “In light of the energy efficient products emerging from companies such as Apple, the lobbying efforts of the Consumer Electronics Association strikes me as almost criminal in promoting antiquated technologies that the ‘Grid,’ and the planet, simply cannot sustain.”
We’ve given HD DVD’s bastard child China Blue HD its due for a good start in its native land, but now that U.K. Importer GBAX has made a few units available it’s time for English language buyers to at least consider this Blu-ray alternative. Of course, with a £259.99 ($413.22 U.S.) pricetag for this plain TCL player, AV and HD cables, plus 14 CBHD movies (The Aviator, Blood Diamond, The Invasion, The Island, Flood, Poseidon & 8 Chinese-only flicks) to get you started the barrier to entry is high, but as shown in the unboxing / preview video — embedded after the break, watch for ninjas — the experience is very familiar. As Format War Central points out, the 220/240Hz power cord makes things complicated for the U.S. and other places outside Europe, but hardcore HD DVD holdouts are used to a world filled with only Warner and Universal movies already, so why not give the other blue laser flavor a try?
Networked media players are, if not quite ten-a-penny, then at least increasingly common these days, so it takes more than an ethernet port and an HDMI output to impress us. QNAP are hoping their NMP-1000 will do just that, however, thanks to its onboard 3.5-inch hard-drive (up to 2TB), Full HD 1080p output, YouTube and Flickr support, automatic NAS backup functionality and UPnP streaming.
QNAP NMP-1000 Brings Networked Video, Audio, Digital Pictures And Other Digital Content Into The Living Room
New Home Network Appliance Unique Blending of Set-top Box Player and Networked Storage Capable of Delivering Cinema Quality Video and Audio to the Home Theater
Taipei, Taiwan, September 2009 – QNAP Systems, Inc, a world-class manufacturer of Network Attached Storage (NAS) servers today unveiled a unique new network appliance that can best be described as a set-top player crossed with a NAS server. Computer users around the globe face the dilemma of how to centrally store, manage, and playback growing amounts of digital content spread around the home on multiple computers.
“QNAP ’s ground-breaking NMP-1000 Network Multimedia Player is the definitive product that bridges the gap between the home network and the living room” said Meiji Chang, CEO of QNAP Systems, Inc. “Users are clamoring to centrally store and enjoy all their digital content in the living room and the NMP-1000 just fits the bill” Mr. Chang added.
The new NMP-1000 incorporates an internal hard disk drive that easily catalogs digital pictures, videos, music, and other content from computers on the home network and can effortlessly play them back in the home theater with the included remote control.
The new NMP-1000 connects to the home network via wired Ethernet (wireless adapter ready) and to an HDTV via HDMI or Component interfaces, or Composite & S-Video interfaces for standard-def TVs. The NMP-1000 is capable of playing back smooth Full HD 1080p video and crystal clear audio; turning digital picture slide shows, home videos, purchased content, and even shared iTunes® libraries into a viewing/listening experience worthy of the living room. Because the NMP-1000 is Internet connected via the home network, you can even browse digital pictures & albums from Flickr™ or videos from YouTube™. The “10-foot” user interface makes it a snap to select content for viewing with the included remote control, and the NMP-1000 supports a very wide range of formats for playing back digital pictures, videos, movies, and music. Because the NMP-1000 incorporates technologies found in its popular Turbo NAS servers, it can also be used to automatically backup computers on the network and also for easy file storage and sharing. The NMP-1000 is equally at home on Windows®, Macintosh®, Linux, and even UNIX-based home networks.
The NMP-1000 is fully DLNA™ compliant and features advanced technology including HDMI 1.3 support, powerful Sigma Designs® video/audio hardware decoders, and a host of advanced networking support hidden under the hood. Set-up and the overall user experience of the NMP-1000 are exceptionally easy and enjoyable.
High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) has been largely hailed as the ultimate interface to enjoy supreme quality high definition audio and video but is it really that good, after all, surely DVI is just as good. Do we really need HDMI?
HDMI was developed with the specific intention of replacing DVI. DVI was primarily used to convert analogue signals to digital for computer monitors. There are actually three different types of DVI, which are DVI-A, DVI-D and DVD-I.
DVI-A uses analogue signals the same as VGA. DVI-D uses a digital signal (as with modern home cinema systems and consumer products). DVI-I is a combination of both DVI-A and DVI-D. Modern electronics use the single link standard for performance but DVI-I can handle this as well as dual link to make it adaptable for future advancements. DVI-I supports a fully digital protocol, which means video up to 1080p can be viewed.
HDMI on the other hand offers an uncompressed digital audio and video interface that has the full support of manufacturers including Panasonic, Sony, and Toshiba to name but a few. Major movie companies too have backed HDMI including Warner Brothers and Universal Pictures. HDMI offers an interface that can connect any audio or video source together. It can do this through a single HDMI cable.
HDMI supports high definition video, normal video as well as digital audio and also have bandwidth to spare in order to make it ready for future advancements in HDMI technology. It must be remembered though that HDMI and DVI are a lot similar and are actually based on a set of specifications that were extremely alike, in fact, HDMI was derived from the DVI requirements.
So, is HDMI any different to DVI? Well yes it is. HDMI actually incorporates a form of content security known as High Definition Content Protection (HDCP). HDMI also can support both audio and video signals through one cable at the same time whereas DVI is limited to only video.
The number of cables needed to set up with DVI is at least two. One is for the audio and one is for the video. HDMI requires only a single HDMI cable therefore leaving fewer cables to be tangled up behind the electronic equipment. This means that anyone using HDMI is going to end up with a cleaner less cluttered space around their equipment.
The important thing to remember is that quality wise; HDMI and DVI are the same. This is because as mentioned earlier they are both derived from the same specifications but HDMI’s ability to support digital audio gives it the edge over DVI. Combine this with the fact that HDMI can do this through a single HDMI cable and it is easy to see why HDMI and HDMI cables have proved to be so popular.
This time, we brought along a bag full of awesomely priced cables, mostly from Monoprice, that we were ready to run bandwidth tests on, side-by-side with Monster’s finest (and most damned expensive) cables.
What were our findings?
1) At short distances up to 6ft (2 meters), you can pretty much get away with any cable. Monoprice cables kicked ass at the 6 foot length that mostly everyone uses.
Not all cables are the same, however, and in truth, it’s the medium-priced cables that may be the real rip-off.
2) At longer distances, cheaper cable tends to choke up. A 720p signal will make it, but even today’s standard 1080p signal can fry out inside of a long cable that isn’t built as well. If you are trying to hook up a 1080p projector on your ceiling to a Blu-ray or HD DVD player, this is a concern.
The tests, which fired digital signal through the cable to synthesize high-definition video, can be divided into REAL-WORLD requirements (720p and 8-bit 60Hz 1080p) and FUTURE-WORLD requirements (12-bit 60Hz 1080p and even 12-bit 120Hz 1080p). Mind you, the future formats don’t exist now, so they should only be a concern when you are buying cables you intend to keep for five years, such as those you want to build into a wall.
To simulate high-def video, it sends signal down one of three paths within an HDMI cable, so its signal at any given time is ONE-THIRD the bandwidth of that video format. The list of bandwidth tests we ran is as follows:
• 720p 8-bit 60Hz = 742 Mbps (x3)
• 1080p 8-bit 60Hz = 1.65 Gbps (x3)
• 1080p 12-bit 120Hz = 4.455 Gbps (x3)
• 1440p 12-bit 120Hz = 8.24 Gbps (x3)
When the signal was sent out over the cable, its performance was measured on a Tektronix DSA8200 Digital Serial Analyzer. The argument goes like this: it may all be 1’s and 0’s, but what is being sent over that cable is electric current. When too much data is sent over a shabby cable, the device on the other end can’t tell what is a 1 and what is a 0. The end result is video that is either jittery, full of digital snow, or flat-out not there.
The Tektronix display shows two arcs, a high ridge that stands for the 1’s and a low ridge that stands for the 0’s. As bandwidth increases, you will see that the arcs get fuzzier, and at the failure point, there are too many 1’s that look like 0’s, and vice versa.
Bear in mind, in some cases, if the cable failed at one level, we didn’t go on to the next. Likewise, if we knew it passed the higher test, we might not go on to a lower test.
even the Monster 10-meter couldn’t pass the Future World 1080p test. The Monster folks said they didn’t have a 50-footer in the building that they could test with, but I suspect it would have done a little bit better than the Monoprice, possibly even carrying today’s 1080p. But we did not test that.
Judging from these results, I would have to reiterate my original position, that it’s best to skimp at short distances, but you don’t want to be caught with the wrong cable installed in your walls. Even with the projector, it might be smart to buy a $30 cable first and see if it works, but be prepared, when upgrading your gear, to upgrade the cable too. Does it have to be Monster? Hell no, but you might have to pay something close to a Monster-sized price.
The truth is, the bigger rip-off appears to be the $20 XtremeHD cable. It didn’t perform as well as stuff one-fifth the price. (No wonder they don’t sell a 10-meter cable.) I would say beware of mid-priced cable of dubious origin. Our dealings with Monoprice lead us to believe that at least they know what they’re selling, even at such a tremendous discount.
Stay tuned for HDMI Cable Battlemodo: The Truth About Monster, Part 3, where we try to match the laboratory results with basic, in-home testing. If the Digital Serial Analyzer said a cable fails, but it works just fine in my basement, maybe I’ll have to call BS. – Wilson Rothman
While high definition has become a reality for many consumers, the technical jargon associated with this exiting new technology is causing much confusion. Just as we were beginning to understand the differences between Blu-ray and HD DVD along comes a new high-definition format, 1080p.
But why do we need another high-definition format anyway? Many of us have bought our HD Ready screens and were ready to sit back and enjoy this new viewing experience, but now we are all wondering if we bought the right kit in the first place.
Many of the more recent HD Ready flat screens feature a resolution of 1,366×768 pixels. This will display the commonly used 720p and 1080i formats, although 1080i/1080p signals will be downscaled to fit. To display 1080i/1080p signals in their entirety, you’ll need a screen with a resolution of 1,920×1,080 pixels, coined ‘Full HD’ by the marketing men.
However, just because a screen has 1,920×1,080-pixels it does not necessarily mean that it will accept 1080p input – so check before you buy.
Remember, 720p, 1080i, 1080p are formats in which ‘Sources’ of high definition content are presented for viewing on a particular output device such as your LCD/Plasma screen. The source could originate from your TV cable provider for example, or your xbox 360. To restate the point, 1080i/1080p needs a screen resolution of 1,920×1,080-pixels to display in its entirity, but you don’t have to have a screen with this resolution to display a 1080i/1080p signal – lower resolution screens downscale the signal to fit.
Taking a step back, 720p and 1080i were initially set out as the two key standards for High Definition content, with Sky HD, HD DVD and the Xbox 360 supporting these formats. Any TV that supports 720p and 1080i is classed as HD Ready. Let’s take a step back for a moment and take a quick look at the development of TV technology to see how we arrived at these standards.
In a CRT display (the TV you grew up with), a stream of electrons is generated by a gun, and is scanned across the face of the tube in scan lines, left to right and top to bottom. The face is coated in phosphors, which glow when hit by the electron stream. A method of scanning was required that would reduce the transmitted TV picture’s bandwidth and work in accordance with the electricity supply frequency (50Hz in the UK and Europe and 60Hz in the US). The result was interlaced scanning.
A method of reducing bandwidth was required because early sets were not able to draw the whole picture on screen before the top of the picture began to fade, resulting in a picture of uneven brightness and intensity. To overcome this, the screen was split in half with only half the lines (each alternate line) being refreshed each cycle. Hence, the signal is interlaced to deliver a full screen refresh every second cycle. So if the interlace signal refreshes half the lines on a screen 50 times per second this results in a full screen (or frame) refresh rate of 25 times per second. The problem with interlacing is the distortion when an image moves quickly between the odd and even lines as only one set of lines is ever being refreshed.
As TV screen technologies have progressed another system called Progressive Scan has also been developed. With progressive scanning the frames are not split into two fields of odd and even lines. Instead, all of the image scan lines are drawn in one go from top to bottom. This method is sometimes referred to as ’sequential scanning’ or ‘non-interlaced’. The fact that frames are shown as a whole makes it similar in principle to the way film is shown at the cinema.
At this point it is worth considering what we mean by resolution in relation to TVs;
Resolution: HD-Ready TVs need to be able to display pictures at the resolution set by the new standard. Resolution can be described either in terms of “lines of resolution,” or pixels. The resolution you see on your TV depends on two factors, namely the resolution of your display and the resolution of the video signal you receive. Because video images are always rectangular in shape, there is both horizontal resolution and vertical resolution to consider.
Vertical resolution: This is the number of horizontal lines that can be resolved in an image from top to bottom. The old familiar CRT TV displays 576 lines, while Digital HD television operates at a resolution of either 720 or 1080 lines. This is the most important resolution as it is most noticeable to the human eye.
Horizontal resolution: This is the number of vertical lines that can be resolved from one side of an image to the other. Horizontal resolution varies depending on the source. The number of horizontal pixels is not quite so critical as vertical resolution as it is not as obvious to the human eye during normal viewing.
An analogue TV signal in Europe, where the PAL standard is used, has 625 horizontal lines of which 576 lines are displayed and the image (or frame) is refreshed 25 times a second. This is the standard we have been used to for years.
A High Definition Digital TV signal delivers significantly more picture detail and audio quality than a standard signal, producing pictures that are significantly better, sharper and clearer;
720p: 1,280×720 pixel resolution. High-definition picture that is displayed progressively. Each line is displayed on the screen simultaneously, therefore it is smoother than an interlaced picture.
1080i: 1,920×1,080 pixel resolution. High-definition picture that is displayed interlaced. Each odd line of the picture is displayed, followed by each even line, and the resulting image is not as smooth as a progressive feed. 1080i is therefore a more detailed picture suited to documentaries and wildlife footage, but less suitable for action-oriented material such as sports and movies.
1080p: 1,920×1,080 pixel resolution. High-definition picture that is displayed progressively. Each line is displayed on the screen simultaneously, therefore it is smoother than an interlaced picture. This is the ultimate high-definition standard — the most detailed picture, displayed progressively.
There are two main formats for HDTV, namely 720p (i.e. a 720 line picture progressively scanned 50 times a second) and 1080i (1080 lines interlaced at 50 cycles per second). The picture resolution of a high definition digital TV is about 4 times greater than a typical 576 line TV picture.
not having a screen which is able to display 1080p may not be important to you. However, there are exceptions, and if you are a serious game player you will probably already know one of them, or to be precise two of them. The xbox360(with a little tweak) and the playstation 3 produce output at 1080p. Also, the new High Definition DVD format, blu-ray has also been designed for 1080p ouput. Is the difference worth the extra investment? Maybe, something you will have to judge for yourselves …
‘Pretty’ is not a word we often use when describing HDMI cables, but in the case of the new £50 SuperShield from The Chord Company, it seems rather apt.
Swathed in a rather fetching turquoise jacket, the SuperShield is HDMI 1.3b certified and comes in 1m (£49.95), 3m (£69.95) and 5m (£89.95) lengths.
It uses 26awg oxygen-free copper for high conductivity, and low-density, gas-filled polyethylene insulation to give it improved dielectric properties.
Each of the pairs of conductors is protected by a dual-foil shield, and the cable itself is additionally shielded by a foil and high-density braid. The gold-plated connectors are soldered with lead-free solder.
The rise in popularity of large screens and projectors has made the limitations of conventional Standard Definition TV (SDTV) increasingly evident. An HDTV compatible television set will not improve the quality of SDTV channels. To display a superior picture, high definition televisions require a High Definition (HD) signal. Typical sources of HD signals are as follows:
- Over the air with an antenna. Most cities in the US with major network affiliates broadcast over the air in HD. To receive this signal an HD tuner is required. Most newer high definition televisions have an HD tuner built in. For HDTV televisions without a built in HD tuner, a separate set-top HD tuner box can be rented from a cable or satellite company or purchased.
- Cable television companies often offer HDTV broadcasts as part of their digital broadcast service. This is usually done with a set-top box or CableCARD issued by the cable company. Alternatively one can usually get the network HDTV channels for free with basic cable by using a QAM tuner built into their HDTV or set-top box. Some cable carriers also offer HDTV on-demand playback of movies and commonly viewed shows.
- Satellite-based TV companies, such as DirecTV and Dish Network (both in North America), Premiere (in Germany), TeleDunya (in Turkey), Sky Digital and freesat (in the UK and Ireland), Bell TV and Shaw Direct (both in Canada), Canal Digitaal (in the Netherlands), Canal Digital and Viasat (both in Norway, Sweden and Denmark), Cyfra+, Cyfrowy Polsat and n (in Poland), SKY (in New Zealand), NTV Plus (in Russia), Sky Italia in Italy and Digit-Alb (in Albania), offer HDTV to customers as an upgrade. New satellite receiver boxes are usually required to receive HD content.
- In Europe, several operators offer HDTV via ADSL. The HD set top box typically uses Ethernet or IEEE 802.11N to communicate with the ADSL modem and HDMI to the display. Typical offers include Internet + HDTV + Telephone for a flat rate fee.
- Video game systems, such as the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and digital set-top boxes such as the Apple TV, and the Netgear Digital Entertainer, can output an HD signal. The Xbox Live Marketplace, iTunes Music Store, and PlayStation Network services offer HD movies, TV shows, movie trailers, and clips for download, but generally at lower bitrates than a Blu-ray Disc.
- Most newer computer graphics cards have either HDMI or DVI interfaces, which can be used to output images or video to an HDTV.
- Almost all computer graphics cards have standard SVGA jacks which can be used to output images or video to an HDTV’s “PC Input” jack.
- The optical disc standard Blu-ray Disc (25GB-50GB) can provide enough digital storage to store up to 10 hours of HD video content, depending on encoder settings.
- Another optical disc standard HD-DVD (15GB-30GB) can also hold several hours of HD content, depending on encoder settings.