Keith Combs' Blahg

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When is 1080p not 1080p?

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Xbox360 smallI’ve been shopping for a high definition television.  I’ve ignored the HDTV industry simply because I thought the prices were too high, even for my pocketbook.  When the Xbox360 details were announced, I said to myself, “Keith, go get yerself one of them dern fancy HDTVs.”

During my shopping adventure, I started to notice a number of new sets were sporting something called 1080p.  Upon examination, the 1080p sets have a screen resolution that is much higher than their siblings.  As you might guess, the manufacturers and retailers are asking a premium for this technology.  The premium amounts to about $1000 over the 720p version of the set.

So if I’m going to pay a premium for the kewl screen, I figured I might as well investigate what percentage of the broadcast content is 1080p.  Not being a high def expert, I just assumed if they were selling this 1080p thing, then there must be some amazing content to go with it.  Much to my shock, there is absolutely no content broadcast in native 1080p format.  Ok, so I figured the over the air content was one thing, but surely my local cable provider has the goodies.  Nope, nada.  This is where it gets really good.

Today, only two television sets have HDMI ports that will accept a 1080p signal.  One of the sets is a 71” monster that has a MSRP of over $50,000.  You got that right, over 50k.  Oh, you can get it for about the cost of a G35 Coupe if you shop.  The other set is a 37” tube which is of course much too small for my “needs”.

That means that all of the sets being marketed and sold with the 1080p label can’t actually use one of the coming Blu-Ray players to watch a high def DVD at 1080p.  At least not across the current HDMI ports.

The only way I know of to watch 1080p content today is to use a Media Center 2005 PC and specific Windows Media High Definition Video formatted content, or a Apple G5 with Quicktime7.  Since I won’t be driving my future high def TV with MCE, I won’t be taking advantage of a VGA port connection to the set.  That’s a big hint folks.  Don’t even think about buying a HDTV without a VGA port.  The Xbox360 has a VGA cable allowing this type of connection.  I assume the competing console will sport a similar connection.

Anyway, back on the fence I go… Sigh…

 

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  • From my understanding 1080p was the standard for viewing HDTV. We have a 50" Pioneer Plasma at home and a 70" Hitachi LCD that both have a HDMI port. Also we have a DirectTV HD reciever that had an HDMI port with a button to change your resolution from 480 - 720 - 1080p. In fact the Panasonic has HDMI connnections as well because we have a Panasonic 43" plasma at work.

  • Monty, are you sure you aren't referring to the more common 1080i? The 1080p sets just came out in the past few weeks.

  • The ATSC standard is 1080i, meaning 1080 interlaced at 60 fps. That is what is broadcast by NBC, CBS, HBO, Showtime and HDNet. ABC, Fox and ESPN do 720p, the other prominent HD standard. 1080p usually means progressive at 60 fps, basically the way a computer LCD usually works. As far as I know the only 1080p sets available now are LCD, Plasma hasn't gotten there yet. Theoretically any LCD with 1920x1080 resolution can do 1080p since it is by nature progressive and has the resolution. The gothca is can the inputs accept it. The first mainstream 1080 panel was Sharp's 45" one (about a year old now), it couldn't handle 1080p on most models. Since then Samsung has released a 1080 46" that can handle progressive and Westinghouse has a 37" one that can as well. The unfortunate thing is the Xbox 360 doesn't have DVI or HDMI which means it won't be able to output protected HD content from an MCE box, too bad really.

  • UPDATE: Most of the sets I'm looking at have one or more IEEE 1394 connections. This means the HD DVD and Blu-Ray drives will have a connection point for delivery of 1080p DVD content.

    Since I posted this, HP has announced a DLP set that has HDMI v1.2 1080p capable ports. I'm not particularly found of their design, but it's good to know someone is thinking ahead.

    Another thing, the Toshiba 1080p DLP's have started to ship and I looked at the 56HM195. It looked decent although the Sears display area was flooded in bad light and the source demo signal sucked. When the 56MX195 starts shipping, I plan to camp our in a store for an hour going over it ver carefully. Looks like a promising set.