Do so-called 'upconverting' DVD players upconvert 480p to 720/1080 over component cables?
January 2, 2007 9:30 PM   Subscribe

Do so-called 'upconverting' DVD players upconvert 480p to 720/1080 over component cables? Is the difference between HDMI and component cables noticeable when watching standard DVDs on an HDTV?

Ok, so I'm new to the HDTV game - the wife used her bonus to buy a 32" Sony Bravia. It looks great with the with our new HDTV cable service via HDMI cabling. However, when I loaded up the old DVDs, they appeared very grainy on the DVD player I bought less than a year ago. I went out and bought the Sony upconverting HDMI DVD Player (DVPNS75H), but since there is only one HDMI input on the Bravia, I'm using component cabling to connect the DVD player. Am I dumb expecting this analog source to be upconverted? Should I just have stuck with my old player?
posted by drgonzo to Technology (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer:
Should I just have stuck with my old player?
In all likelihood, the answer to this question is no. Older DVD players generally sent compressed analog signals over composite cables. Even if your older DVD player had component cables, it likely supported a maximum resolution that is lower than what your HDTV supports and the signal was limited by the source material. Furthermore, this feature often required going into the setup of the DVD player working properly over component.

With an upscaling DVD player, you can get a reasonably good 1080i or 1080p image. Some players do this over HDMI only, some also do it over component. Yours, in fact, only upconverts to 480p via component and 1080i via HDMI. If you want upconverting via component, you need to return this DVD player and buy another one. You can find many suitable options, not to mention more opinions than probably necessary, at AVS Forum.
posted by sequential at 10:27 PM on January 2, 2007

Response by poster: thanks for the info and the link, sequential :)
posted by drgonzo at 10:31 PM on January 2, 2007

Am I dumb expecting this analog source to be upconverted?
No, you and your wife are not dumb. HDTVs are excellent at doing one thing: displaying high definition signals. They are generally deplorable at displaying analog signals, which is pretty much what everything going into the TV is other than the few HD channels you get via cable. (Do your standard def cable channels look noticeably worse than they did on your analog set?)

Just a few years ago, analog signals were so bad on all forms of HDTV that a simple demonstration of an analog signal in a consumer electronics store was like watching a YouTube video in full screen. The technology has gotten much better, but it is almost entirely dependent on what television you own and what type of TV you bought. LCD, Plasma, and DLP televisions are still quite far behind tube televisions in their ability to display an analog signal that comes close to the quality of the same signal on an analog television. Not all tube televisions are even good at this - it's just a feature you simply have to pay for at this point.

Now that upscaling is en vogue, some televisions are coming with upscaling built in. The difference between a crappy chipset that upscales and an acceptable one is immense. Most TVs in your neighborhood consumer electronics store either don't have one or come with commodity chips. Pioneer and Sony both make high end TVs with excellent upscaling chips in them, but we're talking some serious money for a TV at this point.

If I am thinking of the right model, your wife bought a 32" LCD. It actually does a reasonable job of displaying analog signals so long as you're watching the set from 8 feet away or more. However, it does not appear to have the ability to upscale inputs. If I'm right, you'll need a new DVD player. If you want to drop the money on a serious upscaling DVD player, go with one of the Denon players. Read the reviews on the players, as they are not all equal. I highly recommend sitting out the next couple of years of high definition DVD players and investing in the 2910CI or the 2910. The latter is discontinued and can be found at significant discounts used. If you don't need the total package (sound and video), try finding the Oppo OPDV971H. It's a quarter of the price of the 2910CI, produces a great image, but lacks the robust features and build quality of the Denons.
posted by sequential at 10:54 PM on January 2, 2007

Just FYI: I recently got an HDTV and a Motorola digital cable box (provider is Comcast). The cable box has both HDMI and component video outputs. I also bought a Philips upconverting DVD player that only has an HDMI output (about $50 at BestBuy).

I've got the cable box connected with component cables (Y/Pb/Pr) and the DVD player with an HDMI cable, and everything looks good.

The cheapest HDMI cable BestBuy had was about $70(!), but I looked online and found one for about $12, delivered. Works fine, and I can buy some DVDs with the money I saved.
posted by spacewrench at 11:03 PM on January 2, 2007

The scalers in Philips plasmas are quite nice, for the record. Watching DVDs from a standard-def player is quite satisfying.
posted by kindall at 11:05 PM on January 2, 2007

The scalers in Philips plasmas are quite nice, for the record. Watching DVDs from a standard-def player is quite satisfying.

Hey, I just bought one of those 2 days ago! How's it going, Philips Plasma buddy?

drgonzo, a not-widely known secret to the next-generation console wars is the wonderful DVD player you can now purchase for the Xbox 360. Most HD-DVD players out there will run you a good 800.00. However, if you find yourself a used Xbox 360 or a core system for around 399.00, you can go out and get the HD-DVD drive for 199. The output is ...glorious.

I mean, I'm not gay or anything, but watching Tom Cruise sweat in hi-def in M:I:III gets me all curious.
posted by thanotopsis at 11:12 PM on January 2, 2007

For the record, I use the 360 for watching DVDs. It's quite satisfying. It does upconvert over component. Given the total library of HD-DVD and the uncertainty of its future, I haven't bought the HD-DVD attachment yet, but I'd highly recommend it if you should decide to go HD-DVD. (And the 360 itself doesn't suck!)

Don't buy your cables retail. Ever.
I've got the cable box connected with component cables (Y/Pb/Pr) and the DVD player with an HDMI cable, and everything looks good.
An excellent option, if it's available on your cable box.
posted by sequential at 11:20 PM on January 2, 2007

How's it going, Philips Plasma buddy?

Well, mine was a refurb (42") that arrived broken and took five weeks to get repaired. But they put a new-model tube in it that is noticeably better than the old one, so I'm pretty happy, especially for the price. I have to say anamorphic DVDs are very nice on it, as are HD TV shows digitally downsampled to anamorphic SD and played back via my EyeHome.

DirecTV's crappy compression, on the other hand, makes SD nearly unwatchable on the set.

I'll probably get a Mac Mini for it soon and just download my shows.
posted by kindall at 11:30 PM on January 2, 2007

Response by poster: thanks for the suggestion spacewrench, i'm going to try my motorola cable box with the component cable and see if the HDMI cable on the upconverting DVD player is a better picture.

whew! i'm through 39 pages of AVS and i've learned a lot so far!
posted by drgonzo at 12:18 AM on January 3, 2007

You will be in for way too much info at AVSforums.

I post/browse there often (as I just bought a 50" Plasma).

If you want a upcoverting DVD player that will do 720p/1080i over component, get the Oppo OPDV971H.

However IMO, it is way better to use a digital signal to your TV. I have an Xbox 360 which upconverts over component and my Oppo blows it away. You may want to invest in a HDMI switchbox so you can connect your DVD player via HDMI. I've seen them as low as $30 on
posted by mphuie at 12:19 AM on January 3, 2007

How about a $30 HDMI switch? I have this one, and it works fine for cable/DVD switching.
posted by kcm at 12:19 AM on January 3, 2007

I also think that the upconverting makes a difference. I have an LG LDA-531 player which is supposed to upconvert only over HDMI, but a simple hack enables it over component.

That's what I get for buying HDTV too far ahead of the curve - no HDMI input.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 6:39 AM on January 3, 2007

kcm beat me to it. Get an HDMI switch.
posted by adamrice at 7:32 AM on January 3, 2007

As far as I can tell, all of the 32" Bravias run at 1366x768.

Unless it has a 1280x720 mode running in a window inside the screen, this is all it will ever show you. Whatever you send it, at whatever resolution, the TV will convert it to 1366x768 and show you that rescaled picture.

Really, the only questions are whether the scalers in the TV are better than the scalers in the dvd player, and whether you're going to get even more artifacts by scaling from 480p up to 1080i and then back down to 1366x768 than you would by just letting the tv convert it from 480p to 1366x768 directly.

Grain and noise are part and parcel of the Sony tv using a nonstandard resolution. You'd probably have a consistently better picture with a lower resolution of 720p, since that scales cleanly from a dvd's 480p.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:10 AM on January 3, 2007

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