HDTV + Xbox 360 quality (antialiasing?)
October 30, 2007 7:55 PM   Subscribe

I recently purchased an HDTV (Vizio VX37L 37" LCD; 768p) and an Xbox 360 (Elite); am I getting the image quality I should be getting? Specifically, there seems to be far less antialiasing going on than I'd expect; "jaggies" are obvious from across the room. The 360 is connected to the TV via HDMI, and the 360 is outputting 720p.

I have some shots on Flickr of my screen that illustrate what I'm talking about (mostly from Portal / The Orange Box):


That photo, and previous ones, show quite jagged / "stair step" lines. If that's just how that particular game goes (or the system in general), I can suck it up and live with it; I'd certainly like to know if I have a bum unit before my exchange deadline runs out on Sunday, though (yay Gamestop! ... meh).
posted by korpios to Technology (17 answers total)
Your LCD has a resolution of 1366×768 at 720p, where the xbox puts out 1280x720 at 720p, and this mismatch could be causing the stepping. Can you adjust either device to get the resolution to match? Do you have a VGA or Componant cable with which to verify you're in fact getting a different quality signal with the HDMI cable?
posted by bizwank at 8:36 PM on October 30, 2007

That's what I would guess too. ISTR that some 1366x768 tvs have a mode where they display 720p in a 1280x720 window instead of scaling it. If the vizio does, that's your best bet. Then you'll get 1 pixel output = 1 pixel displayed.

Alternatively, you might get a better picture by outputting 1080i and forcing the Vizio to downrez what it's being sent. When it starts combining pixels, that might act as a sort of antialiasing.

It seems unlikely that you have a bum unit. It's more likely that you just don't like the way the unit is designed to work. 1366x768 isn't a little bit better than 1280x720, it's worse.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:39 PM on October 30, 2007

1366x768 isn't a little bit better than 1280x720, it's worse.

Sorry to hijack but do you mean that 1366x768 is worse in this application or in general?
posted by 6550 at 10:53 PM on October 30, 2007

One of the big problems with these HD TVs is that they just quietly display non-optimal images. Technology exists to resample 1280x720 to a very reasonable 1366x768 or the reverse. But does your display have that technology? Is the resampling chip turned on? Is the X-Box really putting out a true high def image or has it just upscaled an internal resolution of 640x480 or worse?

My suspicion is that the X-Box is the unit that's lying about its real capabilities. Borrow a PS3 and see what it does.

Oh, and for 6550: A unit with an odd resolution is suspicious because no device outputs that resolution. So what are the extra pixels for? Marketing deception? Worst case ought to be displaying the 1280x720 in a centered slightly smaller area than the full display area. In practice, it can be much worse than that. It's never going to be much better though, so the best thing is to get a display that exactly matches what you want to do with it.
posted by TeatimeGrommit at 11:10 PM on October 30, 2007

TeatimeGrommit: No, an xbox 360 really can output at 720p, as well as 1080i and 1080p. It's not lying about it's "real capabilities". Have any actual "real facts" to support those suspicions of yours?

Korpios: Vizio says your TV can do both 720p and 1080i. Set your xbox 360 to 1080i and see if that fixes the problem.
posted by cactus at 1:00 AM on October 31, 2007

It has to do with the scaler in your TV. My plasma has the same native resolution of 1366x768 and it looks absolutely beautiful with both 720p and 1080p settings on the xbox 360.
posted by mphuie at 1:20 AM on October 31, 2007

Best answer: I have that TV. I also have the slightly smaller 34 inch version. I don't think what you're seeing has anything to do with the TV whatsoever.

I could be wrong, but I don't think so.

Jaggies and anti-aliasing have nothing at all to do with the TV and everything to do with the game engine in question. If you look, for example, at the picture you linked to, the word "Portal" is perfectly smooth. As are the menu options and the little red box that surrounds them. No jaggies there at all.

My point is that your TV seems perfectly capable of displaying nice smooth graphics, as evidenced by the nice smooth title and menus. It's the game (or the system). Not the TV.

If you still think it's the TV. Check out the 360 dashboard. Are there jaggies and whatnot there? Not on my setup.
posted by jaded at 5:42 AM on October 31, 2007

While this is not authoritative, I believe that HDMI is really only beneficial at 1080p. I have my 360 setup on a tv that only does 1080i w/ component cables and it looks great. I'd recommend trying component cables and/or upping your rez to 1080i. 720 always gets wonky for all the reasons listed above.
posted by zennoshinjou at 5:49 AM on October 31, 2007

Try VGA if your TV has an input. I hear that's the best quality from an X-BOX.
posted by lohmannn at 6:36 AM on October 31, 2007

Sorry to hijack but do you mean that 1366x768 is worse in this application or in general?

In general.

Some HDTV gets pumped out at 1280x720. Instead of displaying this pixel for pixel, that tv has to rescale everything. Doing so introduces scaling artifacts, which can include jaggies -- the best you can hope for is few artifacts or mild artifacts, instead of the exactly zero artifacts you would get with a 1280x720 tv (operating in pixel for pixel mode).

Other HDTV gets pumped out at 1920x1080. Scaling this down to 1280x720 is simple -- take 3 lines of 1080 and turn it into 2 lines of 720. Easy and clean. On an oddball 768 tv, it has to take 3 lines and turn it into 2.13 lines, which isn't nearly as clean a transformation.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:27 AM on October 31, 2007

Seconding the VGA suggestion above. Buy the xBox VGA cable. It lets you output at 768p, so you can skip the TV's scaler and use the 360's likely much better graphics card.
posted by OldReliable at 7:28 AM on October 31, 2007

Its what i use to display on my 1366 X768 projector.
posted by OldReliable at 7:30 AM on October 31, 2007

Best answer: jaded has it. This isn't your Xbox. This isn't an issue with your TV's resolution (most 720p TVs are 1366x768, for chrissake). This isn't really about your HDMI cable -- although it's true that component cables will often look "softer" than HDMI, given the process of converting the analog component video to digital versus the digital precision of HDMI. I also doubt this is a scaling issue, as most scalers will also soften the image with shared pixels, and the flickr photos look sharp and locked to your LCD's windowscreening.

Current-gen console games still have jaggies. Even the good ones. There is less anti-aliasing than you'd expect, and this is especially apparent on HDTVs with HDMI that can precisely show each and every jag without any unintended aliasing. You'll be watching the cut-scenes going "wow, this looks *amazing*" and then you'll drop into jaggies when the real gameplay starts.

I don't think this is grounds to return anything, but you may want to experiment with cabling to see if component cables match the way you'd like the video to look, or taking it over to a friend's house to see if you prefer the look of their TV.
posted by eschatfische at 7:53 AM on October 31, 2007

Best answer: Xbox 360 games have more jaggies than PC games. Halo 3 is absolutely hideous with them. Xbox game developers seem to eschew anti-aliasing. Maybe they assume most people sit far enough away from their TVs they don't notice.

If you want to test your video quality, try a simple beautifully rendered XBLA game like Lumines or Every Extend Extra Extreme. The demo will do. Those games look really smooth to me on my 1920x1200 20" LCD when run at 1080i.
posted by Nelson at 8:15 AM on October 31, 2007

Response by poster: Some followups:

– I've tried component cables as well, and I've tried 1080i output as well. Component looks nearly identical; 1080i looks slightly blurrier.

– My TV does have a VGA input, but I'd certainly like to eliminate the quite real possibility that it's just the way the game/system is coded/built.

– Lack of antialiasing is fairly obvious on text for the 360 dashboard; in particular, the black text on the brushed metal side pop-out menus looks badly aliased.

– I'd try swapping setups with a friend, but my 360-and-HDTV-endowed friends and family are all back in NY, 1300 miles away. ^_^

– I'll try those XBLA games when I get home today; the only XBLA game I'm really familiar with is Geometry Wars, and the menu (shown in a couple of shots before the Portal shots) certainly looks aliased.
posted by korpios at 9:12 AM on October 31, 2007

I would recommend the VGA cable as well. Hopefully it will run in 1:1 pixel mode and avoid scalling (the closest resolution in VGA mode is actually 1360x768).

Some Xbox 360 games run at a lower resolution to make a compromise between anti-aliasing, HDR and framerate. Some notorious examples are PGR3 and Halo 3. Halo 3 renders at 1152×640 then scales up to 720p, Bungie says it's because of the lighting method it uses. PGR3 is kinda obsolete because, PGR4 is more fun and beautiful. It runs at full 720p and what looks like 4xAA.

Some popular games run at 720p but just don't have anti aliasing. Orange Box is the most recent game that could have used some AA. Unreal Engine 3 based games run at full 720p, Bioshock and Gears of Wars are two examples, they use some sort of AA method but it's kind of a hack.
posted by robofunk at 10:00 PM on October 31, 2007

Response by poster: Okay, I'm fairly certain at this point that it's just how the Xbox 360 runs with certain games. That's somewhat disappointing, but it's nothing to cry over.

Lumines did indeed look nice and smooth; furthermore, when the Orange Box loads, the logo for the Source engine likewise looks smooth (even if the games don't).

My gamer brother (much more "hardcore" than my casual-gamer self) says he actually plays his Windows games with all AA turned off anyway for the sake of frame rate. He sent me some screenshots, and, indeed, they look quite similar to what I'm seeing.

Thanks for all the advice! :-)
posted by korpios at 11:34 PM on November 1, 2007

« Older ok cupid. i'm ready. any day now.   |   ...but what do you actually do? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.