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AE-100, Nintaus N9769 & HTPC. Comparison tests.

Discussion in 'Projectors, Screens & Video Processors' started by Kramer, Mar 30, 2002.

  1. Kramer

    Kramer
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    My expected trip away this weekend has failed to materialise! Some have cancelled. Not that I'm disappointed, more time to spend watching DVDs on the AE-100!

    Anyhow, I've had a chance to carry out some comparison testing which , hopefully, some here will find interesting.

    All comparisons are using the low lamp mode on a (temporary) Projecta 180cm wide 4/3 matte white screen (awaiting delivery of 16/9 200cm). Cables are: Component - Belden RG6 terminated with HQ gold plated phono plugs (using Silver solder) & VGA - FTP (shielded) Enhanced Cat 5 (solid core 24 AWG) terminated with HQ metal bodied HD-15 connectors.

    I'll start with the Nintaus.

    Firstly, the unit I have HAS macrovision enabled. I believe there is a remote hack to disable macrovision, but I've not went looking for it as it's of little consequence to me. Why would anyone copy a DVD to watch it later in very poor quality(even on my S-VHS machine there's no comparison to a DVD), without either Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS sound?

    Ths "mpeg glitches", which have been mentioned at length over at AVS forums, are, I feel, blown out of all proportion. I've just watched the extended special edition of T2, Ultimate Edition on Region 1. This film is over 2.5 hours in duration, & I only noticed the "glitches" twice. Even then they were momentary & only affected a fraction of the picture. Far less noticeable than a layer change. I believe that the fault lies not in the DVD drive, but in the software i.e. information overrun feeding the Sage chip. Hopefully this can be rectified with a firmware update.

    The "VGA bug" is not a problem in NTSC as it's only present in the overscan, & is eliminated by "centering" the projected image (shifting slightly to the right). On Pal material however, there is no overscan via the VGA, so shifting to the right results in a vertical black bar on the left hand side of the screen. By tweaking the image size on the projector & horizontal shift, it can be nearly all adjusted out. So it's not a major problem & will anyway hopefully be fixed by a firmware update.

    The "seemless branching" employed in this DVD is known to cause problems with some players, not the case with the Nintaus. Ran perfectly throughout, never skipping or pausing. Excellent.

    The DTS soundtrack sounded excellent. No problems to report regarding the optical/co-axial digital outs. I haven't tried the analogue outputs, & have no intention of doing so.

    Here's some really interesting stuff!

    Tim has asked what the VGA out feeding the AE-100 is recognised as. Well it depends!
    While playing a Region 1 (NTSC) disc, the Panasonic shows the signal as Wide 480. Excellent! However, when playing a Region 2 disc it's shown as SVGA. However, if the Nintaus output is changed to NTSC, the Panasonic now shows the signal as, yes, you guessed it, Wide 480!!
    So the VGA output of the Nintaus will supply the PT-AE100 with it's favourite food! Good news for all I think you'll agree.

    Now my opinions on the respective picture quality from different sources & different connections.

    1. DVD player, interlaced (Pioneer DV-444 Region/macrovision free or Nintaus N9769) feeding AE-100 S-video input:

    Don't even consider using this unless you are blind.

    2. Nintaus via interlaced component:

    Massive improvement over S-video. We're going in the right direction.

    3. Nintaus via progressive component:

    Very good. Far more stable image. Very "film like". Better definition & far better panning.Colours are more realistic, being particularly noticeable in skin/fleshtones. Blacks are also greatly improved. Now, when I say better, it's not that they are any "blacker or darker, but the contrast is way better, resulting in "perceived" blacker black. This I would say is the very minimum anyone should be using with the Panasonic.

    4. Nintaus via component VGA in Wide 480 mode, viewing The Fifth Element (superbit) & T2, Ultimate Edition, both Region 1 NTSC:
    Wow! The best of the bunch. The best "black" by far. Again, it's the perception of black due to increased contrast & detail in dark scenes/areas. Before I ran the AE-100 in Wide 480, I must confess I was disappointed with the blacks (grey actually, I don't think it's possible to achieve true black with today's technology regarding DLP/LCD projectors) as they appeared on my Panasonic. We would all prefer better, but with the AE-100 seeing Wide 480 they are far more acceptable.
    Colours are now, again, better than all combinations before. Really vivid & lifelike. Pans are excellent, with no artifacts visible. Combing is now non-existant. A very stable image overall, with this source finally doing justice to the AE-100. 'nuff said'.

    5. HTPC via VGA:

    Before I comment let me say that my HTPC isn't fully ready at the mo. I ordered an ATI Radeon 7500, but received the incorrect one. Currently awaiting the correct card. So my current config is as follows: Intel PIII 933mHz
    256 MB SD-Ram
    GeForce 2 GTS graphics card.
    Powerstrip (856x480 pixel perfect mapping)
    Zoomplayer (frony end)
    Power DVD Version 3 (video filter)
    Win DVD Version 3 (audio filter - DTS & DD 5.1 passthrough) Soundblaster Live (SPDIF digital out)

    Performance - in a word, excellent. The first DVD I watched was AI, & I had to check the PC as the picture was so full of grain. But it is this film! Fifth Element now looks excellent. AE-100 again in Wide 480. This IS the only resolution to feed this projector. I wouldn't go so far as Li On on this one, but when you see the results in Wide 480 you'll see why he made that comment.


    So what's my overall opinion?

    If you aren't seeing Wide 480 on the menu screen, you are no where near seeing the true performance of this projector. That rules out all component connections. You'll have to use the VGA, either from a HTPC (preferable) or the Nintaus. I can't comment on component/VGA transcoders (iScan etc..), but if they don't output Wide 480 they'll be useless with the Panasonic. The Nintaus (VGA, Wide 480) is the only thing that comes near to HTPC, & is very watchable. I still prefer the HTPC, but will need more time to compare the two.

    As the HTPC route is quite arduous (not unlike Frodo's quest in LOTR), I think the Nintaus, given it's excellent value for money, is more than acceptable. Me, well I have a Pronto, IRman & Girder fully set up on the PC, so it's definately HTPC for me.

    Sky digital via S-video, feeding a PCTV Rave PCI card, through dScaler also looks good at present (without much setting up), & should prove even better when fully tweaked.

    The moral of this tale WIDE 480 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    Any questions?

    Kramer
     
  2. Timh

    Timh
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    Kramer

    Thanks for the review, this has to be the best review I have read so far, I cannot believe no one as bothered at AVSForum yet, unless I missed it.
    Only one question, when you set the Nintaus to output NTSC with pal discs into vga, the Nintaus is using an internal transcoder to convert pal to NTSC, in the past this has been said to dergrade picture quality on other makes of player, would you say the Nintaus degrades the image in some way, or does pal look as good as NTSC?

    When I recently owned the Lecson progressive player, It would only output ntsc progressive when forced to output pal, I didn't notice any picture quality loss with this. But I did loose a couple of wows of pixels around the screen.
     
  3. nickhh

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    Kramer,

    I agree with most of your review, except a couple of things.
    The "VGA Bug" is the complete oposite of yours I can clearly see it from NTSC sources but is hidden in the overscan on Pal.

    The "mpeg glitches" I agree is not really a problem, I watched R1 Leathal Weapon 4 last night and only saw one very small one, but I have to say I did watch R2 Happy Gilmore a few days ago and saw the glithes about every 10 mins.

    I personally dont think ther is much to choose between the Nintaus VGA output and a HTPC with the AE100.

    What Sky Box are you using to get s-video out?

    Nick
     
  4. acave

    acave
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    Hi All, Might be getting an Iscan Pro in a week or so. Will let you know my results. Going to view the Sony 11T and a seleco cine 6 before I order the Iscan Pro.

    I should get the wide480 res. through the Iscan with no problems hopefully. Was playing Jedi Knight 2 today, looked fantastic :)
     
  5. Timh

    Timh
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    acave

    The iscan and the AE100 will only do true progressive scan with ntsc (wide 480).
    pal progressive will scale to svga into the vga port of the AE100. you will not get 625p for pal.
     
  6. Guest

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    So is the only way to get 625p via the component inputs? And is the picture better via the component input as 625p or via the VGA as whatever that is? My plan is to use a HTPC for DVDs and also route Sky+ S-Video through the PC and use DScaler, I'm hoping that will give me the best results but until I try it I won't know!

    Cheers
    Andy
     
  7. Timh

    Timh
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    HTPC is the best way to go and the only way to get pal progressive into vga with out the projector scaling the image.
    With the Panasonic you should always use the vga port to get the best image.
    I dont want the hassle of a pc, so I am going to purchase a Toshiba sd-510 for now for ntsc progressive and pal interlaced playback.
     
  8. richard plumb

    richard plumb
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    whatever happens for PAL, some scaling is inevitable, as the projector doesn't have enough lines to resolve the full PAL resolution.

    Even if the iScan outputs 'normal' SVGA, you should be able to force the AE100 into Wide mode.

    I'm also interested in how PAL material looks via NTSC on the Nintaus. Kramer, you said that the projector recognised PAL material as 'normal' VGA. Did you try manually selecting 'wide' mode on the projector?

    Also, how much does one of these machines cost, and in peoples opinion, is it the best option for the money, compared to expensive machines like the pioneer 747?
     
  9. Hoglet

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    Vertical scaling with PAL movies on the AE100 is *not* inevitable.

    Many PAL movies have an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, which means that only 436 of the 576 lines are active, the remaining being displayed as black letter-box bars.

    With the TheaterTek DVD player it is possible to scale the image to larger than the display size, by setting up a custom aspect ratio. This is remembered on a DVD by DVD basis. Lets assume your HTPC is setup to match the AE100 panel resolution of 856x480. If you create a custom aspect ratio (called Big) whose resolution is 1024x576 (ideal for PAL), then no vertical scaling will be necessary. Letterboxing will be greatly reduced. Note, the left and right extremes of the image will have been cropped.

    I think it works really well!

    --- Dave
     
  10. Guest

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    I've heard a lot of favourable reports about that player, where can you get it from and how much?

    Cheers,
    Andy.
     
  11. Guest

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    Tim..how are you going to get the component outputs of the Toshiba into the vga port of panny..are you going to use some form of convertor?
    Best regards
    LittleT2
     
  12. Timh

    Timh
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    T2

    I am going to use componant on the Ae100, it still looks pretty good.
    What form of connection are you using to the Ae100?
     
  13. Guest

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    Am looking at a possible investment in the transcoder....a progressive ntsc player plus the transcoder is a bit less that the IScan pro....will look to use the component inputs for a US X Box...
    Had intially budgeted for a Sony projector...so have room to make a few improvments. Then again i may invest in a better screen instead!!!!!
    Have followed all your post on avs forums as well.....you are certainly putting 100 percent effort in to finding the best way to run your Panny. The pal progressive problems is stilll there...it is a shame the Panasonic didnt support WIDE575P!!!!!
    ps liked your latest screen mount...perhaps you should think about running a little cottage industry!!!!
    best regards
    LittleT2
     
  14. Kramer

    Kramer
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    Well, seeing as this has been dead since last March, thought I'd send it back "up top".

    Maybe of help to many regarding the AE-100 performance V source.

    BTW, now exclusively running HTPC.
     
  15. Zig

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    Another bump for this oldie ;) It may of been answered in another thread but I would like my best options for TV for ocassional viewing through the AE100 without spending a fortune. Would S video feed from a suitable SKY box or convertor give an acceptable result or do I need to spend more money and effort than that?
    Your thoughts please.
     
  16. theritz

    theritz
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    Heck, Zig, that's a serious resurrection !! The second Coming, even - is it in honour of Kramer's post count, I wonder ??????

    Sean G.
     
  17. Zig

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    Yep, it sure is. Just the other week I had a day or two spare so I read every single post of Kramers, every single one a gem I can tell you :p
    [edit for schoolboy spelling mistake]
     

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