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HD-Ready Players available now/imminently

Discussion in 'TVs' started by Rob.Screene, Oct 2, 2005.

  1. Rob.Screene

    Rob.Screene
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    I don't think it's obvious that there are lots of HD capable players out now, such as the sort of stuff Dixons is quietly using to run lose lovely HD Plasma displays, quietly letting us assume that we need a Sky-HD box early next year for.

    I thought now is a good time to recap on the big leaps of player technology, since many have HD capable displays and hundreds more will have them over the next few months...

    This losely ties on with the "HD-ready" standard for displays, but that is only concerned with the display and it supporting the DVI/HDCP or HDMI connector standards.

    I thought I'd clarify my understanding of what "HD" and "HDTV" capable means in terms of source formats a player may or may not handle...
    Any thoughts and experience are appreciated.

    HD formats:
    1. US HDTV
    Desc: Many of us may have clips in this format from HD bitstream recordings by viewers in the USA. This is also transferrable in digital format to/from the JVC HD VCR models over firewire (but not the JVC D-Theater encrypted pre-recorded titles that they appear to have stopped releasing).
    Tech: MPEG2@HL 1080i/60 720p/60 TS format, often relatively low bitrate is has been broadcast in the US for years.

    2. EURO HDTV
    Desc: i.e. The sort of format Sky-HD might use? I think Euro1080 uses it and we might be recording this stuff off-air soon??? I think Australia have terrestrial HD tv, i.e. a HD version of Freeview.
    Tech: MPEG2@HL 1080i/50 720p/50 TS format.
    Tech: MPEG2@HL 1080i/50 720p/50 ??? format with h.264 extensions (might be addopted my many broadcasters)

    3. US DVD; standard-def played upscaled to 720p/50 or 1080i/60
    Tech: DVD-Video 480i on-disc CSS protection Region1.
    Desc: You might have lots of these and want to watch them.
    Ok, so it's not an HD source, but can in theory newer players can provide better de-interlacing and scaling than many plasma displays do in many cases, like why people currently use external Video Scaler boxes, like the Lumagen or Iscan.

    4. PAL DVD; UK/Euro standard-def played upscaled to 720p/50 or 1080i/50 or /60 with decent frame rate conversion??
    Tech: DVD-Video 576i on-disc CSS protection Region2/4.
    Desc: You might have lots of these and want to watch them. Some solutions don't play 50Hz (euro) rate stuff very well and skip and judder.

    5. WM9-HD DRM playback at 720p or 1080i/60
    Tech: Microsoft with on-disc or networked digital-rights-management.
    Desc: Several titles available to buy now.

    6. Blu-ray HD-DVD
    Tech: New physical format, WM9 or MPEG2@HL with v.264 extensions.

    7. HD-DVD
    Tech: Enhanced physical format, WM9 or MPEG2@HL with v.264 extensions.

    Physical formats:
    Some networked players don't have DVD drives, but some can play US HDTV straight off of DVD-R's...
    I guess in a year of so when HD-DVD's become available that that'll become important then too, but right now it's a format war I'm reluctant to buy in to.

    Connections:
    a) Component analog - can be very high quality.
    VGA analog - can be very high quality, carries RGBS which is needed by most high-end CRT projectors, like mine.
    b) DVI
    c) DVI with HDCP - will be needed for digital output of upscaled DVD's to HDCP capable displays (or unofficial converter boxes?)
    d) HDMI - same as DVI with HDCP, except has tighter standard for digital video levels and HDMI v1.1 can carry uncompressed audio too.

    e) S-Video, Composite and SCART - Not capable of HD but might be useful for downscaling the output before that big flat panel arrives!

    Lets get a list of players together and what we know they can do with regards to the above features we're gonna want.

    Again, your thoughts and experience appreciated.
    Rob.
     
  2. Rob.Screene

    Rob.Screene
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    Let me start with the Roku HD1000 Photoview that I use (about £240).
    http://www.rokulabs.com/products/photobridge/features.php

    It has a network connection and doesn't have a disc tray, everything is played from a host machine on a wired network...

    1. US HDTV
    Plays very, very well, incl Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. Requires beta firmware and third-party MPlay app, which are both very easy to install.

    2. EURO HDTV
    Can do 50Hz output, but setting to change to 50Hz is not automatic and doesn't fill my display properly. It won't handle h.264 euro enhanced stuff apparently, but I've not confirmed that.

    3. UD DVD
    I use a HTPC running software AnyDVD to make DVD's available to the Roku off DVD disc or the hard disc. It works, but de-interlacing isn't great. Could set output to be 480i to probably make panel displays do de-interlacing, but my CRT projector can't do that so I haven't tried it.

    4. PAL DVD
    Same as combined 2 and 3 issues above.

    5. WM9-HD - can't do as hardware is MPEG2@HL only.
    6. Blu-ray -- can't do most as hardware is MPEG2@HL only. Will handle lazy releases that use the old (non-h.264) HDTV compression format. Would need networked pc to have a reader and AnyDVD type decryption on a pc is doubtfull short-term.
    7. HD-DVD - as 6.

    Connections:
    Component
    VGA
    Coax SPDIF and analog L+R for audio.
    *No DVI

    I'm particularly interested to hear about xbox360, ps3, Snazio's and Linkplayer2 networked HD DVD players with drives, etc.
    cheers,
    Rob.
     
  3. MattB

    MattB
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    Thanks for starting this thread, Rob. I have reviewed the available players for streaming 720p/1080i off a network to a compatible plasma monitor and decided the Snazio SZ1310 is what I need.

    Unfortunately Snazzishop do not list that model and do not reply to email or their online assistant service. Has anyone had any kind of response from snazio?

    Matt.
     
  4. Rob.Screene

    Rob.Screene
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  5. Joe Fernand

    Joe Fernand
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    Hello all

    A quick update to an 'old' thread - the SnaZio SZ1310 is now available in the UK; small numbers to begin with though supply will increase as demand grows :)

    Best regards

    Joe
     
  6. Rob.Screene

    Rob.Screene
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    Hi Joe,
    I have two questions
    1. Can it play back PAL DVD's at 720p/50 or 1080i/50 via the network without skipping?

    2. What's the deinterlacing like for video and film sources? i.e Does it have film-lock 3-2 pulldown removal before scaling?

    I wonder how long it will take the xbox260 or ps3 to be hacked to get similar functionality?

    Here's a few links for anyone who is interested...
    http://www.snazio.com/Links/Net DVD Cinema(new).htm

    I noticed under the FAQ that you would have to use a media fileserver to get upsampled DVD playback, i.e. not normal protected DVD's in the the on-board tray drive...
    4- Can I do upscaling for DVD playback?
    [8/10/2005] No, upscaling is for streamed/network video, not for commercial DVD disk playback.
    29- Can I play a CSS DVDs up to 720P or 1080i?
    [8/10/2005] No.

    Looks like 15Mbps HD strema might be ok...
    24- What is the highest bitrate the player supports over wireless and wired network?
    [8/10/2005] Under perfect condition, the player supports up to 15Mbps. However, it is highly subjected to your wired/wireless environment.

    cheers,
    Rob.
     
  7. Joe Fernand

    Joe Fernand
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    Hello Rob

    I think you have to be aware of in-built 'abilities' and how those abilities can be tapped into and what manufacturers can and cant promote :)

    I now have the SZ1350 and SZ1310 to hand - the latter unit has no on-board Disc playback.

    The SZ1350 is a Networked DVD player and plays every R1 and R2 disc I've thrown at it (I'm sure there will be one or two it wont play mind) - you can set the player to Output all manner of video resolutions via SCART, 3RCA (Component) and DVI.

    The SZ1310 is a Networked Media Player not a Networked DVD player - it will play all the file formats as outlined on the SnaZio website (its a long list I'll not repeat it) - you'd need to convert your DVD Video discs to a compatible file format and then have the SZ1310 stream them over your Network from your hard-drive. (Apologies if I've misunderstood your question).

    You can Output Interlaced, Progressive, up-sampled or native resolution - you can even down sample if you want to view HD files on a non HD TV.

    I have no problems on the SZ1350 with multi region playback and no problems with CSS.

    The DVI Output on both units can be set to PC or HDTV resolutions and is non HDCP.

    The Sigma designs chip set is OK - our initial interest in this player was as a Transport to feed SD and HD files into the likes of a Lumagen Video Processor; I wouldn't make any great claims that the Sigma processor will provide the best PAL and NTSC deinterlacing on the market. As a guide its on PAR with what Panasonic provide in the TH-42PHD8 Series 8 Display.

    Some folk are reporting Wireless HD streaming with high gain aerials and other folk are reporting 20Mbs on a wired connection.

    Best regards

    Joe
     
  8. Rob.Screene

    Rob.Screene
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    I think I understand and did a little further searching.

    Standard CSS protected DVD's in the player are only output scaled-up if the special mode was to have been enabled by a handset combination that the manufacturer cannot promote, same with the ability to play R1 and R2 regions.

    I think question about skipping is still unanswered. It stems from my Roku skipping with PAL 576i/50 material, even at 1080i/50 output.

    Does it automatically switch output rate on seeing a region2 pal DVD, like progressive scan DVD players do?

    regards,
    Rob.
     

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