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Games Entertainment

Console Image Quality Guide 269

Posted by michael
from the big-screen dept.
Jakub writes "We've posted a comprehensive guide on how to improve your console's image quality. It covers everything from the various connectors through cables to fine-tuning by modifying sharpness and brightness. Though the article uses the prolific PlayStation 2 as an example, it applies equally well to all video devices."
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Console Image Quality Guide

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  • by matt4077 (581118) on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @10:01AM (#4373163) Homepage
    My console is text-only. Are these console-images a new feature in the Linux 8.0 that just came out?
  • by bytesmythe (58644) <bytesmythe AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @10:01AM (#4373167)
    guide on how to improve your console's image quality.

    • squint
    • get glasses
    • stop playing with yourself

    I think those would be a good start. If they don't help, try:

    • turning up the brightness knob
    • turning on the display
    • plugging in the display
    • plugging in the console
    • inserting a game

    If after following these steps your image quality hasn't improved, consider taking the console back for a refund. Or better yet, just send it to me and I'll take care of it for you.

  • ad for monster (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lubricated (49106) <michalp@gmail. c o m> on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @10:06AM (#4373195)
    This really isn't about improving your image quality. This article is one giant add for monster cable. When you buy monster cable you not only pay for cable you also pay for advertising. There are other good cables out there.
    • But as any true audiophile will tell you cables are important. And it's really important you get the ones that are burnt in [innerear.on.ca]... I'm still trying to work out how you do anything to a piece of of metal with negligible hysteresis.
      • Re:ad for monster (Score:5, Informative)

        by jonnythan (79727) on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @10:24AM (#4373337) Homepage
        But the article is all about Monster Game.

        Any audio or videophile will tell you Monster Cable is way overpriced... and Monster Game?! Stick another name on it and up the price!

        There is tons of good cable out there. Notice he didn't compare the Monster Game S-Video with the $6 Wal-Mart S-Video. Hmmm.
        • Re:ad for monster (Score:3, Informative)

          by BaronVonDuvet (612870)
          I worked in hi-fi/tv sales for a number of years so spent quite a long time trying different cables. All hi-fi people agree that the cheap cable you get in the box isn't up to much and that a slightly more expensive shielded cable will give you better results. The problem is the differences are small, so most people would be hard pushed to tell the difference between a very expensive cable (such as Monster) and something cheap from Wal-Mart.

          It's definitely better to have something like S-Video rather than an RF connector. However, a cheap S-Video would only look bad compared to a more expensive cable if you are using good quality Home Cinema equipment. I'm not convinced the output of a game from a console is that good. Generally you'd be better off cleaning the screen, buying a cheap connector and breaking & making the connections periodically to avoid the build-up of dirt.

          • Naturally anyone in hi-fi sales will agree with that. They're trying to sell things with extremely high markup. These are the same people who convince people you need to spend several bucks a foot on speaker wire.

            • I noticed that a LOT of online stores try and push those overpriced cables exclusively too. I bought a 25' foot S-Video cable for $13 [cables.cc], and as far as I'm concerned, paying 10 times as much for 2% more quality (or whatever) isn't worth it.

              audio/videophiles get the worst bang for their buck. But hey, they gotta blow their dough on something.

              --

        • Re:ad for monster (Score:3, Informative)

          by _|()|\| (159991)
          Notice he didn't compare the Monster Game S-Video with the $6 Wal-Mart S-Video.

          Actually, if you made it to page six, the article does just that. I couldn't see a difference, except in the zoomed-in screenshot.

          • filtering.. (Score:2, Interesting)

            by gl4ss (559668)
            could have done something to it.. the zoomed images are a bit sketchy, and come on, tv card in for video comparision? come on, besides, if he's using tv-card for playing console games he would be using dscaler and it's filters if he had brains.

            the article just boils down to this: "svideo is better than composite". now really, IS THIS A GUIDE???

            where's RGB??

            and some better guide would have mentioned things like getting a vga adapter or rgb connectors where possible..(dreamcast has some vga thingy at least)
            • The dreamcast VGA picture is outstanding. Every pixel is as sharp as my ViewSonic PF790 can make it. The only downside it there's no longer any bluring, so I can see the pixelated edges of circles, and see the separate colors in the 16-bit color palate. Not having to squint anymore playing racing games makes it all worth it.
      • by fireboy1919 (257783) <.rustyp. .at. .freeshell.org.> on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @01:17PM (#4374557) Homepage Journal
        And any true audiophile who has done a blind test (switching the cables on their system using EXACTLY the same speakers/reciever/amps) will tell you that cables aren't important and that the rest of the audiophiles have been fed a line.

        Any such audiophile who does research on the physics of cables will come up with the knowledge that the very, very, slight benefits of higher end cables can only be achieved at lengths of greater than about HALF A MILE.

        You can argue this 'till you're blue in the face, of course, but I suggest that instead you use the scientific method: hook your cheap cables and your good cables up to a switch so that all the other equipment is the same. See if it makes any difference whatsoever.

        I have a friend with a LOT of monster cable who became a bit depressed after this test, because he owned a LOT of Monster cable. He could have spent the money on even more expensive speakers to actually improve his sound.

        Qualifier: there is a difference between shielded and unshielded, twisted pair, and straight. However, there is very little difference between Radio Shack 16 gauge shielded, twisted pair and Monster 16 gauge shielded, twisted pair.

        My qualifications: I've been a sound technician for 9 years now, and a musician for 17 years. I can play four instruments, have a vocal range of three octaves. I have worked VERY hard to have a critical ear over this time period, and I think I do.
    • Re:ad for monster (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AnimalSnf (149118)
      I think the author of the article, Alan Dang, misspelled his name. It seems Dung fits him much better since it's also the quality of his article. Couple of points:

      (1) Not a SINGLE comparison is between the same kind of cable. Every single comparison is between the regular RCA and Monster S-Video cable. What's next, comparing an optical cable with RCA?

      (2) The article is completely devoid of any facts other than some really slowly loading screenshots.

      (3) You need a monster cable like you need a lobotomy. Not only do many other cables found in big chain stores are just as good, remember this if you are actually considering buying one: That $20 cable costs about $2 to make, which might explain why other cables sell for so much less.
      • Not a SINGLE comparison is between the same kind of cable.

        False: see page six, comparing generic composite to Monster composite (noticeable improvement) and generic S-video to Monster S-video (slight improvement in zoomed-in screenshot).

        • > False: see page six, comparing generic composite
          > to Monster composite (noticeable improvement) and
          > generic S-video to Monster S-video (slight
          > improvement in zoomed-in screenshot).

          My own tests of the cheaper (sub $20) s-video cable and Monster show almost none of the checkerboard pattern displayed on both that page's screenshots.

          I *have* noticed that checkerboard once or twice if the cable wasn't plugged in fully (as in I pulled the console too far forward and pulled the video connector a little ways out of its socket). Hmm ... :)
    • Re:ad for monster (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Boone^ (151057)
      There's a guy here who's incredibly proud of the fact that he's "had to" spend $150 on cables to connect his bp2002 fronts. He claims that with cheap $75 cables he wouldn't be getting the same sound quality and he'd be wasting his speakers.

      Nothing irks me more than people who believe that the money:quality ratio is constant. It just isn't always the case... for instance, based on pure horsepower, I'd take my $700 AMD box over a $1500 Mac.
      • Re:ad for monster (Score:3, Interesting)

        by dododge (127618)
        There's a guy here who's incredibly proud of the fact that he's "had to" spend $150 on cables to connect his bp2002 fronts. He claims that with cheap $75 cables he wouldn't be getting the same sound quality and he'd be wasting his speakers.

        Bah, $150 is chump change. If he just wants some expensive cables, he can get a pair of Opus MM [transparentcable.com] speaker cables for around $23K. And don't forget the $1000 power cables [graniteaudio.com] for each component. Not to mention high-end power outlets and/or regenerators. You mean your outlets use steel screws to connect to house wiring instead of brass? Ha! They're useless! :-)

        And this isn't even close to being the absurd stuff. This guy [demon.co.uk] sells a pen that he claims will improve the sound quality of CDs by writing affirmative messages on their jacket covers. I have seen audiophile discussion boards where making fun of such products will get you flamed; "how can you say it doesn't work if you haven't tried it"?

        Nothing irks me more than people who believe that the money:quality ratio is constant.

        I generally just build my own cables these days. For example I've found Belden 8281 (a 75ohm coax normally used to wire broadcast studios) for as little as $0.10/foot from folks who just want to get excess spools out of their warehouse. The tools and terminators easily end up being more expensive than the cable itself. I've also tried a few more exotic things like DIY braided power cords, which did reduce a ground loop I was having at the time but are mostly just a fun project even if they don't make a noticable improvement.

    • Monster Cables are like Bose products or Sony Home theater, a joke. All 3 are a text book lesson in genius marketing and polishing shit.

      Make no mistake, cables make a difference to those who care and Monsters products are worlds better then what comes out of the box or from wallmart. But they do not represent a good value-performance ratio. For the same amount you can buy a lesser marketed but more respected cable that is far superior. Many people will tell you that when you buy Monster or Bose you are paying for all their bright shiny ads in the magazines. This is very true, your dollars go to more marketing and not so much R&D or quaility materials/manufacturing.

      Im not one of the crazy bastards who spends $15,000 on one speaker cable. I think if you add up all my cables it would total less then $3000. Many people who watch a movie at my house are blown away. There are also a lot of people who are convinced that it doesn't look any better then there 20'' Magnavox tv thats 10yrs old and conencted to an old VCR. Its quite simple, they are WRONG WRONG WRONG. At the same time, they do not know enough or care enough about the picture or sound to invest a dime in their equipment. I may not agree with them, I may think they are farking idiots, but I must respect their opinion.

      P.S. Despite the many mentions of Monster Cable, I think this was a great article for educating people on the different connections, and the bennefits of investing in good cables.

      bettercables.com [bettercables.com]

      vampirewire.com [vampirewire.com]

      vandenhull.com [vandenhull.com]

    • Sorry man, you're mistaken. Alan payed for those cables out of his own pocket. We don't get them as "review material" or anything of that sort. He's our local audio/videophile, and he picked what fit his desires and student budget best. That's the reason we have only monster and 'generic' cables. It's a bit difficult to buy every other cable out there. As for them costing too much, I think you also understand that in all manner of technical obsessions, people will spend ten times more for something only 10% better.



      I understand what the article looks like, but isn't it a bit obvious? I mean, if we were making an advertorial I hope you'd judge my editing skills sufficiently advanced to make it more subtle. The reason I left it as is, was in the hope that people would realize "wow, if they're pushing a product, maybe it's a little blatant."

  • Text of article (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    The Basics

    Introduction

    If you only remember one thing from this article, remember this: After the memory card, the single most important upgrade for your console is an upgraded video cable.

    Some of you may be surprised to read that the PlayStation 2 and TV are not configured for an optimal picture and audio quality straight out of the box. Neither is an Xbox or Gamecube. Some of you may be familiar with upgraded cables, but be unsure about the advantages on a "regular TV" as opposed to an exotic $15,000 plasma. Others may wonder if ultra-high-end cables such as those from Monster Cable are actually better than other cables. In this feature, we'll look at these questions and try to explain some of the concepts behind video quality without being too technical. We'll focus mostly on the PlayStation 2, as it is the most popular console, but by the time you finish reading this, you'll know how to maximize your console's picture and sound performance, whether you have an AV system that's 10 years old or 10 days old. This is a comprehensive article, so make sure you're comfy before you start reading.

    Background Check

    The first step in tweaking your console picture quality is using an appropriate video cable, and to do this we'll need to know the supported inputs for your TV. So, you'll either need to find your TV manual or take a look at the back panel of the TV as you read this next section.

    RF Connector

    All of you will have an RF connector. This is the input you normally use for your TV antenna and represents the oldest and worst format available. With this connection, the audio and video signal from the console must be converted into a "Cable/Antenna" channel for Channel 3 or 4. In the process, not only is the video quality greatly reduced but your console will also be limited to reduced-quality mono sound. If this is the only connector you have on the back of your TV, we're really sorry. There's not much you can do to improve your picture quality other than buying a new TV.

    Composite

    The composite video connector is the next most common input found on TVs, and unsurprisingly this is what the PS2, Xbox, and GC ship out of the box. In this approach, the video and audio signals are sent separately. Once the signal from the console system reaches the TV, it is decoded into separate luma (a form of brightness or intensity) and chroma (color) information.
  • by back_pages (600753) <back_pages@c[ ]net ['ox.' in gap]> on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @10:10AM (#4373225) Journal
    How to Optimize your Commodore Cassette Tape Drive

    Tips for getting the most out of a Walmart Keyboard

    Is your toast the best it can be? Read on to find out...

    Super Mario Bros. Tips and Tricks - How to run AND JUMP in COMBINATION!

    And finally:

    Screws: Righty-tighty or do they work better if you use hammers?

    • I used to spend fucking hours tweaking my C64 tape drive to load some of the more difficult loaders.
    • > How to Optimize your Commodore Cassette Tape Drive

      Use Monster cable between your tape deck and your VIC-20, of course! Eliminate those errors from 20-year-old tapes!

      > Tips for getting the most out of a Walmart Keyboard

      The XT keyboard port (gotta use that, none of this wimpy small-connector PS/2 stuff!) has five pins. Buy five strands of $15/foot cable and hook 'em up, one to a pin, for fastest time between keyboard and CPU!

      > Is your toast the best it can be? Read on to find out...

      Make more efficient toast by eliminating resistive heating in your AC line with a heavy-gauge solid-core copper plug, only $30/foot! Or for the best toast, buy $50/foot heavy-gauge pure-silver cable and rewire your whole frikkin' house!

      > Super Mario Bros. Tips and Tricks - How to run AND JUMP in COMBINATION!

      Best accomplished, of course, with our $10 per foot per pin per connector Super Mario Cable between your controller and your console!

      > And finally:
      >
      > Screws: Righty-tighty or do they work better if you use hammers?

      Huh? I don't get it. How the hell am I supposed to sell more cable with that?

  • That way you can up the resolution to 1280x960 or higher. As far as I know, there are no televisions that can display that high of a resolution yet. But really, they should include the option of VGA out on consoles.
    • There are plenty of TVs out there that display 1920x1080 (the HD standard).
    • Have to agree with you there - if you are concerned about "image quality", console gaming isn't probably where you want to be in the first place. The games are hard wired for an resolution that was last popular in gaming during the 486-early pentium era, and when you buy a modern PC with a modern video card (said video card costing 150% of an entire console, admittedly) you can have "image quality" that console gamers don't even *know they could* dream about.

      (That said, I still play console games because they aren't in my home office, making it *appear* I'm not at the same computer activity I was at for the previous 12 hours working... obsessive compulsiveness I guess.)
    • Of course - why didn't I think of that? I'll run out right now and buy Super Smash Bros. Melee, Monkey Ball 1 and 2, Eternal Darkness, and Animal Crossing for my PC right now. Oh, and I need to spend more than I spent on the Gamecube to get a good enough graphics card to get equivalent images, and probably upgrade my processor - AND I STILL CAN'T PLAY THOSE GAMES ON THE PC CAUSE THEY DON'T HAVE THEM FOR THE PC!!

      Duh, not ALL games worth playing are made for the PC.

      Besides, I never have had a crash, corrupted files, installation issues, or required hardware upgrades for my $150 Gamecube.
    • By your logic, we should all get TV tuner cards and watch television on our PCs. It's not as though your standard NTSC TV is unable to produce realistic images. Ever watch a TV show before? Image quality can be highly subjective, and higher resolution isn't always the answer.

      Anyway, there are many reasons to play console games besides image quality. First of all, only a small portion of the noteworthy console games even get made for PC (and certainly, the reverse is true). Many people much prefer to play games in their living rooms than in front of a PC. It's a lot of fun to have four people sitting together in front of a good sized TV talking smack while playing Madden, or Gauntlet Legends, etc. Also, not everyone wants to spend the requisite money for a gaming PC, but they probably have a TV. A good video card costs as much, if not more, than a console.

      Finally, if, for whatever reason, you've already decided to play games on a console, why not try to get the best image possible?

      -J

  • by wumarkus420 (548138) <[wumarkus] [at] [hotmail.com]> on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @10:15AM (#4373271) Homepage
    How about a guide on how to improve your webserver's traffic-handling capabilities.
  • by ilsie (227381) on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @10:19AM (#4373294)
    If you want to get your TV perfectly calibrated, hire a professional. Second best thing to do is pick up Avia's Video Essentials [hometheaterhifi.com]. I would definitely take this "guide" with a grain of salt. They gloss over one of the most important issues of video calibration, which is that you have to calibrate it with the amount of ambient light that would normally be present with normal usage.

    Also, they could HEAR the difference between two different TOSLINK cables? Gimme a break. Sounds like a sponsored ad for Monster cable, whom audiophiles know is a rip-off anyways.
  • So far (page 5) it appears to be a text heavy advertisment for monster cable.
  • New guide? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Flakeloaf (321975) on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @10:21AM (#4373309) Homepage
    Laugh all you want, I enhanced the display on my GBA using the undocumented brightness knob and now I can see *erverything*.

    Um... what's that fizzing noise?
  • would have been a bit on how to make a console not look like complete crap on a digital tv.

    (you have to play with the brightness and contrast to make it look less ugly, and hope you've got at least s-video)

  • by mbourgon (186257) on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @10:25AM (#4373344) Homepage
    Not sure which one to buy, but apparently (and according to everyone in the office who bought it - damn my television's 1 S-Video!) the difference between RCA and S-Video is nothing short of stunning. Not sure if the monster cable is worth however much extra they get over the Microsoft (or generic) kit, but if you have the ability, get the S-Video cable.

    Now if it only helped the gameplay...
    • The RCA/S-video switch is apparent for all systems. I've got my PS2 through my sound system to TV as to be able to either play it through S-vid or through the RCA ports, just by switching between the two external port channels on the TV, and difference is quite apparent; the RCA picture, when compared to the S-vid, is fuzzy with blurred edges, like a bad anti-aliasing scheme; a lot of small text, for example, can be blurry and the like, as well as, in 3d games, far details that can get lost.

    • If your TV has only one S-video connector, get yourself an A/V switch box that lets you plug in multiple sources (VCR, PS2, XBox, Camcorder, etc) and then just hit a button on the switch box to switch the source going to your TV. I bought one made by Pelican that has 5 inputs (RCA video & audio & S-video options for each input) and even RF in/out if you really need it for only $25 at Best Buy.

      As for the quality of S-video, I find the picture vastly sharper and clearer than using RCA video. When I was living at home still, my mom's TV had S-video. I hooked up the Dish Network receiver using both RCA and S-video to compare both. The S-video blew RCA away. The RCA video image appeared kind of grainy and especially so with the on-screen guide. This was using the generic S-video cable that came with the Dish Network receiver and nothing hyped-up at all.
    • If you want a decent picture on a normal (not HDTV etc) TV then I'd recommend moving to Europe and using SCART for your connections - beats S Video hands down ;)

      I realise that's not really a useful suggestion mind you.

      Oh well.

      troc
    • by Anonymous Coward
      As soon as the world realises that SCART/RGB is the way to go the better.

      It will only cost you about £6 for the cable for most consoles and gives you full 3 channel R G B for
      your TV
    • Not sure which one to buy

      Seeing as the linked article is a giant "Monster Game/Monster Cable" advertisement, I'd assume that the author wants you to use them.
      I wish they would have put more of a reason why to use that brand with comparisons of it to other brands of cable. This is what really leads me to believe that it is an advertisement more than an article.

      Also, do you see this as /. worthy? Its almost like learning how to build a computer from scratch. I think most of us know how to.
      I guess it'd be a sectional article, but there is no section for tech or games.
      • Totally agreement. The difference you get in audio or video quality by using different cables is very very small. Surely the crappiest of cables will have lots of interference and noise. But if you get a decent shielded cable from radio shack the difference between that and the most expensive fancy cable is so small that it's not worth the dough.
        As for the S-Video, yes using S-Video does make a huge difference. Using component cables, however, makes just as big a difference. Especially on the gamecube. FYI the cube has two A/V outs on the back. One is analog and one is digital. the analog one can be fitted with anything from a coax to an s-video cable, the digital one can be fitted with component video out. I don't have a tv with s-video in, let alone component in, but we went over to the auditorium on campus with the component digital out and hooked it up to a 1024x768 resolution LCD projector. HOLY CRAP!
        Holy crap! It was every bit as good as if we had a huge gas plasma. Can't wait for Godzilla destroy all monsters melee. Use that projector and get us some 20 foot long mothras!
    • what you are doing is circumventing the damned comb filter in yout TV set.. Everything should be Svideo.. but unfortunately the cheap bastards that make all your TV's and VCR's and DVD's and what have you find it easier to just throw Composite out on a connector NOT MADE FOR VIDEO.

      everything is better as svideo to the set/projector... when you bypass the damned filters in the set that split's it all out again you eliminate the smearing and the horrid dot-crawl.

      it's not any better, it's just showing you how crappy your TV really is.
  • Step 1: Go to your favorite electronics store or web site

    Step 2: Remember to bring $15,000 cash or a couple credit cards that haven't been maxed out with you

    Step 3:Purchase 50" plasma HDTV

    Step 4:Get TV into your house (or better yet, my house if you don't have room)

    Step 5:Throw Play Station into trash

    Step 6:Buy stupid expensive cables if you have any money left after buying the TV

    Step 7:Plug Xbox into new kick ass TV

    Now you have better picture quality!

    • ...and all you have to do is wait for some good games. :b (Just kidding, XBox fans, please don't regale me with tedious lists of games past, present and future...)

      I'm quite happy with my current gaming setup, though, which runs the XBox, PS2, GC, Dreamcast, PSX, N64, Saturn, SNES, Megadrive, Jaguar, 3DO, and Atari 2600 (also the DVD player and satellite TV) through a *big* switcher box into a projector, which gives a nice bright 68" viewable screen. Only one thing missing from the setup - a fridge full of beer within arm's reach...
  • by tubs (143128) on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @10:29AM (#4373370)
    posted a comprehensive guide on how to improve your console's image quality.

    Dear Sirs,

    I cannot find any information on your site about my "Scart" connection, which is the only other input my TV has - surely such a basic connection should have been covered in your "Comprehesive" guide to improving image quality.

    Yours Faithfully

  • by papasui (567265) on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @10:29AM (#4373371) Homepage
    I like a little bit of a less than perfect image on my tv because it gives it a little bit of an antialiased look smoothing out some of the blocky edges that you get when you tweak everything. Sure a nice sharp image is great for 2D stuff but just the little bit of blur looks nice for 3D.
    • My thoughts are the same. With a little blur, you see the 3D image more rounded, and the sharper you get, the more blocky and pixelated you notice it.
    • It depends on the game. In racing games I want as much clarity as possible. I hate squinting trying to figure out which direction the next turn is going when the resolution is only 640x480. For Resident Evil and other slower games I generally like hiding some of the pixelization with blur.
    • Sharpness should always be down low, especially on a nice TV. All sharpness does is add data to the picture that was not there originally. In this case, it makes the edges stand out by increasing the contrast between dark and light areas. This is bad. If you want that film to look as good as it did in the theatre, turn the sharpness DOWN. Use Avia to get it set correctly. Same thing goes for the games, the sharpness needs to be down, or it just adds crap to the picture that shouldn't be there.

      Sharpness is jacked up high for showroom floors, so the picture looks artifically clear in the bright lights. In an ideal setting, you turn it way down.
    • Another way to get anti-aliasing effect is simpy to poke yourself in the eye, every 10 minutes... Poor mans fancy video card.
  • Useless article (Score:3, Insightful)

    by a3d0a3m (306585) on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @10:31AM (#4373380) Homepage
    Ok, here's what the article says in 1 paragraph as opposed to their >5 pages. Use A/V cables over RF, use S-Video over A/V, and use Component over S-Video. Also buy a monster cable if you can justify the expense to your wife/parents. Then, turn down the contrast and sharpness on your TV and PS2 because they do nothing to add to the image. The end. Was any of this a no-brainer to you? It all was for me.
    • Well the one thing I learned, was the +0 sharpness setting on the PS2 is actually still effected, -2 is the actual neutral settings. Of course I don't watch DVDs on my PS2, I have a dedicated DVD player with component outs and S/PDIF.
    • I never had seen a demonstration of how much better a S-Video connection was over a A/V connection. I also wasn't aware of the details of how the sharpness adjustment on the TV worked, or other details throughout the article.

      In other words, it wasn't a no-brainer for everyone, thus, it was useful for some of us.

      Personally, I found it about 100x more interesting than another annoucement about how some backwater town has installed linux on some computer in a government office so Microsoft is clearly on the way to bankruptcy, or how someone has finally ported some Windows 1.0 program to work part of the time on the latest window manager that nobody uses.
  • by RobotRunAmok (595286) on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @10:34AM (#4373399)
    the prolific PlayStation2

    ...And here with my XBox churning out two novels and an ice sculpture a year, I thought It was prolific!

    Damn M$, And thanks, SlashDot, for setting me straight yet again!

  • Slashdotted already? (Score:4, Informative)

    by UserChrisCanter4 (464072) on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @10:35AM (#4373409)
    I can't even get to the article, but it seems pretty simple.

    Don't use the composite video cables that came with your system. All kinds of TVs from 19" on up now ship with S-Video and even Component inputs (JVC ships a 20", 25", and 27" TV with component-in), so if you're anywhere near being in the market for a TV, there's no reason why you shouldn't be getting one with those inputs. $25 gets you the Sony-brand component cables, ditto for Nintendo (although you have to order them off of Nintendo's website). XBox component cables have been a little cheaper, $20 at most places, but the cables themselves look kind of cheap.

    While the difference between S-Video and Component isn't quite as pronounced (I mostly only see the difference in the colors, not in the fidelity of the picture), the difference between composite and either of the upper-tier inputs is enormously pronounced. On larger televisions in particular (32" and up), you can see very pronounced scan lines and blurriness of the image when using composite cables. The Nintendo Gamecube can give you a great demonstration fo this fact. The back of the unit has the standard video-out and then the "digital-out" port where the component video hooks in. You have to have both jacks connected and active, since the video is only fed on the component port, and the analog audio is still fed along with the composite video. Hook up both signals, turn on a game, and just flip back and forth between component and composite. You'll see what I mean.

  • In the past I also believed that I could improve my VCR's image quality by using chinch or scart instead of the antenna-cable. It appears to be common knowledge that by using better cables the image quality improves. However that is just the theory. I read an article where a german electronics-magazine (was it "Video"?) really checked the signal's quality using all kinds of cables. They let both human testers rate the quality, and they also checked it with expensive gadgets. The result was surprising: Neighter the human testers, nor the devices would see any difference. The quality was the same, so matter whether they used the antenna-input, chinch, scart or even rgb-cables.

    I believe that the "screenshots" in this article are fake. A little blur in Photoshop helps them to sell their expenisive cables.

    There's a real cult around expensive cables, especially amoung the audiophile croud. It's simply ridiciculous that some people who have a 5000$ stereo spend 1000$ on the cables. There is no difference in sound. A copper-cable's resistance is the same, no matter wheter you payed 20$ or 300$ for the cable.

    Please slashdoters. Don't believe that crap.

    ciao
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The result was surprising: Neighter the human testers, nor the devices would see any difference.

      I can tell you that the difference between RCA and RGB SCART is pronounced and very, very clear. Even on my old 14" portable its imediatly obvious when I switch between the two.

      As it happens my Cable TV box can be switched between Composite and RGB outputs (SCART has seperate lines for each, no problems). Composite output removes the snowing and ghosting interference you can get with RCA, but the colour is about the same. However, when you switch between Composite and RGB....the colours are cleaner, sharper and brighter. Edges are well defined. There is no colour smearing. The picture is steady.

      In conclusion : RCA sucks. Composite sucks too. RGB SCART kicks your Composite ass from here to next Tuesday, steals your lunch money and throws your gym kit over the fence. Its that good.
    • They couldn't tell the difference between RF and S-Video cables? Were they all umpires? What was the source material? A 10 year old VHS tape? About a year ago I swapped out the old RF only TV for a modern TV with all of the good connectors. For the PS2, the difference was phonominal. I was able to see a whole new world of detail that was previously obscured by the blur. I was finally able to read the tiny little labels on equipment in Armored Core 2. I wasn't actually expecting such a noticable improvement in the picture quality either, which is one reason it came as such a big shock. As for Composite vs. S-video, my roommate and I have a setup where the output from the TiVo can either run through S-video or Composite (which is sent through a VCR). When we accidentally leave it on composite mode, even my roommate notices immediatly. The colors wash out on the composite path.

      As for Monster cables, I think they're a rip off. They're made for the same people who buy $5,000 stereos for their cars. If it's more expensive it HAS to be good right?
    • I believe that the "screenshots" in this article are fake. A little blur in Photoshop helps them to sell their expenisive cables.

      You have got to be kidding me. They're not faked. While the lay person may not be able to see a big difference if you show them a composite signal, and then a component signal... put the two side-by-side and it's night-and-day. Really. Don't believe me, go check it out for yousrself the next time you're in an electronics shop. Use a DVD.

      There's a real cult around expensive cables, especially amoung the audiophile croud. It's simply ridiciculous that some people who have a 5000$ stereo spend 1000$ on the cables. There is no difference in sound. A copper-cable's resistance is the same, no matter wheter you payed 20$ or 300$ for the cable.

      While I agree with you, it's a diminishing-returns kind of thing. There are guys out there who will insist that they can hear the difference between 1"-thick copper and regular lamp-cord. Maybe that's even true - in an anechoic chamber. If you've got even so much as a set of curtains in that room (or worse yet, a square listening room), that difference is gonzo.

      Having said that, I sprang for a $20 component cord for my PS2, which is hooked to a Sony Wega 27". I'd say a 30% difference in colour saturation and clarity, easily (I'm a graphic designer by trade). Composite is really fuzzy. But the difference between my $20 component cable and an $80 Monster component cable (with no audio!) is probably less than 5%.

      Now, to those who say the fuzziness provides a nice 'soft' look... yup, that's true. It depends on the game, and how badly it flickers (say, Armored Core vs. Silent Hill, the former being brutal). Luckily the Wega lets you adjust the sharpness through a method called Velocity Modulation. I turn it on and off depending on the game.

      So that's my 2 pesos. As for this...

      Please slashdoters. Don't believe that crap.

      I agree. Check the cables on your tv/system/games. Buy to taste. But don't tell me it's a scam, it's just not true.

  • Some missing points (Score:4, Informative)

    by MetalHead666 (532749) on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @10:44AM (#4373460) Homepage
    This was a fairly good guide, but not as comprehensive as one could wish.

    As one reader noted it would have been interesting if they actually wrote about something other than cables, eg how to set up your TV/HDTV/projector to make things look as good as possible, how VGA-boxes compare and so forth. And as far as I am concerned, Monster Cable are not by far the only manufacturer of high-end cables. Interact make some good stuff too, and about a million Hong Kong-manufacturers have different budget variants that will improve your results, if not by as much.

    More specifically, a note that while MC do produce S-Video cables for all recent consoles, the PAL GameCubes do not support this kind of output, and thus a little test of RGB-Scarts wouldn't have been such a bad idea, eh? Especially considering that more people have Scart/Euro-connectors than S-video on their TVs, and that an RGB-Scart is easily on par with S-video output.

    Since most people also only have one "good" Scart input on their TV set, a little write-up on different Scart-splitters and how they affect the quality would have been nice too.

    Well, well, just a few thoughts. I guess we'll have to test these things ourselves, seeing as they who wrote the article are sponsored by MC and not interested in alternatives, which the consumer always is...

  • by Sarin (112173) on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @10:45AM (#4373467) Homepage Journal
    I had a spare 21" monitor here, so I thought it would be nice to buy a vga adaptor for my playstation 2.
    It's definately not worth the money:

    -some games were black/white, it had something to do with the pal/ntsc switching of the console.
    -the games that were displayed in color were in some sort of scanlined resolution on the monitor with a very low refresh-rate.
    -there was no way to tweak the settings.

    A couple months later I bought a better scart adaptor for my television set, which made the image a lot clearer and I gave the monitor to my little brother.
    • Sorry to hear your PS2 -> VGA adaptor isn't so hot.

      I happen to have one (the Redant [gocybershop.ca] model) and couldn't be happier. Crisp and clear pictures on my monitor. It does run at 60Hz, but you can't expect a scan rate convertor in a $60 CDN item... But it does have a passthrough for the PS2 cable incase you want it on a Big Screen TV at the same time.

      I've never seen a game play in Black & White. The only times I've heard of this problem is with Messiah hacked US consoles... :-) But you're in Europe, so I suppose this isn't your problem.

      The Redant model actually does have a "soften" switch, though, in case you find that the picture is "too good" (since you will see the grainyness of 640x480 gameplay if you're sitting close).
  • Nifty S-Video trick (Score:3, Interesting)

    by droopus (33472) on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @11:01AM (#4373552)
    Ok, we know S-Video is better: I use it from the HP P3 500 (movie box) I have behind my big screen to the TV's S-Video input.

    But buy S-Video cables? Hey they are 'spensive. But there's a great substitute, and you probably have one in your basement right now.

    Old-style Mac ADB (printer/modem) cables are perfect as S-Video cables: same pin arrangement. (Sound of 5,000 /.'ers running for the box o' old cables in the basement)

    Funny that in my house, a PC is connected to a Toshiba projection screen via an old Mac cable. B) Yep, Apple just keeps on giving.
  • Rabbit Ears (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sharkey (16670) on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @12:08PM (#4373999)
    What about those of us with rabbit ears and bow-tie connected to the two screws? I ain't runnin' out to get a fancy new TV just to get an "rf connector", when my TV still works!
    • > What about those of us with rabbit ears and bow-tie connected to the two screws? I ain't runnin' out to get a fancy new TV just to get an "rf connector", when my TV still works!

      The funny thing is that's pretty much what I've got - an ATI TV tuner card, one of those little 300-ohm gadgets plugged into the "cable in". And wires to screws on the other end of said gadget. And yes, rabbit ears on top of my 19" flat-face CRT monitor.

      Everyone thinks they're just there as a joke, then I fire up the TV app and wiggle the ears. Big retro w00t!

      • And yes, rabbit ears on top of my 19" flat-face CRT monitor.

        You should put a bow-tie up there, too. Improve your UHF reception.
  • ...games are blurry on the PS2 is because the system has a bottleneck, 4 megs of VRAM. In order to have more RAM for textures etc, they halve the vertical resolution and then interpolate the image.

    No connector's gonna fix that. :P
  • Jusp upgrade the drivers, or better yet, upgrade the graphics card and add some RAM.

    Ohhh, wait. Console image quality.

  • Cable hype (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dswan69 (317119) on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @12:41PM (#4374241)
    From the article:
    Designing speaker and video cable takes a lot of science

    This certainly isn't true when it comes to speaker cable - the audio cable industry would impress even PT Barnum, I'm sure he didn't realise just what suckers people are.

    And note the distinct lack of any actual scientific testing of the cable and no comparison amongst S-Video cables. You'll see the same thing in audiophile magazines in their so-called cable reviews. If we're going to use subjective tests then I can say that the picture I get with my cheap S-video cable looks just like the one they're getting with the Monster Cable.

    Reality is that any decent quality cable will give you the same results as a cable that costs thousands of dollars. And when it comes to speaker cable decent grade lamp flex will equal any cable out there unless you happen to have your speakers at least 50m from your amp (differences are only really even significantly measurable at around 100m and up).
  • I have to use really expensive brand-name cables to make the video output from my game consoles look good?

    I thought that all I needed to do was run a green pen around the edge of the discs to get optimal picture and sound quality - or does that only work on the older CD-based consoles? ;)
  • Composite CGA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RatBastard (949) on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @01:01PM (#4374419) Homepage
    About the cheapest image upgrade you can do, if you don't mind a small image, is almost any composite CGA monitor. The image quality is much higher than almost any non-HDTV TV set.
  • Buy a Monster S-Video Cable. Other brands are not as good. (Supported by my experience. I tried a $10 S-Video cable and it was crap, could hardly see the screen)

    Specifically:
    S-Video - Gamelink 300 Component Video - Gamelink 400 and Gamelink 400CVAA

    Composite video is far worse than S-Video. Don't pick a Monster Composite cable over a generic S-Video cable.

    Turn down the contract on your TV. Default settings have the contrast and brightness set too high. Easier to see in a store, but causes problems with bright images and scenes.

    Turn down the sharpness on your TV for DVDs and games. Digital images are mangled by excessive sharpness, and reducing it will result in softer, more realistic images. Sharpness just adds data that isn't there to digital images.

    You should also configure your PlayStation 2 DVD sharpening to -2. The default "+0" setting is actually adding a lot of artifacts to your picture. The -2 setting is the true "neutral" setting.

    Use an optical audio cable if available. This reduces Jitter, even over a digital audio cable. Most users will not notice the difference between a decent optical audio cable and a an ultra high end one.
  • The article states that "...many Xbox games are in HDTV and progressive scan", and then goes on to put down PS2 and Gamecube because of their lack of such games. However, no HDTV games exist for Xbox. Yes, they have some in 480p, and several in 16:9, but no 720p or 1080i games. TestDrive was rumored to be 1080i, but lets face it, that box is going to have problems pushing that res and a respectable frame rate. On paper it may be possible, but we have yet to see it. The article unfairly puts down PS2 and GC. Cheers, Josh
  • As long as consoles output to NTSC devices, image quality will always be substandard. I don't know why more don't include a direct VGA/RGB output so they can actually display sharp images at decent resolutions. The NTSC standard is limited to some 4-500 lines of resolution, with no specific horizontal resolution set. It's interlaced at that, and only provides 29.97 frames per second maximum refresh. If you wanted higher quality, technically the best thing would be to get a PAL tv and Playstation so your resolution is higher at 625!

    In reality, TVs and these modulation standards weren't designed with high resoltion, sharp images in mind, which is why they will ALWAYS look like garbage compared to their PC counterparts. You're an absolute fool if you spend $30-50 on a stupid Monster cable to try to make this look any better. That's like someone getting a $50 monster cable to improve the resolution of their atari 2600!

    Hopefully HDTV will fix this discrepancy, but the price for a HDTV set right now is still astronomical compared to a 21" computer monitor. I'm not very famiiar with the new consoles, but I know they process their video as RGB, so is there a way to bypass the modulator?

  • Excuuse me, but umm.. you're watching a TV set which has at max.. what maybe 500 lines with S-Video? Let's see that would be at least 100 lines less of vertical resolution than my crappiest computer display system.

    No TV game is going to compare to a 1600 x 1200 computer display because it's well, a TV game that you watch on a TV. Improving the image quality of your TV set is like improving the performance of your Yugo. When all is said and done, you still have... a Yugo.

    I understand that most people don't have a 40 inch computer monitor, but still you can only go so far with image quality on an NTSC television set. TVs are not high resolution display devices by definition.

    Vortran out
    • I felt the need to widen the scope of my earlier post. TV sets do have a certain advantage over digital displays in that they have an analog, hence infinite, color space. You can do some pretty nifty tricks to increase the perceived realism of an image by increasing color depth. This is done a lot for images that are engineered for television display.

      However, at a certain point, (about 20 bits color depth) the actual resolution of the display device becomes the primary factor in perceived image quality. This is where the TV set fails to match up to the digital computer display.

      Vortran: RE Vortran out
  • I'm not satisfied with his conclusions on the advantages of installing a higher quality cable, if only because I'm not satisfied with the quality of his testing. I would like to know more about how the tests were conducted, for example, and I want some quantifiable data about the quality (and fidelity) of the sound.

    I further want to know why jitter would have those particular effects on the sound before I believe it's not something else.

    It seems highly unlikely (Though possible) to me that a system capable of reproducing DTS (or just AC3, like my sony cheapie receiver (which is hooked up to my PC with a creative SB live, which is pretty lame for various reasons) would have any problem transmitting PCM. I know that MPEG has its own ways of correcting for those kinds of problems but bear with me anyway.

    • Dolby Digital 64 kbps to 448 kbps
    • AC3
    • 32 kbps to 912 kbps
    • DTS
    • 64 kbps to 1536 kbps

    So if the system is even capable of doing AC3 or DTS, I'd think that it would have no trouble running over some cheap-ass copper given that it's a digital signal and some degradation shouldn't matter, as one would hope our signal voltage is much higher than our trigger voltage. I suppose the trigger varies somewhat. Stats on that might be interesting. Fiber should be even easier, though the quality will vary there as well. I don't exactly have the kind of system (the sb live, remember?) to do any serious testing along those lines, and I'm not about to go look up specifications on copper wire and cheap fiber and so on, I have other shit to do :)

  • Tron (Score:3, Interesting)

    by interstellar_donkey (200782) <pathighgate.hotmail@com> on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @04:58PM (#4376494) Homepage Journal
    I was pleasently surprise to discover one of the bonus features on the Tron DVD was a pretty comprehensive utility that you can run through to improve the image quality on your TV.

    From what I understand, a good portion of poor image quality has to do with improper television settings. After I ran through that utility, the picture quality on my TV was dramatically improved.

    I wonder why more DVDs don't do this, or even video game consols. It just seems like such a good idea to improve the quality of the experience.

  • All of you will have an RF connector. This is the input you normally use for your TV antenna and represents the oldest and worst format available.

    While I grant that /most/ people probably have an F-type connection on the back of their tv, I think assuming ALL have it is probably a little much. There's always one.

    My real point though is that this is about where I stopped reading. F-type is the oldest and worst? Has he never seen/played a console on a tv connected with a 300 Ohm connection? I'm going to guess he probably hasn't. To me, this little slip just confirms my original thought upon browsing through his little "guide" that he really doesn't have a clue, and is just regurgitation what some sucker-savvy salesman told him about "Monster Cable".

    Save your money. It's not worth it. Good cables are important, and can give you a better, or more reliably quality experience, but you don't need to buy monster cables to get that. Buy any of the higher end cables from any of the major electronics retailers and you'll get the same thing. Or even the walmart one.

  • I have monitors capable of dealing with S-Video, RGB and composite at home, and i can say that my PS2 using RGB (through a cheapo PS1 SCART cable) gives me a picture so good people literally don't believe it is a console generating it.

    The PS1 of course also looks great through RGB.

    S-Video is a minor improvement over composite video, but it still doesn't hold up when compared to RGB input.

    However, most people are stuck with composite, and a major improvement in signal quality can be had simply by using a good quality 75 ohm video cable to run composite video across.

    I had the good fortune to buy an Iomega Buz card some years ago, and found it came with a short high-quality 75ohm coax video cable. Simply using this interconnect instead of the skinny little video cable provided by most consumer video equipment suppliers gives a major (and i do mean major) increase in visual quality. this was an eye-opener for me, and ever since then I have made my own composite video cables out of cheap 75 ohm coax (NZ$2 per meter retail), with excellent results.

    Especially improved is the composite output of one of my cheap scan converters for displaying VGA on a TV.

    Unfortunately, this is not really an option on the PS2/later PS1s/Dreamcast - though my old 1000-series PS1 has 'standard' RCA connectors on the back (dunno about the X-Box, i don't own one) since they use a proprietary connector on the end of crappy, low-quality composite cables.

    W/regard to the superiority of 'Monster' or similar 'branded' cables, I believe this is a total crock, and anyone who would try and claim 'higher quality' on things like digital interconnects, or claim there is some benefit in 'directional' speaker cables etc. is clearly a liar, and those hi-fi magazine reviewer clowns who claim they can hear a 'day and night difference' between various cables and digital (digital!) interconnects are liars too.

    Using a cable with a signal-loss and power-handling rating that matches your application will always give you an improvement in quality over a cable that doesn't, however you don't need to pay a massive premium for the privilege of using such a cable.

  • Their expalation of jitter is total misinformation.
    First, no significant difference is going to be seen in the jitter caused by two different 75 ohm coaxial cables (or fiber optic cables). Second, any data sent across a TOSLINK cable gets synched up to an amplifiers internal clock before being d/a converted, so my first point doesn't even matter. In a fair test, using lab equipment, instead of hearsay, they would not be able to tell the difference between a "standard" coaxial or optical toslink cable and moster cable. That's why the data is sent in digital format in the first place.

    This:
    Even so, while I was able to identify the Monster Cable with statistical significance with 95% confidence, it was barely perceptible and I could only distinguish between the two optical cables with one track.
    Or this:
    when we put in an audiophile-grade TOSLINK cable (that retails for just under $200 for three meters), our blind testing concluded that there was a slight improvement in transparency and a reduction in boominess on a wide-range of source material
    is a total lie. In a double-blind test there is no diffrence.
  • This is what I use: (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Alex Belits (437) on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @08:35PM (#4377935) Homepage

    My setup [denver.co.us] that I have made a year ago, is relatively cheap (the only non-computer expensive component is Proxima Ovation, an old LCD projection panel) and nice enough to displace a TV from my living room. Original version used composite video from PS2 to the TV capture board instead of S-Video, and image quality was pretty terrible. VCR's tuner happened to be better than one built into the capture board, and I didn't care much for improving audio quality beyond a reasonable level, so audio goes through rather cheap components.

    LCD panel, projector and PC produce more noise than what I would prefer, and adjusting image on a projector was a pain in the neck (Proxima's bit depth sucks), but in the end image quality ended up being far superior to a TV. I have found out that in this configuration xawtv works better with Xv disabled, and many games look terrible if blown to a full 1024x768 screen, so I keep them at the NTSC resolution. DVDs are played with Ogle on a computer.

    Proxima Ovation has S-Video and composite inputs, however the scaling algorithm that it uses for them, is absolutely horrible.

  • which cables? Since I'm an A/V newbie.

    What brands would people recommend for:

    1. Cables? (Less then $200)
    2. Projection TVs? (Less then $3k)
    3. Switcher Box? (Less then $200)
    4. Speakers (5.1 or better) (Less then $500)

    from Tweeter, Best Buy, or Radio Shack since they are the closest A/V stores.

    Cheers

Too much of everything is just enough. -- Bob Wier

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