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Need for Speed Carbon VGA comparison

King Kong HD DVD VGA comparison
Xbox 360 games now look better than ever in VGA

Although the new Windows Live Messenger integration and improved Achievements system are the more widely advertised new features of the Spring Update, a little known new feature has crept its way into the latest Dashboard version – improved image quality when using the Xbox 360 VGA output.

A long-standing complaint of the VGA output on the Xbox 360 is its “washed out” picture quality, where colors on the screen would not appear as bright and vibrant as compared to running the console to the TV using component cables.

The culprit for this problem is the difference between how HDTV and PC displays interpret black levels. A correctly calibrated HDTV typically expects a black level to be at 7.5 IRE (with anything below that to be “blacker than black”), while a PC display has its black set to zero. The Xbox 360, which is tweaked for televisions, has its IRE tuned for the HDTV norm of 7.5 IRE.

However, due to the fact that most HDTVs manufacturers expect that VGA inputs are for use with PCs rather than the Xbox 360, most televisions have its IRE for VGA at zero to accommodate a PC video card’s output. The result of this is that while the Xbox 360 is sending out a 7.5 IRE for calling for black, the HDTV is interpreting that as a call for something less than black, like a pleasant shade of grey.

The Spring Update adds a new feature allowing users to tweak the IRE setting that the Xbox 360 sends out to the television. “Both Xbox 360 Elite and current Xbox 360 units will have a spring (console) update which adds support for different video levels for VGA output (“7.5 IRE vs 0”) ... using this setting you should be able to use computer monitors in addition to TVs with resolutions all the way up to 1080p with high fidelity and no issues with HDCP handshaking,” explained Amir Majidimehr, VP of Microsoft’s Consumer Media Technology Group. “So for current users, I highly recommend trying this update with your VGA connection to see if it does the job for you. Note that this is a console update and will work for both games and of course, HD DVD.”

Surprisingly, instead of giving the user direct control of the IRE setting, the Spring Update added three non-descriptive options to the Xbox 360 display settings – standard, intermediate and expanded – with no indication of which setting represents what level of blackness. DailyTech decided to put each of the three levels to the test. Presented in the images to the right is a comparison of each of the three reference levels using Need for Speed Carbon as the test game and King Kong as the test HD DVD. “Standard” appears to retain the same black level setting (7.5 IRE) as it was before the update, and the “expanded” setting looks to present the blackest blacks (0 IRE), with the “intermediate” setting being somewhere in between.

While the increased richness and color in Need for Speed Carbon is noticeable, the more appreciable difference of the new IRE settings comes when watching movies. In all parts of King Kong, but especially the dark scenes where accurate black levels are essential, the new “expanded” reference level produced images that were far richer and less washed out, providing a significantly improved picture.

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Manufacturing Settings
By Mitch101 on 5/9/2007 9:53:57 AM , Rating: 5
I think a bit problem in this is how TV companies sell HDTV usually set to high in contrast, brightness, and sharpness and since most consumers will never buy the HDTV essentials or have never heard of a calibrator. Even then do you calibrate the HDTV to a professional calibration tool or do you have it calibrated to your components? While in the end the answer is most likely calibrate it to your personal taste. When my neighbors see the output of my HDTV to thiers they wonder why everything on mine looks so real compared to thiers. Ive done the focus, gray scale, and 64+ point convergence in the service menu on mine something the amateur should never try without someone there to guide them through it.

Calibration is the key to a truely incredible picture. If your spending 3,000 on a HDTV spending a couple hundred more to have it professionally calibrated is worth it. If your cheap but highly technical you might be able to calibrate it on your own. If your prone to make a mistake in trying something for the first time well then just stick with what the TV's regular menu system allows.

However its really cool that Microsoft added this. I think more components should have calibration abilities like this as apposed to people messing around in their TV's service menu's. Most service menu's are not forgiving if you screw up you can screw up your HDTV and most of the time there is no reset button to bring it back.

RE: Manufacturing Settings
By Jackyl on 5/9/2007 11:05:22 AM , Rating: 5
Why give the user an intermediate setting? This is not an appropriate setting, and will just confuse people. IRE level should be either 0.0 or 7.5 IRE. Not something in the middle. When the HDTV standard was created, the U.S. should've adopted 0 IRE. North America is one of the only continents in the world using 7.5 IRE setup. Japan NTSC and PAL uses 0 IRE. As a video editing hobbyist, I hate working with 7.5 IRE setup.

RE: Manufacturing Settings
By Mitch101 on 5/9/2007 11:47:52 AM , Rating: 3
Will give you an example of a buddy of mines Mitsubishi HDTV where it comes with the RED component setting too high causing a reddish hue. Mitsubishi did this on purpose. To correct this we had to drop the red signal down using a little home made adapter and a few low ohm resistors. If components were more programmable like this then we could have dialed out the oversaturation of red much like you can do with a video card on a PC.

It would be safer to mess with settings on a component than on the HDTV set itself. Ruining a $100-$300 device is better than possibly ruining something costing a few grand.

RE: Manufacturing Settings
By Vertigo101 on 5/9/2007 11:57:24 AM , Rating: 2
To correct this we had to drop the red signal down using a little home made adapter and a few low ohm resistors.

You would have been much better off going into the service menus and adjusting the R_CUT and R_DRIVE there.

I highly suggest you have an ISF certified tech come out and calibrate your set if you're having to resort to that.

RE: Manufacturing Settings
By Mitch101 on 5/9/2007 1:20:41 PM , Rating: 3
Oh I certainly agree but my buddy wasnt comfortable doing that in the service menu. Plus some HDTV's allow you to do that on a per input basis but some dont which makes it nice if more components had options like this. At that time I should state getting a copy of the service menu for his TV was slim to none. You really have to almost know someone who can get you the service menu for your paticular TV. I still dont have a complete list of all my HDTV's service menu options but I did manage to get the key ones.

Also Vertigo101 can you imagine someone less qualified than a help desk tech messing around in the menu system? Shivers down spine.

RE: Manufacturing Settings
By qdemn7 on 5/10/2007 2:32:51 AM , Rating: 2
Since you appear to be quite knowledgable, what device would you recommend to go from the Wii component cables to the VGA input on an IBM 21" CRT monitor? I've got one I'm not using, and I want to to use it for my Wii.

RE: Manufacturing Settings
By Mitch101 on 5/10/2007 10:06:09 AM , Rating: 3
Wish I could find a Wii to answer that question from personal experience but hopefully supply will be in soon.

I do something similar on my X-Box where I built a mini 4 foot ft tall arcade cabinet for my kids and output that to a external TV tuner that I paid some $8.00 for a long time ago. I use the SVHS output into the tuner and that converts the signal to a VGA output and very nice one too. Im about to post the details of that on this weekend.

Since you have a Wii I would recommend using the component video outputs to an External Tuner to get the best picture since Im not sure they make a VGA cable for the unit. Below is what I recommend because of the price and because your using a CRT. It should work with most LCD panels up to about 17" widescreen pretty nicely as well.

External TV Tuner w/ Speaker $18.89 after rebate.

RE: Manufacturing Settings
By JonB on 5/9/2007 5:03:15 PM , Rating: 4
The problem will all go away when NTSC and PAL both become obsolete. As the "first" video spec, NTSC has carried around a legacy of non-optimum choices from Black&White days and into Color Video. It has been a long and painful process, but NTSC will die. I'm waiting for the Analog versus Digital purists to whine about how much better the analog picture was. In some ways, as long as there are still CRTs displaying video, the legacy will continue.

RE: Manufacturing Settings
By joscasle on 5/11/07, Rating: -1
RE: Manufacturing Settings
By seeker353 on 5/11/2007 5:54:42 PM , Rating: 2
Not only is your comment irrelevant to the thread, you should make sure you know what you're talking about before you correct someone. In most of the world (including the USA, and this is an American website), we are taught there are 7 continents, which include a separate North and South America.

RE: Manufacturing Settings
By nukey on 5/13/07, Rating: 0
RE: Manufacturing Settings
By JeffDM on 5/14/2007 11:51:01 PM , Rating: 2
By whose definition again? The Oxford English Dictionary lists North and South America as separate continents in its first definition. The OED is a work of the Oxford Press that is part of Oxford University in the United Kingdom.

I imagine there are some technical definitions that would call N&S America as one continent, but that is probably only used in specialized fields of research.

The opposite is true too.
By thartist on 5/9/2007 6:17:02 PM , Rating: 2
I welcome the color correction, but the contrast increasement (the latest fashion in game's graphics indeed) only DECREASES DETAIL.

Pay sharp attention at the rear of the NFS Carbon car. MUCH detail is lost. The same with the clouds of the KingKong movie sky.

And they sell this as "better".

RE: The opposite is true too.
By Zurtex on 5/9/2007 6:36:00 PM , Rating: 2
While I do understand you, I don't think that is the case here. These aren't screenshots, they are photos, not brilliantly taken photos and saved in a lossy format. But the idea is to convey the colour difference, not the level of details.

RE: The opposite is true too.
By mm2587 on 5/9/2007 8:09:56 PM , Rating: 2
the details not really lost, you just can't see it as clearly. Its far more realistic to me. That first king-kong pic looks like looking through night vision googles to me. The last picture is what I would expect a bout to look like at a decent distance at night. I shouldn't be able to make out every little detail on the boat.

RE: The opposite is true too.
By anonymo on 5/10/2007 10:06:12 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah those pictures are really only to show that the new options are darker. Games look amazingly better now

RE: The opposite is true too.
By mindless1 on 5/14/2007 9:35:33 PM , Rating: 2

Most people tend to like excessive contrast at first glance. It might be a true representation even, but a representatio of the original which had too much contrast.

As another poster pointed out, the detail is still technically there but the eye cannot perceive it as well. Matters get even worse with some monitors and TVs.

IMO, high contrast is more useful for small screens where you couldn't make out the details much either way, but beyond a certain size:viewing-distance ratio, larger screens shouldn't have the output tweaked until someone says "wow it looks good", they should be tweaked until the full gamut of greyscale perception is as high as possible.

I would use intermediate maybe but not enhanced. Especially with TV shows & movies, many of them are dark enough (too dark) already.

RE: The opposite is true too.
By mindless1 on 5/14/2007 9:40:12 PM , Rating: 2
On second glance intermediate setting seems too light and enhanced too dark. To be fair I checked the picture on another monitor with different contrast and it too looked too light / too dark when it comes to loss of detail.

Any word on resolutions?
By Trogdor on 5/9/2007 1:54:05 PM , Rating: 2
My HDTV is at my brothers place and I won't have it shipped here for at least a month or two. I want to hook my 360 up to my PC's LCD Monitor, but the max resolution/native resolution is 1680x1050.

Any suggestions?

RE: Any word on resolutions?
By tdawg on 5/9/2007 6:29:47 PM , Rating: 2
I have my 360 hooked up to my LCD (Dell 20") via the vga connection. I think it looks great, but then again, I've don't have a TV to test out the components. I set my 360 to either 1366x768 or 1280x720 and I get a letterbox effect (black bars top and bottom) but the games look good to me. Not tack sharp, but nice nonetheless.

RE: Any word on resolutions?
By Trogdor on 5/10/2007 9:19:50 AM , Rating: 2
Okay, I'll give it a shot. I know that my monitor automatically stretches every image to fit the panel, which I hope won't be a problem. I would rather have a true aspect ratio with the letterbox instead of it stretching to fit the screen, but hopefully it'll look good. Which resolution would you think would be better, 1280x720 or 1366x768?

The monitor I've got is a Viewsonic VX2025 widescreen.

disables modchips
By Samus on 5/9/2007 10:33:51 AM , Rating: 2
Rumor from is the following:

"Please see Do not update your xbox 360 on next update.

May 08 2007 - Microsoft is going to release a new update in next 24 hours - we highly advise not to download this update if you have a modchip in your xbox 360 or have re flashed your drive.

When more is know about this update this page will be updated. "

I will not be downloading the update.

Just updated.
By jabber on 5/9/2007 5:27:46 PM , Rating: 2
Excellent, at last I now have full rich colour through the VGA input.

Games and DVDs look a lot lot better now.

Nice one. Now lets hust have some decent media content on Live in the UK!

the return of the broken red ring
By k3nR on 5/10/2007 5:50:31 AM , Rating: 2
just updated my 360... and unfortunately the update has rendered my 360 into a big pile of useless plastic and sillicon... I play mine on VGA cables as well and after reading all those positive comments on the improvement, it's making me even more sadder...

anyone else out there having the same issues?

It made a huge difference!
By Gimli000 on 5/13/2007 6:04:17 AM , Rating: 2
I use a cheapish lcd monitor meant for pc use on the 360 and have never used anything else. The colours were okay but since i've never had anything to directly compare it with I was quite happy with it. But now the update had come through WOW! The colours and MUCH more viabrant and the blacks are much stronger too. It's like I've had the settings turned down all this time.

Cheers Microsoft!

Broke My 360
By Learn2play007 on 5/16/2007 12:25:33 AM , Rating: 2
I am active military and I have a canadian fiancee who lives 35 minutes from the US Washington Border. Spring update and all of a sudden none of the downloadable content works. "This content is not available in your region". My fiancee brought this for me. It has lived at her house forever and now micro$oft forces me to take a fancier looking mod/update that HAXORS all of my attempted downloadables. No help from microsoft on this either. Licensing yadda yadda Rights. FTC where are you. I want a full refund. Im so tired of this. When I first bought it I couldn't buy points until I called in. Then all was fine until this stupid update SPRUNG into my box. They might tell you to make a new Player ID in the region you are in ie Canada or Japan. DONT WASTE YOUR TIME! Canadian player ID's have a total of approx 10 downloads combined games and videos. Maybe it has to do with the CRTC that everything needs to be english/french in canada, I have no idea. I have a feeling everywhere else is much worse after all Canada is N.America last time I checked.

By Vonline on 5/19/2007 1:12:51 AM , Rating: 2
I have a 42" LCD TV hooked up with Vista PC and Xbox 360. Vista PC connects via DVI and Xbox 360 connects via VGA. I have been having the washed out problem on both Vista PC and Xbox 360. Today I read this article and updated my Xbox 360. WOW!!! You did it Microsoft! The washed out is gone completely. Good job! Now you have to fix Media Center and Media Player on Windows Vista because I have exactly same washed out on Vista PC.

By awer26 on 5/9/07, Rating: -1
RE: Meh
By obeseotron on 5/9/2007 10:14:45 AM , Rating: 2
I dunno how much this update helps, but if you've ever actually seen a 360 over vga, especially to a budget hdtv, you know the image quality is absolutely awful. I have a friend with a 42" sceptre with the 360 hooked up over vga, and I would honestly rather play some games on a good SDTV than over VGA.

RE: Meh
By whalenapp81 on 5/9/2007 1:09:26 PM , Rating: 2
glad i can veiw games at 1080p over component cables with my tv, though i do want an hdmi input for xbox, but i want smaller chipset before i buy new one.

RE: Meh
By otispunkmeyer on 5/10/2007 4:00:28 AM , Rating: 2
i agree, my mate got a cheap HDTV out of argos, 32 inch i think (720p/1080i) i dont know the brand of the top of my head but i cant say i recognised it to be a big name brand.

along with quite disgusting back light bleed it almost looked like we were playing GoW through looking through a veil of milky water.... horribly washed out on the VGA

component was a little better, bit more punchy, but the image still looked bad.

i play my 360 on my dell 2005fpw (8 bit IPS FTW!) over vga, and i always thought it looked a little washed out. this update has helped alot imo.

TDU is the only game not benefiting too much, but i think its just that game...the colours on the cars are very dull and lifeless at times...especially reds. ive never seen a F40 look so dull.

by contrast, in PG3 the F40 is literally bouncing of the screen in a blaze of vivid red.

RE: Meh
By bysmitty on 5/9/2007 10:31:48 AM , Rating: 1
You obviously have never seen a 360 hooked up to a computer LCD via VGA then. Washed out is the only way to describe the color under these settings whether the picture is moving or not. You notice it right away when you boot to the dashboard. I'll admit that you kind of get used to it after a while but this is still a much needed and much appreciated update.


RE: Meh
By Goty on 5/9/2007 12:30:18 PM , Rating: 2
I don't know, it does seem to help some of the "banding" issues.

RE: Meh
By LatinMessiah on 5/9/2007 1:00:12 PM , Rating: 1
I agree. I don't see any difference.

RE: Meh
By Goty on 5/9/2007 1:20:15 PM , Rating: 2
Check the reflection on the rear quarterpanel/bumper section of the NFS:C screenshot at full resolution and you can see a definite improvement.

RE: Meh
By AmbroseAthan on 5/9/2007 1:33:11 PM , Rating: 3
Or if you don't see the difference in the game shot; do you see the difference in the top King Kong shot and the bottom one? That one is like day compared to night; I'm amazed how much darker it is.

RE: Meh
By darkpaw on 5/9/2007 2:18:36 PM , Rating: 2
Yah, completely different. If someone can't see the differences in the movie pictures they might need their eyes checked.

RE: Meh
By sscilli on 5/9/2007 6:53:07 PM , Rating: 2
I'd imagine the difference would be more noticeable while actually playing a game, as apposed to a single screen shot from a car game. I mean it's not gonna be crystal clear with all that motion in a photo taken with a camera.

RE: Meh
By LatinMessiah on 5/10/2007 12:44:23 PM , Rating: 2
I can get the same results by adjusting the TV's video settings. Big deal.

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