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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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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.

"I want people to see my movies in the best formats possible. For [Paramount] to deny people who have Blu-ray sucks!" -- Movie Director Michael Bay
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