Upconversion overrated?

Samsung_dvdhd870_b As the HDTV phenomenon heats up and more people head home with big-screen TVs, many are asking themselves what they should do about their DVD collection. Will those non-HD DVDs look good on their new TV or should they drop some more cash for a new ‘upconverting’ DVD player? Are they worth it? Many are saying ‘no’.

The users over at High Def Forum are having a pretty good debate over whether or not an upconverting DVD player makes any difference at all. Here’s the scoop:

Upconversion is the process by which a SD (standard definition) video source e.g. DVD, is converted from its native resolution (in this case 480i or 480p depending on the DVD player) to the native resolution of the TV that’s showing it (typically 720p, 1080i or 1080p for most HDTVs).  Going from lower resolution to higher resolution can be tricky. You’re asking the TV to fill up its screen with information that simply isn’t present on the source material. So the quality of the software and hardware that performs this upconversion is critical, and not all upconverting schemes are equally successful.

But wait a minute. Surely the TV manufacturers, in all their wisdom, would have realized that most of us would want to play back SD movies and even some TV shows on our fancy new HDTVs right? Would they not have included this upconversion process right into their displays so we wouldn’t have to worry about it? Yes. They did.

But before you heave a sigh of relief, we’re not quite off the hook yet. Remember that not all upconversion processes are the same. That means that while your new TV can do the upconversion of your SD material, it may not do it as well as that upconverting DVD player.

Where most people seem to agree, is that an upconverting DVD player has a better quality connection to your TV. When an upconverting player sends out the HD signal to your TV, it does so via a HDMI interface. Because this connection is 100% digital, it may offer a higher quality signal than traditional DVD players which deliver their best signal through component video outputs, which are analog only. Your HDTV needs to convert these analog signals to digital and then upconvert them to HD resolution.

Theoretically, this "pure digital" pathway from the player to the TV should improve the finished product.

Is it worth the $100+ to find out? Let us know. Please share your upconverting successes and disappointments.

One comment

  1. Pramod

    It definitely is. I have a Panasonic upconverting DVD player and its quality is amazing when movie watched on Panasonic Plasma HDTV.

    I also have couple of other analog DVD players – SONY and VSONIC. But when it comes to displaying movies, this article is very much correct.

    Digital upconverting DVD player is many times better than an analog DVD player.

    The movie titles will tell you all. They appear crisp clear, and colors and picture quality is extra oridnary on upconverting DVD player. Try watching James Bond, Superman or some new movies and see and feel it yourself.

    You can use HDMI for stereo audio output as well or you can use optical output to your amplifier and enjoy full 7.1 channel audio with a great picture.