S-Video? Component? HDMI?Complications Ensue
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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Checking out my brand new TV, I see there are all sorts of ways to get signal into it. Your regular yellow/red/white RCA cords. Your S-video cable. Your component video cable. HDMI.

I can't tell the difference between my PVR hooked up via RCA jacks and my PVR hooked up via S-Video, and I'm fairly finicky. Can anyone else tell the difference? Is there a difference in the audio?

Can any of you guys tell the difference with component video? I could easily hook up the component video output of my DVD player; I'm just wondering if it's worth the fuss.

I'm assuming that HDMI, being digital, beats all the rest. But I don't have HDMI outputs on anything. I'm going to wait for my next show before I get a new DVD player or an HD PVR.

I've got a small list of semi-big-ticket items I plan to buy "next show"... "Oh Lord, won't ya buy me an HD PVR..."

UPDATE: Oh, and -- can I use any old RCA cables for component cables? They look like ordinary RCA jacks. If I don't care about the colors not matching, can I just grab one of my many, many triplets of cables and hook'em up?

And -- how much improvement can I expect from an up-converting DVD player, given that the Bravia is a mere 720p?



I've only got component inputs for hi-def, but I've heard from people who have both component and HDMI that it's device-dependent which one works better. I am a little concerned about DRM over HDMI, though. Wil Wheaton blogged about some serious problems with that a few months back.

By Blogger R.A. Porter, at 7:46 PM  

I'm not an expert, but from experience, RCA and S-Video are pretty similar (S-Video apparently does better over long cables, which could be useful if you have a projector). Component is definitely superior, and will display progressively instead of interlaced - that is, every line on the TV is refreshed every time the image updates instead of every second line. However that may be dependent on your DVD player anyway.

My suggestion is, if you can do component easily, go for it. It definitely improved the display from my Wii, and it allows my 360 to display in 1080p. Very nice...

By Blogger David Peterson, at 7:50 PM  

Definitely agree with David that component is a significant upgrade worth the cost/hassle for switching cables. I'd also suggest it's worth the small cost for an upconverting DVD player to output to HDMI - the Oppo is probably the best, but you can get other brands for $50-100. Worth it, especially if you watch a lot of DVDs.

By Blogger Jason Mittell, at 8:23 PM  

I'm not sure if there is any difference in 'official' component cables, but I can't see how it would hurt to try your RCAs.

With regard to upscaling, I can't comment since I haven't seen it in action, other than noting that regular DVD displays at about 512p, so there would be some improvement. That said, I don't have an upscaler and DVD generally looks pretty nice regardless. See if you can get a demo at an electronic store some time and judge for yourself...

By Blogger David Peterson, at 9:03 PM  

RCA cables will work fine connecting component video--you should see a significant difference in color quality. W/R/T an upscaling DVD player, it sort of depends how bad your current DVD player is. I use the scaler on my television, not my DVD player (the DVD player is set to output at 480p) -- this gives me easier control over the aspect ratio of the final image, especially with non-anamorphic widescreen DVDs. If your DVD player doesn't give you any control whatsoever over the aspect ratio of the output (i.e., you can't tell it that it's connected to a widescreen television), then you would see a significant improvement by getting an upscaling DVD player (which you should be able to get for less than $100 now). If you tell me what model DVD player you've got, I can give you more accurate information.

By Blogger Matthew Dessem, at 2:38 PM  

Final note: The HDMI/Component issue actually became relevant for me today, and I came across this article about HDMI vs. Component. A fairly concise breakdown of the relevant issues I think.

By Blogger David Peterson, at 1:01 AM  

Component Video - guide
Digital Video Connections

Note that these should answer alot of your questions.

Please note that:
The HDMI input delivers the highest quality signal to the television and produces the highest quality high definition television picture, to the limits of the capabilities of the television. However, HDMI and DVi has the HDCP content protection system built-in and this will degrade resolution of the display should the HDCP detect the presence of an unauthorized device. This limits the devices which deliver high definition TV content to those which are unable to record or otherwise duplicate protected content.

By Blogger Hugo Fuchs, at 3:40 PM  

Okay, but Hugo, what I'm not clear on is -- can I use my yellow/red/white cables *as* component video cables, given that they're both RCA connector cables?

The comments would appear to say "no" but it's not clear.

I've tried the yellow/red/white cables in the blue/green/red component jacks, and the results were terrible. But I'm not sure if the problem is the connector wires or something else, and I don't want to spring for component wires if it's not going to fix the problem.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 4:02 PM  

No. The red and white cables are for sound not video.

Basically the difference between the composite video (yellow) cable and the component cable is quality of the EMI shielding. You can buy the component cables a little long, but you don't want them so long that you have to coil them.

By Blogger Hugo Fuchs, at 5:17 PM  

Thanks for answering, Hugo.

Does that mean I could theoretically use three yellow composite RCA cords (appropriately marked) to replace component video? Or do I for sure need original component video cords.

I've just got yards of cables in boxes, hate to buy new if I don't have to.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 5:25 PM  

Theoretically, Yes. Of course that depends on things like whether it is a standard grade cable (crappy) or a high-end grade. What machines is the cable going to be bridging. And how much EMI is present in the area.

Quality: Assuming you may have some high-end RCA video cables, they are about the equivalent as the lower-end of composite video. That means that gold RCA jacks are needed.

Machine Bridging: If you're not jamming HD signal through it, then the RCA should work fine, say DVD to TV rather than HD-DVD to TV.

EMI: Amount depends on wiring, , cleanness of power, distances, electic motors operating, small-lawn engines, etc.

Lesser quality RCA cables should theoretically work, though quality will suffer.

By Blogger Hugo Fuchs, at 1:27 PM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

By Blogger Unknown, at 9:55 PM  

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