Tag Archives: HDTV

HD DVD Hunting

‘Tis a sad day when you have to jump through more hoops to get a new accessory than you did the console itself, but that’s exactly the experience that I’ve had today while hunting for the 360 HD DVD drive, which neither my friend’s shop (there were around 20 in the whole country for independent shops, according to the distributor) nor Gameplay could supply me with for launch day. I doubt I was alone in this experience, so here’s my day.

I’d heard that a good number of PC World stores would be getting a handful of units each for general sale. Got up bright and early at 8am this morning so that I could be at PC World in Poole, the biggest around, for when it opened at 9. I asked in there and they said they were expecting a few but they haven’t turned up, and they might be in their delivery later that day. Went home via the Christchurch branch (the other side of town) but they weren’t getting any, checking every place that might have had them (Tesco, Currys, Comet, etc) on the way. No joy.

Then I had to go to uni so I checked PC World in Southampton while I was there, along with Gamestation, two branches of Game, Virgin, HMV, and CEX. Nothing.

On the way home I detoured over to Poole again to see if their delivery had arrived. Nope. Maybe Monday, they said. By then I was resigned to getting an import on Tuesday, obviously at a premium but not as unreasonable as the current eBay prices, so I went to cancel my unfulfilled Gameplay order which still said “Ordered” since I’d missed out on the initial shipment. Went through their cancellation process and then noticed – after I’d cancelled it, mind – that it had changed to “Being Picked”.

I rang them up to see if that was accurate and, if it was, to see if I could cancel my cancellation. The guy there informed me that they’d managed to get a few more units and mine had been shipped out this morning via courier, so I should get it on Monday.

A happy ending, then. Now I think I need to lie down…

Whatever Happened to Plug and Play?

Remember when a new console had to be connected to power, connected to the TV, and that was it? Those were the days…

With all of the big three espousing network connectivity and, to wildly differing extents, higher resolutions, will those days ever come back? Getting the full experience from a games console is no longer a case of picking up a SCART cable along with the new hardware. As well as needing an expensive TV, just setting it up relies on an intimate knowledge of your TV’s supported inputs and resolutions as well as the favoured sound formats of your audio setup. I’m a technical masochist and so actually like fiddling with settings, but I doubt the average person does. We all must have cringed at friends with nice widescreen TVs but with their DVD player set to 4:3.

Networking is just as bad, requiring either a wired network within range of the console or a headfirst dive into the world of wireless networking – encryption protocols, DHCP servers, MAC filters, SSIDs, keys, and other such fun – to get what can be the main thrust of the hardware in the case of the 360.

And then there was firmware. The risk of completely killing your hardware aside, it’s more than slightly annoying to find yourself unable to play a PSP game because it has a mandatory firmware upgrade on the disc and your machine doesn’t have enough battery power to let you flash it. So much for ease of use there. Since its release the PS3 has had two firmware updates weighing in at nearly 100MB each, which is no quick and painless download on a 2Mb connection with a bandwidth limit. I’m sure you’re familiar with the stories of firmware updates killing 360s and Wiis, as well. Don’t even get me started on game patching and modern developers’ inability to notice players randomly disconnecting from online games.

Necessary evils though these may be if we want these new experiences, surely someone out there can come up with some kind of standards. Why not make TVs that can tell your devices what resolution they want? Why not test your bloody games before you ask us to pay for them?

The Zelda Conundrum

The reviews of Zelda: Twilight Princess are coming in and it looks like a certain contender for game of the year. Naturally, being a Zelda fan (who isn’t?), I’m desperate to play it. Therein lies a problem.

  • I want it now.
  • I want it in widescreen and 480p. Strictly speaking I want it in 720p, but I’ll take what I can get.

So get the Wii version, right? Well…

  • I don’t want to look like a twat while I’m playing it. That may sound shallow, but my reservations over the controls go into the functionality as well: I want to be able scratch my nose without clattering the poor maiden who I’m trying to save with my sword, for example. In short: I want to play it with a controller. The ports are there so why not give me the option to use them?
  • Twilight Princess is the only Wii game that I want for the forseeable future. I’m reluctant to buy a whole new system for this game when there’s a perfectly functional, albeit slightly crippled, one on a system that’s been gathering dust since, well, the last Zelda. Doesn’t my faithful Cube deserve its last hurrah?

What’s a guy to do? It’s tempting just to get pissed off with Nintendo for doing this, since ultimately if they’d put widescreen and 480p into the GameCube version I wouldn’t have any issues here. The Cube can certainly handle it in 480p (the game runs on the Wind Waker engine, and that was progressive four years ago) so it’s clearly a deliberate decision to annoy the gamers with a side job in geekery. And get them to buy a Wii, of course. The console that’s designed to draw in non-gamers…


PlayedStation 3

I got to have my way with a Japanese PS3 earlier today. First thing I should point out that this was just connected through composite so I can’t claim to talk with any authority about the graphical acuity that people will get through component and HDMI. Unless they’re on a 1080i TV, of course. Ba-dum tish!

With the obligatory bash out of the way, on with the impressions. First, the hardware itself:

  • This mutha is mahoosive. Imagine the monolith from 2001 with an HDMI port. It’s slightly bigger than the 360, and a similar size to the original Xbox. Where are all the jokers who made the size quips when that came out, I wonder? Queuing for their PS3s, I’d assume.
  • It has the same shiny finish as the PSP. Thankfully you’re not required to touch it and therefore smudge the hell out of it as you were with that, but it looks nice.
  • (whisper quiet). A very good thing. A bit louder than the near-silent slimline PS2, quieter than the 360…not that that’s difficult.
  • Slot loading disc drive and touch-sensitive buttons are extremely slick.
  • If you’ve used a PSP you’ve used the “XMB” dashboard-thingy. I wasn’t that keen on it then and I’m still not, but it’s a dramatic improvement on the PS2’s frontend…not that that’s difficult.
  • The web browser is decent but a mouse and keyboard is a necessity. The controls for it are even more convoluted than on the PSP.
  • 100MB firmware updates? Let’s not make this a regular occurrence when some of us have bandwidth limits.
  • The jury is out on the SIXAXIS. I’m not a huge Dual Shock fan anyway, and although the sticks have a nicer finish than the DS2, they’re still not nearly as accurate as Nintendo and Microsoft’s analogue sticks. Rumble is one of those things that you miss when you don’t have it. It’s not as light as I’d heard, and so I was expecting to hate it since I’d been given comparisons to the SNES controller; it’s still a bit on the cheapy side, but not bad. I’ll talk about the motion sensitivity where relevant in the games.

Continue reading PlayedStation 3

The HD Era Begins When…

…you buy a component or HDMI cable. Why the hell doesn’t the PS3 come with anything better than a composhite cable?

Cue lots of people being bitterly disappointed when they get it, stick a Blu-Ray in there, and find that it looks the same (or worse) than their DVD player. Or the same reaction when those whose knowledge of high definition is limited to the fact that their TV is “HD Ready” finds that it looks shockingly bad on their LCD. Believe me, composite really does.

I know that I haven’t said anything positive about Sony in a while and I’d like to be able to, but apart from the good move of adding HDMI to the cheaper model what have they done to make themselves some new friends?

This is supposed to be the ultimate high-end gaming experience with no expense spared but it comes to a cable that could only be worse if it was RF, they dropped the rumble apparently because of cost (a motor must cost them pennies), and they don’t give it an IR receiver so that even the most expensive of universal remotes can’t control the PS3; you need to buy its horrible Bluetooth remote. That last one, in particular, won’t convince the AV community with their £150+ remotes that this is a legitimate choice for their new HD movie player.

Can someone convince me that this isn’t a ridiculous move?

A Toe in the HD-Pond

Look what I got in the post yesterday!

My First HD DVDs

Yes, there’s a few weeks before the Xbox 360’s HD DVD drive comes out to say hello but I wanted to get these purchases out of the way before I’m buried under a deluge of new games. Serenity is an obvious choice and when I first saw HD DVD I was blown away by the video quality in The Last Samurai. Batman Begins is on the way across the Atlantic as we speak (can’t wait to see those beautiful glaciers in HD), and when you add in King Kong I’ve got a nice early library.

I won’t comment on the mental health implications of buying discs that I currently have no way of playing. Surely I’m not the only one who’s done it? In any case there’s a format war to be won this time and I’ve done my part to ensure victory for the HD DVD format. Take that, Blu-Ray!