Ever since getting the ps3, I've been telling myself I need to hook the thing up in 1080p to my 45" sharp. It's an older model, the GX6U. It was made at the tail end of the 1080p capable flatpanels that couldn't accept a 1080p signal.
However, the GX6U is interesting 'cause it has an outboard box that's supposed to sit in the equipment rack making all the connections to components easier. Most flatpanels have all the connections on the panel instead. But for the GX6U, this means that there is just a single DVI cable going from the outboard box to the screen with all the electronics for scaling, conversion from analog connections, screen settings, proprietary menus, etc. residing in the box. Whatever goes in the box comes out scaled to 1080p and is sent to the screen.
Well somebody figured out that the panel will accept a 1080p signal directly if connected to the panel through the DVI (accepts HDMI too with a pin adapter) port on the screen. There is no conversion possible. No 1080i signal will work through that port. It simply bypasses all the signal conversion electronics in the box and displays whatever the source can output at 1080p.
Well, I finally got the cables etc. necessary to make this work and when I was finally able to get it to synch ... my jaw hit the floor with the first blu-ray I watched.
I couldn't believe it at first. Detail, sharpness, color, contrast, everything seemed an order of magnitude better than at 1080i through the outboard box. I have done a lot of a/b testing since then with and without the box, trying to get the 1080i signal to match the setting on the direct panel connection and have been completely unsuccessful at replicating the quality. I have moved the panel settings to "torch" where the brightness, colors etc. are all up, but I lose the black levels. It just doesn't seem possible to replicate what seems to be an absolutely perfect picture signal when connected directly to the box. Black levels and contrast on the screen are amazing at 1080p with slight differences in dark scenes easily visible as different than the black bars at the top and bottom of movies. Before, the bars themselves seemed overly bright instead of black. At 1080p, there is a clearly distinguishable movie rectangle between them even in the darkest scenes. In brightly lit scenes, it seem like I could actually reach through the screen and touch the actors, the picture is so pristine and three dimensional.
I have tried black hawk down, superman ret., underworld:e, and flyboys all with the exact same results. There is even a scene in superman just after louis kisses superman in his hospital bed and starts to pull her son out of the room. One blue wall has a lot of grainy noise on it (I think it is an isolated case of poor digital mastering) at 1080i through the box that is completely gone when played at 1080p.
What this tells me is that:
1. There is a lot of digital conversion going on in HDTVs.
2. The internal electronics in HDTVs is very poor and can account for a lot of the poor PQ from 1080p sources.
3. I wonder if the current 1080p capable sets pass the signal through to the panel, or if there is still vodoo being applied to the signal as it passes through the set's electronics.
I'm thinking that even the most recent HDTVs still process the signal before it gets to the display circuitry. I noticed that on some of the earlier disks like underworld and BHD, some of the opening ratings screens, etc. would not display properly using direct connect because they were in a different format than the actual movie. So some chip seems to be necessary to keep this from happening with the box. However, the movie playback itself was flawless.
Anyhoo, just had to share this as I'm now very suspect of all the electronic voodoo going on in HDTVs these days. With prices falling, I'm really wondering if the chipsets are getting better, or if manufacturers are still cutting corners on the electronics. I think we'd certainly be better if everything was just 1080p source -> 1080p player -> 1080p HDTV without all the need for scalers, deinterlacers, and other e-voodoo. ;)