Friday, February 10, 2006

HDTV so clear you can read the fans T-shirts

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been testing a Panasonic 42-inch plasma high-definition television mated with the new Xbox 360 from Microsoft.

All I can say is “wow.”

Until you’ve watched the NFL playoffs, the Super Bowl, big-time college basketball and your favorite TV shows (“Surface,” “Smallville,” and “24”) in high definition, you haven’t watched TV. And until you’ve played the new Tiger Woods game in high def via the new Xbox, you haven’t really played video games.

I’m going to be writing a lot here about HD, particularly about what it is and how to get it. It’s amazing technology. But first, let’s myth-bust: to get high definition television, you must have a high definition set.

You may see “presented in high definition” across the bottom of your screen when a program comes on, but rest assured, your old floor model 25-inch can’t show HD. HD is a form of digital television that is so sharp, you can see individual hairs on people’s heads. You can see what fans have on in the stands at a basketball game.

True story: My son, Trey, asked me who were the Jackson 5 last week during a Philly 76er game on ESPN-HD.

“Why are you asking, son,” I said back.

“Because,” he said pointing, “that man behind the basket has a T-shirt with that name on it.”

Like I said, “Wow.”

And gaming on an HD set is amazing. Even the old Xbox looks better in HD. Some games were created to use a different form of digital TV, one that is not HD, but still trumps standard TV.

These “480P” games are created to fill the screens of these new HD sets that have rectangular screens – like a movie screen – instead of the old square jobs we’re used to. So your old NBA 2K5 will look better on an HD set than it does even on your non-HD 50-inch square job in the den right now.

But the new 360 game system is created to play all games in HD, and a new adapter coming this year will allow the system to play the upcoming HD-DVDs, a feature that is going to be included with the new PS3 system, which will set you back $500, or about the same as a modified 360 I’m guessing.

People will pay, though.

Playing video games in HD is almost like playing for the first time. It’ll take you a long time to get over the “I can’t believe this looks so good” thing. The grass in Tiger Woods PGA looks like real grass. Tiger looks almost like the real thing. The courses look more realistic. It just adds to the game. Makes it more intense. Game play itself isn’t changed much, and most of these new 360 titles are simply graphically upgraded ports of the stuff we’ve played.

But by summer, we’ll get second generation 360 games from folks like EA Sports and Visual Concepts and the like, and given the power of the new 360, I think we’ll see new tricks, too. My guess? HD gaming is going to help video games grab an even bigger share of America’s pop culture pie.

Tell me about your HD gaming experience. Click on the comments link below.


XM202 said...

I'd like to get an XBOX 360, but until I can walk into a store and they are on the shelves I'm planning on waiting for the PS3.

Anonymous said...

when i get my 360 it i will be playing it on a samsung 19" computer monitor seeing as i cant afford a big 30+ inch hdtv. but at least i will still get the "wow" experience because my monitor does 720p which is 1280x720 and thats all i need

Langston Wertz Jr. said...

XM, I hear you. I am shocked that 360s are not readily available. I keep walking into stores hoping to see them. I understand about withholding supply to create buzz, but this makes me think that supply really is short. To be honest, it almost feels like the 360 buzz has died down.

Too bad, it's a wonderful game system and I'm not too sure the PS3 is going to "blow it out of the water" as I've read in some sites and forums.

Langston Wertz Jr. said...

Anony, computer monitors do work fine. And wait til we have the argument over whether 1080I is better than 720P.

Anonymous said...

WOW is so right! I am a fan of Sony, but purchased an XBOX 360. Wanted to what all the hype was about. Micro-Soft hit one out the park with this one. We had recently purchased a Pioneer Elite 60" HD Plasma, now i have really become a "couch-potato". The XBoX is just another game if not viewed in HD. MaP13

Langston Wertz Jr. said...

Map 13, I couldn't agree more. HD gaming is like a whole new world. It enriches the experience and further takes into that fantasy land that the best games always did. The future is way bright

clayj said...

I have 2 Xbox 360s... one connected to a Runco 50" plasma TV with a full home theatre system in my living room (Dolby Digital 5.1 for the 360), and one connected to a Sony 32" BRAVIA LCD TV in my bedroom. The first 360 I got from EBGames (I pre-ordered within 5 minutes of their being announced last August) for retail, and the second I got through eBay for about a $100 premium over retail.

I *love* gaming in HD... games like Project Gotham Racing 3 and Call of Duty 2 are absolutely mind-blowing in 1080i definition, and being able to play with surround sound makes for an almost completely immersive experience. Plus, the Xbox 360's ability to play music from my Windows Media Center PC makes it more than just a gaming console. I've achieved as close to "convergence" as I think is possible with current technology.

The Sony PS3's main selling point, at least for me, is Blu-Ray playback... I don't think I'll buy it for the games, but being able to buy a PS3 for one-third to one-half the cost of a standalone Blu-Ray player is almost too good to be true. Of course, the Xbox 360 will have an external HD DVD playback drive sometime later this year.

For what it's worth, I'm not convinced that Blu-Ray has the edge over HD DVD... Blu-Ray does have wider industry support, but it's going to cost a LOT more than HD DVD initially, and we all know that cost is a BIG factor... especially when the quality of playback won't be any better.