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When 480p Is Not Enough

Bionic Commando Rearmed (technically) There's some interesting discussion going on around the Internet (first time for everything, right?) about how some of this generation's video games are leaving players with "only" a non-HDTV in the dust when it comes to being able to pick out the little details and tiny text.  MTV's Stephen Totilo spoke out about working in the game journalism industry armed with only a SDTV, while my Kombo cohort David Oxford picked up the ball and ran with it with his own tale of being trapped with 480i in a 1080p world.  Stephen says:

But my standard TV set is beginning to fail me. I’ve found its weakness. What it can’t display very well, I’ve learned, are the best-looking high-definition 2D games, particularly some of the work on the PlayStation 3’s downloadable service. The lower-color-contrast boards of PixelJunk Eden look blurry on my TV. The edges of the plants I need to leap my character to display with a fuzziness that impacts my ability to accurately jump. Last night, I discovered that the aerial maps used for levels in The Last Guy, a game I had no problem playing a couple of weeks ago on a high-def set, appear hazy on my TV. I had trouble spotting my character and the tiny people I needed to collect while playing in standard resolution.

While David declares:

Of course, in my case, the failing of SDTV in 2D games became most apparent when I tried to play Bionic Commando Rearmed, with ledges that were difficult to distinguish from the background, spikes that didn't look very spikey from afar, and the too-small text. Just out of curiosity, how many of you have made the jump to HDTV? Who still plays on SD? What was the impetus for your switch? Was it games? Movies? Both? Or just being on the cutting edge?

Super Mario Galaxy I must be doing things backwards because I jumped up to HDTV before getting a game console that can output a high-def signal.  My most advanced console is a simple Nintendo Wii that cranks out a mere 480p signal.  I've been wowed by how fantastic games such as Super Mario Galaxy look in glorious widescreen.  I've even stepped back into my GameCube archive to see how nice those older games look with a little modern video horsepower pumping through them.  Playing Super Mario Sunshine, Star Fox: Assault, and even the problematic Shadow the Hedgehog are actually much more fun when I can see more of the field of play.  Lots of the GameCube stuff even kicks out a widescreen signal, too.  Amazing!  It takes little to impress me, I guess.  I'm looking forward to real high-def gaming, of course, but for now I'm satisfied.

Lost So what HD things am I doing with that HDTV if not video gaming?  High-def cable channels.  I've come to the realization that I'll watch just about anything if it's broadcast with vivid colors.  The good stuff is even more enticing.  Lost looks spectacular with more pixels on display, as do Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and the brightly-hued Pushing Daisies.  I'm also becoming a high-def snob with HBO.  My cable provider doesn't offer Cinemax HD yet (shameful!), and I've found that I'll wait for a movie I want to see that's on Cinemax to turn up on HBO HD a month or three later just to see it in widescreen with those dynamic visuals.  I'm even DVRing some of my favorite films that I already own on regular DVDs when they turn up on a HD channel.  Does the HBO HD version of Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie really look all that better than the standard DVD version?  Probably not so much, but I'm not letting go of the HD version either way.  I also have a terrible feeling that I'll turn into a Blu-ray fan once I get a Sony PlayStation 3, forsaking future plain DVD purchases in favor of high-def counterparts.

Anyone out there still on the fence about moving up to HDTV should remember that HD content will change the way that you consume media, mostly because you'll find yourself consuming a lot more of it and paying more for the privilege.  Is it worth the expense?  Big shiny colors say yes!