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Quick Thoughts on PS3 Video Upscaling

So i downloaded the latest firmware for the PS3 to check out the new video upscaling feature. One of the complaints I’ve had about the PS3 is that it didn’t upscale my DVD’s the way my Xbox 360 did. Upscaling really makes a noticeable difference when watching a DVD. They look so much better. Not that they looked like a HD-DVD or BluRay disk, but they still looked good.

The first thing I noticed after installing the 1.8 firmware update is that things didn’t upscale the way I expected. I tried playing Final Fantasy XII on the PS3 and tings were squished into a small window. Before the update the screen was displayed in 16:9. Granted the images were jaggy as all ge tout - but they were in widescreen format. I figured this was wrong (even Sony, for all of it’s mistakes with the PS3 wouldn’t be that stupid). Sure enough after a little digging around online I found that you have to go into Game Settings and tell the PS3 how you want to upscale games. After telling the $600.00 box that yes indeed I did want older games upscaled and in full screen if possible, I tried again. This time it worked. What had been an almost unplayable game was now beautiful. Not Oblivion beautiful or anything, but still a site to behold.

Now it was onto the movies. Let me say that my TV is a Panasonic 44″ rear projection LCD and only does 720P. I think that is a pretty common setup so what I’m seeing is probably close to what most of you will see. The set has been calibrated for both the Xbox360 (using the VGA cable) and the PS3 (using an HDMI cable). The first movie I popped in was Grosse Point Blank. Why? Well I just like it. I popped it into the PS3 and WOW was I impressed by how bad the picture was. This was upscaling? What the hell were they thinking?

I ejected the DVD and stuck it in the 360’s HD-DVD player and waited to be impressed. It still looked like crap. Oh wait, this movie is in some weird aspect ration and was filmed with more grain than a wheat field. Maybe this isn’t such a good test? So now I grabbed Star Wars 3 (6?) - Revenge of the Sith and loaded it up. Now we’re talking people!

On both systems the image quality was fantastic. The detail was sharp and clear. The colors were excellent. I’ve watched a lot of Hi-Def video and I swear if you had tolkd me this was the (non-existent) Star Wars BluRay disk I would have said OK. The detail on the Ps3 was maybe a tad better than the Xbox. On my set, with my calibrations, the color looked just a bit better on the 360. I watched the the opening flight sequence 4 times trying to tell which I liked better and I have to say it’s a draw. Both systems do a good job of upscaling for the average user. Sure they aren’t high-end DVD players, but then again those can’t play Gears or Motostorm now can they?

One thing I do have to complain about though with the PS3 (and it is a common complaint I have with Sony’s interface) is that it isn’t intuitive to set up upscaling (remember my issue with Final Fantasy?) On the Xbox 360, things just upscale, assuming you are connected via VGA or certain component cables. I assume the same is true with the new Elite and the HDMI interface. Sony has a variety of settings, but no explanation of what they are. Do I want normal scaling or double scaling. Oh sorry only normal works for 720P, but how was I supposed to know that. Do I want Super White on or off? Well what is Super White? How do I know if I want it. It’s not that the choices are bad, but they are not presented well. Over and over Sony demonstrates to me that they lack the polish on the software side that is evident on the 360.

That point aside, the upscaling feature is a welcome addition to the Ps3 firmware. Given that it is so much quieter to watch movies on my PS3 than my Xbox 360, it will now become my primary movie machine. For an admitted Microsoft fanboy, that is saying a lot.

[tag] Ps3, Xbox 360, Xbox360, Sony, Playstation, DVD, HDTV, video upscaling, video games [/tag]

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