Tuesday, January 25, 2005

High Definition and Next-Gen Console Specs

Dribbles of information are now leaking out about specifications for the next generation of consoles. They are, in short, staggering. Pairing unbelievably fast processors with cutting-edge graphics technology means that the new generation should be capable of delivering spectacular images. Say good-bye to aliasing--it will either no longer exist or will only be barely visible in very limited circumstances.

There are a couple of things worth noting. First, there is no question that all three of the next-generation consoles will require HDTV support from developers (in addition to standard definition). At a minimum, they will require 720p support (1280x720 resolution), and many games will also optionally support 1080i (1920x1080).

This is important if you're considering the purchase of an HD set in the near future. For gaming, it will be important to have a set that supports a 720p input signal. It doesn't need to display at that resolution, but it needs to accept the signal. Quite a few HD sets, surprisingly, don't support a 720p signal, so it's important to be sure before you purchase. There are ways around this (a scaler, for example, to upconvert the signal), but they're fairly expensive.

The other thing worth noting is Microsoft's XNA platform. A set of tools to enable easy cross-platform development, it should mean that Xbox 2 games will be ported to the PC much more frequently, and since 1280x720 resolution will be supported (at least), there will be no more of those crappy, crappy conversions that featured 640x480 text overlays, etc. So the quality of ports to the PC should go up substantially, and the amount of time to develop those ports should go way down.

One last thing about HD. There is no HD display technology that is so superior to the others that it becomes essential to purchase that type of display. Manufacturers and even individual models of displays are equally as important, because image quality will vary from "breathtaking" to "crap." The best-in-breed of any HD display technology will be superior to a middle-of-the-road example of another type. That's why it's so important to choose the right display, not just the "superior" technology. I've mentioned this site several times, but the best place, by far, to compare screens are the AVS forums:
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/. There is a wealth of information and education available to anyone interested in high-definition.

Site Meter