Having decided to build a hackintosh HTPC in part 1, the next step is picking hardware. This would normally include a display and this project is no different. The display this time though is an LCD television instead of the usual LCD monitor.
I had a short list of potential TV’s and the top was occupied by a couple of Sony models, the 40V4000 and 40W4000. The decision on which to go for would depend on what deals were available as the spec is similar, with the 40W4000 being a 10 bit panel (instead of 8 bit) and adding some multimedia features. Next on the list were Samsung’s 6 series models. A local retailer had an older Samsung 46″ 5 series and a Sony 40L4000 (a cut down 40V4000) hooked up to a Vista PC through a KVM switch, running at something like 1366×768 resolution. I increased the resolution to 1920×1080 and to my surprise the Sony showed an unsupported display mode message while the Samsung looked fantastic. Read more…
How hard can this be? Sample video from the Sony HDR-TG3E (TG1 in the USA) has started appearing online and I’ve downloaded some to have a look at on my Mac. The video files are in an AVCHD format with an .MTS file extention. Quicktime doesn’t recognise the files, and VLC tries to play a few seconds then crashes. This post says some of the VLC nightly builds will play the video, so I downloaded several that were recommended as working. All played the video files poorly, freezing and jumping constantly. Mplayer wouldn’t even open the files.
Further searching revealed the only current way of viewing .MTS AVCHD files on the Mac is using Roxio’s Toast 9. Toast opens the Toast Video Player (©2008 Elgato) which plays the video’s smoothly. iMovie and Final Cut Express/Pro can import the video files direct from the recorder, but not plain files on your hard drive.
For anyone looking to view some sample’s on a Mac here are some links that should help.
I’ve previously mentioned Sony’s impressive TG3 HD camcorder, and it’s now available in the UK. Dixons in the Gatwick departure lounge had it for £499, and while I wouldn’t agree that it’s the size of a mobile phone it is compact. The Rejuvenated Simplydv.co.uk have a good review that praises the TG3 for image quality and lists the only negative points as a fiddly zoom control and having to use the touchscreen for most adjustments.
While in the Dixons store I also got my hands on the Sanyo Xacti HD1000, which surprised me by its size. This is one camcorder that won’t be going into your pocket which is a major change for the Xacti series. The small size of my Xacti HD2 is what keeps it in my travel bag while the Nikon D50 and Canon MiniDV camcorder stay at home, so I won’t be upgrading to the HD1000.
I posted a few days ago about the Sony HDR-TG3E, a compact HD camera that showed a lot of potential. The first hands on review I have seen has now been posted at tracyandmatt.co.uk. No sample video or photo’s but a video of unboxing and first impressions was posted. Unfortunately it’s hosted on Revver which I can’t add here. Worth reading the review for the comments on picture quality, and I look forward to seeing the first low light samples.
Sony has unveiled the HDR-TG3E, which it claims is the world’s smallest and lightest 1920 HD camcorder available. Measuring 33 x 119 x 63mm it certainly compact, and the titanium body should help it to withstand scratching. The Memory Stick Pro Duo is as usual Sony’s storage medium of choice, and a 4GB stick is supplied. Four Megapixel stills are captured as well as the HD video, and it appears to use the AVCHD format including 5.1 surround sound. The 2.7in LCD touchscreen should make it easy to use, and an optional GPS unit will allow geotagging.
This stunner will be available Stateside from next month for around $900, with no word yet on the European launch date or price. I’m looking forward to the reviews to see how the low light performance compares to my sadly lacking Sanyo Xacti HD2.
So it finally looks like the HD format war is over. Blu-Ray is the winner of a battle that no-one wanted, and it now has to convince the generally uninterested public to pay more for movie disc’s and players. The price will drop like normal once sales ramp up, but is there any point to taking the plunge now?
I recently saw a Ratatouille Blu-Ray disc playing on a Sony 46 inch LCD. Until that moment I was unconvinced by HD, but that combination was stunning. I haven’t seen the same material on an upscaling DVD player so I can’t compare the quality, but even Mrs Basshead was impressed.
On our trip to Lakeside last weekend Mrs B wandered into the Sony store to have a look at the LCD TV’s and I stood outside watching the same 46 inch screen showing HD content from the BBC. I’m not sure if it was a live broadcast or a recorded demo, but the quality was not impressive. The BBC HD logo in the top left corner of the picture was a mass of compression artifacts, as was the whole picture. Does this mean broadcast HD is just as bad as regular Digital TV picture quality? What I mean by this is digital’s lack of bandwidth when it comes to rapid picture changes like flashing light or fast camera movement. Try watching a music show when multi coloured spotlights are strobing to see a picture going blocky due to an insufficient data rate.
I always felt a bit ripped off when cable and satellite TV went digital, it seemed like an excuse to sell new equipment with no improvement in quality. Hopefully HD isn’t going to be an excuse to sell lots of expensive equipment, but the quality would have to be a lot better than what the Lakeside Sony store was showing to make me pay out.
Looks like there will finally be another option for tapeless HD camcorders. The Canon Vixia HF10 offers full HD recording (1920×1080 resolution) to 16Gb of internal flash memory and SDHC cards. Quoted battery life of 3 hours standard is pretty good too. Due in April in the US for $1,099 this could be what I’ve been waiting for. My current Sanyo Xacti HD2 is fine outdoors in bright light, but poor in lower light conditions. Sony have some nice HD/Hdd models available that are reported to be a bit better, but don’t bother with JVC’s Everio range. Will the Vixia finally offer good low light performance? More details and video here.