Thursday, August 16, 2007

Still tired - and now suffering from technology malaise...

I'm still pretty shattered, I think the lack of sleep over the last month or two has more or less seized me up.

The USA and Brighton trips were pretty exhausting and I feel like I've done a bit too much, but looking at the schedule in June, I could have been forgiven for predicting that. Next week is the Leipzig/Prague trip - and tomorrow is Team17's party in York... no rest for the wicked.

I've had a day knee deep in tech-kit set-up and I'm done for the day. Sky HD was installed, as well as a new 1080p 40" Bravia, I re-attached the PS3 from work (mainly because it's rated as a great up-scaler), attached the 360 and finally my Denon amp.

The whole process wasn't without some issues as you'd expect... and a bunch of niggles have left me with a bit of 'technology malaise'.

A bloke came to sort out the wiring and stuff - and given I'd already got the Sky+ set-up, holes already in the walls, phone-socket nearby etc, I didn't think it would take him long. "Between 9am and 11am sir" he'd said on the phone... at 10.59am he arrived and promptly took 2.5hrs...

The box is all sorted and in now, there's not a ton of HD channels as yet, but obviously there are more in the works. I can't access half of them yet either since I don't think my subscription kicks in just yet. The HD channels are remarkably better than standard Sky Mpeg1 broadcasts.. there just needs to be more of them. I did call Sky to sort this out but it's still not registered yet - it was a call centre and I thought I'd more chance of getting a Chicken Byriani.

Another niggle with the SkyHD is that the Dolby Digital audio output via optical has to be mucked about with and delayed if you're playing it through an amp, this took a bit to get right as it was out of sync.

Another niggle is that the volume on HD channels seems a little lower than it does for normal channels and so you have to muck about with the volume, just a chore really.

SONY BRAVIA 40" W2000 (LCD, 1080p)

I was in the midst of getting a 46" Bravia, but a combination of an order falling through and the realisation that it might well have been just too big for the room left me with the decision to grab a 40" instead.

I'd been keen on this model after doing quite a lot of research and reading a lot about it online. I initially fought with the idea of getting a 1080p set, since I wasn't convinced it would be worth it, but I then thought I'd might as well future-proof myself (I certainly don't intend replacing my fairly extensive DVD library with Blue-Ray discs).

I dropped on lucky with the set, especially after my order for the 46" set was through a pal and had netted me considerable discount... but alas it was out of stock and they couldn't say when it would come, so I opted to sort myself out. After a time on the net, I managed to find the same set (in 40" form) at a local Comet store - and the best thing was that you could save 20% if you opted to order/reserve online and then collect. Basically £300 off the in-store price, no strings attached, no complex on-line thing to do, nothing. So I did - and collected it later in the day. I'm not sure many people know the extent of savings you can make by simply doing a few clicks on the net, so think on!

As for the set itself, once you totally drop the default screen/audio settings, which are obviously randomly generated by a half-deaf, half-blind monkey, the results are great.

I'm not finding too many niggles for the TV really, quality is excellent on the SkyHD and the consoles (especially the PS3 at 1080p). It has a good system to sorting signals out and if I have to be really picky, it can be a bit slow sorting through the inputs (AV1-6, PC, Digital, Analogue etc).

I'd like to be able to switch off the inputs (or ignore them) that I'm not using, but there seems no option to do that - although in typical style, I've not read the manual yet. The TV didn't spot the Composite 1080p mode on the 360, but I assume that might be more to do with the 360.

Tweaking tips: Turn off the screen modes and put it on manual-settings, take off the sharpening (or lessen it), take the backlight right down and turn all noise-reduction off etc. You end up with a very clean picture.

Style wise it's a Sony, so it looks good as you'd expect.


Firstly, on this telly (once the tweaks for the image are done) the image is fantastically sharp. It looks great.

PS2 games look good as they are up-scaled to 1080p as are standard DVD's and I had a bit of a job trying to spot the difference between Casino Royale DVD and Casino Royale Blue-Ray. The up-scaling is every bit as good as I'd heard it was - my DVD collection can rest easy, I'd been worried they might be a but fuzzy. Note that the PS3 only upscales this stuff via HDMI output and not anything else.

The only and I mean ONLY niggle I have with this configuration is to do with audio and nothing to do with the TV; basically you can't have dual audio output i.e. via HDMI and Optical at the same time on the PS3; which means messing around in the menus if you wish to switch.

Normally I'd use audio via HDMI through the TV (which sounds ok) but I'd like to hear full surround and loud volume through the amp if we're playing Guitar Hero, watching a movie, or playing Singstar etc. I found this quite annoying that I have to bugger about if I want to do that.. the 360 carries both, which is as it should be.

360 on TV/AMP

It's connected via the PC input and works a treat (the 360 doesn't have HDMI yet) and whilst it reports a problem at 1080p (1920x1080) it works fine in traditional resolutions and looks pin sharp, with great colours - Bioshock looked fab.

Audio was great via TV and through the amp, job done!

So all in all not too bad, I'm still ticked off about the PS3 one-sound-output-only (maybe a firmware change could fix that) and I can wait for more HD channels. The TV is great, just got to read the manual now and see if I can set a default channel and speed up choice.

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