Getting the Edge on HD

It’s almost two years since high definition broadcasting started in New Zealand but HD content is still scarce.

TVNZ and TV3 screen fewer than 20 hours a week between them in primetime while only four of Sky TV’s 65 subscription channels are HD.

There’s been a big hike in the number of movies being released on Blu-ray but it’s still only a fraction of those on DVD.

Viewers who want to get more out of their HDTVs can make DVDs and standard definition TV broadcasts look more HD-like with a video scaler.

Chips that upscale 540-line SD content to 720p or 1080p resolution are standard on today’s DVD players and flat screen TVs, and becoming more common on audio/video receivers.

But in most cases their performance is serviceable rather than sensational. Only by spending many thousands of dollars on a dedicated video processor has it been possible to improve on this – until now.

Anchor Bay’s DVDO Edge is a $2000 processor that doubles as a comprehensive video-switching hub.

Light in weight but not in capability, its sculptured, minimalist form will fit unobtrusively into any home theatre system and is packed with most of the deinterlacing/noise reducing/detail enhancing/lip syncing innovations that have made markedly more expensive DVDO processors the darling of the videophile world.

As well as six HDMI inputs, there are two HDMI outputs (one is audio only for connecting to compatible audio/video receivers), two component video inputs, S-video and composite video inputs, sundry audio analogue and digital audio inputs, and an optical output for older receivers.

This array means the Edge can juggle 10 sources while requiring only one HDMI cable between it and the TV.

Images can be customised for each source, horizontal black bars can be removed so movies fill 16:9 screens, and there’s even a gaming mode that eliminates video processing lag (one of the HDMI inputs is on the front for connecting a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360).

Despite the initially bewildering choice of picture tweaking options, the Edge is simple to set up and operate. The ergonomic, backlit, learning remote control may look functional at best but is easy to use and makes many universal remotes seem unnecessarily cumbersome.

But for all of its conveniences, is the Edge convincing? Curiously, its processing strengths do vary from one source to another, with the improvements ranging from the incremental to the incredible.

Studio-based TV shows as different as Coronation Street and Fox News look terrific through the Edge while a DVD of the Kevin Costner western, Open Range, was so spectacular it could have been a Blu-ray disc.

Yet the Edge’s picture processing aplomb can’t disguise the clear difference between upscaled and HD coverage of sports like golf and cricket.

However, if you have an HD display that’s 50 inches-plus and a sprawling home theatre system, then this is the device with which to rule everything, from the Blu-ray player, DVD/hard drive recorder, and Sky, TiVo and Freeview decoders to the video cassette recorder, a/v receiver and gaming console.

The Edge won’t make lesser sources look as good as the best but it will lessen the differences on quality displays while streamlining connections and simplifying the operation of home theatre systems complex enough to push you over the edge.

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