SOUND & VISION HD-XA2 Review - High-Def Digest Forums
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Old 03-30-2007, 07:24 AM
rover2002's Avatar
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Default SOUND & VISION HD-XA2 Review

HD-XA2 Review

I won't waste much space talking about the HD-XA2's thrilling picture quality on HD DVDs, which was equal to the XA1's whether set to 1080i or 1080p output. Opulent interior scenes of the luxurious cruise ship in Poseidon were rich and highly detailed on my 58-inch 1080p DLP display. A close-up of Jennifer Ramsey (Emmy Rossum) arguing with her father (Kurt Russell) in their well-appointed suite superbly showed off her stunningly smooth skin, peachy rouge makeup, and the fine fuzz and ribbing on her light blue wool sweater. Scenes of the big ballroom and the stage performers, such as a singer in her bright red-and-white sequined gown, were equally vivid and striking. The solid, film-like quality of the image and strong contrast we've come to know on the best HD DVDs was evident throughout.
But where the HD-XA2 completely surprised me was in the superiority of its upconversion of standard-definition DVDs. The combination of 1080p output and the stellar Silicon Optix deinterlacing and noise processing provided stunning results that can actually make exploring your DVD collection tolerable even after you've been spoiled by Blu-ray and HD DVD. As a test, I threw on the DVD of the sexually charged thriller Wild Things. Typical of many DVDs, it looks pretty good in well-lit outdoor scenes, particularly close-ups, but dark scenes can be noisy and display mosquito-noise fuzz on edges of objects. In one demanding scene in which a champagne bottle is used as a murder weapon, the camera shows a close-up of the bottle being swung overhead in slow motion as it makes its way to the unseen victim below. With the XA2 set to 1080i output, there was some distracting judder in the picture and a very obvious series of trails visible behind the bottle as it tracked across the screen. Switching to 1080p output noticeably stabilized the image, added obvious clarity, and completely eliminated the trails. I'm convinced: On scenes that need it, superior 1080p upconversion can make a huge difference.

The image got even better after I hit the Picture button on the remote, which brings up a menu that lets you store a range of video adjustments to each of three recallable presets. Along with controls for contrast, brightness, color, and tint, there are low and high settings for edge enhancement and, for regular DVDs, noise reduction for mosquito noise (those fuzzy halos around objects caused by video compression), block noise (which can appear on fast motion), and random noise. Setting edge enhancement to max really brought out detail and contrast in the Wild Things image, but without the unnatural ringing around objects typical with this type of processing. Turning on the mosquito and random noise filters took it up another notch, but without robbing noticeable detail — a frequent drawback of those types of filters. Processing applied, the HD-XA2 delivered a superior upconverted image that, on bright close-ups, might be mistaken momentarily for true high-def. Not surprisingly, when I later put the XA2 through its paces on both the high- and standard-def versions of the Silicon Optix HQV test disc, the machine aced the "jaggies" deinterlacing tests with élan.

With the HD-XA2 set to 720p output, the image looked good but a bit flat compared with 1080i or 1080p, but that's to be expected given the display's native 1080p resolution. The component-video output looked great, and high-def test patterns from the Silicon Optix disc showed it to be as detailed as the HDMI.
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Old 03-30-2007, 08:06 AM
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Totally Agreed, I like mine a lot!
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