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540P Upconversion in 2001-2002 Toshibas
Another Calibrator Report

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Tip from Michael Osadciw:  Here is an information tip that you should all know about the Toshiba sets that upconvert to 540p. The scaler used for the upconversion to 540p of any incoming signal is causing the softening of the image that many of you have been talking about. You all have noticed this when putting on an AVIA resolution pattern, lines tend to smudge around 450-475 lines or so. It is also evident in the 6.75MHz pattern on the lower right hand corner of the pattern, which is completely blurred. Therefore using a 480p DVD signal into this set (or the 540p Hitachis) is almost useless in my opinion. The 480p direct is not direct at all as it was in last year's 56HX80, that clearly displayed DVD's resolution limit. The 480p is being upconverted to 540p to match the scan rate of 1080i (which adds a few benefits of its own). This is where the resolution is lost, and I was skeptical about this happening when I heard Toshiba was ready to make this move last June. To me, this is a big issue, and I'm surprised that not one reviewer in Widescreen Review, Home Theater Mag., or Sound & Vision has brought this to anyone's attention while reviewing the Toshiba sets. Maybe, like many of you, they were aware of the slight softening, but unaware of the 540p "IDSC-Pro" upconverter being the cause of the effect.

In November I used my Runco PFP-7 video processor to confirm this. Using the Toshiba SD-9200 I used the interlaced component outputs into the PFP-7 and had it selected to 540p direct into the Toshiba 57HX81 via component video. Voila! All of the resolution was restored! There was virtually no softening of the image as it was solid in the 6.75MHz circle - each line appeared to be defined without shimmering. This is the same result when putting 480p out of the SD-9200 into the 480p 56HX81 which I had beside me for a direct comparison. Both sets were tweaked to their maximum performance. Please note that unlike direct 480p on the 56HX80, the 57HX81 DOES NOT allow aspect ratio control when a 540p direct signal is received. It locks just like a 1080i signal would, or like some of the the old 480p sets when receiving 480p direct.

The solution? Well, we can adjust electronic and mechanical focus all we want, do an astigmatism adjustment to make the beam smaller, but we won't be able to make the 480p - 540p solution as resolute as a 480p direct or 540p direct (although all of those adjustments help!). Should you all go out and buy a Runco Vivix PFP-7? Go ahead if you can let yourself spend more money on the Vivix than you did on your TV. There is no solution other than to have your Toshiba professionally calibrated to its best performance. This problem should not discourage you from buying Toshiba products as I believe they have set many standards in the consumer industry in picture quality and still hold up to that today. Given the limitations of the DVD format, the Toshibas look fabulous after a complete calibration. To improve on this, I hope that Toshiba and other manufacturers will place a 480p/540p toggle switch on the back of their progressive scan players to let them select the option best for suited for their set. If not, then will have to all consider "softening" our stance on obtaining the best in DVD resolution.

Michael Osadciw
ISF-CC (Certified Calibrator)
Southern Ontario