To HD or not to HD?
That used to be the question.
These days, whether or not you invest in high-definition television technology often comes down to when you upgrade your gaming console to one of the latest models.
Lucky gamers who found a new Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 under the Christmas tree have entered the HD world whether they know it or not. Games for both systems support a variety of HD outputs. And even the relative lower tech of the Nintendo Wii can produce an enhanced-definition signal that makes old game graphics look flat and blurry.
"As games become more complex and visually sophisticated, you'll want a display that is complex and visually sophisticated," says David Wiswell, group manager of product engineering and development with Panasonic.
High-definition displays have grown rapidly in the past few years, driven by the interest in home-theater setups and the declining cost of hardware. Bumping up standard television resolution from 480 lines on the screen to 720 or 1080 provides the kind of clarity and detail that lets you see the sweat dripping down the face of your favorite NBA point guard.
Putting high definition to work on games provides more vivid digital worlds filled with the little details that bring them to life. In a game like "Gears of War" for 360, every brick and bullet casing pops out of the screen as you work to save your planet from an alien scourge. "Test Drive Unlimited" promises high-speed thrills as you race across Oahu. But the HD visuals also provide a virtual vacation as you take in the sights and sounds of this lush tropical paradise.
While cable television provides a limited supply of HD content - often focused around big sporting events - the arrival of PS3 looks to usher in a new wave of HD movies. Because each console comes with built-in support for the new high-definition format Blu-Ray, the machine works as well dishing up the glorious destruction of "Resistance: Fall of Man" as it does the big explosions of the movie "Mission: Impossible."
Not to be outdone, Microsoft offers a $199 HD-DVD add-on for the 360. Using a competitive standard to the Sony-driven Blu-Ray, it offers similar features in a rival format.
As video games continue to follow and take advantage of trends in home entertainment, gamers can prepare for the next leap in eye-popping wonder. Consumer-grade HD-projection systems now provide displays of up to 120 inches. These barn-door-sized visuals require only a small place to mount a projector and a wall for a screen. With little effort, the downstairs gaming den transforms into an immersive virtual-reality environment.
Besides recommending his company's own PT-AX100U LCD Home Cinema Projector, Wiswell offers a few other tips for game fans looking to upgrade their display. Springing for a professional screen for projection and buying the correct component or HDMI cables are a must in order to see what the new technology can do.
Who's It For: If you have an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, you've already made a substantial investment in high definition. Why not get what you paid for? Adding an HD display will allow you to experience the games as the developers intended.
If You Like This, Try That: Most HDTV LCD displays also work as a computer monitor. When crammed for space - or cash - consider having your HD do double duty for your computer and gaming system.
Best Part: HD projectors don't take up much space, are fairly portable and provide a huge picture. Turn your basement into a drive-in movie theater and host gaming competitions.
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