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HDMI Cable

HDMI CABLE

On Saturday I finally stepped out of the television stone age and into the age of high definition. While I rather like tech and gadgets, I have learned to wait a bit when it comes to the latest and greatest. After all, technology is marked by price settling. Briefly put, when a new technology emerges, it will generally be absurdly expensive. For example, personal computers used to cost a small fortune, but now they are quite cheap. When HDTVs first appeared, they were extremely pricey-so much so that I could not justify ditching my 36 inch CRT TV (which I got more or less by accident).

But, the prices seem to have dropped to that settled point-that is, the point at which they will probably not go much lower for quite some time. While I could be wrong, I suspect that decent 42 inch LCD TVs will stick at about $800 for quite some time-so I bought one.

Naturally, to use the HDTV properly, you need HD input. I happened to have an XBox 360 and an old laptop that both have HDMI outputs. However, since the Xbox had been plugged into the old TV, I did not have an HDMI cable on hand.

Wanting to use my Xbox right away, I went to the cable section of Best Buy and stopped in shock at their prices. The cheapest HDMI cable was $30 and the others were in the $70 and up range. I overhead the salesperson selling some of the cables-going on about how important it was to buy the super-expensive gold plated cables. While I am not an expert on HDMI cables, I do know a bit about computer cables. My experience with them has been that you want to avoid the super cheap (in terms of quality) cables, but that the super-premium cables really do nothing more than the moderately priced decent cables.

But, since I was driven by the desire to get right to the XBox 360 in HD, I parted with the $30 for the cable. However, a little research revealed what I expected: the super high end premium cables do not really do anything special-except make the companies some decent profits. While you will want to make sure that your HDMI cable is not some crappy cable and that it is the right sort for your hardware, a relative inexpensive cable will work fine. For example, I got another HDMI cable from Amazon for a few bucks and it works just as good as the $30 one I bought at Best Buy. And that $30 one works as well as the $80-100 cables. So, save your money and avoid the super-premium cables: you will almost certainly not get what you think you are paying for.

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ASUS Eee PC dumps Atom for AMD Congo

ASUS have pushed out another 12.1-inch ultrathin, and this time they’ve eschewed Intel in favor of some AMD goodness.  Unlike the 1201HA and 1201N, the ASUS Eee PC 1201T uses AMD’s 1.6GHz Congo MV40 processor, along with the RS780MN chipset and ATI Radeon HD3200 graphics; that adds up to 1080p Full HD performance, though it doesn’t appear from the spec sheets that ASUS have fitted an HDMI port to the 1201T.

      asuseeepc1201t

That means you have to make do with VGA output, together with three USB 2.0 ports, audio in/out, ethernet and a multi-format memory card reader.  There’s also WiFi b/g/n and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, and the whole thing weighs in at 1.46kg while measuring 296 x 208 x 27.3-33.3 mm including the standard 6-cell battery.

ASUS reckon you’ll get around four hours of runtime from that battery, which seems on the low side even if you’re playing back HD video on the 1366 x 768 display.  No word on pricing nor release date as yet.

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Sony Introduces New Digital Voice Recorders

I swear it’s been so long since I have used or even seen a voice recorder that I didn’t think they still made those. Well, it seems they do, because Sony recently announced new, three-in-one digital voice recorders with an MP3 capability and USB storage as well. The devices, dubbed the ICD-UX200, ICD-UX300 and ICD-UX300F come in a number of colors as well as sporting quite a long record time. That being said, onwards to the specs page, my friends!

 

Seeing how specifications are basically the same I will be mentioning them only once with the necessary additions being made when one of the devices has a different configuration. Unlike the ICD-UX300 or ICD-UX300F which come with 4GB of memory, the ICD UX200 has a built-in memory of 2GB. The maximum record time for the UX200 is somewhere in the 535-hour range, while the other two can record as much as 1,072 hours.

They are able to record in MP3 format, but they can play back WMA and AAC as well. As far as recording and playback are concerned, there is a low cut filter, as well as a noise cut function, while editing allows you to divide, erase, select or move a folder. Yes, not too much on that part. There are 21 steps of playback control speed and they have a battery life (when using alkaline batteries) of 15 hours when recording or of 83 hours of playback.

 

If using NiMH batteries, the recording time shrinks to 14.5 hours and the playback is just of 53.5 hours as well. They can connect to the PC via USB. The connector is cap-less (it slides), so you don’t need to worry about searching for your cap. The devices are compatible with Windows 2000, XP, Vista, Windows 7 and, of course, Mac OS X. The ICD-UX300F also features an FM tuner. While the ICD-UX200 will be available in black, silver, pink and red finishes, the other two only come in black or red finishes. While pricing is unknown, they will be coming in December this year, so you won’t have to wait too long to find out how much one costs.

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HDMI — Not Just a Cable

By now, most HDTV set owners are likely to be familiar with the HDMI cable. When HDTVs were first introduced, three component cables, plus separate audio cables, were needed to get the best picture. One of the great things about HDMI is that it cuts the clutter by combining audio and video into one cable. And unlike early cables used to connect, for example, PCs and printers, the HDMI cable has a small, elegant plug that easily attaches to a TV or cable box.

But HDMI is not just a cable, it’s a standard, and it’s one that continues to evolve, incorporating new features to make connecting a home theater even easier. The newest version, announced yesterday, is called HDMI 1.4, and it adds some features that will become more important to consumers in the next few years.

For example, HDMI 1.4 adds a data channel to the standard. With a new HDMI 1.4 Cable and a compatible TV, you’ll be able to send broadband data from a TV to, for example, a video game console, eliminating the need to connect both devices to separate Ethernet cables. 

The new standard will also include an audio return channel, so that audio fed directly to a TV can then be redirected to an external receiver and be processed into 5.1 channel surround sound, obviating the need to run audio cables to a receiver and to your TV.

New, high speed versions of the cable will support future 3D standards and be able to transmit HDTV signals with resolutions four times that of today’s 1080p HDTVs, equivalent to that seen with Sony’s 4K digital cinema projectors (but first, TVs or home projectors capable of displaying that resolution need to be developed). Also, a new HDMI mini-plug half the size of today’s version will be introduced for use with digital camcorders.

To get all these features, you’ll need to buy new HDMI cables and equipment that supports the new standards. Given consumer electronics companies’ product cycles, it’s unlikely that gear supporting the new spec will show up until at least this time next year.

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Everything’s Better In HDMI

Recently, my rear projection TV went to the electronics graveyard. Because the cable company was still delivering my wife’s favorite shows as well as mine, we ran out and bought a brand new LCD television. What’s that got to do with HDMI? Two things, really. First, I didn’t have HDMI before, and second, I probably wouldn’t have seen the difference. Now I have a new TV and it looks great, so this HDMI cable from Optimization-world.com couldn’t have come at a better time.

It turned up in the mail a week or so ago, and tonight I hooked it up to give it a shot.

HDMI vs RCA
I decided to use my DVD player as a test device to connect to the TV with my new cable. Before tonight, I had it hooked up via a traditional RCA cable. It’s a little harder to see it from a photograph, but here’s a side-by-side comparison (you can see a zoomed WAY in shot here).

You can tell a little from the above photo, but it’s definitely more evident in person. The video quality improvement was noticed even in the DVD player’s splash logo screen. I’m excited to now be able to watch movies with a little more clarity.

What about those expensive cables?
Although I’m finally starting to see the differences in having HD and better cables, I’ve never really been a stickler for these things. So to be honest, I’m not qualified to really say how this $12.99 HDMI cable might stand up to one of those well-branded (and you pay for it) cables. I can’t say if spending more money on an HDMI cable will get you a better picture (and by better, I mean enough that you’ll notice).

The website gives this assurance:

Optimized Cable Company’s cables are specially designed for hi-def video and audio signals for professional and home theater installations, using 1080p, 1080i, 720p and 480p. All of our cables are made using high quality cabling, shielding and jacket material. We use gold plating for increased connectivity, longevity and signal strength.

In addition, the literature that came with this cable points out that it’s HDMI certified at the same HDMI facility as Monster HDMI cable. I couldn’t find any information on that from either site, but I did find a 120Hz refresh rate HDMI (like the one in this review) Monster cable for $79.95. Does that cable offer a difference I can see with the human eye for the extra $67? I really can’t say without comparing side-by-side, but let’s just say I’m content with the cable I have here and will probably save the money when it’s time to buy another cable.

Conclusions
While it’s hard to come to a verdict on the benefits of spending more for a fancier brand name, this cable provided great image quality and made me a bit sad that I’ve had this new TV for almost a month and have been using RCA cables. If you have the option for HDMI, make the move. If you want to do it for a really comfortable price, check out Optimization-world.com.

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PPC Locking HDMI Cable

HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) is a format that really seems to work — Increasing display quality by moving audio/video interconnects for digital TVs from analog to digital, and collapsing 5 or more cables (red, green, blue, audio, left, audio right) into one relatively thin and easy cable.

HDMI cables also are easy to connect, with no tabs or snaps or screws. But that also means they can be too easy to disconnect, and pop off when you’re messing with the cabling for all the different devices you want to connect to your display.

 One nice answer is the PPC Locking HDMI Cable, which holds on more tightly to the connector to provide a more secure hold and more reliable signal. And there’s a push-to-release tab to pop it off easily.

The PPC cables are also shielded and flexible, with gold-plated pins, and are Category 2 to support up to 1080p high-def video.

The PPC Locking HDMI Cables are available in 3 foot length for $48.99, 6 foot for $59.99, and 12 foot for $72.99.

See my Portable Peripherals Gallery for more on cables, keyboards, and other accessories for PCs and portable devices.

(HDMI also supports digital rights management (DRM) technology — See my article on Content Protection Technology for Consumer Electronics.)

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NVIDIA GeForce 310

While everyone else was eating turkey and growing increasingly frustrated with their loved-ones, NVIDIA decided to quietly set their latest GPU free.  The NVIDIA GeForce 310 is the first GPU in the company’s 300-series line-up, and replaces the existing GeForce 210 as an entry-level chipset for undemanding users hoping to replace integrated graphics in their machines.

  nvidiageforce300series

That given, expectations for the GeForce 310 aren’t especially high.  Still, there are a fair few good reasons why you should consider it: the 589MHz processor is paired with 512MB of 500MHz DDR2 memory, and there are DisplayPort, DVI and VGA ports with the first two easily converted to HDMI with a simple adapter.  An internal input means you can also inject audio into the HDMI signal.

Altogether it’s enough for hardware accelerated 1080p High Definition video, together with being used as a CPU offset either with NVIDIA’s own CUDA and PhysX systems or more generic alternatives like DirectCompute and OpenCL.  No word on pricing as yet, nor availability.

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Raptor-Gaming H2 USB Headset Immerses You in the Game

You’ve probably read some of my past gaming-related articles and seen that I love to play computer games, especially single-player RPGs. I like titles that really put you in character. A deep, plot twisting story with great voice acting and decent graphics such as what Mass Effect or Dragon Age: Origins offers is what I like from a computer game. Because, after a hard day’s work, you need some relaxation.

However, in order to truly enjoy a game, you also need some peripherals that are good enough to help with your complete immersion into the storyline. A comfy keyboard, a gaming mouse with more than the usual three buttons (click, right click and scroll wheel button) as well as a decent pair of headphones, because trust me, my friends… you don’t want to use your speakers, no matter how good or professional they are.

 

Speaking of headphones, Raptor-Gaming has recently released the H2 USB gaming-headset, a gaming peripheral that comes with a noise-canceling microphone and a long cable with a mini control unit that allows you to adjust its volume. Specification-wise, it has a frequency that ranges between 50 Hz and 20 Khz, while the microphone sports a sensitivity of -58 +/- 3dB and a frequency range of 40 to 15000 Hz. The headphones weigh 320g, so your head won’t definitely fall off when you put them on! No pricing as of yet.

 

Now that you have the RAPTOR-GAMING H2 USB headphones, you are ready to hear the witty remarks of Morrigan and find out more about Leliana’s obsession for shoes. Oh, and if Alistair’s crying bothers you, take him out of the party. I mean, I have been playing Dragon’s Age since it first appeared, but I am so fascinated by Leliana, Morrigan and Alistair’s banter, that I sometimes just stop and listen to them argue the night away. It is quite refreshing, you know!

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HDMI Org creates HAVOC with new numbering

Starting with what we now call HDMI 1.4, manufacturers will have to drop the version numbers from their products and adopt a new naming system.

On the surface it seems like a pretty solid idea. Dropping the number system and replacing it with an easy to understand naming system seems like a nice way to let those with less technical minds get a grasp on what these cables are doing. The new HDMI naming scheme seems to take it a bit too far.

Five different versions of HDMI 1.4 will be available initially. Starting things off, HDMI Standard and HDMI Standard with Ethernet are the base versions of the new HDMI cables. They’re self explanatory, (if lengthy to type). HDMI Standard Automotive is the third, marking the last of the HDMI Standard series. The final two cable types are HDMI High Speed and HDMI High Speed with Ethernet.

The need to add a second tier of cables to the lineup is a bit baffling, and the technical difference between Standard and High Speed HDMI cables is equally strange.

HDMI Standard cables, according to the HDMI Licensing LLC, are designed and tested to transmit 720p and 1080i. The website states the reason being that “the HD resolutions that are commonly associated with cable and satellite television, digital broadcast HD, and upscaling DVD players.”

High Speed HDMI cables on the other hand, are “designed and tested to handle video resolutions of 1080p and beyond, including advanced display technologies such as 4K, 3D, and Deep Color.” Both offer the same Ethernet speeds – a full duplex 100 Mb/sec.

Since 1080p resolution capability is not included in the lower end cables, customers who purchase new HDTVs, Blu-ray players, and game consoles will almost certainly need to purchase the High Speed 1m hdmi cable. Already excessive cable prices from many manufacturers can be expected to jump for the new standard.

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Sony wireless power system runs TV from 80cm away

With wireless HDMI now offering 1080p without the cable, wall-mounting an HDTV can leave you with just a single connection to worry about hiding: the power cable.  That might change, though, thanks to Sony Japan, who have developed a wireless power system that can beam 60W over a distance of 50cm.  The company’s prototype is a 22-inch LCD, but the setup could also be used to wirelessly rejuice a laptop.

Unlike previous attempts at wireless power, Sony’s is apparently 80-percent efficient; that means only 20-percent of the power is “lost” in the transmission process.  The company uses a magnetic-resonance system, and when a “repeater” is placed in-between the power transmitter and the receiving device, the range can be extended to around 80cm.

The company is now looking to commercialize the technology, though there’s no timetable for when we might see it arrive in production products.  Until then, our advice to would-be wire-hiders is to paint your walls black; that way, not only will the power cable blend in perfectly, but you get to sing Rolling Stones songs while you watch TV.

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