Today I performed a little test. I wanted to see how well a DVD upscaled to 1080i looked compared with a non-upscaled DVD, as well as compared with the same thing in true HD.
I took my Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers DVD, and loaded up The Two Towers in HD on demand through Comcast cable.
I played the movie on my Xbox 360 DVD player (480p), on my Philips upscaling DVD (480p upscaled to 1080i), and then the HD Comcast version (1080i).
Not surprisingly, the HD version was the most detailed, and the non-upscaled DVD was the least sharp.
Where my interest lied is where the upscaled DVD fell on this spectrum. Happily, it was closer to the HD picture than the non-upscaled DVD picture.
CNet warned that upscaling “doesn’t do miracles”, but I was pleased with the marked improvement in sharpness in the upscaled DVD picture. This was especially evident in the menu screen before the movie loaded, where one could view black text on a white-ish background, and really compare the sharpness. The upscaled DVD was much sharper than the non-upscaled DVD, and rivaled the HD picture.
During actual scenes, subtle detail appeared in the HD picture that did not appear (or at least was not as pronounced) in even the upscaled DVD image.
Granted, this test was not perfect - only the upscaling DVD player was connected via HDMI, the other two devices were connected via component. But HDMI doesn’t automatically mean a better picture, either. It may not do “miracles”, but this little unscientific test made me glad that I got an upscaling DVD player. It’s impressive, and makes me wonder how necessary HD-DVD and Blu-Ray really are (certainly an improvement, but not one that’s going to have me replacing my old DVDs anytime soon - maybe NEXT format war)