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“Honey, watcha doin’ back there?”
“Trying to connect my PS3 but I’m having problems.”
Don’t let that happen when you bring home your PS3. From what we’ve seen of the PS3 and 360 so far, we have an idea about what we need to maximize our gaming experience. But much is still left up in the air. Thankfully, we do know enough that if you want to purchase an HDTV or receiver/preprocessor today, you’ll know what to get. I’m going to assume you want to play games in full HD, watch movies in full HD, and listen to both in 5.1 surround sound.
AV-wise, the PS3 has two HDMI outputs, one multi output, and an optical digital audio output.
Unfortunately, Sony has said very little about what kind of connection can be used to play HD games on the PS3. In theory, you should be able to use component (not to be confused with composite) video cables from the multi out to display HD games. But we don’t know this for sure. It is also possible that you’ll be able to use the HDMI output for games. Sony hasn’t said either way. My guess is that the PS3 will support both.
Toshiba has recently announced that their HD-DVD drives will only put out HD on the HDMI outputs. It is very likely that the same thing will hold for BD (Blu-ray Disc) movies when released. So if you want to catch the HD wave for movies, you’ll definitely need to use the HDMI output.
For video, HDMI seems the way to go. So if you’re buying an HDTV make sure it has an HDMI input. If you don’t want to use your PS3 for movies, you may get away with using your HDTV’s component video inputs for HD gaming. Unfortunately, we don’t know for sure yet.
For audio, your home theater receiver or preprocessor must accept Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound using an optical input or HDMI. It probably has an optical input, unless it’s really old, and probably does not have an HDMI input, unless it’s really on top of things.
AV-wise, the Xbox 360 has component video outs, VGA out, and a digital audio output.
Microsoft has said you’ll be able to watch your games in full HD from either the component video outputs or the VGA output. So if your HDTV has at least component video inputs, you’re okay.
The Xbox 360 does not support HD-DVD or Blu-ray. It does, however, support WMV-HD video. This should work through the component outputs, for the simple reason that there’s no other choice. There are so few HDTVs with VGA inputs it doesn’t make sense to expect consumers to watch WMV-HD movies on that output.
Aside: Microsoft has said that it they will release an HD-DVD accessory for the Xbox 360 by the end of 2006. To do this, they would also have to add an HDMI output to the box. To watch HD movies from HD-DVD discs, you would therefore have to use the HD DVD accessory’s HDMI output.
For video, component video inputs seem to be enough for your HDTV. For future reference, however, if you’re going to buy an HDTV, make sure it includes component and HDMI inputs. The HD DVD accessory will need the HDMI.
For audio, your sound system must accept Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound using a digital input. Unfortunately, I can’t find out if the 360′s digital output is coaxial or optical, what I found is “multi-channel surround sound output”. That could be either. So make sure your home theater receiver or preprocessor has an optical digital input and a coaxial digital input, just in case. This shouldn’t be a problem, as most sold today have both of these inputs. But! Since the current a/v pack for the Xbox has an optical connector, you might be okay with just that.
A Note about DVI and HDMI
But what about DVI? Good news! If you have a DVI input with HDCP (a content protection scheme) you’re in luck. DVI/HDCP is basically the same as HDMI (except it’s missing audio, which you can use the console’s digital audio out for). So if you have a DVI/HDCP input on your HDTV, you can buy an HDMI-DVI adapter to use your PS3 or Xbox 360 HD DVD accessory.