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5 Ways to Connect your PS3

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This week I’m going to try something new. Every day I’ll be doing a list of 5 things. I call it my week of fives!

First off, I’ll explain five ways you can connect your PS3’s audio and video into your system. Well, to be honest, there are plenty more than five ways to connect your PS3, so I’m not going to list all the possible combinations. But I will group them together instead, and then give some additional notes for HDMI 1.3 and DVI. For a list of five PS3 connection considerations, if you like.

  1. Composite / svideo / component, direct to television.
    First up is what I think a lot of people with older systems will be doing. I know many of you just connect your gaming system directly to your TV, and don’t even have a stereo. So hooking up your PS3 in this case is pretty easy, though you have to be aware of two things, which I’ll explain in a minute. So, how does this method work? When you unpack your PS3, just connect the multi-out cable to the multi-out port on the back of your PS3, and then connect the audio right (red), audio left (white) and composite (yellow) RCA connectors to one of the inputs on the back of your TV. Done! That’s it. You’ll be able to play games now as long as you select the correct input on your TV and put a game in the PS3 and turn it on. (I’m assuming you also connected the power cord.) But there’s a little more you should know: your television may do better with a certain kind of connection than another. For example, when I bought my new HDTV and connected my PS2 through an svideo connection, it looked terrible. I didn’t have that problem with my previous (SD) television. So I went and bought a component video cable for the PS2, tried that out, and the image quality improved by a very substantial amount. So if you connect your PS3 using a composite cable, and don’t like the picture quality, don’t assume it’s the PS3’s fault. Try upgrading to svideo or component if your television has those inputs. Component is best – it’s the one with three RCA cables coloured red, green, and blue (usually).
  2. HDMI direct to television.
    This is also for those of your without a stereo system. You can use an HDMI cable from your PS3 to your television. Just plug it in an viola et/and voila! You should have both audio and video. Note that if your television has a DVI input but not an HDMI input, all is not lost. See below.
  3. Composite / svideo / component / HDMI with receiver or pre/processor.
    If you have a receiver or pre/processor (henceforth, I’ll just say “receiver”), you can use that to (1) play back the audio from your PS3, and (2) switch the video from your PS3.
    • Audio. Currently, I have my PS2’s component video output connected to my HDTV. And I have an optical digital cable running from my PS2 to my receiver. That way I can get the audio in better quality and surround sound. I could have used the analog stereo jacks as well, but that would have required some extension cables, and I would have lost 5.1 surround sound. Anyway, this connection method can also be used with the PS3, though I’ll be using a variant. I’ll be connecting my PS3 to my TV using an HDMI/DVI cable, to get the video into my TV. And I’ll be using the same optical connection to route the sound to my receiver.
    • Video. You can also use your receiver to switch your video. You can connect your composite, svideo, component, or HDMI output from the PS3 to the back of your receiver, and then have another cable going from the receiver’s video output to the television. I would personally like to do this, but can’t. My receiver doesn’t have enough inputs, and it also doesn’t have component video, DVI, or HDMI inputs either. The only caveat here is if your receiver does any video processing. That may be fine, but it may also introduce gaming lag. So test it and see.
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  5. HDMI 1.3 considerations.
    The PS3 supports the latest HDMI 1.3 spec. Which is significant for several reasons.
    • That means it supports deep colour (which just means a wider palette of colour for more realistic imagery). Check with your display manufacturer to see if it supports deep colour. Some displays are now starting to appear with this support.
    • HDMI 1.3 supports Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master. Those are two new surround sound formats supported by the Blu-ray specification. So if you have a receiver that supports HDMI 1.3, TrueHD, and DTS HD Master, you’re all set to enjoy those new sound formats. These two formats are cool because they’re such high quality formats – both are supposed to be master-quality audio. The only problem is that there is no receiver today that supports HDMI 1.3 or those formats! :( Sorry to get your hopes up. But they’ll be coming. In the meantime, one solution is that a BD player could put out a 24bit/96kHz PCM digital audio stream instead. Which is still very very high quality. But we don’t know if the PS3 will do that. Plus you’ll have to check your receiver’s manual to see if you have support there.
    • Note that many people say you need HDMI 1.3 for 1080p support. This is not true. 1080p was part of the HDMI spec since day one. The problem is just that manufacturers didn’t support that part of the spec. So to see if your display supports 1080p, checking for HDMI or HDMI 1.3 isn’t good enough. It has to say “1080p over HDMI” or something to that effect.
  6. DVI considerations.
    Like I said above, I’ll be using an HDMI/DVI cable. HDMI is basically the same thing as the digital DVI spec, plus some extra bandwidth and features, plus audio, plus HDCP copy protection. So there are adapters for connecting from DVI to HDMI and vice versa. Personally, I bought a cable with an HDMI connector on one end and a DVI connector at the other. (From monoprice.com.) If you have a DVI input on your HDTV with HDCP copy protection, you should be able to use that input just fine for games and movies. If you don’t have HDCP, you’ll probably just be able to use it for games. But either way you’ll need to do something about the audio, because DVI doesn’t support audio. So that’s why I need to run a digital audio cable from my PS2 to my receiver, and I’ll have to do the same thing for my PS3.

 

So you’re probably wondering: what is the absolute best way to connect your PS3 to your television? The more direct the connection, the better (usually). If you have a digital display (LCD, DLP, plasma, SXRD, D-ILA, LCoS) with HDMI or DVI, using an HDMI or HDMI/DVI cable to your TV will probably give you your best video quality. If you have an analog TV (CRT), it’ll probably be a toss-up between component video and HDMI/DVI, though you can only tell for sure by trying both. The worst connection is composite (one yellow RCA jack). The second-worst is svideo.

If your TV has a “direct input” mode, try turning that on if you notice any gaming lag issues. It turns off some extra processing the television might do, reducing gaming lag. Some TV’s have a “game mode” that sometimes does the same kind of thing. Careful, though, because sometimes “game mode” whacks out the picture controls in an attempt to make the picture really pop, at the expensive of picture quality and accuracy. I highly recommend calibrating your set with a disc like Video Essentials or AVIA. Monster Cables also has a decent calibration disc. (Which I think they did in association with Sound and Vision Magazine.) You’ll have to propagate any change in settings (and there will be!) to all your inputs. Also, turn off anything you see on your set like “edge enhancement”, SVM, “brightness enhancer”, and stuff like that. Those things usually just try to make up for the fact that the other settings were all wrong in the first place. Also, some sets allow you to adjust the colour temperature. “Warm” is usually the best bet. If you have the money, consider getting an ISF calibration done to your set. (Just Google the term “ISF calibration”.) Most people report a definite increase in picture quality, though my results were mixed.

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How to Connect your PS3 or Xbox 360

“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.

PS3

AV-wise, the PS3 has two HDMI outputs, one multi output, and an optical digital audio output.

Games

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.

Movies

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.

Conclusion

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.

Xbox 360

AV-wise, the Xbox 360 has component video outs, VGA out, and a digital audio output.

Games

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.

Movies

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.

Conclusion

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.

You can get HDMI-DVI converters in two forms: Just a little converter with one HDMI on one end and DVI on the other, or a cable with HDMI on one end and DVI on the other.

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