HDMI

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The blue spot on the wall is our HDfury Gamer2 HDMI-to-component converter adding Xmas cheer.

This post is likely to be of interest to a only a small fraction of readers at most, but…

Over a year ago, I opted to buy a $159 HDfury Gamer2 Component converter so we could keep using our 2002 flat-tube TV with our TiVo Roamio OTA (see previous post, Replace the old TV?). The HDfury device was the only way to get the high quality TiVo HDMI output into the old TV. (TiVo also has a composite output, but it is noticably lower in quality).

That decision was a bit iffy, considering the low price of today’s LED TVs, and the relatively high cost of the HDfury device.

Yesterday, HDfury sent this email:

“It is with a heavy heart that we must share the sad news: All below devices will have to be removed [from their catalog] in less than a week.

HDfury Gamer1 RGB
HDfury Gamer2 Component/Stereo
HDfury Gamer2 RGB/Stereo
HDfury2 RGB/Component/Stereo
HDfury3 RGB/Component/5.1
HDfury4 (3Dfury) HDMI/DVI-D/RGB/Component/5.1

HDFury Gamer 2

HDFury Gamer2 (Click to enlarge)

Hurry Up, it’s NOW or NEVER! Installers and integrators can still get their hands on the very last HDfury HDMI to Analog units available.

It is expected that the retail price on the market for these HDMI to Analog HDfury units will SKYROCKET shortly after they are removed from our catalog.”

That is not really terrible news for us, since the failure of either the old TV or the HDfury device would precipitate the purchase of a new LED TV, anyway.

But it sounds as though with the high resale value of the HDfury, I might get my money back and then some for having gone that route.

Yay, a cognitive dissonance-lessening bit of news!

Williams' Funhouse

Williams’ Funhouse pinball game on the Wii

 

A lightning strike earlier this year took out the two component inputs to our plasma TV.

As a result, I have had to use the composite TV input (yellow, red & white RCA plugs) with the Wii. But I pine for the higher resolution and picture quality of component in the detailed pinball art of the Gottlieb and Williams Collections for the Wii.

I was getting ready to add a fatalistic comment about the expensive HDMI-to-component converter that bought a few more years for our flat-tube TV:

“At least when the TV blows up, I can reuse the converter with the Wii to connect it to an HDMI input.”

Then I realized that the Wii would be going from component to HDMI, not vice-versa. Would it work the other way? Unlikely.

I was right, it wouldn’t work (looked it up). But it turns out that a component-to-HDMI converter costs a whole lot less.

Wiimcomponent-to-HDMI converter.

Wii component-to-HDMI converter

Found a specialized Wii to HDMI Video Audio Converter 720P 1080P HD Output Converter at Amazon for $13.72, less than a tenth of HDMI-to-component!

The original Wii is at best capable of 480p resolution (same as non-Blu-ray DVDs), and that’s only with a special Wii component video/audio cable, like I used to use.

But the new converter can upscale to 720p or 1080p, so possibly it will look better than it did before.

I’ll let you know how it works out in the comments section when I get it. (It shipped from Hong Kong, so it might be a week or two.)


Currently free to view for Amazon Prime users: “Special When Lit – A Pinball Documentary”. I really enjoyed it. Next time I’m in Vegas, I’m heading for the Pinball Hall of Fame, shown in the movie.

Read about other related movies and items at Pinball, Real & Virtual in the TTM aStore.

In the year+ I’ve been writing this blog, we’ve tried a lot of cord-cutting measures. It might be useful to review the ones that were less than totally successful.

Most of the following items could work for others; here’s why they didn’t for us (links to relevant past posts are in parentheses).


1. Mediasonic HomeWorx Digital TV Converter Box with PVR (see Eliminate a cable box)

We bought our 36″ tube HDTV new in 2002 to use with cable. It does not have a built-in TV tuner, so in order to cut the cord, we needed a converter box to get digital TV with an antenna. This particular box cost only $35, and also had the capability of recording shows on a USB drive. I delusionally dreamed this could replace the cable DVR service.

But it was simply too clunky and kludgy as a PVR (DVR) to inflict on my wife. Doing so would probably have dealt a fatal blow to my cord-cutting ambitions. So it moved to the bedroom to serve as a digital tuner only. The price was still good for that use only. I finally traded it to a friend when we replaced the bedroom TV.

2. Cheap Component-to-HDMI converter (see Replace the old TV?)

We had already cut the cord with a TiVo Roamio OTA, but were watching the 36″ tube TV using the lower quality composite input (yellow, red, & white plugs) with TiVo. That was because the TV has only composite, component and S-video inputs, rather than the HDMI needed for the best quality TiVo connection.

I ordered two different HDMI-to-component video converters in succession from Amazon, but neither worked worth a hoot. I learned that the cheapest one on the market that would totally work was the HDFury Gamer 2, and it wasn’t that cheap.

Most people would probably be better served by getting a new TV, but I wasn’t ready to tote that still-working 217 lb. TV to Best Buy for recycling (see Best Buy accepts 3 dead electronics items per day).

3. Raspberry Pi/Windows Media Center PC as DVR (see The Life of (Raspberry) Pi)

I hardly attempted to get my wife to use this; the Pi/Windows combo is not casual user friendly, and is prone to periodic hiccups of various sorts. But I’ve learned a lot from it, and WMC captures TV shows reliably in a format that can be converted to .mp4 (unlike TiVo See JJ’s comments and links below; you CAN pull videos from TiVo with the free pyTiVo program!)

If you have a PC with an HDMI output, you could plug it directly into the TV and use WMC without the Pi. But Windows 8 is the last version to support WMC, so you would be out of luck by 2023, 2020 for Windows 7 (see RIP Windows Media Center (in 5-8 yrs)).

4. Roku Highlights online document (see Our post-cord-cutting TV menu)

This is a list of all the Roku channels with the content of current interest to us. It is in the form of a Google Doc, so I can look at it and update it from tablet, smartphone or browser. The idea was to remind us of all the shows we might watch, and which device or channel they’re on.

It’s fine as MY doc, not so much OURS. Gaye just doesn’t approach TV that way. I do, so I serve as the TV butler, verbally reading from the list when needed.

Since my original post, I have periodically updated the doc and added the content available via Chromecast and Raspberry Pi as well. All to aid my own memory.

5. Antenna placement (see Mohu Sky 60 antenna review & The Riddle of COZI)

(Click to enlarge)

I had the Video Revolution installer place the outdoor antenna on the highest, easternmost point of our house, in hopes of getting the best all-around signals. (He found the height daunting, but if it hadn’t been, I would have tried it myself.)

As it turned out, reception was generally very good. But a few of the higher frequency stations suffered when spring brought foliage and wind. Our street is downhill from the affected stations, so there was no way to put the antenna high enough to avoid the trees.

One other corner of our house might have had a better shot at less obstruction to the east (where a majority of network stations are for us). We don’t know. But it may well have had problems with other stations, even if it slightly improved the Coweta stations.

Ideally, I would have experimented a bit more. But due to the sheer height/steepness of our roof and the lack of attic access, that would have been difficult. With the installer’s meter running, and seeing good reception on all stations that day in March, I locked it in.

This summer, all channels have been consistently good.

6. A|B switch with set-top antenna (see Mohu Curve 50 antenna & COZI in the den)

(Also tried in the spring) The switch selected between the roof-mounted Mohu Sky 60 antenna, and the Curve 50 sitting on the TV. The idea was that when one station’s reception suffered due to the usual factors (wind, trees blocking the signal), another antenna sometimes did a better job.

In practice, it just didn’t work well enough or often enough to mess with it. Not the Curve’s fault; there was just no consistent good placement for it within the space restrictions imposed by the den TV’s location.

7. Hulu Plus (see Streaming video as cable substitute)

In short, we love Netflix, and Amazon Prime to a lesser degree, but Hulu Plus not at all. We dropped it.

After going with a TiVo Roamio OTA as our DVR, Hulu Plus would have been almost superfluous anyway.

A major key to cord-cutting success was reliably delivering daily episodes of “General Hospital” that could easily be rewound, jumped-back, and reviewed, and Hulu wasn’t it.

I found Hulu’s interface poor and the commercials annoying.

8. Powerline to connect a TiVo Mini to the TiVo host box (see The fruits of cord-cutting: new TVs, TiVo Mini, comments)

I successfully used a long Ethernet cable to connect the TiVo Mini in the kitchen to the TiVo Roamio OTA in the den, as recommended. (The other recommended way is MoCA, multimedia over coax.)

I then replaced the cable with a Powerline adapter, a way to send data packets over your house wiring (see Powerline vs. Ethernet wiring). This was an attempt to eliminate the wire.

It worked for a time, but started taking too many errors to be acceptable. I returned to the long Ethernet cable, and did the same when we added another Mini in the theater room.

A Powerline adapter effectively delivers internet access to the Roamio, and thus to the Minis too, but it isn’t quite up the job of moving the video data.

9. Finding ways to provide the cable shows my wife can’t live without (or just wants)

I was really worried about this, so I tried a number of things:

— Plex channels (see Free Plex channels = cable substitutes? and NBC/msnbc discontinuing video podcasts)

— VCRing  a lot of “Survivorman” before cutting the cable.

— Plex personal media content (see  007 24/7 on Plex Media Server) such as my wife’s favorite Sunday night shows, “Keeping Up Appearances” and “Fawlty Towers”, and Saturday fave, “The Outer Limits”. I also ripped our favorite movies from DVD for Plex.

Of those three items, only the latter proved to be of use to her.


The things that DID work will be in a future post. A high wife acceptance factor (WAF), as always, is primary.

In Cord-cutting status report #1, I said:

HDFury Gamer 2

HDFury Gamer 2 HDMI-to-component converter

“I have considered replacing the TV in our den, a 2002 vintage 36″ flat tube HDTV without digital tuner, since it can only handle component, S-video and composite video inputs, not HDMI. To get around this, I have tried two different HDMI-to-component video converters without success. An HDFury Gamer 2 Component likely would work, but at a cost of $160, I may hold off until I reach a decision.”

Since then, we did make a decision (Cutting the TV cable with TiVo Roamio OTA), and it was a success.

But like all newer electronics, the TiVo outputs HD video via HDMI rather than as component video (we have been watching composite, i.e., under VIDEO1 on the TV, for the last month). So to see HD, we need to either get a new TV or go with the HDFury Gamer 2 HDMI-to-component converter.

Pros for old TV+HDFury:

  • Cheaper than a new TV, which would easily cost $300+ to get equivalent size and quality.
  • I don’t have to move and get rid of a 217 lb. object.

Pros for new TV:

  • Longer life expectancy.
  • HDMI ports for newer Roku boxes, PCs, and any new devices that come along.

If you have been reading here for awhile, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that I opted for the old TV+HDFury. But the decision is causing me some cognitive dissonance.

Best case is that we get a few more years out of the old Panasonic, then it blows up spectacularly.

1st worst case: we get less than a year.

2nd worst case: we get way too many more years out of it, and the increasing kludge factor forces me to revisit this decision.

Time will tell. The HDFury arrives today.


(Later) It’s plugged in and the TV looks great! Thumbs up for the HDFury Gamer 2.

I had a moment of perplexity when I saw no picture for KTUL-8.1, KOKI-23.1, KMYT-41.1 and KTPX-44.1. What these stations have in common is that they transmit in 720p. Our old TV can only accept 480i, 480p and 1080i resolutions as inputs, even though the HDFury can handle any resolution up to 1080p. I went into TiVo settings and excluded all but those three from the list of Video Output Formats to fix it.

So we will be seeing those four channels in 480p, same as non-Blu-ray DVDs (Enhanced-Definition). While our TV has a 36″ diagonal, a widescreen 16:9 picture on it has a 33″ diagonal, due to the set’s 4:3 aspect ratio (black bars at top and bottom). At that size, I can’t honestly see much difference. The color saturation, contrast, and smoothness of component trump resolution (he rationalized).

But even 480i MeTV looks great in component video vs. composite, plus it fills the 36″ screen. The Panasonic Tau Series TV, top of the line in 2002, still has stunning blacks. Just saw some on “Star Trek” episode “Dagger of the Mind”, guest-starring Lee Woodward’s brother, Morgan.

(No, I wasn’t referring to Lt. Uhura, though she is stunning… no, I don’t mean Uhura armed with a phaser. I’m talking about the color of space…  “the final frontier”, not H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Colour Out of Space” …nevermind.)

Other notes: Volume is noticeably lower on COMPONENT1 than VIDEO1. Same was true with the Cox cable box. Compensate by turning the TV up.

When changing channels with Channel Up/Down, it takes the HDFury converter a couple of seconds to negotiate the resolution for each channel. There was a bit of this with the Cox box, too. Not a problem if you use the Channel Guide to pick your channels as my wife does.

No artifacts at all in the picture. My cognitive dissonance has mostly abated. I am eager to show this to my “client” (the TV, not this post).

Our 2002 36" Panasonic TV in the den.

2002 36″ 4:3 217# TV, remote A|B switch, TiVo Roamio OTA, Roku, VCR/DVD, HDFury Gamer 2 (behind).