Would you like to improve the picture quality of your RPTV, plasma panel, or other display— and add DVI switching? The VisionDVI may be the answer. In Issue 59, I tested an inexpensive ($999) DVDO video processor that could improve the performance and flexibility of your set. Back then, the single most-needed feature, DVI switching with multiple DVI (HDCPcompliant) inputs, wasn’t available in any low-cost processor. Now it is, which gives you one more good reason to consider an outboard video processor. Not only can Lumagen’s $999 VisionDVI do a good job of scaling all sources to the native resolution of your TV (although there is a caveat about this), it can also provide the connectivity, adjustability, and switching flexibility that many modern sets lack.
The first key feature of the VisionDVI is DVI switching. Even many expensive displays today have only one DVI (or HDMI) input, yet HD set-top boxes need a DVI input for best performance and so do the newest DVD players. The Vi s i o n D V I has two DVI inputs, allowing you to switch between your various components and customize settings for each one. In addition, you’ll find two component inputs, two S-video inputs, and two composite inputs, with the option of adding two SDI inputs for SDI-equipped DVD players. Output is DVI-I only (analog and digital), but adapter cables allow you to drive analog RGB and component inputs, too.
Another key feature of the VisionDVI is its ability to scale HD signals. Many earlier processors did a great job deinterlacing and scaling DVDs but were forced to pass HD signals straight through unprocessed. Now, for the first time anywhere near this price, you can take the 720p and 1080i HD feeds from your satellite or cable box and either pass them through untouched or scale them up or down to the native resolution of your set, rather than letting the oftenless- capable set-top box do the scaling. The VisionDVI also has the adjustability many modern displays lack. For example, a lot of sets simply don’t allow grayscale to be calibrated accurately. The VisionDVI does, with 11 calibration points that insure perfect tracking. In fact, the grayscale adjustment precision of this product is extraordinary and would likely fix any non-linearity you might find in your set, though an ISFtrained technician with a color analyzer would be required to utilize this capability to its fullest. Want to change the gamma curve to make the presentation more film-like? The VisionDVI can do that, too. And, of course, you can easily center and resize the picture for minimum overscan, even when your set’s user and service menus don’t provide adjustments for this.
The $999 VisionDVI is a barebones black box with a remote control. The top-of-the-line VisionProHDP ($2499) comes with deluxe cosmetics. Some of the additional capability of the ProHDP (like 1080p output and improved processing) is available in the mid-line VisionHDP ($1499).
Using the VisionDVI
I first connected the VisionDVI (via DVI) to the V, Inc. VIZIO P42 HD plasma display reviewed in TPV 62. Everything worked fine at 480p, 720p, or 1080i outputs, but when I tried to dial in 1024x768, the native rate of the VIZIO panel, I got no picture. Reason: A number of displays won’t accept their native panel resolution through their DVI inputs. (The LG reviewed in TPV 62 wouldn’t work, either.) With these sets, I was stuck using 720p—not quite ideal.
Unlike the other two plasmas, the 42" Dell panel worked fine via DVI at 1024x768 (its native screen resolution), and the 1:1 setting in its SIZE menu made the picture fit the screen. The Vision’s picture with the Dell was definitely cleaner than it was with a 720p signal into the other two plasmas. The VisionDVI also allowed me to fix the greenish grayscale of the Dell, as well as correct the “red push”; plus, it gave me back the much-needed COLOR and TINT controls that Dell unfortunately left out for DVI sources. The Vision/Dell pair made a truly synergistic combination, with a resulting picture significantly better than the Dell could muster on its own.
For my final evaluation I used the Hitachi 55HDX61 plasma reviewed in this issue, which has far better resolution than the three inexpensive 42" models. Once again, I was unable to get a “pixel perfect” matchup via DVI with the Hitachi’s 1366x768 native resolution, so I tried with RGB, the next best thing, and came pretty close.
Hitachi’s 10-bit video processing is intended to be a premium solution, and I expected some good competition using a 480i source. The Lumagen did pretty well, with smoother movement in tough film-based scenes featuring camera pans and about the same level of performance (fair-to-good) with video-based torture tests. Resolution was just a bit soft, but overall filmbased images were free of artifacts.
While the VisionDVI could potentially help nearly all current displays, it will work best with those that accept their own native resolution via their DVI (or RGB) input, though this might be difficult to ascertain without actually trying the VisionDVI with the set in question. Higher resolution displays and (especially) projectors with native rates of 1280x720 or 1366x768 would be more likely candidates than 1024x768 (42") plasmas.
Although I found the deinterlacing/ processing capabilities of the VisionDVI to be adequate, the scaler didn’t miraculously transform regular cable TV with the new displays I had on hand. Older TVs with poor internal scaling would benefit much more in this area than many of today’s premium fixed-pixel sets. But the Lumagen products are more than just scalers. Their real strength lies in their ability to switch all of your video components (even a pair of HDCP-compliant DVI or HDMI connections) and send out one totally customized video output (preferably DVI or RGB), while also allowing you to correct (to a remarkable extent) many of a typical display’s shortcomings in adjustability. Viewed this way, the VisionDVI could make a substantial contribution to overall picture quality and convenience of operation, even if your set already has good video processing