Saturday, October 25, 2014

PowerBook DVI to HDMI to HDTV

My wife and I own a 55" Vizio LED HDTV that is a little less than a year old.  It's a fantastic TV that has already served us quite well.  It has a 240 Hz refresh rate, which has its pros and cons, but we have become accustomed to such a high frame rate even in slower moving scenes.  The display itself is 1920x1080, with very vibrant in your face colors and picture quality.  At least it comes off that way after using my G4 PB's thin-film-transitor (TFT) liquid crystal display all day.

Knowing the television (anybody actually spell that word out anymore?  I feel like the device itself has outlived its name) has 4 HDMI inputs, I decided I should dedicate one for when I want to hook my PowerBook up to it when I feel like working on a significantly larger more colorful display.  So I set off to purchase both an HDMI cable of appropriate length as well as an HDMI to DVI-D adapter.  Knowing the signal on both output types is digital, I knew such an adapter would exist as well as exist at a reasonable cost, although I had never previously looked for or came across one. Of course, HDMI is capable of transferring both audio and video, but the dual-link DVI port on the G4 only does video. Meh.  I can live with that.

I purchased an 8 ft Insignia HDMI cable as well as the specified adapter from Best Buy for nearly $50.  I should have stuck with ordering each from the webs to save a little cash, but felt like making a quick run to Best Buy. Either way, the quality of the adapter and cable are fitting for my needs.

Once all the connections were in place, I fired up the old laptop and let it boot to Debian.  Right away, the resolution on the laptop's display was blown up at 1024x768, but that is to be expected.  Soon as I logged in, the display was replicated onto the TV, although resolution was not optimal there either (again at 1024x768).  I had to manually set the resolution to 1920x1080p via Preferences -> Monitor Settings.  The Refresh Rate was set to Auto, but would not go any higher than 60 Hz, which was also to be expected.

In regards to the resolution, Debian actually offered both 1080p and 1080i.  The i in 1080i option stands for interlaced, meaning the video is interlaced with frames being broadcast at 30 frames/second but played backed at 60 frames/second.  It does this by displaying each frame twice, one on the even scan line field and one on the odd.  The whole idea behind this option is to try and reduce any possible perception of flickering and increase that of motion.  On the other hand, 1080p (progressive scan), does not interlace the video, but instead draws it line by line, which provides excellent quality for fast paced video such as a scene from an action movie.  Why does all this matter on this post?  It doesn't. I just wanted to share with you some extra information. I couldn't see any noticeable difference between the two.  However, I did not test this out when playing a video back at full screen in an app such as mplayer or VLC.  Perhaps it would be worth looking into?

Boy did it look good though.  The machine has the on-board Mobility Radeon 9700 graphics card without 3D acceleration, but the machine was able to handle the output quite easily with the card's 128 MB of VRAM. See my photo of it in action below.

So maybe it is not all that practical, but I enjoyed working through the setup and typing up this post on a larger 55" display.  Perhaps if I can find a way to use the HDTV as an extended external display using something such as xrandr that would be even more useful.  Another blog post for another day.  :)