DRM cripples digital video from PCs to TVs
As I researched 45-in. LCD panels for an upcoming article, it became clear that insidious forces are trying to prevent users from employing any new TV as a PC monitor. There are no new 45- to 47-in. LCD panels that can accept a digital signal from an older computer. The digital HDMI (high-definition-multimedia-interface) inputs on TVs have HDCP (high-bandwidth digital-content protection). This situation is a DRM (digital-rights-management) system that media companies and the government forced on the manufacturers. You can buy a new video card that has HDCP, but DRM locks out home-built systems, and only big companies will be able to produce a PC that can render 1080p signals on a TV (Reference 1). If, like me, you have an AGP (Advanced Graphics Processor)-bus computer, you would also need to buy a new computer, because the new HDCP cards are available with a PCIe (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express) bus.
I own a Sharp LC-45GD7U LCD TV that allows me to display 1080p signals through the HDMI port. Allowing 1080p digital input from a computer was an oversight that almost every manufacturer soon remedied. Some LCD panels, such as the Vizio GV47LF spec only 1360×768 pixels through the analog D-sub connector and only 480×640 pixels through the digital HDMI port. (Yet some forum users claim that the Vizio synchronizes with 1920×1080 pixels through the analog port.) Equally frustrating is the confusion over progressive scan. Some LCD-panel models, such as the Samsung LN-S4695 and LN-S4696 and the Toshiba 47LX196 and 47LZ196, seem identical. The manufacturers' Web sites disclose no differences other than a couple of connectors and a few hundred dollars.
However, forum and newsgroup users explain that higher digit model numbers accept progressive-scan 1080 signals. But where do the TVs accept these signals? Both models of the Samsung accept 1080p through the analog connector. That fact does not mean that it accepts 1080p from the HDMI; I can guarantee you that the manufacturers have implemented HDCP so that you cannot run the panel from your PC unless you use the analog port.
Some large LCD panels, which lack TV tuners, can display digital signals. The Westinghouse LVM-47w1 manual makes clear that it can accept 1080p signals on its two DVI connectors as well as through the analog D-sub connector. I suspect that the Polaroid FLM-4701 and ByD:sign d:4742M monitors also accept digital 1080p signals. By hooking up external tuners and set-top boxes, you end up with a TV, but you would have to deal with quite a few remote controls.
If you are considering hooking a PC to a large TV, you may have to resign yourself to using the analog D- sub connector. Carefully do your research before making a purchase. If you see a VGA input, do not assume it is high-definition; the Vizio isn't. If you see a DVI (digital-video-interface) input, do not assume it is high-definition; the Sharp isn't. The Mitsubishi LT-46231 DVI input starts looking for HDCP at resolutions higher than 1280×720 pixels. If you see 1080p, don't assume you can get that into the set through the HDMI connector; it might just be a 1080p component in for Blu-ray players and game consoles. Some sets advertise 1080p because the LCD panel is progressive internally, but you cannot get a 1080p signal into the TV from any connector. You may need to do what my buddy Dave did when he bought a Samsung LTP468W: Drag a computer into a high-end-TV showroom and see whether the TV starts up with 1920×1080-pixel resolution.
Toshiba could not tell me whether the analog input of the 47LX196 could render 1920×1080-pixel signals. The lack of clear information on these new TVs is a disgrace to the marketing departments at all the manufacturers. The limitations on your use of these TVs as computer monitors are disgraceful to the engineering departments. For a hardware company to make a product with a 1080p panel and no 1080p PC digital input, well, as Frank Zappa used to say: "If there is a hell, it waits for them."
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|Doctorow, Cory, "Only big companies' PCs will play high-def DVDs," BoingBoing.net.|
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