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In defense of Sony's HDMI.O.U. [update 1]

Ross Miller

When too much snark exists for just one perspective, Joystiq throws in a second opinion, just to confuse the flamers.

Yesterday, we reported that Sony would be shipping its PlayStation 3 sans HDMI cable ... so what?

A recent study by NPD suggests that sales of HDTV sets are on the rise, but it has an uphill battle if it expects to overthrow the dominant, standard definition units. The NPD study, released in June, found that 41 percent of all TVs sold in the U.S. were HDTV. A DisplaySearch survey (both featured in this interesting Washington Post piece) discovered that only 63 percent of those planning to buy a TV wanted HDTV sets.

While these numbers indicate an increase in popularity, it does not equate to a majority of the market share, nor to one that needs / wants to experience "true" high-definition gaming. Not all those who purchase HDTVs are planning on buying a PS3, making those affected by this exclusion a minority of a minority, statistically.

In the same article, a study by the Cable & Telecommuncations Association for Marketing revealed that at least 48 percent of HDTV owners who responded were receiving HDTV service. Extrapolating, the studies suggest that only 20 percent of those who recently bought HDTV will be using it to its fullest potential. With composite component cables, gamers can still experience high-definition visuals up to 1080i (although technologically possible, most TVs don't accept 1080p over component). HDMI cables are really for those looking to make the added "jump" from 1080i to 1080p.

Sony's own Kaz Hirai, CEO of SCEA, was quoted by Ars Technica as opining that, "to [his] eyes anyway, there's not a discernible difference between what you g et between HDMI and other forms of high definition." With such an stance, should we be surprised that the US PS3 package would lack an HDMI cable?

For those of you worried that you will not be able to enjoy Blu-ray movies without the cable have no concerns until 2010 or 2012. Hollywood has agreed to hold off on implementing Image Constraint tokens that would downgrade Blu-ray quality to 960x540, or 540p, for those not using HDMI cables (for reference, the typical NTSC DVD resolution is 720x480) -- for another four to six years. Therefore, the HDMI cable would not even be necessary until then -- that's plenty of time for the price of the cable to diminish. For those who are impatient, a quick search on Froogle can net you an HDMI to HDMI cable for under $10. As the PS3 is using a standard HDMI port (as opposed to the proprietary AV ports found in almost every game console before it), any cable should suffice.

At $600, we expect Sony to provide a system that can do everything out of the box, but an HDMI cable is unnecessary to the vast majority of PS3 gamers (other than for bragging rights). Historically, no game system has launched with the highest end cables -- PS2 didn't come with S-video, Xbox didn't come with component, 360 didn't come with VGA. Why, then, should we expect the PlayStation 3 to be any different?

[update 1: fixed a giant error in composite / component in the 1st paragraph after the break. Also, clarified that although 1080p is theoretically possible with component cables, it's not often you find a TV that lets you run 1080p over component.]

In this article: PS3

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