I am not going to get all technical with this post. Instead I am going to tell you my basic observations when using the crystalio II (latest firmware version 1.24a). I have been using it now for 2 weeks. I have DirecTV (HD TIVO and their new HR20 HD DVR) going into an Onkyo TX1000 and the out going into HDMI input 4 on the crystalio II. I have a JVC HM5 U DTHEATER player going into HDMI input 3. I then have a Panasonic Blu ray unit for spot 2 and then a Toshiba HD DVD XA1 in spot 1. I am using a Sony Ruby (HDMI, DVI and component). So far switching has been a breeze. I have tested the audio as well and have never experienced a single drop out over any of the signals.
The userface of this unit is remarkable. Besides the very clever Dynamic VP (which allows you to set specific parameters) it also has a very intuitive menu system. It is so easy to use that even my wife can figure it out! It pretty much consists of INPUT, OUTPUT, IMAGE, AUDIO, and SYSTEM. The INPUT section has the input configuration which allows you to select your video level coming in or if one wants to then can just select AUTO. I like being able to see what is coming in. Either 4:4:4 or 4:2:2 or RGB... The OUTPUT is also very easy to navigate thru. Here you can select your resolution (like any VP) and also what video level to send in. Then there is the screen masking and screen shape options. IMAGE is full of features.
Here is where the crystalio II separates itself from the pack. Besides having a ton of Gamma, color temperature, and video settings it also has the deinterlacing options as well. Being able to pick between the VXP chip for HD and the faroudja for 480i sources is a tweakers dream. And you can set it to automatically switch between them depending on the resolution coming in. The aspect ratio under IMAGE has 1:1 Pixel Mapping as an option. finally one can just pick it instead of wonder if they are doing 1:1. It also includes built in test patterns to confirm it! Also there is full screen, 16:9 letterbox/2:35:1, 16:9, 4:3 letterbox, 4:3, a NLS option and finally there is even a custom option. That is not all there is to do under IMAGE either. Here you can set your video profiles, and also set the Noise Reduction option. I know many say never turn on a NR option but I will say if I am watching a source and see one dot of grain after turning the NR on low it is gone! I have found it works wonders for those older titles on HD DVD. It truly cleans up the picture without causing me to lose sharpness. The AUDIO section is just that. AUDIO. It allows you to pick each source and also do delays (if needed)... The SYSTEM is also nice because it enables you to turn on the advnced options. Those would be the HDMI port configurations. Also allows one to adjust R/G/B individual gamma curves. I could go on and on about the many features there are that many. Even the faroudja chip has its own options. Also I would like to mention the Voltage amp option (off, low, high) for longer cable runs.
So enough with the userface, how does it do with Picture Quality? After you set it up just the way you want to you finally get to SEE what it can do. The crystalio II has 2 HDMI outputs and a BNC component style output. And all 3 OUTPUTS are always simultaneaously active! I have been using HDMI on my ruby but also plan to use the DVI input when the 1080p 48hz ouptut is fixed (in the next firmware). I use the component on the ruby for my xbox 360. So far I have not been dissapointed. I have said time and time again, you get what you pay for and the crystalio II is no exception. The picture is the absolute best I have seen on my ruby. It really gives it a DLP look without the rainbows. Sharp and vivid. You can actually SEE the adjustments to the picture as you make them. I was playing Madden 07 and I could not believe the amount of detail on the turf alone. I could never see that before with any other processor. I actually had to turn down sharpness because I was getting a headache. Mission Impossible 3 looked terrific. Also my Toshiba HD DVD DEMO disc is jaw dropping. I put in some of my best material so I could judge it with great sources before I put in 480i material. Chronicles of riddick, Charlie and the chocolate Factory all looked great on HD DVD. Then of course I put in the older titles. They looked cleaner when the NR was turned on low. I think their FineEdge, FidelityEngine and TruMotionHD features all played a key role in making these older titles look pristine. Fast times at Ridgemont High and Animal House were other good examples. For Blu ray I only have about 6 titles. I started with Evolution. Wow! That looked great. Monster House and Dinosaur were very nice to. It was hard for me to see what grain others have mentioned with Monster House. I am very impressed with the detail level in dark scenes. The Great Raid was spectacular. Click, even though it may not be one of the best Br titles out there, still looked very good. I have found that average looking HD titles (whatever format) look much better. And the best ones are unbelievable.
I can't wait for Ice Age 2 in a couple weeks. For SD dvds I expect Cars to look HD. These Disney titles always look great no matter what display but for this set up I expect it to be hard to tell the difference between it and a HD title. For DTHEATER, the results were just the same. I, ROBOT was so 3D like it was scary. I then played some older titles in 480i to see what the faroudja deinterlacing can do. Not bad at all. After selecting the A/R I was very impressed. Usually it is crap in, crap out. Not in this case. Same for my DirecTV sources. Whenever I sent in 480i (playboy channel) they did not look bad at all.
And of course HD sources looked excellant. I leave the NR on low at all times with satellite. I am a tweaker at heart and having this many options is awesome.
So to sum things up, I have had a DVDO VP30 and 50, and also a Lumagen HDQ. I really liked the HDQ's picture Q. I hated its menu system (userface). I felt like I needed a QB wristband. I liked the DVDO VP30 with its ABT 102 card. I also liked the VP50 which is pretty much a VP30 with 1080i deinterlacing. The DVDO userface is better than average and has nice color.The VP50 does a nice picture to. But for me I just LOVE (not like) the crystalio II. The remotes are all pretty similar to. The crystalio IIs is simple with a backlite (blue buttons) option. You can also hit INFO at anytime to see what is going on. There you can confirm whether you are using the VXP chip or faroudja. Also if you are in 1:1 mode. Also whether it is FILM or VIDEO, 3:2, resolutions in or out... You get my point. You can have any question answered at a push of a button. And as far as looks go the crystalio II is the most impressive looking of the bunch. It has an excellant display window on the front. I like it when it goes to commercial and you can see it switch between film and 2:2. And yes you can turn that off if it is distracting. Even though it is just a dot (blue, orange or green-which indicates PASSTHRU). So when the next fimware hits (later this month) and the 1080p 48hz, Picture in Picture and Picture by Picture are added it will be an even better VP. PiP is going to be a great feature to add that will feel like the cherry on top!
Kudos to Pixel Magic!