"down-rezzed" to sub-HD resolutions when output via the component-video ports. As such, you'll want products--video players, A/V receivers, and TVs--that can pass the full-resolution HDMI signals throughout your entire home-theater system. Once you've committed to an A/V receiver than can handle HDMI, the key features you want to look for are:
1. HDMI switching: Look for receivers with as many HDMI inputs as possible. The ability to switch between multiple HDMI sources will become more important as more HDMI-equipped video sources are released in 2006 and beyond. By contrast, some early HDMI-equipped receivers, such as the Panasonic SA-XR70
, had only a single HDMI input and output, which doesn't really deliver any advantage to your home theater.
2. Analog-to-digital video conversion: The first generation of HDMI-equipped receivers, such as the Onkyo TX-NR1000 and the Yamaha RX-V4600, kept the all-digital HDMI signals and the analog A/V signals (composite, S-Video, and even high-definition component) separate, so you'd be forced to run multiple cables to your HDTV and switch back and forth between inputs. Most newer HDMI-capable receivers include the ability to convert analog video input to digital, so everything is conveniently output through a single HDMI cable. But you'd be well advised to step up to a receiver that can handle...
3. De-interlacing of analog video (480p output via HDMI): The analog-to-digital video conversion is great, but many older HDTVs can't accept a 480i signal when it's passed via HDMI. Newer HDMI receivers alleviate this problem by de-interlacing analog video or displaying it in a DVD-worthy progressive-scan (480p) format, which should work with any HDTV or HD monitor equipped with an HDMI input. The JVC RX-D702B
and the Sony STR-DA7100ES
are examples of two such receivers we've tested that have this ability, and the forthcoming Yamaha RX-V2600 and the Denon AVR-4306 (full reviews for both will be posting later in February) take the de-interlacing feature to the next level by scaling any incoming video source to your choice of HD resolutions (720p, 1080i, and--eventually--1080p).
Now with all that said, keep in mind that none of the receivers currently available will be able to decode the DTS-HD and Dolby HD tracks on upcoming Blu-ray and HD-DVD discs, though they will play back the DVD-style Dolby Digital and DTS legacy soundtracks on those discs. If that's important to you, you should hold off. If not, I'd recommend getting an HDMI receiver that handles all three of the features I've listed above. Right now, that limits you to the JVC RX-D702, the Denon AVR-4306, the Yamaha RX-D2600, and the Sony STR-DA7100ES--with the promising Denon AVR-2807 coming soon, followed by many more models later in 2006.