The PS3 “RGB Full Range (HDMI)” fiasco


If you’re a regular reader of either PS3Fanboy or Xbox360Fanboy you’ve probably become as sick from the “mah graphix r better than urs” pissing contest as I have. The issue stems from Gametrailers.com’s comparison videos highlighting a clear issue in the PS3s video output. A small uproar erupted in the PS3 fanboy community over Gametrailers.com not using the irrelevant “RGB Full Range (HDMI)” options “Full” setting to ensure a more fair comparison between consoles. Sadly many people have now been misinformed about the purpose of the “RGB Full Range (HDMI)” option.

Over the fold I endeavour to clear up the “RGB Full Range (HDMI)” option misinformation and persuade fellow PS3 owners to properly calibrate their sets to get the most out of the console, rather than relying on what people seem to think is a magical, all powerful, “Better Picture ON/OFF” option.

Now, just for the record I would like to state that I own both a Playstation 3 and an Xbox 360, I love and hate features of both and am absolutely positively unbiased- of course you’re just going to have to take my word for this. Both the PS3 and Xbox 360 are connected to my Bravia KDL40W2000u set via HDMI cables and, guess what, my PS3 “RGB Full Range (HDMI)” is set to Limited. Due to 30 seconds of TV calibration the resulting picture isn’t washed out or inferior to the Xbox 360s, even though the signal coming out of the PS3 might be.

The issue with the “RGB Full Range (HDMI)” setting comes from a complete misunderstanding of what the feature is actually for, combined with its quite dramatic affects on most HD televisions. As you can see for yourself (PS3 owners, anyway) switching this option to the deceptively named “Full” has an instant and profound effect on the picture; appearing to enhance colours and remove the washed out appearance that the PS3 has by default with most televisions. RGB Full mode is a compatibility feature that you most likely don’t need; its effects can easily be replicated by simply taking some time to calibrate your television set until you are happy with the resulting picture.

There is , these are forums filled with informed, intelligent, audio/vidio enthusiasts who aren’t in the least bit interested in the pissing contest between the Xbox 360 and PS3 but are looking to get the best performance out of THEIR console and television combination as is possible.

If you want to get the most out of your PS3 and are using an HDMI cable do the following: Turn “RGB Full Range (HDMI)” back to “Limited”. Bring up your TVs OSD, navigate to the picture settings for the current input, and turn the brightness down a few notches- looks like you’ve just turned “Full” mode on? Congratulations you’ve just taken the first step toward properly getting the most out of your PS3.

Now, I am in no way clearing the name of Gametrailers.com by pointing out the complete irrelevancy of the “RGB Full Range (HDMI)” setting in this whole debate. However what I am pointing out is that Gametrailers.com have done the PS3 a great injustice by capturing and comparing video feeds that are compressed to the point where nothing but the known brightness/contrast issues can be differentiated from console to console.

Can you see any other differences other than overdriven brightness in those over-compressed, youtube quality comparison videos? No? Me either. When comparing two HIGH DEFINITION games consoles in terms of graphical performance, to produce anything other than a lossless 720p video is completely pointless. And if that video hasn’t first been passed through a TV optimised to display it at its best then the comparison is flawed. Why are we so hung up about graphics anyway? Isn’t it the gameplay differences between platforms that will be the real decider; if a title on the Xbox 360 has online play but does not on the PS3 can you guess which platform I’ll be buying it for?

Be warned that there is now, also, a video on YouTube.com spreading the “RGB Full Range (HDMI)” mis-information. Don’t set the option to “Full”… CALIBRATE YOUR TELEVISION! The PS3 does not, and will not, ever have an option to “GIEF ME BETTAR PICTUR PLZ”. It might appear to have that effect, and if it suits you then go ahead, be lazy, and use “Full” instead of spending a moment to calibrate everything correctly, it’ll ultimately give you an inferior picture but I’ll never have to look at it!

So. To sum up:

  • PS3 owners shut up, read up, and properly calibrate your televisions and find a picture that you are happy with.
  • Gametrailers.com stop pissing petrol on the fire, and stop producing misleading comparison videos and perhaps start producing well-written editorial that compares the benefits and drawbacks of multi-platform titles on each console?
  • The PS3 does, in actual fact, have an less than stellar picture straight out of the box on many televisions and, whilst this can easily and quickly be rectified by simple calibration, this could be considered a major oversight by SONY given the fact games consoles are expected to work out-of-the-box. Still I do not believe it is fair to carry this expectation over to platform comparisons. If a gamer is concerned enough about the quality of their picture to research which platform offers the best choice then it is logical to assume they’ve also taken the time to ensure their consoles and televisions are set up for the best results.