Much like the world of computers, the abyss that is AV can be just as confusing. We're going to take you though both audio and video standards and give you an idea of what does what.
Display technology has exploded over the past 5 years, you'd be living under a rock if you hadn't noticed the flood of LCD and Plasma screens onto the market. CRT is pretty much dead in terms of modern TVs.
Both LCD and Plasma are flat screen technologies, meaning the screen is often only an inch or so in depth, gone are the days of a huge TV set mounted on a stand. These modern screens can be mounted on the wall, stand or even a wall bracket. The actual display is the same as modern computer TFT monitors, its basically a huge array of pixels, each pixel displaying a single block of colour, much like your old Gameboy screen, just one hell of a lot more dots.
You've also probably heard the terms “HD Ready”, “HDTV” or “High Definition”. One of the advantages of these new displays having SO many pixels its possible to display a much more detailed picture than previous CRT based screens. Pretty much all LCD/Plasma screens will be “HD Ready” meaning they are capable of receiving High Definition signals.
HDTV typically comes in four flavours, 1080p, 1080i, 720p and 480p (Okay, technically 480p is EDTV, but we're trying to keep this simple). What the hell do those numbers mean? Actually its quite simple, the number referrers to the number of vertical lines contained in the signal and the p/i referres to the signal being Progressive or Interlaced.
The more vertical lines the signal has, the more detail it can contain. For example, 480p would be a resolution of 720x480 = 345,600 pixels where 1080p would be a resolution of 1920x1080 = 2,073,600 pixels. Obviously the signal with the most pixels can contain the most detail.
You can find a more detailed description of HDTV over at Wikipedia.
Traditionally television screens display their picture in an “interlaced” method. Interlacing is the process of taking an picture signal and removing either all the odd lines or all the even lines and therefore reducing the bandwidth by half. Progressive scan basically means this process hasn't taken place and can simply be referred to as non-interlaced.
The best example is the graphic below, on the left we have an image that display's all lines from the original signal, in the middle we have a basic interlaced signal, which takes half of the lines and on the right, we have an interlaced signal with anti-aliasing (which tries to smooth the edges).
To put it simple, interlacing a signal removes half of the picture so progressive scan should give a much cleaner picture and removes any flickering. You can also find out more information about this topic over on Wikipedia.
When it comes to your Wii, component cable is the best possible signal you can use. The signal is broken into 3 known as YPbPr, Y carries luminance information, Pb carries the difference between blue and luminance and Pr carries the difference between red and luminance.
Component is the standard analogue system used for HD signals such as 480p, 720p, 1080i etc. Component cables are usually made up of 3 coloured phono connectors, coloured Red, Green and Blue. They are usually accompanied by a further set of Red and White phono connectors that are used for the audio.
You'll find component connectors on most decent flat screen televisions and also in some older high end CRT sets. Although Component has been popular for years, it is being super-seeded by its digial rivals DVI and HDMI, but you only need to worry about these if your getting a PS3.
If you want the best from Wii, component is the cable to use.
Another way of representing the video signal is RGB Scart, this has been the most popular cable in Europe for quite some time. It delivers a sharp picture with deep colours, but lacks any capability of high definition. RGB Scart works on a different principle to component, it simply carries the Red, Green and Blue signals followed by a V-Sync signal which basically syncs everything together.
Scart sockets are those big chunky ones that you can never seem to connect right! If you don't own a flat screen tv, this is the connection for you. The scart socket consists of 21 pins and carries both audio and video.
Composite is the bog standard cable that comes with your Wii, its the very simple 3 phono affair, Yellow is the video signal, Red and White for audio.
Composite is well known for being pretty horrible in terms of picture quality, colour contrast is often blurred with fuzzy lines and colours can seem washed out.
Pretty much all modern TV's with scart sockets will support RGB Scart, so we'd strongly suggest you ditch the standard cable and get one of the above!
Please note, connecting your composite cable into a “Scart Adapter” does not mean you'll be seeing a RGB Scart signal on screen, sorry folks.
Sadly the audio options for Wii are very simple, your going to be using the classic twin phono cables, white/black for left and red for right. With no form of digital connector, Wii won't support the wonders of Dolby Digital EX or Dolby True HD.
Instead Nintendo have opted to renew its support of the Pro Logic II format. Basically Pro Logic II uses existing analogue signals and tries to “embed” a 5.1 signal inside it, if your audio receiver supports it, it can decode the signal and separate out the audio channels for the different speakers, if not then you just get the usual stereo effect. It tries to bridge the gap between old and new.
Not to be too negative on Nintendo, but I was really disappointed that Dolby Digital 5.1 wasn't included for the Wii, hearing the difference between Pro Logic II and Dolby Digital is in a totally different league. Oh Well.
Although the Wii isn't the most advanced when it comes to AV, buying the right cable for the display can really make the difference. Remember to bag yourself a Component cable if you have a HD screen, otherwise a RGB Scart is highly recommended.
If we've not covered something or you simply have a question, please feel free to ask, we're here to help!