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Hardware Review: VDigi VD-W3 Wii HDMI Upscaler

Posted by Anthony Dickens

We take a look at VDigi's up-scaler device that aims to bring you a step closer to "Wii HD".

It's well documented that the lack of High-Definition (HD) doesn't affect the majority of Wii gamers, however there is a significant minority who eagerly await Nintendo's step up in the HD realm. VDigi have identified this specific Wii gamer and offer them a stop-gap solution in the form of a Wii up-scaler processor available for around $59.

Video up-scalers have been around for a number of years, attempting to solve the problem of the video source resolution (e.g. DVD, 480p) being vastly inferior to modern large screen resolutions such as 1080p.

It works as a signal converter by physically resizing the source video frame before sending it out as a new digital signal. Anyone who's ever enlarged a JPEG image will know that this process isn't particularly successful, therefore the up-scaler also processes the frame with a number of clever filters that try to "clean up" the image.

The process has been relatively successful for DVD players and films because of the smoother characteristics of the frames. Games are quite different, having more harsh edges with multiple icons and text on-screen. We expect that VDigi have attempted to tweak these filters to suit games better.

The device offers HDMI output for TV screens which can also be adapted to DVI using a simple converter. For HDMI it offers the 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p signals and for DVI supports 1280x1024, 1440x900 and 1680x1050. As you might expect the video processor needs power, but cleverly this is handled by a USB connector that connects to the back of your Wii to draw power.

The HDMI signal will carry audio as you might expect, however the device also has a 3.5mm analogue audio jack for those using DVI or other setups.

Along with the resolution options the device also offers two "Display Modes" and two "Colour Modes" which appear to slightly tweak the white balance and colour saturation respectively. All of these options are controlled by a crude, but effective, old school-looking DIP switch on the bottom of the device.

VDigi were kind enough to let us have a test drive with one of the units, and we've tried it on a number of different TV screens and monitors.

We've tested the device using a 42" Hitachi Plasma screen (HDMI->DVI), a 32" Sony Brava LCD (HDMI), 22" Samsung LCD/TFT (DVI), 17" LG LCD/TFT (DVI) and couple other LCD monitors.

To summarise we had mixed but positive results, with the device working on all but one of our test screens. We found that simply selecting the maximum resolution doesn't automatically give you the best results, with nearly all of the screens requiring some manual tweaking of colour, hue, sharpness and more to get the best results out of the device.

The up-scaled image was arguably clearer when compared to 480p/component, however in some cases (42" Hitachi Plasma) there was little visible improvement. Simply put, results may vary.


People who expect this device to suddenly enable crystal-clear 1080p gaming for their Wii should first understand what an up-scaler is capable of, and that isn't magic. When used on screens that support the standard 480p/component setup we saw little improvement to warrant the investment, however if you're a Wii gamer who desperately wants to use a LCD monitor or simply only have HDMI connectors on your large screen TV then this product should suit your needs. It would also be prudent to do some research prior to purchase, checking that your LCD supports the resolutions & refresh rates offered by the device.


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User Comments (36)



Cia said:

the difference between 720p and 480p is barely visible in that picture.



warioswoods said:

I've pondered ordering this device for a couple of reasons. One, my Panasonic seems to get much better results with anything being sent over HDMI, even if the resolution is the same. It seems that the built-in converters for component signals simply aren't as good on the set. Second, I like the option here of sending the audio to the TV via HDMI and to a secondary source via a traditional audio cable, without a splitter of any sort needed.

However, I have a particular question that no reviewer has yet answered: I've heard that this device may not do well with signals that aren't 480p. So, does it have a problem with any Virtual Console games? If I'd have to switch the adapter out to play those, it certainly would be a problem. I've also heard reports that certain GC games cause it to produce erratic results.



antdickens said:

@warioswoods, we can play test some specific virtual console games with the device and see what kind of results we get if you like? Do you have any requests? We have both US/NTSC and UK/PAL Wii's to try..



turtlelink said:

@Phat ant, why not test one game from every system on VC?
Anyway, is this going to be the substitute for HD on wii?



warioswoods said:

I'd be NTSC, but basically I'm just concerned that a particular console might cause problems. If one random NES, SNES, N64 game (etc) works, then I believe I'd be sufficiently assured that it's at least not a huge problem.



WaveGhoul said:

Weren't you saying earlier that you have a 42" Panasonic Plasma? So the resolution would be 1024x768. If I had an HDTV right now I'd definitly plunk down the cash for this device, even if it is truly just a mild graphical enhancement. That comparison pic by the way is terrible, I've seen much better ones online. But really though, HDMI beats out component regarding PS3 games. and Bluray movies, and in the sound department. Yet I've heard this device can cause a tiny bit more of input lag, hopefully thats not true.

Anyways, If I were to get an HDTV for the Wii, then I'd definitly get the Samsung 42" 720p C450 Plasma. Or a 42" Panasonic, depending. AND I'd definitly grab this little device to along with it. But I'm wondering if it supports '1024x768'? And is the sound slightly enhanced since it's being sent through HDMI?



antdickens said:

@turtlelink, sure, I'll see if wariowoods has any specific examples first. As for substitute, no, it's 100% not going to be the same thing as the Wii outputting native HD. It's simply a device that tries to clean up the 480p output as best it can.



warioswoods said:


That is the correct TV set, but I'm not concerned about the TV resolution, I was just noting that I've heard about non-480p resolutions from the Wii not always working correctly through this adapter (but that could have just been an earlier or buggy version of it). I think the comparison image is accurate, but it depends on the particular set, settings, and game as to whether or not the difference will be significant. I'm willing to risk it in my case, I think.



antdickens said:

@Waveboy, I've not noticed any input lag myself. Of course HDMI is better than component when directly compared, but remember the source for the HDMI signal here is an analogue component signal (it's converting it), very different to starting off with a digital signal.



JakobG said:

I'd like to see a bigger picture.
You can barely tell the difference, there are just some color corrections.



Slapshot said:

@phatant.... actually Im curious as to how it worked with the 32" 720p Sony Bravia. I used that exact TV in my game room. I also have a 27" 1080p Samsung and 42" 720p Samsung, but its the Sony Bravia I use and specifically chose to game on.

Any info on how it worked with that set up HDMI would be great. I use Monster Component Calbes on it now and run my audio TV and back through a Reciever to get somewhat HDMI Sound Quality Sound. I do get incredible bass that way, as I have a 12" Yamaha Powered Subwoofer, a way to make it all better will definatley be worth the little drop of $50 USD. (Oh and my Wii is US)



Sneaker13 said:

This actually looks pretty good. Less jaggies. Especially on the bricks next to Mario. Interesting.



HipsterDashie said:

Regardless of what the sterling price may be, it seems like a bit of a waste of money to me. Personally I think Galaxy runs beautifully in 480p via component on my HDTV.



WaveGhoul said:

@SoulSilver IV

But if it looks a smidge clearer/crisper and more richer regarding color than I think it's definitly worth the $59 price tag I'm so anal when it comes to this kind of stuff. The only thing I'm missing out on my Wii/CRT is Widescreen and Progressive Scan which are both obviously huge things. But I get more benifits than negatives. No upscaled image, no minor lag, no inferior motion, no minor green phospher trails. But what's fantastic is that the high end 2010 Panasonic and Samsung Plasma's have finally nailed near perfect Black levels and Color which makes me very happy.

But again, the lack of Widescreen and Progressivescan for me is a big loss, but it would be an even bigger loss to put up with minor lag alone. and Again the slightly weaker motion. I mean it's insane how that alone makes a big impact on how a game looks graphically. But here I go again with the pros and cons of Wii HD gaming It's all about what you're happy with, and I think i'd be less happier to put up with those HDTV cons I just mentioned. but I'm sure that Widescreen would make the experience even more engaging and open world-like(SMG2 is an awesome example) and Progressive scan which would give you a super crip clear picture, along with full 60fps

if only my 32" Sony Wega CRT had Widescreen and PS, than WII gaming would be perfection.
Too bad they didn't release a 40"(which equals 32" from top to bottom) 480p widescreen CRT. Sony's got a 36" widescreen 480p CRT which IS perfect for the Wii. Yet I couldn't deal with it's smaller screen size. If it rocked 40" I'd track down that sucker like mad man



Vinsanity said:

Totally not worth it. Not only is that picture a good example that there's little to no difference with this thing, but - lets face it - most developers don't even try with the Wii anyway. That'd be like getting an upscaler for some ugly PS2 games.

Wii games - the GOOD ones, anyway - look great regardless of resolution. This is silly. Just wait for Nintendo's sixth(?) generation console.



Ryon said:

for the reason, anybody who has played the "dolphin" Wii emulator, and played games such as Super Smash Bros. Brawl , Resident Evil Umbrella Chronicles / Dark Side Chronicles, Final Fantasy Crystal Bearers, and even Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom.. oh and Mario Galaxy.

those games do have support for 720p resolutions, but the wii itselfs locks the system at 480p, so only the emulators could unlock such a feature in games.

i'm not saying support pirating, i'm just saying that some games made by big companies do support 720p, but the console itself doesnt.

oh and sega, and Knights.



WaveGhoul said:

@Vinsanity, 'that' picture right there ISN'T a good example.

This Link right here on the other hand is a fantastic example....

Keep in mind, his HDTV was 1080i...Like he mentioned a 1080p set would look even better. Also these 'are' just pictures, and there's no doubt it will look better in person. And it really all depends on what type of HDTV you have as well. I honestly feel like getting one of these just to play around with on my 23" 1080p LCD computer monitor.But it takes a DVI(So I'd have to buy a DVI to HDMI cable unless I can use my PS3 one) input and it's scaler is crap like all Computer monitor scalers sadly.

All I know, is that if I were rocking a 42" Plasma HDTV this would be on the 'to buy list'



antdickens said:

@slapshot82, if I'm honest the 32" Sony Brava we have in the office isn't of great quality to begin with, I think due to the default combs/filters the screen has by default. Results with the device didn't really improve things over 480p/component, however the colours were perhaps slightly cleaner.

@WaveBoy, I think your probably the same kind of "anal" as myself when it comes to AV. However when using the device on my 42" Plasma the picture was just, well, different. I still personally prefer the 480p/component image to what the device gave out. It seems with this product that results really do vary and its quite subjective as to whether you prefer the new image or not.

@Ryon, you make a good point. I think that's what frustrates people like myself, emulators have shown how nice Wii games can look at 720p/1080p if only the hardware was up to it. Nintendo always moaned about large development costs for HD games but just outputting what we have now at better resolutions would make most HD gamers happy - SMG2 @ 1080p without any mods would still look great! An up-scaler will never achieve anything close.

@WaveBoy, (again), I'd just like to point out that the images you've linked too there are directly sourced from VDigi themselves and not exactly 'independent' results.



Varoennauraa said:

Does anybody have latest Philips top end models? I saw one in store and it did really good scaling. I'm only worried that it might cause too much input lag for my tastes. Have anyone tried?

And for nitpickers: that image shows differences quite clearly.



EdEN said:

Ok, I own a 40" 1080p Samsung LCD and here's what I saw yesterday: I was browsing Nintendolife on my PS3 and after reading all the comments I clicked on the pic to see if there really was no difference... and there was a HUGE difference. When looked at in a monitor, the comparison pick doesn't show the changes. Clicking on the pic on a 40" LCD changes that since you can appreciate better color saturation, smoother edges, changes in the pixelation, etc. thanks to the bigger screen. Unless Nintendo releases something like this at E3 I'll be ordering a VDigi Upscaler soon.



PhoenixMk2 said:

looks like someone applied a bilinear filter to double the resolution, then applied the classic N64 filter (a.k.a. vaseline-o-vision) for that extra blurry effect and then scaled the image back to 480p.

In other words $60 down the crapper. Even the other photos linked in the comments don't do it justice.



mjc0961 said:

@1 and anyone else who sees no difference: I think you need to get your eyes checked or get a better monitor or something. The image is clearly much nice on the 720p side of the comparison shot.

The 720p side looks crisp and clean, whereas the 480 side looks all dithered like it was ran through a JPEG compression too many times.



rjejr said:

What I think all these comparisons need to show are 3 images - 480i RCA standard-in-box cables, 480P component, and then this.

When I upgraded my tv from a 36" CRT 4:3 Toshiba to a 52" 1080P Sharp I was like "gaaah, my eyes", especially on Lego Star Wars, almost unplayable. The Nintendo games weren't awful, but not great either. The $3 Monoprice component cable did make a big difference.

My point being, $59 seems a bit much for a minor graphics upgrade. Maybe a $5 used one at Gamestop just for kicks. And all the website comparisons seem to be of games that already look good to begin with, how does this work on the majority of crappy looking games?



Starwolf_UK said:

@Varoennauraa. On the product page it says "Video lag time: 8 ms".

Given my thoughts about these (not making a great difference etc), I'm actually considering one since I'm moving to study a PhD and won't have a TV to plug a Wii into and since this can be plugged into dvi inputs on a PC monitor (these tend to be cheaper than LCD TVs which would have component input). I just have to hope they eventually come back in stock.

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