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What is an HD Upconverter?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 16, 2024
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A high definition upconverter or HD upconverter, is a device that allows DVD signals to be transferred directly to an HDTV (high definition television) without intermediate analog conversion. This improves resolution and overall picture quality. These devices are also known as DTV upconverters (digital television upconverters).

DVD (digital versatile disc) is an optical technology that stores audio and video signals in digital format for the clearest reproduction. A digital format is superior to an analog format, the technology used by older televisions and computer equipment. A standard DVD player is designed to broadcast to a standard-definition television and translates the digital output into an analog signal the television can understand.

In the case of digital HDTV, the standard DVD player converts the signal to analog, bumps the resolution from 480 lines per frame up to 1080, then converts the signal back to digital. This results in a certain amount of degradation in picture quality. An HD upconverter eliminates the analog conversion. It transfers the DVD signal by digitally enhancing each frame to match the HDTV high-resolution format. The result is a much crisper, truer image quality with heightened detail and color. Digital noise is eliminated, reducing anomalies like color swirl and graininess.

Some high-end HDTVs have an HD upconverter built in, but many models do not. A stand-alone HD upconverter can be purchased to work with existing DVD players. Other models incorporate the convenience of a DVD player along with the HD upconverter. Some models have advanced features. For example, using an internal microprocessor, an HD upconverter can eliminate flicker from DVDs that are based on 35-mm movies, which are originally shot at a lesser frame rate. The flicker is not apparent until the DVD is played through an HDTV, but an HD upconverter can eliminate this effect.

HD upconverters range widely in price. Professional models used in the film industry cost thousands of dollars, but consumer models are modestly priced. A good HD upconverter with a built-in DVD player can be had for a few hundred US dollars. If upgrading your DVD player, an upconverter model will future proof your investment even if you do not presently own an HDTV.

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Discussion Comments
By anon301340 — On Nov 03, 2012

So is an upconversion basically just enlarging to image to fill a bigger screen? What about the upconversions where they actually improve the picture quality by the computer guessing what the missing pixels look like?

By anon68699 — On Mar 03, 2010

freekobe: Check out the Oppo models, they've been around a while, but are still the best rated. Good luck.

By anon61704 — On Jan 21, 2010

Correction to dragon- a DVI cable will not cary an audio signal, it will only cary hd video. HDMI is the cable that will cary high def audio and video. As for any recommended brands, i own an oppo dv-980h and it does a superb job at upconverting all types of movies, and in addition it will play any other disc that you throw at it (with exception to blu-ray). Hope that helps!

By anon22147 — On Nov 29, 2008

Any upconverter will do amazing things to your DVDs. The most important thing it does is fix the aspect ratio, so you use most of your TV with no stretching and minimal letterboxing. The resolution is just a bonus, in my opinion. Blu-ray players all have DVD upconversion now as well.

By Halffast — On Feb 19, 2008

I have a nice hdtv with with all the ports, etc.

However, my dvd/vcr is not HDMI ready.(no hdmi ports) If I bought an upconverter, would I then be able to tie my system together? Many thanks in advance.

By anon7158 — On Jan 19, 2008

I have a SONY XBR HDTV with no HDMI ports. Would I get any real benfit from an Upconverter using component cables?

By Dragon — On Dec 01, 2007

Your DVD player may require an HDMI/DVI input. The DVI cable carries the audio track.

I have seen an inexpensive RCA HD upconverter DVD player at Wal-Mart.

By hlmongar — On Jul 08, 2007

I have a question about converter,I have a HDTV with only 1 HDMI input but I have a receiver HD AND dvd converter ;so I bought a 3 x 1 SWITCH but the dvd only send video and no audio like DVI and the receiver send both

Its this normal or are another way to connect

By freekobe — On Apr 16, 2007

Is there a certain brand of Upconverter DVD player anyone can recommend?

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