FOCUS Enhancements - CenterStage CS-2 and CS-HD
High performance scalers have become popular with the increasing number of fixed pixel displays currently available. While some of these new displays have built-in scalers, many lack the flexibility or performance users desire for their high-end home theater system. Focus Enhancements, Inc. has introduced their new CenterStage CS-2 video processor, which is both a line doubler and a scaler. This video processor accepts composite, s-video, component, RGB, RGBS, SDI (optional), DVI and DVI-HDCP for processing and scaling to any native rate on a VESA, Plasma, Projector, or DTV format display. There's even an HDTV pass-thru mode since analog HD signals are not processed. Full geometric adjustments are offered with 4:3, 16:9, and anamorphic aspect ratios. High performance video deinterlacing fully capable of 3:2/2:2 pull down detection and correction for viewing of film-based sources is included. This is the first scaler we've seen that supports DVI-HDCP which allows full scaling of protected content at native display resolutions. In addition, the CS-2 has user definable output resolutions for the ultimate in flexibility.
The CenterStage front panel is simple to use with nine backlit buttons and a two-line backlit display. The picture adjustments include contrast, brightness, saturation, sharpness and hue. CS-2 control choices include the infrared remote, rear panel RS-232 port, or front panel backlit switches. When the unit is powered on, the firmware version is displayed. Input and output selections are also shown on the display. Changing input modes is simple, especially with the remote. Output mode changes require the front panel buttons.
The rear panel is loaded with an assortment of video inputs and outputs to meet today's demands. A pair of composite, s-video, and interlaced component video inputs (RGB or YPrPb) resolution. All coaxial connections use BNC connectors. Our review unit included the optional SDI interface card that streams serial digital video (SMPTE 259M) over a single coaxial cable. A DVI (Digital Visual Interface) input and output is provided on the CS-2 for the ultimate in digital connectivity. There are also 12 volt triggers available for screen control. The RS232 connection can be used for several different applications. Using the CSR (CenterStage Remote) software running under Microsoft Windows, the user can control, customize, and upgrade the unit. We recently upgraded our CS-2 to the latest V2.04 firmware with ease. The serial port can also be used with Crestron or AMX controllers. As new display resolutions emerge, the CS-2 has the ability to change with the times making it resistant to obsolescence.
We switched to the analog and digital 720p output format for our SharpVision XV-Z10000U HD2-based DLP projector. Here we projected a 100" image on a Stewart Luxus FireHawk Filmscreen using both the analog VGA cable and a high performance Monster M500DVI-5M DVI-D cable. Both worked well in our setup, but the advantage of DVI is clear with a reduction in low level noise in the picture. DVD material looked good running through the CS-2, but certainly nothing compared to a real high definition source from HD-Net or HBO's 509 HD channel. It's not fair to compare standard definition material (DVD) to high definition, but we want to make it clear that the existing DVD format will not look as good as true high definition content.
We also ran the DVI cable into a less expensive Optoma DLP projector that is based on a 4:3 1024x768 DLP. This projector has good performance with an MSRP of under $5K. Again, the CS-2 worked well running the output resolution in XGA (1024x768) mode with excellent performance on a variety of source material. We were convinced that the high quality scaler used in the CS-2, combined with excellent front-end deinterlacing from the Silicon Image Sil504 processor, produced a winner.
So what if you really don't want all the bells and whistles offered in the CS-2, but still need a good deinterlacer and scaler for your high-definition display? Well, Focus Enhancements addressed this call and came out with their new CenterStage unit dubbed the CS-HD. It lacks the DVI and SDI inputs, but still has the DVI output and only supports a limited number of output modes when compared to the CS-1 and CS-2. It's also not upgradeable like its big brothers, nor does it have user-defined output modes. All BNC connections on the CS-2 are now RCA connectors on the CS-HD. It also lacks the TBC (time-based correction) and RGBS support. However, the CS-HD has most of the other features offered in the CenterStage line and is priced at an attractive $995. Looking at the design of the CS-HD, I can tell you that the same high performance chips used for deinterlacing and scaling processing found in the CS-2 are also utilized here. The tests we ran on the CS-HD proved to be very similar in performance to what we've seen on the higher priced units. In fact, the design and performance of the new CS-HD leaves many competing deinterlacers over-priced in my opinion, especially when you consider the CS-HD also provides scaling. So far, from what I can see, it's an incredible deal if you don't need all the high-end features offered in the CS-2 model.
Should you not need the full power
offered in the CS-2, but want the fundamental deinterlacing technology,
the CS-HD may be more suited to your needs. We found the CS-HD very attractive,
but still wanted the ability to scale DVI/HDCP content offered in the
CS-2. Depending on your system requirements, Focus Enhancements appears
to have you covered.
#1 - Pioneer Elite PRO-610HD 58-inch
HD-Ready TV (ISF calibrated)
|Review at a glance|
CenterStage CS-2 and CD-HD Video Scaler/Deinterlacer
CS-2 Model Specific Features
Source: Manufacture loan
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