One of the unexpected side effects of upgrading to a high-definition television is that the added resolution makes some of your other devices feel dated. That's especially so with products such as an elderly DVD player or a Nintendo Wii, whose conventional audio/video outputs don't take advantage of your TV's resolution. In the case of the Wii, simply switching to the optional component video cable -- sometimes called an RGB cable for its colors -- will make a significant difference in quality.
Component vs. Composite
The component video adaptor for your Wii looks much like the existing A/V cable, but with two extra RCA plugs. The differences between them aren't immediately obvious to the layperson, but they're significant. A standard A/V cable, or composite cable, uses one RCA connection for the video signal and another pair for left and right stereo audio. A component cable splits the video signal into three separate streams, to get around the bandwidth limitations of the RCA connection. The green connection controls your picture's brightness, while the blue and red carry the color signals. Stereo audio is still carried separately by the traditional left and right RCA connectors.
Conventional televisions created their signal by rapidly drawing a total of 480 lines on the screen, 240 at a time. The two halves of the picture were interlaced to create the illusion of a single 480-line image, so this technology is referred to as 480i. The Wii is capable of drawing all 480 lines each time the screen refreshes, creating a crisper image referred to as 480p. Higher-quality video sources, such as HD streaming video, Blu-ray or rival gaming systems are capable of higher-quality 720p and 1080p images, and will connect to the TV using an HDMI cable. The Wii doesn't support HDMI, so component video is the highest quality available.
Making the Connection
Nintendo provides a component video cable to connect from the Wii to your late-model television, and comparable third-party cables are available through electronics retailers such as Radio Shack. Unplug your old composite cable from the Wii and replace it with the new component cable. Plug the red, green and blue component plugs into an unused component video input on the back of your television, matching each plug to the corresponding color-coded jack. Connect the audio plugs to inputs on your TV or A/V receiver, and set the TV to accept a 480p signal on that set of inputs.
Although the picture from your Wii will still consist of only 480 lines, the overall image quality is much sharper, with crisp edges and truer color. The only way to compare directly is by connecting two Wii consoles to the same TV and displaying the same picture, but gaming websites occasionally post images for comparison purposes. Your TV might also include circuitry to "upconvert" the incoming 480p image to a simulated 720p or 1080p picture. This might or might not improve the picture, depending how well the technology is implemented, but it can usually be turned off if necessary.
- CNET: Must-have Nintendo Wii accessories
- CNET: When HD Isn't HD
- RadioShack: Gigaware Universal Component Gaming Cable
- Nintendo: Wii General Information -- Can I Connect the Wii With HDMI Cables?
- Yamaha Support: Connecting a Nintendo Wii System Using the Component Video/Stereo Analog Cables
- Gamespot: Cable Comparison
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