I hope everyone had a good Christmas.  For my part, I visited with family, ate good food, and played a lot of games.  Good times indeed.

My big present was a high quality 19" widescreen high-definition monitor plus speakers to use with my Xbox 360.  I previously had the system hooked up to a 14" SDTV (standard-definition television), so that's a significant improvement.  I found the monitor at Best Buy on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving, and the biggest day of the year for insane sales).  It was a display model that had been previously been selling for nearly $300, and I picked it up for a mere $100.  Throw in the Xbox 360 VGA cable & a set of cheap but serviceable speakers, and the end result is that I now have HDTV quality visuals for a mere $160 or so, as opposed to the several hundreds of dollars it would have cost for an actual HDTV.

A word on SDTV versus HDTV visuals: Your average SDTV displays at 480i (680 x 480 resolution interlaced scan), whereas your average small- to mid-sized HDTV displays at 720p (1280 x 720 resolution progressive scan).  Although 720 might not sound that much bigger than 480, when you throw in the fact that HDTVs display in widescreen format, you end up getting about 3 times as many pixels, which means substantially sharper images.  Throw in progressive scan instead of interlaced (progressive scan does much better with moving images than interlaced), and the argument in favor of HDTV is even stronger.

On a regular SDTV, Xbox 360 games looked nice but not amazing.  In fact, games like Super Mario Galaxy and Sonic & the Secret Rings, running on the underpowered Nintendo Wii, often looked as good as some lower-end Xbox 360 games, when comparing both systems running on an SDTV.  However, now that I've got my 360 hooked up to an HDTV quality monitor, there's no contest.  The boost in visual quality is similar to that seen in the jump from the PS1 to the PS2.  Tiny visual details that were previously obscured are now crystal clear and previously illegible text is now easy to read.  It's so great of a difference, I almost feel like I just got a brand new system.

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