Mad Catz HDMI Conversion Kit Review

HDMI is vastly becoming the connection standard for feeding a High-Definition signal between AV appliances. Sure you can feed just the same signal through VGA and Component connections, but these two “older” types are speedily being cast aside in favour of the newer digital HDMI connection which can also carry a digital audio signal, all within the same cable.

It has been a while for an HDMI solution to hit the Xbox 360, nearly a year ago we had the hope of Microsoft possibly releasing an HDMI lead, but this was soon dismissed when we later found out that the original SKU’s didn’t even feature an HDMI digital chip inside… bugger! The only way to get HDMI out of your Xbox 360 today is to simply buy one of the latest Xbox SKUs now being manufactured with an HDMI port built into the system. But what about us early adopters, how are we meant to feed our old console into our HDMI enabled HD displays? Well, Mad Catz has saved the day with their recently released HDMI Conversion Kit.

This bundle of goodness retails at £49.99 and is currently only available through JOYTECH’s own online store – Inside the simple and tidy green packaging you will first find the HDMI unit, which is a solidly built box that connects directly into the AV port of the Xbox 360. Its white and silver case design mirrors a Xbox 360’s Hard Drive unit, with the Mad Catz logos engraved on either side. Bundled with the HDMI unit is a 1 meter optical lead and a 1 meter HDMI lead. The materials used in these cables have a similar rough texture, similarly found on cables from the JOYTECH cable line. In my opinion, their length is a little conservative as I just barely managed to reach the HDMI ports of my display, so there will be a few users that will no doubt have trouble reaching their own components with the short stretch that these cables allow. Connecting the device does not disturb the nearby USB and Ethernet ports, although owners of any cooling devices may need to check its compatibility with this unit before they buy.

So how does it work? Well, conversion is the key word here. To put it simply, an analogue signal is taken, in this instance the component display signal, and we convert this analogue signal into a digital signal, this converted digital signal is now compatible with a digital HDMI connection and this is sent directly to your display. Sadly, as I have explained earlier, the first SKU’s didn’t have a digital chip inside. So without a true digital to digital connection you will NOT receive the quality found on any current Xbox 360 with an HDMI port.

So if the HDMI Conversion Kit doesn’t do true digital to digital signal, why do I need one? Well this depends on why you are reading this review. The chances are that you are reading this review is because you fall into one or more of a few categories:

Cannot Receive A 1080p Signal?

Many older 1080p displays may not accept a 1080p signal through its component or VGA connections, but you might have a few spare HDMI connections around the back that just might, or actually do. Well, you will be glad to know the Mad Catz HDMI Conversion Kit will solve this issue. 1080p is supported out of the box along with compatibility for the HDMI 1.3 standard, though I cannot confirm if the HDMI cable provided is a HDMI 1.3 standard cable.

After An All-in-One Cable Solution?

As I have explained earlier, an HDMI cable can carry both video and audio signals, all in one single cable. This makes it a clean and simple solution for all budding AV home installers who wish to send a single cable to their wall mounted display. Thankfully, the HDMI Conversion Kit has been engineered to carry full multi-channel Digital Audio (Dolby Digital, DTS) through the HDMI cable directly to compatible displays, thus eliminating the need for multiple video and audio connections.

Suffering With Display Compatibility Issues?

Some users may flock to a particular connection type as their display suffers with over-scan issues, or display contrast issues commonly found with the Xbox 360’s VGA connection. The HDMI Conversion Kit uses the component signal so the contrast is very vibrant as can be seen in the following images.

*These images are taken with a Nikon D70, ISO 125, F5.6, of a Samsung F71 46” display at 1080p @ 60Hhz and using the same display values across all connections. (Click to view full image)

Official VGA Connection (Click for full image)

Official Component Connection (Click for full image)

Mad Catz HDMI Conversion Kit (Click for full image)

Side by side comparison

As you can tell the HDMI feed has the most vibrant display out of the box, around 25-30% increase over component connection. This would mean your displays contrast settings would have to be reduced to compensate for this. The sharpness of the HDMI Conversion Kit is on par with the component connection. VGA on the other hand seems to beat both connection types on clarity, but this could be due to the high contrast levels from the HDMI unit, which gives a “bloom” effect on white text or bright in-game objects. Also in this comparison you can see that my display has an over-scan issue with component, meaning in games there will be an area outside that will be “cut off”.

If you are a movie buff, you will be disappointed to know that as the HDMI Conversion Kit uses the component signal, therefore it will unfortunately NOT up-scale DVDs on the Xbox 360. This is due to the CSS (DVD) and AACS (HD DVD & Blu-ray) copyright provisions that will not allow DVD playback on unprotected analogue connections. So if up-scaling DVD movies are important to you, then you are better off sticking with the Xbox 360’s VGA connection, or even better, invest in a newer Xbox 360 unit with an HDMI port for this functionality.

So by now you should have an idea if the Mad Catz HDMI Conversion Kit is for you. If you are after an HDMI solution to overcome your displays incompatibilities or if you wish to keep your AV set-up clean and simple, the HDMI Conversion Kit does give early Xbox 360 adopters a solution that has been a long time coming. For me though, it’s a close call between the HDMI Conversion Kit and going back to component, I don’t up-scale DVD’s, my PS3 does that superbly, and I am not a fan of the VGA’s washed out contrast on my display. My main issue with the HDMI Conversion Kit is its high contrast output. Personally, I would need to seriously reduce the contrast on my display in order to reach an acceptable level, but then that will throw off the contrast settings for my PS3 – which also uses an HDMI connection, ho-hum! Don’t let this put you off though – each display has its own HDMI set-up and display quirks, and if it is these issues that force your old Xbox 360 SKU to require an HDMI solution then you cannot go wrong with picking up a Mad Catz HDMI Conversion Kit.

Anthony Barker

Anthony is the designer, developer and owner of Console Monster. In his spare time, Anthony is a keen gamer who enjoys playing mostly First-Person Shooters and Racing games. When he is not developing games or tweaking this site, Anthony likes to be on the slopes snowboarding or hurtling down off-road tracks on his mountain bike.

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