Thursday, September 28th 2017

Marseille Commercializes the mCable Gaming Edition: HDMI-embedded Anti-Aliasing

Marseille has introduced what they call the mCable Gaming Edition, an HDMI cable that promises to mitigate aliasing problems of 3D rendering - particularly in games. This may sound like those snake-oily audio and HDMI cables that strut the usage of rare metals like gold or silver, or even something as exotic as diamonds, as a way to improve transmission quality. In marketing talk that might elicit memories from those other less than recommendable products, Marseille are saying their mCable provides "Contextual anti-aliasing, adaptive resolution scaling, high frame rate support (up to 120 FPS @ 1080p), and sub-1 ms lag".

However, apparently, there's slightly more than meets the eye to the Marseille mCable: it features a picture co-processor that applies a post-process anti-aliasing algorithm to the image before it is presented on your screen. And they say it does so without any load on your graphics card. Granted, this might be secondary for us PC users, since we now have access to some "free" post-process AA methods, like FXAA, which mean the performance impact isn't as much of a concern. However, I think fondly of my XBox 360 exclusives that can now be played through backwards compatibility, remember the jagged edges I used to see while gaming, and think: man, if this was true, I'd have loved this.
Now yes, I stood extremely skeptical of this piece of tech; really, free AA via HDMI? The interesting part here is that PC Perspective's Ken Addison thought so too, until he put the Marseille mCable through its paces. The connectors do feature source and output-specific ends - which would be rendered (eh) important, considering the existence of an image processor. His testing with Hitman, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Unreal Tournament 2004 show, beyond doubt, that there is some AA magic happening through the Marseille mCable compared to regular HDMI cables. Likewise, their testing found that there was also no additional lag introduced by the image processor. The mCable also requires being connected to a USB port for extra power, though, so keep that in mind.
Ken tested the cable in the best environment possible -the PC - where we can control whether or not AA is being used in the rendering pipeline or not. This is the best way to test Marseille's claims; however, and this is the way the company markets its mCable, it would be much better to pair these HDMI cables with your gaming console of choice; particularly for games being rendered in 720p or below 1080p. Free AA to clean up those jagged edges on my favorite games? Sounds too good to be true. But apparently, it isn't. The Marseille mCable does cost in greenbacks what it doesn't cost in processing power, though, with a 3-feet (30 cm) version being available for $119; 6-feet (182 cm) and 9-feet (274 cm) are also available for $129 and $139 respectively. Sources: Marseille mCable Product Page, PC Perspective
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32 Comments on Marseille Commercializes the mCable Gaming Edition: HDMI-embedded Anti-Aliasing

#1
Vayra86
Given the very small amount of change I see in the higher resolution comparison (in all fairness, even when I start comparing pixels fully zoomed in on that one, I'm not really seeing it) of Hitman there, I get the impression this is mostly valuable for really low res source material, such as 480p and 576i.

It really was too good to be thát true I guess. It looks like the processing is not a true AA, but just a rounding method for jaggies, or put bluntly, a very expensive edge blur filter.

There's also a noticeable contrast increase there.
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#2
Lightofhonor
Guessing all it does is upscale to 4K with bicubic interpolation and then super-sample down to 1080p.
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#3
RejZoR
So, basically it's doing FXAA by intercepting signal, processing it and feeding it forward to the screen. All hidden inside HDMI cable itself. I'm assuming it gets the power from HDMI itself and doesn't require any additional power adapters like those cheap PS2-2-HDMI adapters.
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#4
Vayra86
RejZoR said:
So, basically it's doing FXAA by intercepting signal, processing it and feeding it forward to the screen. All hidden inside HDMI cable itself. I'm assuming it gets the power from HDMI itself and doesn't require any additional power adapters like those cheap PS2-2-HDMI adapters.
Quite sure this is not FXAA or even remotely close. An upscale>downscale seems more likely tbh. FXAA never increases contrast, rather the opposite.
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#5
nemesis.ie
Nice. The next question; what effect, if any, can be seen with video content and what happens if you also have a Darbee in the chain?
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#6
Raevenlord
News Editor
RejZoR said:
So, basically it's doing FXAA by intercepting signal, processing it and feeding it forward to the screen. All hidden inside HDMI cable itself. I'm assuming it gets the power from HDMI itself and doesn't require any additional power adapters like those cheap PS2-2-HDMI adapters.
What Vayra86 said. The FXAA blurriness is also absent, so probably not that. Upscale Downscale more likely, or AA with sharpness filter.

Updated the story, it also requires USB as additional power delivery mechanism.
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#7
RejZoR
It's not scaling. That would affect ALL edges. We can clearly see it's doing some sort of edge detection because some things are hardly filtered, which shows problems detecting edges. Which is a typical problem with post processing methods (like FXAA, MLAA and SMAA) that have no depth information (Z Buffer) and are done purely on 2D output image.

Would be interesting hooking up PlayStation 2 through PS2 to HDMI adapter using this cable. PS2 has low resolution, so this could help quite a lot.
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#8
Vayra86
You have a point, but up>downscale would explain the contrast, and AA with edge detection (or edge detection per se) does not.

Mystery of the day?
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#9
natr0n
Gonna be the next big thing.
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#10
gdallsk
This is something the XBone and X360 will definitely benefit from - I'm sold.
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#11
natr0n
Wild idea get one of those PlayStation 2 to hdmi gimmicks and this cable.


Another idea, chain a few cables see how far it cleans up images.
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#13
Supercrit
The extra money spent could be used on a better video card that doesn't mind cranking up the AA.
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#14
Franzen4Real
Durvelle27 said:
$100 for a HDMI cable o_O
Remember the days when people would see a $100 Monster brand HDMI cable and not even blink an eye? Heck, back then, people were like '$100 for an HDMI cable?? It must be AMAZING!! I gotta have one!!' haha.. Much love to MonoPrice for that whole market correction.

It seems interesting, though I do wonder if it introduces any adverse affects in some scenarios (2D content such as movies, or 3D rendered material that already has AA/post processing). I think an embedded upscaling chip as others mentioned would be pretty slick.

Supercrit said:
The extra money spent could be used on a better video card that doesn't mind cranking up the AA.
This product seems more suited to use cases where this is not an option, such as console gaming or perhaps PC's running integrated video.
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#15
thesmokingman
Durvelle27 said:
$100 for a HDMI cable o_O
They should have branded it with Monster Cable.
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#16
Exceededgoku
I think this is a great idea, and if it's anything as good as the screenshots impose then they're onto a winner. Who doesn't want "free" - matter of speaking - AA.

I guess the question for the PC masterrace is an extra 100$ on the graphics card or a 100$ on the HDMI cable?
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#17
Whilhelm
This is pretty interesting for older consoles or HTPCs that have mid range GPUs that can't manage AA without frame rate hit.

My question is if all your sources pass through a receiver would one of these cables going from the receiver to the display apply this effect to all the sources? If so that would be a pretty sweet way to boost the image quality of every older console I have connected to my receiver.
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#18
Lightofhonor


Lots of different techniques to upscale/downscales, but this looks pretty close.
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#20
Lightofhonor
TheLostSwede said:
Didn't Belkin make something like this a decade or so ago? I mean, that had a big lump on the cable and needed power and was meant for TVs, but I could've sworn they made similar claims.

Edit: Ah, here we go, this was the thing I was thinking of https://www.engadget.com/2006/10/09/engadget-hd-review-razorvision-hdmi-video-cable/
lol I just love this part:

We do apologize up front that these pics are by way of a digital camera but there currently isn't any effective way to get screen captures via HDMI.
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#21
Fx
Anyone with the money to pay for this cable is more than likely to have the money for a good gaming rig and monitor which properly handles what this technology offers.
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#22
dozenfury
It's interesting especially for PS3/XB360 and earlier gaming. The catch though is that HDMI 2.1 is right around the corner. It was released earlier in 2017 and devices like hdmi 2.1 tvs and receivers are on the way for Xmas 2017 or early 2018.

So that gives me pause on spending $120-$140 on an hdmi 2.0x cable now. If you are only going to use it direct from an older console to a hdmi 2.0x tv, not a big deal. But the way I and I think most would want to use an expensive cable like this would be from my stereo receiver as an HDMI switchbox (with all of my HDMI devices like consoles/tv/etc. connecting to the receiver) then out to my tv over this cable, so anything that goes through my receiver (or HDMI switch) would use this cable and be improved. And if you are going to do that, you'd want to wait for a HDMI 2.1 version in the next 3-6 months.
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#23
Vya Domus
Raevenlord said:
Upscale Downscale more likely, or AA with sharpness filter.
The fact that this works only if the source signal (the resolution of the content ) matches the output resolution suggests there is no scaling involved (or rather no down-scaling involved) , otherwise if you were to feed it an already up-scaled signal , say from 480p to 1080p it would end up looking absolutely horrendous.

Edge detection + a very weak per-pixel blur filter (or sharpening) is almost guaranteed to be whats going on here (plus maybe some other subtle signal modifications ). Nothing a cheap DSP chips can't do , calling this cable overpriced would be an understatement.

EDIT : Now that I take a better look , it seems very much like an unsharp mask.
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#24
arbiter
I would consider it if the price was decent but i won't pay that much for it, even more not likely since i use a VRR monitor and can't do 1440p over hdmi.
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#25
Prima.Vera
Vayra86 said:
You have a point, but up>downscale would explain the contrast, and AA with edge detection (or edge detection per se) does not.

Mystery of the day?
Actually the answer is fairly simple? Is this AA only used on the 3D games or is used all the time, even on 2D scenarios, like movies, etc? If is used everytime, then naturally is using Supersampling to double(triple?) the resolution and then scale it down. This is good, since it also makes the movies look a little better too (in theory).
If the AA is only used in 3D games, then obviously is just a filter applied on the final image, something like SMAA or FXAA, but I doubt it tbh...
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