Products Used and Tested With:
- KanexPro CubeUp™ Switcher with 3D Converter
- Panasonic BDT-310
- Panasonic AE7000U projector
- Standard HDMI cables
- Movies: Conan, Piranha, The Immortals, Green Hornet
There are two types of skeptics in the AV industry. The first kind is the type who is unwilling to even try something out because their minds were made up. The second kind is the type who is leery of everything until they test the claim to their satisfaction regardless of the outcome. I belong in the second group.
Logically 2D to 3D conversion cannot be done in real time. There are too many parameters for any processor to compute in an instant without some kind of a very powerful processing power. I’ve reviewed 2D to 3D conversion built into Blu-ray players and all of them result in grainy and unconvincing 3D image. I’ve reviewed far too many 2D to 3D conversion built in to TVs and projector that use spherical approach (imagine half a ball, any image closest to the apex will be exaggerated to create a 3D illusion) and vanishing point approach (images in the top third or half of the screen are being perspectively forced to create the 3D effect).
So far, not a single built-in conversion worked well. Some I can stand for a 30-minute viewing, some I can only stand for a few seconds because the conversion is so atrocious. Unfortunately, the same thing can be said about Hollywood’s poor excuse of a series of movies. Conan, Piranha, The Immortals, Green Hornet, they are a few of a truckload of badly yet professionally converted 3D movies. Most of them were converted in the price range of tens of thousands of dollars, if not more. Definitely something you don’t want to pay extra (usually $10 to $15 more) for the 3D Blu-ray Disc version.
So here comes KanexPro 2D to 3D converter / scaler / HDMI switch to the rescue, or so they claim. In the back of my mind, however, I’m thinking, “seriously? What can a $400-ish tiny black box can do?” Intrigued with their claim I asked for a sample and one arrived within the week. That’s usually a good sign. Companies who truly believe in their product are always eager to have their item to be reviewed.
Opening the box:
The unit is a tad underwhelming, almost unimpressive. There is nothing wrong with the half-width sized component, but I’ve been coddled for far too long from using video processor that are at least 2U rack-unit in height with full-width enclosure. The built quality is very solid and all the buttons are not flimsy with discernible click when you pressed them. Connection is simple. There are multiple HDMI inputs, a single HDMI output and three video processing modes to choose from. The mode configuration is a bit illogical from my point of view. Mode 1 is 2D to 3D conversion, Mode 2 is bypass, and Mode 3 is 2D scaling. Wouldn’t it makes more sense if Mode 1 for bypass, Mode 2 for 2D scaling and Mode 3 for 3D conversion?
So how is the performance?
I’ll start with the bypass mode. Any processor worth its salt should be able to do a straight bypass with the video signal untouched. Doing an A/B comparison between connecting my Panasonic BDT-310 straight to the Panasonic PT-AE7000U projector vs. having the KanexPro converter in between using my colorimeter, there is no difference between the two. However, from the delayed video (using an audio/video sync test signal), I find the KanexPro results in a couple of frames delay in video. So my deduction is that KanexPro’s bypass mode is not a true bypass but having the signal goes through the processing chip with all the parameters set to null. (Note: further investigation using resolution chart, it seems like even in by-pass mode some level of DNR is applied)
As far as scaling mode goes, it’s good. In fact, I prefer the scaling on the KanexPro than the one built into my receiver (Genesis Torino). Although on the other hand, it is not as film like as the Marvell Qdeo Kyoto II. All in all, it’s a matter of preference. Most people, I think, will gravitate towards the KanexPro scaling result over the Marvell. The only caveat is that the video delay jumped from 2 frames to 6 frames. That’s quite a lot of a delay although most receivers and pre-pro allow the user to set the audio delay long enough to match the 6-frame video delay.
So how’s the 2D to 3D conversion?
To put it simply, it’s the best sub-$5,000 converter I’ve ever encountered and leaps and bounds better than the internal conversion built into various Blu-ray players and display units. I find that using 2D Blu-ray sources such as The Immortals, The Green Hornet, Conan and Piranha, I actually prefer the effective and more natural approach of the KanexPro unit. There are, of course, moments that parts of a frame that got a tad messed up where the background was more forward than the foreground. However this occasions are few and far in between and only happened in very complex scenes. Bear in mind that these mistakes also happen with on-the-fly 2D to 3D converter at any given price. Heck, this problem can also be seen in more than a handful of instances in the 3D theatrical presentations of Piranha, Conan, Green Hornet and The Immortals and each movie cost the studio in the six-figure area!
So is this product a perfect 2D to 3D solution?
Of course not! How a $500 unit beats $100,000-plus solutions out there? It will never happen. However, it does its job marvelously to the point that there is no reason to buy most 3D-converted Blu-ray movies. For the entire two months I reviewed this unit using various inputs including Laserdiscs, DVD, HD cable and Blu-ray, I’m always amazed in how effective this product worked. Often time I forgot that I’m watching a 3D-converted program. It is THAT good and it is a definite MUST BUY for anybody who even remotely interested in 3D… And for $500, it’s a steal!!