Hands on With the DARBLET

SolidSignal.com is among the first to offer this exclusive new video processor. There are some people who enjoy manually tweaking every image setting for the best possible result, even if it means stopping what you’re watching. For the record, I’m that sort of person and some of my friends find it annoying.

There are a lot more people who want to “just watch TV” and want a way to easily enhance what they watch. Enter the Darblet.

The Darblet is a small device, about 4×6 inches in size. It is designed to plug in between your existing HDMI-enabled device (DVR, Blu-ray player, etc.) and your television. It can run as a “set it and forget it” device, providing a good level of enhancement to any image, or you can use the supplied remote control to increase or decrease the effect.

What’s in the box?

I was provided a pre-production sample of the Darblet so I wasn’t able to show the retail packaging. The device came to me with the box itself, power adapter, and an HDMI cable. A remote was provided but it wasn’t the final production version so I didn’t photograph it.

Hooking up the Darblet was really, really simple. The connection points are labeled HDMI in and HDMI out. Connect the DVR (or Blu-ray player, or whatever) to the HDMI in, and then run the HDMI cable from HDMI out to your TV. Plug in the supplied power adapter and the unit powers on.

The lights on the Darblet are a little bright and not all of them can be turned off completely. I found this a bit distracting but I’m told that this may be addressed in production units.

I was worried about hookup problems so I tested this device with every HDMI item I had, mostly satellite receivers, Blu-ray players and DVD players. Sometimes a pass-through device will cause authentication problems but I didn’t have any problems at all with the Darblet, even when I tried changing resolutions and power-cycling the devices. It always worked.

The above image is from the product literature for the Darblet and it gives an idea of how the product actually performs. The actual process is secret, but it seems to actively control the brightness, contrast, saturation, and sharpness of the image being displayed. It’s like you’re sitting there monkeying with the TV’s controls constantly, but instead of you doing it manually and annoying everyone else in the room, it’s done for you.

The Darblet has three preset modes, which follow the “Goldilocks” model of, not quite enough, too much, and just right. You can also use the supplied remote to control the amount of “Darbee” used on each mode. The slider actually goes beyond 100%, so if you want to super-enhance your images you can. There’s a simple menu which controls items like turning on and off most of the internal lights, turning on the on-screen display and showing the Demo mode, which sweeps across the screen showing a split-screen comparison between pre-processing and post-processing.

It’s very hard to capture the real effect of the Darblet with a digital camera, but I tried. Click on the thumbnail to zoom in.

The left side of the screen is with no enhancement, while the image on the right has maximum enhancement. The effect is not always this extreme. What you can clearly see is that the Darblet has enhanced the picture to make it brighter and to make it appear sharper. It took about 10 minutes of playing and I found a setting that worked for pretty much everything I tried. I prefer a subtle enhancement to what I’m seeing so I ended up with the “just right” setting at about 50%.

In general, I didn’t see sharpening artifacts or posterization until I turned the Darblet up to its highest setting, and I do think that the image sharpness was better applied than it was using my TV’s own internal sharpness setting. There was definitely an increased sense of depth, though, and it didn’t seem distracting with the Darblet at its normal setting.

The Darblet isn’t for everyone. Home theatre purists will no doubt complain that dark, drab scenes should be dark and drab. You may know someone like that or you may even be someone like that. For someone who is willing to take the hours required to properly calibrate a television, and then use only the best quality components, the Darblet is not going to give a lot of bang for the buck. On the other hand, for the average person who just wants to improve his TV watching experience quickly, it’s money well spent.

The Darblet is not waterproof but it does run very cool and could probably be put into a waterproof enclosure for use on a boat or outdoors. Overall, I’m pleased to recommend the Darblet for anyone who wants a better looking picture without a long, tedious process. SolidSignal.com is just beginning to get stock on the Darblet as I write this article, so check frequently or give us a call if you’re ready to jump in.