Thursday, July 24, 2008

HDTV: How Many Lines?

Image credit: Wikipedia

I was catching up on some old e-mail today when I ran across an article on the differences between 720p, 1080i, and 1080p high definition televisions (HDTV). This would have been more interesting if I'd seen it before I bought an HDTV, but it's still interesting. While I suggest that if you're looking for an HDTV that you read the entire article, they get to the crux of the matter here:

Most 1080p sets are now capable of fully resolving 1080i and 1080p material. But that hasn't altered our views about 1080p TVs. We still believe that when you're dealing with TVs 50 inches and smaller, the added resolution has only a very minor impact on picture quality. On a regular basis in our HDTV reviews, we put 720p (or 768p) sets next to 1080p sets, then feed them both the same source material, whether it's 1080i or 1080p, from the highest-quality Blu-ray and HD DVD players. We typically watch both sets for a while, with eyes darting back and forth between the two, looking for differences in the most-detailed sections, such as hair, textures of fabric, and grassy plains. Bottom line: It's almost always very difficult to see any difference--especially from farther than 8 feet away on a 50-inch TV.

720p vs. 1080p HDTV: The final word

I spent quite some time looking at various HDTVs in stores over the last couple of years, and I mostly agree with this assessment. I noticed a difference starting somewhere in the range of 40 inches or so, depending on the quality of the sets. Maybe if you have extra-sharp vision or you might want to spend the extra money on a 1080p TV, but for most people, and most programs, it won't make much difference.

The only exception to that is if you plan on using your HDTV as a monitor for a computer. I've been doing this, which is why I bought a 1080p model. Generally, you'll sit closer to the screen if you're doing computer work, and because of the way most graphical user interfaces (GUIs) draw characters, they will look better on a screen with higher resolution.

So, there you are - everything you need to know about HDTV. ;-)

The only other recommendation I'll make is that if you're interested in buying one, spend a few weeks looking at different models and sizes, and then think about what you want. There's a considerable variety out there.

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