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HDTV Resolution: 1080p vs. 720p

December 23rd, 2010


Key Points

- 1080p HDTV has 1920 x 1080 resolution , 720p has 1280 x 720 resolution
- 1080p has 2.25 times more pixels than the 720p
- 720p is still good for smaller size ( 32 inch or smaller) HDTV – you save money.
- For higher sizes ( 50 inch or larger), 1080p offers slightly better viewing experience, especially when viewed from closer distance.
- If the source has 720p resolution (as in may broadcast channels), the quality of the display is not very different for 1080p and 720p HDTV.

What else you may want to know when planning to buy an HDTV ?

- Know about the truth behind the HDTV Contrast Ratio.

- The LCD HDTV Refresh rate

- HDTV Buying Guide – Article coming soon on Starred Reviews.

- The LED HDTV – the backlight – Article coming soon on Starred Reviews.

- Historical fact – LCD TV Vs older CRT Monitor.

Any display device uses millions of minute dots to create an image before the viewer. Depending on the concentration of such small dots per unit area the image quality varies. Higher concentration of pixels per unit area means high resolution and image clarity. In simple words resolution means ability to clearly distinguish the edges of an image part with a smooth image surface.

In context of HDTV “p” stands for ‘progressive scans’ helping the TV set to resolve an image signal to visual output. In modern market, 1080p HDTV is premium priced with the highest resolution power. Each 1080p HDTV comes with a wide screen 1920 x 1080 display. Here the Horizontal pixels exactly match vertical progressive scan lines to get an image free from squeezing problem and distortion.

The 720p HDTV on the other hand has a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels. The calculation shows that the ratio of the number of pixels in the 1080p resolution with respect to the number of pixels in 720p is

(1920 x 1080) / (1280 x 720) = 2.25

A 1080p HDTV has 2.25 or more than twice the number of pixels than a 720p HDTV. If the size of the HDTV is small, say 32 inch, there will be very less pixelization effect and the 720p Vs 1080p will not really make a difference, from a casual viewer perspective. In such case, if you are in tight budget, it may make sense to go for a lower cost, smaller size 720p resolution HDTV, typically under $400 – and you will still see a decent quality video.

The scenario changes when you increase the HDTV size for a larger room for better viewing experience. For 50 inch or larger HDTV, you will find improvement in the quality, especially if you are seeing the picture from a closer distance. There will be lesser pixelization effect. Most HDTVs come in 50 inch or larger size come in 1080p resolution any way.

While thinking about purchasing your new HDTV you need to know which options are available before you. The purpose of purchase and the budget determines the rational decision. If you’re having lower budget allocation for HDTV, go for smaller size, 720p model – you may end up buying a decent quality HDTV for as low as $400. Another area needs attention is your purpose. If you just need multiple TV sets for different rooms opt for a mix of 720p and 1080p models. Many of the HDTV broadcasting is still having only 720p signal range because of problems in increasing their bandwidth to a higher point. So the purpose of 1080p HDTV is for viewing the high quality blu- ray disc videos and other modern storage device contents.

What happens when my 1080p HDTV gets 720p signal input?

Most of the modern 1080p HDTVs are capable of accepting a 720p signal. Then the received signal is processed to view in 1080p screen. But better view experience can be only available with a high quality signal capable of giving 1080p output.

Is there any problem in feeding 1080p signal to 720p HDTV?

Absolutely, there are no problems for you. The TV set converts the signal output to view in a 720p screen. But, here the viewer experience is limited to 720p HDTV capabilities.

The introduction of 1080p HDTV has made vibrations in the market. Now a days more HDTV owners have 1080p models than the 720p models. People have a general tendency to go behind premium priced products. But, only a few of them knows the difference between 1080p and 720p. Usually they have more than one HDTV per household.
Tight budget customers may like to purchase the smaller size ( 40 inch or even 32 inch) at 720p resolution and still expect to get decent video quality.

It is not always necessary to go for the bigger and higher priced 1080p TV. Imagine you’re with a big luxury ship on the shores of a small lake. It never fetches you the experience of a ship. So the better you analyze the resources before you, the more rational your decision will be.

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