If you are out in the market for a new HDTV you have in all probability been confronted with numbers like 720p and 1080i and 1080p. What do they mean and why does one cost more than the other?
The 720p format is the entry level HDTV format. Various manufacturers of HDTV's provide pixel resolution in 1366x768, 1280x720 or 1024x768. All of these formats are grouped together and referred to as 720p. The 1080p format offers pixel resolution of 1920x1080. This provides over twice the resolution (or sharpness) of an entry level 720p HDTV. Due to the fact that the 1080p offers more resolution than the 720p a 1080p HDTV will cost more than a 720p model. Is the resolution of the 720p model acceptable or do you spring for the costlier version?
When you compare similar size HDTV's even from the same manufacturer the cost of more resolution is obvious. A typical 50" 1080p HDTV will cost approximately $800.00 more than its 720p counterpart. The cost differential stays as the size of the HDTV diminishes. A 40" 720p HDTV will cost approximately $400.00 less than its 1080p counterpart. The consumer must decide whether the extra screen resolution is worth the cost.
The original very high definition HDTV format was 1080i. 1080i and 1080p offer identical definition. 1080p replaced the 1080i format due to the fact that it displayed the images on the screen in a different manner. 1080i displays images in an interlaced format. All of the odd numbered lines on the screen are displayed and hen all of the even numbered lines are displayed within 1/30th of a second. 1080p displays images in a progressive format. In this format, each line is displayed sequentially which makes for a smoother appearing image. This is apparent when a sports show is on and there is a lot of action on the screen.
Over the air/cable/satellite HDTV programming is broadcast in either 720p or 1080i format. The 1080p format will not become a broadcast format simply because there isn't enough bandwidth to accommodate all of the information needed for 1080p. 1080p format information is only available from Blu-ray or HD-DVD players. Several gaming systems provide an option for 1080p output as well as newer computers. The 1080p HDTV accepts the broadcast HDTV signals and internal processors translate the signals into 1080p format.
One thing that makes one HDTV look better than the other is how well the HDTV converts the 720p and 1080i signals into the 1080p format. The list of 1080p HDTV's is endless. Manufacturers provide a 1080p HDTV for nearly any model. In fact if it doesn't have a picture tube, there is a 1080p model available.
Establishing the fact that a 1080p HDTV has twice the resolution as a 720p model, where does the resolution come into play? Under what conditions can that extra resolution be seen? If a particular manufacturers 50" 1080p and 720p models are placed side by side and view from the proper viewing difference there are negligible differences in quality. It is only when the screen size becomes larger that 50" (55" and up) that the differences become apparent. The only other consideration would be if a viewer preferred to sit closer than 1.5 times the screen's diagonal to the screen. If this is a consideration the higher resolution screen could be preferable.
Due to the fact that most HDTV purchasers will not be purchasing a screen larger than 50" there seems to be little incentive to purchasing a 1080p model over a 720p model. There will be however those who just have to have "the biggest and the best" and they will purchase the 1080p. For "Joe Average" however it seems logical that the added cost of 1080p does not provide a significant benefit over 720p.
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