Revisiting the 720P vs 1080P thing
February 4, 2008 by Dave Haynes
Being a sales monkey, I have this conversation about once a day with someone.
The prospect rattles through what they’re looking for, and throws in that they want their content playing out at 1080P.
Then I ask, “Ok, why not 720P, which is just peachy as HD goes?”
“Well,” they say, “Yeah, but 1080 is better.”
Sure, but that much better to warrant the extra horsepower and file sizes you need to make that happen?
I’ve been saying it ain’t worth it for about a year, but figured I better have another look. Turns out, 720P is still just peachy for the great, great majority of the panels getting stuck up in places here and there.
Consider this December 2007 excerpt from a piece done by tech publisher Cnet:
We spend a lot of time looking at a variety of source material on a variety of TVs in our video lab here at CNET’s offices in New York. When I wrote my original article two years ago, many 1080p TVs weren’t as sharp as they claimed to be on paper. By that, I mean a lot of older 1080p sets couldn’t necessarily display all 2 million-plus pixels in the real world–technically, speaking, they couldn’t “resolve” every line of a 1080i or 1080p test pattern.
That’s changed in the last couple of years. 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.
There are some arguments that the 1080 panels have better contrast and color saturation and are therefore the way to go, but Cnet notes the nicest panel they’ve seen lately was a Pioneer Kuro plasma, running 720P.
I mention this because 1080P is just the latest in a series of buzzwords that get people wound up and misdirected. I remember almost losing a contract a few years ago because the competing company was showing the client how their computer could send content to the screen using WiFi. I had to politely say, “Big freakin’ deal! It’s just network crap, not black magic!”
Most of the screens being hung these days are smaller than 50 inches and most are positioned in such a way that consumer eyeballs are never going to be close enough to see the slight difference in resolution. And while data traffic costs are a lot cheaper than they used to be, they do add up and network operators who go 1080 will see one of the real glories of 1080 when they open up their ISP invoices at the end of the month.
This chart does a nice job of showing when the higher resolutions become important.
Cheeky artwork via Gizmodo.