HDTV: 720p vs. 1080p

Will I be able to tell the difference?

I watch a few movies and a whole lot of sports. If I buy the 720p will I be disappointed, or will I still be amazed at the HDTV?

I am still on the old CRT televsions…

Yes, you’ll notice the difference. 1080p renders 2073600 pixels (1920x1080 pixels) where 720p renders 921600 pixels (1280x720 pixels). That’s 2 1/4 times more information on the screen.

This assumes you’re watching something that has been rendered in true 1080p, some programs are upconverted from their original resolution.

720p is still a huge improvement over CRT.

If your screen is large enough and you sit close enough…

Yes, you should. But the above caveats are important. I just posted this chart in another thread. It shouldn’t be taken for absolute gospel, as everybody’s eyes are a little different and other small differences in the type and make of TV might have a slight impact. But it gives you an at least initial feel for how close you have to be. For a TV under 50" and definitely under 40" it might not be worth it. If you have to sit so close to the screen that you’re picking up noise to get the 1080p, it sort of defeats the purpose.

But otherwise the picture difference does seem noticeable to many people. Whether it is worth the premium in price too everybody ( it wouldn’t be to my mother for example, but it is to me ) is still a salient point. But it also might become a moot one soon, as 720p sets start to disappear.

So, if I’m looking at a 40" set and I’m about 6 feet away, it might not make a difference?

Or, should I ask that anything HDTV would be a vast improvement over what I have now, correct?

Might not. There are bunch of articles and discussions on the web about this, but here is one with a couple of pictures: http://www.thebestplasmatv.com/guides/720p-vs-1080p/

From another one, a pretty relevant quote: * The extra sharpness afforded by the 1080p televisions he’s seen is noticeable only when watching 1080i or 1080p sources on a larger screens, say 55 inches and bigger, or with projectors that display a wall-size picture. Katzmaier also says that the main real-world advantage of 1080p is not the extra sharpness you’ll be seeing, but instead, the smaller, more densely packed pixels. In other words, you can sit closer to a 1080p television and not notice any pixel structure, such as stair-stepping along diagonal lines, or the screen door effect (where you can actually see the space between the pixels). This advantage applies regardless of the quality of the source.*

From here ( ~1 year old at this point ): http://reviews.cnet.com/720p-vs-1080p-hdtv/

I can see the difference on my friend’s 50" LCD playing a Blu-Ray disc, sitting about 9 feet back. But I wouldn’t say the difference was pants-wettingly profound :). Just a bit better.

Yeah, well, mostly, kinda. The resolution advantages are impressive in HDTVs. But top CRT’s are actually very good at certain things ( especially screen contrast/deep blacks/white whites ) that modern LCD and plasma screens are only just now starting catch up with. The problem with CRTs is mostly related to their enormous bulk/weight relative to screen dimensions, which places severe upper limits on their size for most practical apllications.

But HDTV in general? Yeah, the improved detail looks much better IMO. For example the ability to discern things like blades of grass on a playing field ( to take a silly example ) really does improve the immersiveness while watching sports.

You will be amazed. I was. Sports are great in HD, and don’t forget you’re getting the extra width, too (widescreen). You get an almost 3-D effect with HD.

AFAIK, there are no plans to broadcast 1080p content by any TV stations, so that is a consideration, as well.

So, as a poor man on a limited budget, a 720p would not necessarily be a bad purchase?

I have a 50" 720p plasma, and I love it. It’s fantastic. Go to a store and compare the two. Stand back at a reasonable distance (probably about 8’, min) and see what you think.

This is borderline IMHO but no. It won’t be a bad purchase at all (provided you get a good price on it). The improvement over your old CRT will be huge and you will notice it and love it (provided you have some source of HD programming).

Plus, most 720p on the market are also 1080i capable which is good enough unless you are using it as a computer monitor or for a game console.

My simple answer:
Are you planning on getting a Blu-Ray dvd player?
If not, don’t bother with a 1080p.

I’m not planning on getting a blu-ray. How come everyone at work keeps telling me that 1080p is the “only way to go”. Come to think of it, those people are idiots in other areas…

I was at Costco a few days ago (walking no scooter!) checking out the TVs. I was surprised that there are still 720 ones available, and they are a bit cheaper than the 1080s. The picture was better than when I got my Sony 52 inch 1080. It is a good picture. However it is not as good as 1080 and with my glasses on, I can tell the difference. With my PS3 Blu-Ray, the picture is wonderful. Sports on high def cable is wonderful (I don’t currently have high def cable but did in the past).

You are not planning on getting one now. But two years down the line, you might want to and regret not having bought that 1080p.

Considering that you are still watching a CRT, I am sure that you are like me in that you don’t buy on impulse or “refresh” your gadgets every year just to keep current. If you are buying something that will be with you for 5-10 years, spending a bit extra in future proofing might not be a bad idea.


CRTs are fully capable of showing 720p. My HDTV is technically a CRT. It’s rear projection, but those guns are cathode ray tubes. And it can display 720 or 1080 scan lines. It doesn’t do 1080p, but it does 1080i just fine.

I think what you meant was that 720p is a huge improvement over SD, or NTSC.


I got a 32" Samsung 720p LCD over Christmas. At 32" I couldn’t tell the difference between 720p and 1080p. Starting at around 42" I could start to see some difference. Had I gone large (wasn’t in the budget) I’d have gotten 1080p. At 32" (and even 37"), it wasn’t worth the cost difference. I have DirecTV now, and the HD looks absolutely phenomenal. Since no one broadcasts in 1080p right now, you won’t see much difference at all if you don’t have Blu-Ray. For slow moving stuff, with a 1080p TV, you might see a difference between 1080i broadcast and 720p broadcast, but for sports, I find the 720p broadcasts (ESPN and FOX) to be ever so slightly superior to the 1080i broadcasts (NBC), due to the faster full picture data rate (though both look excellent). Resolution is essentially equal too if there’s action, due to the interlacing of 1080i. Of course, I’m on a 720p TV, so that has something to do with it. Regardless, both 1080i and 720p broadcasts look amazing on my TV. If you go large, get 1080p. 40" and below, save the money in my opinion. You will still see an absolutely HUGE improvement over standard def broadcasts, and the improvement from 720p to 1080p is only incremental.

Differences in resolution, given a good screen, don’t become really apparent until there’s a doubling of linear resolution (which requires a quadrupling of total resolution). The jump from SD to HD is so big not only because of the added pixels, but simply because of how close the pixels are together and the high quality of the display over standard def CRTs.

I have also found that DVDs look very good on my HDTV. Not as good as high quality HD content, but still, very good. Much better than they looked on my old standard def set (which was a very high quality TV…best picture quality I’ve seen on a non-HD set).

To add what to AeroDave said, it’s to my understanding that CRTs typically deliver among the best picture quality of any TV technology (at the expense of size, of course). I also have a 720p/1080i CRT and it looks great.

Keep in mind that the 720/1080 thing can be interpreted in two different ways:

– native resolution of the screen: LCD panels have a fixed number of pixels, 1080 having more - hence the image may appear “finer” as additonal pixels = smaller pixel size for a given screen size. This will be more noticable on larger screens, not so much so on smaller. A good rule of thumb is consider a 1080 res panel for TVs 40" and higher. Most people would be hard to tell the difference on a smaller screen.

–signal type: all modern LCD HDTVs can accept both 720 and 1080 signals, but have to essentially convert them to the native resolution of the panel. 720 signals get scaled to 1080 on a 1080 panel, and 1080 signals get scaled down to 720 on a 720 panel. This is generally unnoticable to most people, but you will generally get a better picture if the native format of the signal matches the native format of the TV, as no image processing will have to occur (and this is something that you *pay *for - higher-end TVs generally do a better job scaling the image than lower ones). However, the major networks are all over the place in the formats they broadcast in - ESPN and ABC, for example, generally broadcast sports in native 720, whereas other networks will use 1080.

The manufacturers have more or less determined your options at this point - 720 models greater than 40" are rare as they are being phased out, and 1080 panels smaller than 40" are starting to become more popular, but are expensive compared to their 720 counterparts, which are more common and less expensive. I personally would spend more on a higher-end 720p set if I was looking at a smaller size rather than shell out the additional $$$ for a 1080 of the same size with fewer features. Similarly, would not consider a 720p set for a larger TV. I have a 32" 720p set in the bedroom and a 46" 1080p set in the living room.

We just bought two 46" 1080p flat screens and we love them. But even more than the 1080p, the 120hz makes a huge difference. It keeps the pictures from getting too “pixelly” during action or movement- I think it has to do with the refresh rate or something (looked again- it’s “anti-blur”).

All I know is, the 120hz was an order of magnitude better than the lower one.


No, I meant HDTV was a significant improvement over the CRTs OP is currently using. Sorry if that was unclear.

First of all no one broadcasts in 1080p.

They technical standards are 720p or 1080i.

1080p is used for blue ray.

When you get HDTV delivered via a dish or cable they are compressing it so you aren’t getting true HDTV, regardless. You need to go to over the air antenna to get that.

In the future TV stations may broadcast 1080p and that will be better but that still requires more bandwidth than TV stations have now. ASTC standards support 1080p but only with 24, 25 or 30 frames per second.

The blue ray 1080p has 50 or 60 frames per second and this is considered the ultimate HDTV. TV stations would have to move to mp4 technology to do so. And that would basically overhaul the whole system again. Which is still mpeg2

So you at best would get over the air slightly less than a blue ray.

No matter what kind of TV you have it has a native resolution and you’re TV converts upconverts or downconverts to get the picture.

FOX and ABC use 720p while the other networks use 1080i

For any TV under 30" HDTV is a waste. The human eye can’t tell the difference. People waste their money. Test after test from Broadcasting and Cable to Consumer Reports show spending money for an HDTV less than 30" is a waste.

In the US there is nothing manditory for broadcasting in HDTV. They must broadcast in digital. HDTV is always digital but not all digital is HDTV.

One analog signal can broadcast one HDTV signal or 6 digital (DTV) signals. So stations most likely will multiplex their channels. Often when HDTV is broadcast with a subchannel they both wind up looking bad.

Finally look at your type of TV and brand. Some 720p TVs look better than 1080i depending on size, type of TV (Plasma, LED etc etc) and location in the room

Don’t be fooled by gadets and such.

One last thing don’t be fooled by an HDTV. You only get HDTV IF that program is broadcast IN HDTV.

For instance a big selling point of “Hogan Heroes” is the show was remade into a high def format. While shows like “I Love Lucy” are just as they always were. But does a clearer picture make Hogan any funnier?

That’s what I love about the news, they say NOW IN HDTV. Like that makes the news reporting any better? It’s mostly just a gimick.