The discussion may seem obsolete these days but the principle question remains. Buy the best there is or settle for less?
Buying a television these days is difficult. With the good old CRT you looked at the size and the price tag and then made up your mind. In our days you need a science degree to understand all the acronyms and numbers. This is what retailers want. Consumers are at their mercy and they really do take them for a ride.
Ok, let’s talk about HDTV. It stands for High Definition Television and it is exactly what it says; television with higher resolution. Traditionally a TV picture had a resolution of 576×720 resulting in 414.720 pixels. It was very simple.
With HDTV and as you would expect things are a little more complicated. There are different standards and this is before we even consider non 16:9 formats. Not all is lost though. There are a few rules you can go by.
The most common formats are 1280×720 and 1920×1080. On paper 1920×1080 has a higher resolution and is therefore superior. It is also a lot more expensive but we will come back to that.
Depending on this resolution we give different names to different products. Television sets with the label HD Ready for example have a resolution 1280x720p. There are a few issues with this label though. It would have been to simple otherwise.
You see this label is awarded by – for example – the European information and communications technology industries association (EICTA). As per their definition HD Ready means, 1280x720p, the set should support interlacing with 1.920 x 1.080, have digital and analogue interfaces and support the high-bandwidth digital content protection (HDCP).
That does sound mighty good but doesn’t mean much as in it is of limited significance. The reason is simple; this “standard” is not recognized by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and therefore not a standard. As a result manufactures could call their product HD Ready without actually following these in itself very useful guidelines. In order to be sure you should therefore look for the points mentioned.
The second label is the much fancier sounding Full HD. You can guess what it means. The television has a 1920x1080p resolution and produces at least 24 full pictures a second. Full HD has exactly the same problem as HD Ready. It isn’t an ISO standard and is therefore “debatable”. Manufacturers can basically bend the rules. You can probably expect that a Full HD has the full HD the resolution of 1920×1080.
What is 1080i then?
Before Full HD 1.920 x 1.080p was around we had 1080i as the ultimate television. It supports the same resolution 1920×1080 but in an interlaced format. What that does is … difficult to explain. Interlaced basically means that a picture is made of two half pictures.
In CRT this meant that the first half picture was all odd-numbered lines, the second all even-numbered lines. It may sound a little odd but works all right if you do it fast enough. Older screens worked with 60Hz which resulted in a full picture every 1/30 second. For more sensitive people a slight flickering would be the result. With the 1080i they did pretty much the same.
Did you spot the “p” when we were discussing Full HD? It stands for progressive-scan. Here all lines are addressed in a single pass. The picture is smoother and makes a much better picture for motion intensive program. It really does make sense.
HD Ready or Full HD – What should I buy?
Many people have asked themselves the very same question and the result is staggering. As it stands today 1080p is pretty much standard with 40″+ screens even though they are more expensive. This comes as a big surprise and I will explain why.
You see, out there in your living rooms there is literally no broadcast available in 1080p; none whatsoever. The only way you can watch a Full HD 1920x1080p program in your home is by buying a Blue ray player and a movie that was produced for Blue Ray. No kidding.
Not many people spent that money and still they bought Full HD TVs. Why is that?
Well, the main reason seems to be innocent ignorance on the consumers side accompanied by more reasonable prices for 1080p sets. What I am saying is that it very much looks like the manufacturers have taken advantage of the fact that most people have absolutely no idea what HDTV is.
Consumers buy these expensive televisions because everyone – advertising, reviews and so called experts in retail shops – implies that is the sensible thing to do. But is it?
You see the incentive for manufacturers and retailers is the higher price. Higher price normally means higher margin. What the incentive for you as a consumer is no one can answer. That’s because there is none.
Fact is, as a viewer you cannot tell the difference in picture quality between a Full HD 1080p and an HD ready 720p screen.
There technically is one of course it’s just you can’t see it. It is the same as the difference between a good MP3 and a CD. Normal people with regular hearing (or eyesight for that matter) cannot tell the difference between the two technologies. If they could Apple would still be an insignificant manufacturers of designer computers and at this stage probably owned by Sony.
The only recommendation I can give is: Go by the picture quality only (and the sound). Go to a shop and ask them to play a Blue ray DVD. And insist that they use the same player and the same DVD when you compare the devices.
Go for the one that offers you the best value for money and ignore brand names and what it says on the labels. If you follow this advice you will probably end up with a HD Ready television.