HD or not HD.
May 21, 2010 6:53 AM   Subscribe

Is it worth getting an HD TV subscription if my television is only 720p?

This is my current TV. Will I notice an appreciable difference between SD and HD content?
posted by afx237vi to Technology (20 answers total)
Yes, definitely. The resolution will be better and you'll get full widescreen content.
posted by mkultra at 6:59 AM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

I am under the impression (which might be corrected by others who are more knowledgeable) that virtually all HD broadcasts/cable in the US are at 720p and that 1080p is limited to other sources (e.g. BlueRay.)

You, apparently, are in the UK, so things might be different, but 720p HD definitely looks better than SD content. (Our TV is a 42" LG LCD with 720p resolution)
posted by JMOZ at 6:59 AM on May 21, 2010

Holy crow, yes. I don't know about the UK, but in the US, a lot (most? all?) HD programming is broadcast in 720p or 1080i anyway. I've got an oldish 720p plasma, and the difference from SD is startling.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:00 AM on May 21, 2010

Absolutely. You need to either be sitting rather close or have a rather large TV to notice the difference between 720p and 1080p. Not the case for 480i (normal SD television) and 720p.
posted by supercres at 7:01 AM on May 21, 2010

Yes. You will notice a significant difference, because even those of us with 1080i/p TVs don't often see shows broadcast at that resolution. Most are 720. (In the U.S. anyway.)
posted by nitsuj at 7:01 AM on May 21, 2010

Response by poster: Yes, I should have added that I'm in the UK and I'm looking at Virgin's HD service.
posted by afx237vi at 7:02 AM on May 21, 2010

Better version of the screen size / viewing distance / resolution plot.
posted by supercres at 7:03 AM on May 21, 2010

BBC HD, Channel 4 HD, and ITV1 HD are all 1080i. Given that, I don't particularly notice whether I'm watching a 720p or 1080i source when I'm watching TV. They both look nice, and much better than a standard TV signal. Especially on a widescreen TV where you might be zooming the picture to have it fill the screen which loses even more resolution, and you practically might be at 380i.

(For the benefit of the other posters, in the US, NBC and CBS are 1080i and Fox and ABC are 720p. The other networks they own follow the same standards.)
posted by smackfu at 7:14 AM on May 21, 2010

Better version of the screen size / viewing distance / resolution plot.

Be sure to take a close look at the axes of that chart. Nobody has a 120" TV that they view from 40 Feet away. (On the other hand, that chart seems to indicate that 720p is perfectly adequate for most normal-sized TVs.)

As far as I know, very little (if any) over-the-air content is broadcast in 1080p. Currently, Blu Ray discs are the only way to view content at that resolution. Some programs are broadcast in 1080i, which offers slightly better resolution, but only half the framerate of 720p. People seem to prefer watching sports in 720p.
posted by schmod at 7:17 AM on May 21, 2010

The only time I ever noticed a difference between 720p and 1080i was when watching (American) football. But this was back in the days of HD rear projection TVs, I don't know if it would be a significant difference on today's TVs.

But yes, 720p is a RIDICULOUS step up from regular TV, sports are AMAZING in HD. The only thing is, you'll be ruined for any SD broadcasts - I can't watch SD channels on my 52" LCD anymore.
posted by antifuse at 7:35 AM on May 21, 2010

Yes, it will be approximately one billion times better than standard broadcast television.
posted by mikeh at 7:39 AM on May 21, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I'm taking that as a "yes".
posted by afx237vi at 7:45 AM on May 21, 2010

Her's a no. I had an HD television subscription without HD sets (I got the HD as part of a promotional package and was saving money at the time). There is no benefit in the picture quality viewing the HD signal on an SD device. When I moved over to HD televisions, then the difference was apparent. BTW, in the US with almost no exception the HD signals appear as 1080i, 720p, or 480p. The difference is how much of the screen is filled woth the 1080i showing a full screen and the others giving a 4:3 format.
posted by Hilbert at 8:39 AM on May 21, 2010

Actually, most HD programs are broadcast in 1080i, not 720p. There are really only a handful of stations in 720p -- Fox, ABC, ESPN, and maybe some of the other sports networks. Personally I think that 720p stations tend to look a little better, only because that format handles compression more gracefully than 1080i.

I'll also agree with everyone else who's posted -- you should absolutely get HD service for a 720p TV.
posted by The Lamplighter at 9:01 AM on May 21, 2010

Hilbert, 720p is an HD signal and will fill the screen of the original poster's 16:9 TV.
posted by The Lamplighter at 9:02 AM on May 21, 2010

There is no benefit in the picture quality viewing the HD signal on an SD device.

The poster has an HD device.
posted by dfan at 9:23 AM on May 21, 2010

I'm late to the party, but yes, do it. I have two HD sets, a 720p 40" and a 1080p 32". They are both great to look at! (The latter, smaller one probably has the better picture not because it's 1080p--though that helps--but because it has more pixels packed in a smaller space. A smaller panel at the same resolution always wins!)

Oh, and I'm sure you know this, but most "720p" HD sets are really 768p. So, in truth, the TV will do a bit of work even on a 720p signal and "boost" it to 768p.
posted by Fortran at 9:52 AM on May 21, 2010

I owned a 42" 720p TV for 18 months and upgraded to 42" 1080P this year. You won't notice the difference between 720p and 1080p, but both will be incredibly, amazingly, awesomely better than SD.

I also have a 100" projector screen on which 720p and 1080p are very different. YMMV.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:56 AM on May 21, 2010

If you watch sports at all, emphatically yes. Otherwise, just yes.
posted by willpie at 9:58 AM on May 21, 2010

It's for the World Cup, I'm guessing? Yeah. Do it.

To me, PAL SD widescreen (576i50, I believe) looks much better than NTSC SD, but you'll still notice the difference.
posted by holgate at 10:42 AM on May 21, 2010

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