1080p v 720p
November 22, 2007 9:30 AM   Subscribe

42" plasma 1080p v 720p quality question.

I've found the "perfect" 42" 720p plasma to buy these holidays. I've seen it in action compared to some 1080ps in the same price range, my untrained eye says the 720p looks pretty much the same and seeing as it's the only TV in my house, I'll never notice the difference if I buy it.

However, as I've been thinking this through, I'm trying to figure out if it's because the 1080p in my price range (<1200) are just "meh," or if it's a matter of the video sources aren't high quality enough for me to really notice a difference. Say three years down the read, will there be a noticeable difference between a 42" 720p and 1080p at similar prices? Might also be important to know I primarily watch movies, sports, and play the Wii (which doesn't use 1080p anyways).

The issue here isn't buyer's remorse here. I've seen the two TVs in action and know I'll like the TV. I'm just trying to figure out if the similar viewing quality is a source issue and if it'll take some time for the current crop of 1080ps to really show their advantage over 720p?
posted by jmd82 to Technology (20 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: There just isn't much out there that is in full 1080p right now. There's some, but not much.

Furthermore, I've read articles that say for a 42" TV, unless you're sitting within something like 6 feet of it, you wouldn't be able to discern the difference between 720p and 1080p.

Buy the one that looks nicer to you. It's going to be a little while before enough stuff is broadcast in 1080p, and even then you're going to have to be sitting pretty close to your TV to even notice the difference. [source]...
posted by twiggy at 9:38 AM on November 22, 2007

Best answer: It's going to depend a lot on the source you're using, and lower end 1080p's may not have a lot of the enhancements that comparatively 'higher' quality 720p's do. Are you planning on getting an HD/Blu-Ray player? Are you subscribing to a cable/satellite service that's going to give you full-bandwith 1080p? While most HD services advertise they provide 1080i, the dirty secret is that a lot of broadcasters are probably only pushing at 720p.

Simplest answer is yes, given the same high-end signal and similar processing features there may be some difference. but unless you're going to kit out with 1080p capable equipment, you may not really see it.
posted by pupdog at 9:39 AM on November 22, 2007

What models are you looking at, specifically?
posted by tumult at 9:43 AM on November 22, 2007

Yeah, after seven feet away, there's virtually no difference, it's only when you get closer that things stay sharp at higher res. I'd say buy what looks better to your eye.
posted by mathowie at 10:07 AM on November 22, 2007

I have a 42" Panasonic 720p monitor, and for HD content (Comcast HD + DVD) it looks great. There is some "screen door" effect when you are really close, but from more than 6' away the image is excellent. Where I miss the greater resolution is when I use a computer as an alternate input device. The computer image would greatly benefit from the higher resolution a true 1080p screen would provide.
posted by mosk at 10:10 AM on November 22, 2007

Response by poster: tumult:
This BB Panasonic model, this HP model, and the Walmart Polaroid 1080p model. From what they were showing, the Panasonic model looks the best and has the best online reviews (it's the equivalent of their entry-level plasma, just marked for BF with a few input difference).

I'll get HD-DVD/Blu-Ray someday, but a progressive scan DVD player will do the trick for a while. Also have Charter's HD cable.
My furniture is 8-9 feet away, so I'll bring that into consideration.
posted by jmd82 at 10:14 AM on November 22, 2007

Response by poster: Um, This HP model
posted by jmd82 at 10:15 AM on November 22, 2007

We have a 42" 1080p lcd tv, and usually sit about 8 feet away. I can tell the difference between 1080i and 720p broadcasts. It's not night and day, but the 1080i is noticeably better looking. We don't have an hd disc player, so I've never seen a 1080p input.

So anyway, I would guess that I can see a difference between a 1080 and 720 tv if I can see the difference between a 1080i and 720p broadcast on a 1080p tv.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:31 AM on November 22, 2007

Best answer: In general, a person cannot discern the difference between 720p and 1080p until the screen is 50", at the average viewing distance of 10 feet.

This chart can explain the relationship between screen size & viewing distance. Get out your tape measure and see how far you will likely sit from your TV, it's an important number to know.
posted by Argyle at 10:47 AM on November 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Umm - well, we have LCD's - not Plasma. But we have a 47" 1080p Sharp and a 47" 720i Sharp.

For generally broadcast cable TV - the 720i is nicer to watch.

For DVD's (standard, upscaling player) - both are about the same.

For HDTV the 1080p is the winner.

So - ultimately it seems to depend on your viewing habits and access to HD quality material.
posted by jkaczor at 11:01 AM on November 22, 2007

I have a Samsung 42" plasma, 720. I cannot see the difference (in quality, the difference in price is obvious) between my TV and the 1080 models
posted by matteo at 12:16 PM on November 22, 2007

(and HDTV stuff -- mostly sports -- looks pretty good on my TV, too)
posted by matteo at 12:17 PM on November 22, 2007

Best answer: I think a lot of these differences are trivial. When I sit closely or really look at the quality I tend to only notice all the artifacting thats part of whatever digital compression scheme I happen to be watching. Its there with i and p. The whole HD debate at a certain point sounds exactly how audiophiles sound when they talk about various cables, amplifiers, and codecs.

I'm just trying to figure out if the similar viewing quality is a source issue and if it'll take some time for the current crop of 1080ps to really show their advantage over 720p

Depends. If you get your movies from Cable or Satellite you're still going to be dealing with lots of compression. The bandwidth to deliver 1080p is 3x what it takes to deliver 720p. In three years you certainly will not have any "1080p" cable or satellite providers. They have to raise their whole network to do many more times the capacity they are doing now. Why would they? It looks like everyone is trying to standardize on 1080i and even then its not that many channels. People who rave about 1080p are usually not aware they are just upconverting a lesser signal.

So dont expect anything mindblowing to happen in 3 years. I imagine the only resource that will ever make use of 1080p (at least for many many years) will be native non-network devices like your HDDVD player or videogame systems.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:27 PM on November 22, 2007

In my experience the refresh rate is at least as important as the 720p/1080p thing. Relatively little stuff out there - dvds, broadcasts, whatever - can do full justice to 1080p. But the difference between a 60 and 120 Hz refresh rate can be quite significant (I think that's right, adjusting for NTSC; in Europe we have PAL and it's a choice of 50 or 100 Hz). With the higher rate you get much smoother motion and thus an all round nicer experience.
posted by londongeezer at 2:39 PM on November 22, 2007

I went through this same thing when buying my plasma, and rather than go by numbers and specs, I went with my eye (and consumer reports) And bought a panasonic 42" 720. The picture on it is phenomenal. My roommate bought a lower rated 1080 for 500 bucks more, and the picture quality is noticeably not as good.

If you have access to the tv you want before purchase, take a copy of the Gladiator dvd, have the salesman set the tv to "normal" settings, and if it looks good to ya, it's the tv you want.
posted by billyfleetwood at 2:41 PM on November 22, 2007

Best answer: 1080p is better, technically. More pixel, more detail.

However, most 1080 broadcasts are 1080i. Which looks worse to most people than 720p.

To further complicate matters, while the broadcast carrier for most 1080 broadcasts is 1080i (specifically 1080i50 in PAL world, and 1080i59.94 in NTSC land) the images broadcast in that interlaced signal are often progressive (1080p25 or 1080p29.94) which again gives a 1080p display of a 1080i signal with a 1080p image something of an advantage.

The show I'm working on at the moment is shot 720/25p, will be mastered 1080/25p onto 1080/50i tape. It' so brain-hurting.

But of course it gets worse. Many programs are produced in 720 anyway (one of the more popular camera systems, Panasonic's Varicam is only 720p) so there's really nothing to gain from a 1080p signal anyway.

I wouldn't sweat it personally, both will probably look fine, and whatever you get will be at the end of it's life before 1080p originated content and 1080p broadcast is the norm.
posted by sycophant at 5:21 PM on November 22, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers so far. Considering the distance I'll be watching from, I don't plan on going gung-ho with HDDVD/Blu-Ray until the format war's over, and a Panasonic looked the best to my untrained eye and I prefer plasma over lcd, I'm gonna get it even at 720p.
It is a BF special so dunno if it'll even be in stock when I show up at 5am. Not worth it to actually camp out in this weather!
posted by jmd82 at 6:14 PM on November 22, 2007

If you ever plan to use it as a computer monitor, you will certainly see the difference between 720 lines and 1080.
posted by flabdablet at 6:21 PM on November 22, 2007

Response by poster: If you ever plan to use it as a computer monitor, you will certainly see the difference between 720 lines and 1080.

The most I would do is use my computer as a DVR or Netflix, and I highly highly doubt as an actual monitor. For DVR, wouldn't the quality be the same as if I had watched it live?
posted by jmd82 at 6:48 PM on November 22, 2007

If you're using your computer to watch videos, the results will be pretty much the same as you'd get out of any other video appliance. Where you'd see the difference is using web browsers and word processors and whatnot, because with a 720p screen, you wouldn't be able to set your desktop resolution to anything better than 1280x720. 1080p would let you run at 1920x1080, which is just massively better.
posted by flabdablet at 9:49 PM on November 22, 2007

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