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Which HDTV Should You Buy: 720p, 1080i, 1080p?

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I get asked this question a lot. The simple answer it that 1080p can display the highest form high definition image to date. So, by default it is a better image than 720p or 1080i.

Not As Easy As 1080p

All things being considered equal then I would buy 1080p but it isn’t as simple as just buying 1080p and being done with it. There is so much more to consider than just native resolution. My advice is to take the native resolution into consideration but don't let that be the sole purpose for buying a HDTV. In other words, look beyond the 720p, 1080i and 1080p specifications.

Learn about the technology inside the TV and options it has. It is my opinion that you’ll be happier with a 720p or 1080i that has a great picture enhancement system than a 1080p HDTV with no picture enhancement.

TV is not 1080p

Most, if not all, broadcast and cable channels send a high definition signal in 720p or 1080i. A 1080p television might scale the image to 1080p but it isn’t a true 1080p image. This has to do with native resolution, which you might see in some TV specifications. For example, a TV with a 720p native resolution will receive a 1080i image and convert it to 720p.

Lack of programming being viewed in 1080p is the biggest issue right now with respect to 1080p televisions. However, the future will undoubtedly turn toward 1080p.

Movies in 1080p

Blu-ray disc players have 1080p capabilities now and TV Technology.com reports that the film industry I’ve read reports online about the film industry moving toward a 1080p production standard but this is still a work in progress.

1080p and Game Consoles

Sony is the leader in 1080p potential with the Playstation. XBOX 360 took a shot to the chin with the demise of HD-DVD so I expect it to take a while before they get with the Blu-ray camp. Still, most, if not all, games are not being produced in 1080p.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that a high definition image is better than a non-high definition image. While 1080p has the potential for producing a better picture than 1080i or 720p, the realism is that 1080p isn't really in the market yet as far as programming. This is a case of technology moving faster than the content producers.

Also, since the digital transition has been planned for the past decade or so the content producers have already invested in 720p and 1080i technology. To reinvest in 1080p would be a considerable expense and I don't think a lot of TV content producers will go that route. My hunch is that the film industry is better prepared for 1080p.

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