High-Definition Television(HDTV) broadcast is either already available or coming soon in many parts of the World. Next generation video discs (HD DVD and Blu-ray) offering high definition video have been available since 2006. Obviously, to enjoy the benefits of these new high definition video formats, you will need to buy a new high definition video TV/display to replace you old standard definition TV/display.
There is a lot of confusion amongst consumer as to what “type” of new TV/display that they should buy. This is partly because there are a lot of new and sometimes misleading terminology with HDTV. Most sales-person are also not very knowledgeable themselves and often gave totally wrong information or advice to their customers. I hope to make it simpler for anyone who is looking to buy a new high-definition TV/display.
Firstly, you will have to understand what is meant by high definition(HD) TV or video. High definition obviously means that the resolution is higher than the previous generation of standard definition(SD) TV or video. Your existing SD TV has a resolution of 640 x 480(NTSC) or 768 × 576(PAL). There are 2 high-definition resolutions in use, 1280 x 720(720p) and 1920 x 1080(1080i and 1080p).
Now let’s do the fun part and I’ll try to explain all the confusion and craze in the high definition world.
1. The first thing that a lot of people get confused about is the difference between “digital” TV and high-resolution TV. All modern high-definition TV/display are based on digital technology (LCD, plasma, DLP, LCOS), but it does not mean all digital TV/displays are high-definition. There are many digital TV/display available now that only has standard definition resolution.
2. The typical specification sheet of a digital display will contain a daunting amount of information and figures, most of them will look pretty meaningless or confusing to an average consumer, but the most important thing you need to look at to see if it is a true high definition display is the native resolution of the display. If it has a resolution of at least 1280 x 720 or larger, then it is a true high-definition display. The common native display resolutions you will see that are high-definition include 1280 x 720, 1366 x 768 and 1920 x 1080. A common resolution used by plasma display is 1024 x 768, some people will consider this as a true high-definition resolution, but note that although this resolution has a vertical resolution that qualifies as true high definition (exceeds 720), but the horizontal resolution is less than the minimum accepted high definition resolution of 1280.
3. An HD display(720p) usually refers to a display with native resolution of 1280 x720.
4. A “Full HD”(1080p) display refers to a display with native resolution of 1920 x 1080.
5. Avoid display with terms like “HDTV compatible” or HDTV ready”. These displays usually only have native resolution that is only standard definition like 720 x 480. They are said to be “HDTV compatible” or HDTV ready” because they can accept a high definition signal like 720p, 1080i or 1080p and will be able to display these signals. However, these high definition signal will be scaled down to the native display resolution of 720 x 480, so in essence, the high definition signal will be converted into a standard resolution signal and you lose most of the benefit of the original high definition signal.
In a follow up article, I will discuss whether you need to get a Full HD display or whether a lower resolution 720p display will be good enough.