Expert Interview: 720p vs 1080p
Is 1080p resolution better than 720p? Industry expert Greg Nicoloso examines the formats.
Greg Nicoloso of SIM2
Greg Nicoloso says consumers should always demo video equipment before buying.
February 23, 2007 by Cindy Davis

Electronic House editor Cindy Davis discusses the differences between 720p and 1080p with SIM2 marketing manager Greg Nicoloso.

EH: On a recent press trip to the SIM2 factory in Italy, you were mentioning some of the advantages of 720p over 1080p. SIM2 has both 720p and 1080p front projectors, so I was surprised to hear this. This goes against everything we are hearing about 1080p, please explain your reasoning behind this.

Greg Nicoloso: In such a broad market, we think it’s unrealistic to rely on a single product platform. Customers need to have a wide variety of media options available to them, and while 1080p products do tend to get the most headlines, there are also a wide range of consumers for whom 720p is a better fit.

I think that there is a good deal of confusion that arises in comparisons between DLP 720p and 1080p solutions. First, the current assumption that 1080p is always the “better” choice relies completely on the assumption that resolution is the most important indicator of overall performance—an assumption that really does not hold up in many situations. In fact, a recent SMPTE (Society of Motion Pictures and Television Engineers) study found that the four aspects of a picture that the human eye “sees”—in order of importance - are:

  1. Contrast Ratio/Dynamic Range
  2. Color Saturation
  3. Colorimetry/Color Temperature or Grayscale
  4. Resolution

So, all else being equal, resolution is actually the last item on the list in terms of picture quality and evaluation. High contrast ratio and accurate, deep color reproduction are generally greater contributors to overall perceived quality.

Given the current market figures, another consideration is the difference between single-chip and three-chip projector configurations. With the current market, at the same price point the decision is often between single-chip 1080p and three-chip 720p projectors. Because it has no color wheel, the higher color accuracy of three-chip technology may very well outweigh the enhanced resolution that comes with 1080p.

View more of our New HD special coverageNow, this is not to say that increased resolution is not a substantial improvement in many situations. Particularly in theaters where viewing distance is relatively close—within 1.8 screen widths, say— the increase of resolution to 1,080 lines (1080p) makes the picture noticeably sharper and more detailed. With the trend toward larger screens, and as 1080p source material becomes more common, 1080p projection will continue to be in high demand. Of course, because each installation and each consumer’s perspective will vary, I would always recommend a side-by-side comparison of the two types of products in order to determine which is best for a specific installation. In the end, you can’t really lose, as both 1080p and 720p products are capable of delivering outstanding picture quality for home theaters, and manufacturers will continue to provide a wide array of models and configurations to meet these demands.

EH: If I purchase a 720p front projector and want to view high-definition movies via an HD DVD or Blu-ray player, will I be able to get the same high-def results as I would have if I had purchased a 1080p projector?

Greg Nicoloso:  When you purchase either a 720p or a 1080p unit and feed a signal into it, the end result is of course determined by the projector.  For instance, if you have a 480i signal coming from your DVD player and you have a 720p projector, the projector will perform an internal up-scaling of the signal, and what you will see displayed on your screen will be a 720p resolution. If, on the other hand, you feed that 480i signal into a 1080p projector, the image that appears on the screen will be 1080p, which is achieved through an even steeper up-scaling of the source’s signal. This doesn’t mean that are you viewing 1080p or 720p material, but that once displayed on the screen, the 480i material that you are working with has been deinterlaced and up-scaled to match your projector’s resolution. Some of the limitations of a 480i signal will still be apparent.

Alternatively, if you have a 1080i or 1080p source, such as an HD DVD or Blu-ray player, you will be displaying a high definition signal that may need to be deinterlaced or downscaled depending on the projector model.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that very few installations use a single source, and there are generally multiple resolution source components in each system. For these situations, the most important consideration is to have a display device that has very high quality processing capabilities to ensure that you are getting the best picture possible from all of the source material: whether 1080p HD-DVD or Blu-ray, 720p HDTV, or standard definition broadcasts.

In fact, while logic would dictate that the ideal setup is to combine a projector and source component with identical native resolutions, my personal price-performance favorite is our company’s C3X 3-chip 720p DLP unit with a 1080p Blu-ray video disc player.

Ultimately, there are no hard and fast rules—the most important thing to do is demo, demo, demo. 

Greg Nicoloso is the marketing manager for SIM2 USA

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