What You Need to Know About 1080p
The"holy grail" of high definition is popping up in displays and components. We take a close look at this Full HD technology.
Samsung HL-S5679W 1080p TV
Samsung’s 56-inch HL-S5679W is a 1080p rear-projection DLP TV that uses an LED engine.
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February 22, 2007 by Marshal Rosenthal

&uotThe latest rage in consumer electronics is 1080p resolution. Also called “Full HD,” 1080p features progressive scanning, which displays a whole frame of video at once rather than switching off between even lines and odd lines as 1080i displays do. By displaying a full frame of video, images look sharper—especially those with lots of motion—and you’ll encounter less flicker.

Steve Storozum, video transport professional and officer of the Video Services Forum, puts it into perspective: ;A 720p HD display is at a disadvantage in sharpness compared to 1080p because its 720 pixels of progressive horizontal resolution are showing only 2/3rd as many pixels,” he says.

There’s an even more dramatic difference when comparing 1080p to 1080i—1080p progressive scan displays show all of the pixels in a frame at once for a much greater vertical resolution than 1080i interlace displays can provide. “The better sharpness and resolution of 1080p displays provides a more realistic image on the screen, which is why 1080p has been the ‘holy grail’ for HD enthusiasts,” Storozum says.

Blu-ray and HD DVD Push 1080p
Considering what you get with 1080p, why has it taken so long for displays to show this resolution? For one thing all the broadcast HD television being created used either 720p or 1080i due to the high costs of early HD broadcast technology. Plus, there weren’t any home devices that could output 1080p resolution. So with 1080p displays being costly and difficult to make, television manufacturers didn’t see a need to rush.

View more of our New HD special coverageBut the landscape has changed because 1080p high-definition Blu-ray and HD DVD players are now available. Still, it may take some time for film and TV studios to produce content in 1080p.

“Games are likely to be the first source of true mastered 1080p content,” says Paul Gagnon, Director of North American TV Research, DisplaySearch, an NPD Group Company. He adds that since there are computers that able to output 1080p, “we may see some sophisticated users connecting their PCs to 1080p displays.”

Manufacturers are also seeing that there’s a real opportunity to offer consumers TVs that can display this high-resolution video. 1080p is becoming available on a wide range of display technologies, including LCD, Microdisplay Rear Projection TV (RPTV) and PDP (1080p being far more prevalent on the first two, according to Gagnon). Storozum agrees that as a result of these new sources of content, along with display manufacturing technology having matured, “1080p displays have become affordable at just the right time.”

Two Things to Consider Before Going to 1080p
There are two factors to keep in mind if you want to get the most out of 1080p. First, get a big display. “Right now 1080p displays are primarily available in screen sizes of 37 inches and larger,” says Gagnon. “That’s because it’s difficult to observe significant resolution differences as the screen size gets smaller in a typical home environment.”

Viewing distance is the second factor. A 50-inch 720p display, at a distance of 9 feet or so, can look similar to a 1080p display—depending on factors such as the viewer’s visual acuity (ability to resolve pixels) and the nature of the content (games vs. live movies vs. animation). While individual viewing results can differ, in general the further back you get, the less detail you see and so the more similar a lower resolution can seem (720p) in comparison to a higher resolution (1080p). Moving closer to the screen reveals the details 1080p brings out because the image fills more of your field of vision. (Related: 720p vs 1080p.)

HDTV displays continue to become more affordable, and consumer acceptance is swelling and can only increase after the 2009 digital transition (making 1080p even more critical as a market requirement in years to come). The final icing on the 1080p cake is that this resolution is, at least to a certain extent, future-proof. It is the highest standard resolution today and for the foreseeable future.

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