Info & Answers
When 1080p Doesn’t Matter
Viewing distance, source equipment and screen size are determining factors.
May 20, 2009 by Lisa Montgomery

TVs touting a 1080p resolution are everywhere. Since the introduction of the high-res technology a few years ago, TV manufacturers have slowly but surely all but replaced their entire existing lower-res products with 1080p units. But is 1080p absolutely essential? Should we toss out existing 720p TVs for 1080 displays?

The short answer is no. According to most custom electronic professionals, 720p (or lower) res TVs do have a place in homes today—a lot of places, in fact. “I think it’s unwise to buy any 1080p TV below 40 inches,” says Ken White president and owner of Millennium Waves in Orlando, Fla. “In most viewing environments the average consumer can’t see the difference between 720 and 1080p,” adds John Picotte, president of Cinematechs in Boynton Beach, Fla.

Lower-res TVs are just fine, they agree, for places like laundry rooms, kitchens, bedrooms and other spots where a super-size set isn’t necessary, you’ll be viewing the display from far away and you’ll only be watching broadcast programming or standard-def DVDs.

“For a 20-inch TV, you’d have to sit 2½ feet away to really benefit from the resolution of the 1080p TV, says Matt Koppin, a system integration specialist at Architectral Audio Video in Naperville, IL. “And on a TV that small most people aren’t going to be watching Blu-ray anyway.”

The consensus: Stick with the TVs you already own in casual viewing areas. However, if there’s a room that doesn’t already have a TV or if there’s a home theater in your future, go ahead and splurge on a 1080p unit. The price difference between 720p and 1080p continues to dwindle and frankly, it’s becoming more and more difficult to even find a 720p TV anymore, as some manufacturers have phased out their entire 720p lineups. 

“It’s starting to get to a point where you won’t even have an option,” says Koppin. “It’ll be 1080p or nothing.”

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Lisa Montgomery - Contributing Writer
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.

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