Full HD versus HD Ready: Which to Buy? CodeUnit 10 SEP 2009

HDTVRight. Let’s start off right off the bat by saying that HDTV is simply too cool, end of story.

If you are already lost however, HDTV stands for High Definition Television, basically the new digital television broadcasting system that has a higher image resolution and better sound system than the old standard television systems that include PAL, NTSC and SECAM. Also, the digital system follows the 16:9 aspect ratio (in which most of your new DVDs are packaged just by the way), while the old ones followed the now slightly outdated 4:3 aspect ratio – which of course leads right into the question of if we spend too much time in front of the TV nowadays, will we now end up with rectangular eyes instead of square eyes? O.o

Of course, once you’ve battled past the question of which type of HD television technology to invest in, be it LCD, Plasma or LED for example (and this is a tough battle make no mistake), you then sit with your next question that needs to be answered:

Full HD or HD Ready?

To answer this question you first need to understand the fundamental difference between these two, all of which hinges on the display resolution of the screen. Now HD signals come in four flavours, namely 720i which is 1280×720 interlaced, 720p which is 1280×720 progressive scan, 1080i which is 1920×1080 interlaced and finally 1080p which is 1920×1080 progressive scan.

Now the main difference between HD Ready and Full HD HDTV types is this: HD Ready (or 720p HDTV), while capable of accepting HD signals, only has a maximum display resolution of 1280×720. Full HD (or 1080p HDTV) on the other hand is capable of accepting HD signals and displaying them at a full resolution of 1920×1080.

So while both should be able to accept the full 720i/720p/1080i/1080p signal range, the HD Ready HDTV comes in at a significant disadvantage when playing back a 1080i/1080p signal as it has to scale down the signal resolution to fit its smaller screen resolution, thus losing image resolution (in other words, clarity) in the process. Of course, this then immediately hands Full HD the winning hand as it can accept and display both signals in their full, intended glory.

To sum it up then, thanks to the substantial price difference between Full HD and HD Ready televisions of the same size, if money is NOT a problem, always go for Full HD over HD Ready if you can.

However, all is not lost because there is a slight caveat to this rule. If you are getting a TV that is smaller than a 42 inch, then you’ll notice that the visible resolution difference between a Full HD and HD Ready system isn’t all that much, in fact, you probably won’t even notice it at all, meaning that buying a HD Ready television at that size is going to leave you with pretty much the same viewing result but leave you with a whole wad of left over money in the process!

So I guess the final decision as to which type you go for ultimately lies in just how much you want to show up those damn Joneses! ;)

Related link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-definition_television

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About Craig Lotter

South African software architect and developer at Touchwork. Husband to a cupcake baker and father to two little girls. I don't have time for myself any more.