Save Money and Choose the Right HD Screen Resolution

Save Money and Choose the Right HD Screen Resolution

Taryn Williford
Oct 25, 2010

In the market for a flat-screen TV last year, we weighed out all the pros and cons of brand names and screen size. But one thing was for sure: We'd be buying a 720p. Depending on your room and the type of content you're watching, you might not notice the higher resolution screen a new (expensive) 1080p TV can offer. Here's how to figure out what's best for you.

Why spend the extra cash buying 1080p—or even 720p—if you're not going to notice the difference? To figure out the best TV screen resolution for your media room, ask yourself these two questions:

1. What's the viewing distance to my TV?
At specific distances, different screen sizes get too far away to notice a step up in HD resolution. Luckily, there's a chart to help us out:

So our 50" 720p TV would look exactly the same as a similar (but more expensive) 1080p TV 10 feet away in our living room. But that wasn't the only reason we decided to go with 720p.

2. What am I going to be watching?
Depending on the type of content you're consuming, you may get a benefit from a higher resolution screen. But some things, like broadcast television and movies on a standard DVD, aren't able to take advantage of your 1080p screen.

  • Broadcast HDTV: 720p
  • Satellite HDTV: 1080p
  • BluRay Discs: 1080p
  • Standard DVDs: 480i, can be upscaled to 720p or 1080i, but you can't get true HD.
  • Game Consoles: Playstation 3 and XBox 360 can both display 1080p pictures.

Since we're not big gamers and aren't planning on updating our DVD collection to BluRay, we gave 720p another chalk in the "win" column. How about you? Does 1080p suit your lifestyle? Tell us in the comments!

(Top image, Flickr user wenzday01 under license from Creative Commons; chart, via Engadget)

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