The great 1080i scam…

This is an issue that you should really consider if you’re in the market for a new HDTV. Ad after ad after ad on TV — why, after about three of them, you’ve probably got it in your mind that a “1080i” or 1080p (which refers to the resolution, by the way, if you don’t know what it means — it’s the number of pixels crammed into your screen) is, like, the Holy Grail of HDTVs.

It most certainly is not.

Let’s get this out of the way first: the best looking picture available on an HDTV is still from the old, standard TV model — a cathode ray tube. It’s the best picture by far. Unfortunately, those models lack the “oomph” in color, and the slim build (they’re behemoths) of any of the flat-panel models.

After the CRTs, your best picture is most likely a plasma. The plasmas have the best color, the most zip. They also can wear out — and there’s really no way of “fixing” a plasma. Whereas if you have a DLP television, you can replace the bulb after a few years (the DLP would be the one advertised with the rather silly “it’s the mirrors!” campaign).

LCD is a close second, and in some models, better than a plasma. It has a sharper picture, just by a tad. Of course, the LCD televisions have problems. First, you need to be looking at them at the exact right angle to get the best picture. Second, and those of you who have used a lot of LCD monitors know about this — sometimes a pixel just goes “dead”. It turns into a black spot on the TV screen that, again, you can’t fix. Plasmas can suffer the same problem, but they tend to be better.

One good thing you should remember about all these televisions — if nothing goes wrong in the first two to three months, you’re probably set for a few years. With these new televisions, if something’s going to break, it’s going to break pretty quickly (this is a good rule of thumb for any high-end piece of electronics these days).

Now, finally, the 1080i issue. What I am about to tell you is true for 42″ – 50″ HDTVs. No matter how much hype 1080i gets, no matter how much you hear how great it is — it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter one bit. Because at that size, the difference between a 720p/720i picture and a 1080i/1080p picture is indistinguishable to the human eye. Now, I know, a lot of you will refuse to believe me, or even if you do believe me, you’re going to notice that the 1080 televisions are not that more expensive than the 720 ones. Go ahead and buy the 1080, but remember what I said. Any good salesman at an electronics store will tell you exactly what I just did.

What you should focus more on with HDTVs, especially the plasmas and LCDs, are other things that affect the quality of the picture. The ability to reproduce true blacks. The contrast settings. The vibrancy of the color. Trust me, these things matter, whereas 1080 over 720 — does not. Just go to your electronics store of choice and look at the 42″ plasmas or LCDs side-by-side. You’re going to notice a difference in the pictures, yes you are, and the better looking pictures are going to cost more, but you won’t see a dang thing that makes 1080i look better than 720i. It just is physically impossible.

Now, if you’re buying a 73″ television, it’s a different story — I’d say go for the 1080. Then again, if you’re buying a 73″ flat-panel HDTV, you have enough money to just get whatever the heck you want, and you might as well opt for 1080. The bigger the television, the more noticeable the pixel count is.

But, I repeat: for 42″ and 50″ HDTVs, the human eye cannot tell the difference. I know a lot of you are going to disagree with me, or try to, and that’s fine, go ahead and buy the 1080, but I’m not budging from this statement, nor I am budging from the position that you need to look at some of the other factors I mentioned to get an HDTV with a truly superior picture.

There ya go, I’ve said my piece. Happy shopping!

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