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1080i or 720P ? Any opinions? Facts?

Last response: in Home Theatre
August 30, 2006 2:10:40 PM

Does anyone know which resolution is better to view HDTV stations through an HD set top box? It seems the higher (1080i) would be better but it is interlaced rather than progressive. Its hard to tell the difference when switching between the 1080i and 720P modes. Here are the factors:

32"LCD - Samsung LNS3251D - 1366 x 768 resolution (1080i, 720P, 480P, etc.)
Comcast Digital Cable (Motorola 6200) HiDef STB with DVI to HDMI output

Some people i have talked to say its a matter of opinion. What do you think?
August 30, 2006 9:48:13 PM

Yes, this is a rather subjective topic. Kinda like PC vs. Mac debate that has been going on for years.

Working in the home theater industry, the general consensus is it depends on the native resolution of your display. Since your native resolution display is closer to 720p, then 720p should look best because that involves less scaling. Built-in scalers use fuzzy logic to determine what to fill in the blanks and the less scaling that you use, the closer you get to the original format.

If you had a 1080p LCD, then I would say 1080i would look better.

So, this logic makes sense on paper. Then, you have to introduce the human factor. I have a 50" plasma that has the same native resolution as your LCD and I really can't tell the difference between 720p and 1080i. Both look superb to me.

I wouldn't worry too much about it until we start seeing 1080p broadcasts and 1080p TV's start to become more mainstream.
August 31, 2006 12:58:08 PM

Thanks for the info! When i first set up this tv i had it on 720P because i thought it did look just a tad bit more crisp. I only changed it after speaking to a salesman at sears one day. Following your logic about the resolution being closer to the 720 makes sense and is what my gut feeling tells looks slightly better.

Speaking of plasma, my father is caught up in the plasma vs lcd debate. He is looking for something in the 37"-42" range for a pretty small living room area. Recently he got a little turned off from plasma because a salesman showed him the burn in or ghost effect from a logo that only showed on a white screen. I would agree that plasma is superior to lcd in picture quality.

Do you think plasma's now are relatively trouble/maintanance free and worth the little extra$ over lcd's?
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August 31, 2006 4:03:04 PM

Before people were buying plasma because LCD flat panels were limited to 40 inches. Now, companies are coming out with larger LCD screens to compete with plasma, which makes it a even harder debate.

The problem that I have in this forum is that people are convinced that LCD cannot have burn-in. I have seen as much burn-in in LCD's than plasmas.

There are several things that you can do to prevent burn-in besides the manufacturer's anti-burn technology:

1) Don't always watch the same channel.
2) Don't leave your plasma unattended for long periods of time on the same channel.
3) If you are not using the TV, turn it off.
4) Buy an extended warranty. You can bargain with many dealers to give you a discount. I got a 4 year warranty for 50% off because I negotiated with the salesperson.

I have owned by plasma for several months and have prevented permanent burn-in. I think plasmas are more impressive looking than LCD's and are worth the extra money. Over the next 6 months, you are going to see a consistent drop in plasma prices where they will be competitive with LCD screens. I bought my Zenith 50" Plasma for $2000 at Circuit City. 12 months ago, it was selling for $4000. It is actually still selling for about $2500. With technology, after 6 months, if your price is still cheaper than the current price, you know you did good in negotiating.

Your father needs to realize that the burn-in that he saw at the store is because they run the same video feed at least 16 hours a day, 7 days a week. Of course, you are going to have burn-in. But, who watches that much TV and on the same station? I sure don't. Unless he is more impressed with the LCD colors, sharpness and image quality, then he should purchase a plasma.

LCD is great for computer usage because the colors are vibrant and the image is sharp. But, for video, you want softer colors and image just like a movie theater. The vibrant colors and sharp image just hurts my eyes after awhile.

Hopefully, this gives you some leverage in the plasma vs lcd debate.
August 31, 2006 11:02:05 PM

I got a 4 year warranty for 50% off because I negotiated with the salesperson.

A little patience and mellow attitude can go a long way when purchasing expensive stuff. In the last year, we totally upgraded our home theater (TV, surround receiver, speaker system, good DVD player), in part justified by moving the old system to move to the new basement den. I tend to be a pretty patient shopper and about the third time I returned to the store, the salesman began adding the perks. Once I got the warranty upgrade heavily discounted, I made the buy. I wasn't milking them, just taking my time to get to know the gear well enough to make a smart buy. The same approach got a monster discount on my last laptop purchase, plus 33% off of the extended warranty.
September 2, 2006 8:19:47 PM

I repair these things for a living, so I've had people give me every opinion possible, more than once. I personally prefer 720p on a plasma with good contrast. The contrast ratio is really important with a plasma, less so with an lcd, but it still matters. I just attended a Panasonic class on their new 65" plasma with a true 1920 by 1080p resolution. That one is amazing on 1080i, and with a true 1080p signal will knock your socks off. But with a 1368 by 768 signal, go with 720p, lcd or plasma.

By the way, with dlp it doesn't really matter. They're pretty, but they're stuck at 800 by 600 (I think).
September 2, 2006 8:23:46 PM

I have owned by plasma for several months and have prevented permanent burn-in.

Even lower-end plasma's have burn-in protection now. Be sure "pixel-shift" is turned on. When a picture is paused (or whatever) the set will shift the picture a little, from side to side. If you haven't seen it before, you may think there's a problem with the set.
September 2, 2006 10:12:30 PM

That's exactly my point. I am just tired of people misrepresenting plasma by saying it has burn-in and LCD's do not. It misleads noobs who are coming into this forum for advice. Plasma manufacturers are getting better with every generation to find ways to prevent burn-in.
September 3, 2006 12:51:58 PM

Some good advice here.

On the 720p vs 1080i question, my take is that with broadcast, particularly on sports, generally the 720p is more appropriate. 1080i maybe for Discovery, but mostly 720p. Match up with what's being sent. Progressive is generally better than Interlaced. But it does seem like a 1080p, for eventual HD-DVD or Blue-Ray usage, perhaps game consoles, has certain potential long-term advantages. Not broadcast. Make sure to get a set with 1080p input, not all 1080p sets have that.

The LCD vs. plasma debate mostly seems to come down also to what you watch, and how you watch it. Dark room, watching movies, buy Plasma. Lighter room, buy LCD. If you read while watching TV (I know, arcane concept reading ;-), LCD. LCDs tend to be cheaper than Plasma in terms particularly of 1080p sets, up to maybe 42"-46". Plasma is getting cheaper mostly because of LCD, so where LCD is not yet competitive (the 52, 57, 65" LCD sets that are out get into serious $s) price wise, Plasma still itself fairly expensive.

The other thing to watch out for, particularly on LCDs, is that the brands have not really reached the dominance they had before in regular TVs. Definitely watch the HDTV yourself, check out ghosting and angles, see how it "Looks" to you for a variety of sources, sports, movies, and so forth. Is the motion smooth, or does it "cog" or look like a strobed picture. Watch regular DVDs also, as that's probably what you'll be watching, and not all of the TVs scale well (although you could buy a scaling player). Some of the cheaper, off-brand LCDs have some of the more current scaling chips. It's really tricky to tell sometimes. Don't stop looking at Sony and Samsung, make sure to chase down Sharp, Westinghouse, and look at some of the cheaper off-brand stuff.
September 3, 2006 2:16:10 PM

I'm not so sure lcd's are cheaper. You can get a 42" hd plasma (at Sams club) for $1400 to $1500. 42" lcd's are waaayy more.
September 3, 2006 8:35:12 PM

Mr. TechMan,

You probably know this already: A plasma TV can suffer burn-in because the phosphor coating on the cells gets degraded over time. The same phenomenon can of course be observed with a regular CRT TV as well, as the same phosphor coating is employed.

You also probably know that an LCD screen works by blocking the passage of even-intensity light in specific areas of the screen.

Given this, how does an LCD "burn-in"? What is the physical mechanism by which burn-in transpires?

I'm curious, because I've never heard of this. The only time I've ever seen anything LCD have a screen-wide problem (not including dead pixels) is if the LCD element is connected to a bad controller element, and the electrical signal it receives causes the liquid crystal to solidify permanently. And I suppose I've also seen an LCD screen (on a pager) freeze at low temperatures. But neither of these are burn-in. One is a faulty or poorly-designed controller, and the other is violating operating temperature specifications. Is there another mechanism I'm not aware of for the slow degradation of screen performance over time?

I am asking because I'm looking at flat-screen HDTVs right now, and I'm leaning away from plasma specifically because of burn-in, and the fact that the screen will be connected to an HTPC. So if you know something, I'd love to hear it.
September 3, 2006 11:41:03 PM

An lcd doesn't actually "burn in". If you leave a static picture on for too long the pixels will get partially stuck, and a ghost image will stay. I've seen it a couple of times, both times it was a woman leaving the tv tuned to QVC. But lcd and plasma burn-in is a minor problem nowadays. You really have to be stupid to mess them up.

As for building an htpc, lcd is the only way to go, unless you have boatloads of cash. There are now true hdtv res plasmas, and they are amazing, but they cost mucho. As you can set the pc's res to the exact res of the tv, my only complaint with them is rendered moot (they look awful at other-than-native resolution).
November 26, 2007 8:38:11 PM

OK, I have heard the story from both sides of the river. I have been told by a DirecTV tech that the 1080p broadcasts are 3 to 5 years away. So unless you watch DVD with blue-ray, what is the point in the cost for a 1080p or (i) when the 720 does just as well.

Another issue I heard is the old human factor that we can see up to 60 lines of resolution, but mostly 24 lines of res is just right.

I guess it comes down to cost doesn't. Heck, I still play cassette tapes and VHS movies. (converting to DVD on the movies VHS is drying out)