1080i vs 1080p & Plasma vs LCD - Choosing & Buying a TV

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1080i, 1080p, 720p, 480i, Plasma, LCD, etc. etc….All this technical mumbo-jumbo and all you want is to hang a nice TV on your wall over the fireplace like in the celebrity homes you see on Lifestyles or MTV Cribs.

Part 1. 1080i vs. 1080p vs. 720p

1080i vs 1080p – Both show 1080 lines of vertical resolution and are considered HDTV mode.  The i in 1080i is for interlace and the p in 1080p is progressive. To put it in simple terms, you get a better picture with 1080p than 1080i.

The price difference between the same size TV with 1080p vs 1080i can be anywhere from a few hundred to a couple thousand dollars, depending on the size of the TV.  Does the better picture justify the dollar difference? It depends…

If you’re watching a 1080p source, like Blu-Ray HD-DVD, then yes, there is a noticeable difference.  The problem is most outlets (satellite or cable) are not transmitting yet in 1080p. Plans are in the works, but they are still using 1080i.  If 1080p, is not available in your area in the near future, then save yourself some money and buy a 1080i or 720p.

720p has 720 lines of vertical resolution in progress scan mode.  You’ll sometimes see this referred to as Enhanced TV, not HDTV.  In most cases, picture quality is actually comparable to 1080i.  Where 720p has an advantage is with live action/motion videos (such as sports) because it is progressive scan, not interlaced.

480i is the standard transmission you now receive over the air or standard cable.

Part 2. Plasma vs LCD

Picture quality:  Plasma has a better and brighter picture than LCD. It shows deeper blacks than an LCD. This is true even though the LCD may have higher resolution (for example the resolution for a Phillips 42-inch LCD is 1366x768 compared to only a 1024x768 resolution for its 42-inch plasma).

Viewing angles: A plasma TV can be viewed at any angle and you will not lose any picture quality in terms of brightness and color.  With an LCD, you lose brightness and color as you angle away from the front of the TV.

Screen glare: One problem we’ve had with our plasma is the glare from the sun coming in through our big windows or from the chandelier.  The LCD does not produce this same type of glare.

Sizes: This may solve the problem in many cases. Most retailers sell plasma TVs from 42-inch up to 60-inch.  LCD sizes are from as small as 13 inches up to 46 inches.  So, if you want 37-inch or less, then an LCD is your only option. If you want 50 inches or more, then the plasma is your only option.  In between these two size is when you need to make a choice.

Pricing: LCDs will have a higher price tag than an equivalent-sized plasma.

Examples from Best Buy (January 2007):

  • Philips 42-inch LCD - $2,299 vs. $1,699 for a Phillips 42-inch plasma
  • Samsung 40-inch LCD - $1,899 vs $1,799 for a Samsung 42-inch plasma

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