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Every television or set-top box you buy today will support high-definition (HD) video. But even then, there’s a bit of jargon to wade through. Particularly, you’ll need to know the difference between HD Ready and Full HD.
In the most basic terms, HD Ready TVs and set top boxes can show you 720p images at 1280×720 pixels. Full HD TVs and set top boxes show 1080p images at 1920×1080 pixels. The higher the resolution, the sharper the images look.
But if only it was that simple…
HD Ready vs. HD Ready vs. Full HD
Wait, what’s HD Ready doing twice up there? Depending on where you live, the definition of HD Ready is slightly difference. Specifically, U.S.A and Europe define it differently.
In the U.S., HD Ready for a TV means that the TV can output 720p images and has a built-in digital tuner. However, the same HD Ready logo is also printed on several projectors, computer monitors, and other devices which don’t have a tuner. The TV is the exception.
In Europe, the digital tuner doesn’t matter to get the HD Ready logo. The output should be 720p to get the HD Ready logo. In some old TVs, you might see an “HD Ready 1080p” logo. This is the same as the Full HD logo.
Worldwide, the golden Full HD 1080p logo is a standard that denotes the display can show 1080p images. It does not indicate anything about a digital tuner, but in the U.S., most Full HD TVs have one.
720 vs. 1080
The logo aside, you need to know the actual difference in the quality. Your TV shows video as a series of lines, both horizontal and vertical. How many horizontal lines can your TV display at one time? That’s the magic number: 720 or 1080.
With more lines, you get more pixels, and thus better video quality. That’s why 4K and Ultra HD is even sharper.
Why Does My HD Ready 720p TV Show 1080i? (a.k.a. Interlaced vs. Progressive)
Things get confusing when you look at the specifications of an HD Ready 720p TV. There’s another line that says it displays “1080i” videos. But 1080i doesn’t mean it’s Full HD. In fact, the salesman might try using this as one of his showroom tricks to con you, but don’t fall for it.
The “p” and the “i” stand for Progressive and Interlaced, respectively. Progressive and Interlaced scans are how the TV displays each frame of the video. As you might know, most videos show around 25 frames per second.
In progressive scan or 1080p, the TV shows all 1080 horizontal lines at the same time.
In interlaced scan or 1080i, the TV shows half the lines of one frame, followed by half the lines of the next frame. The idea is to trick the eye into believing it is one image, but the human eye eventually sees the lack of quality.
The message to take away from this? Ignore “1080i” or anything with an “i” after it. Interlaced video doesn’t look good and doesn’t matter.
Where Will You See These Logos?
While you will always see the HD Ready or Full HD logo on TVs, they show up on some other similar gadgets too, like projectors and monitors. The one that matters most to your TV is the set top box.
The big rule is that video plays at the resolution supported by the lowest-rung device . In other words, if your TV is Full HD 1080p but your set top box is HD Ready 720p, your TV will show 720p images. Some TVs will attempt to upscale the video, but this doesn’t result in better quality images.
Similarly, a 720p TV with a 1080p video connection (through your set top box or a gaming console) will still only show 720p videos. So the best quality video is when the input matches the output’s resolution.
And again, HD Ready 720p set top boxes can show 1080i videos too. But don’t even flip on that setting, it’s not worth it.
Stop Worrying About “HD Ready” in TVs And Other Displays
Today, it makes little sense to worry about an “HD Ready” tag in most devices. The 720p resolution has become the default minimum for every display device. So if you’re buying a TV, monitor, projector, or anything like that, it will support 720p video at least.
The Full HD tag can help you figure out whether it supports 1080p video or not. And well, almost every cheap smart TV you should buy today has it.
HD Ready vs. Full HD vs. 4K vs. Ultra HD
In the past few years, as technology advanced, you now need to consider two other logos. There’s the Ultra HD logo and the 4K logo.
- 4K is a sub-set of Ultra HD, and denotes 2160p video at 4096×2160 pixels resolution.
- Ultra HD, or “Full Ultra HD”, can go up to 4320p video at 7620×4320 pixels resolution.
Right now, Full Ultra HD isn’t available on most TVs. But in a few years, much like the confusion of “HD Ready vs. Full HD”, get ready for “Ultra HD vs. Full Ultra HD.”
And again, this isn’t just about TVs. Even to play videos of the same resolution, you’ll need an Ultra HD Blu-ray player or stream such 4K content.
Resolution vs. Quality
Unfortunately, marketers have turned picture resolution into a yardstick for picture quality. But that’s not true at all. There are several factors that decide how video looks on your TV, and you shouldn’t buy something based on the resolution alone.
The TV’s panel, the engine, the backlighting technology, and other parts are just as important. For more, read our guide on how to pick a TV for your living room.
And while buying the TV is the easy part, help us out in the input. Are there any HD Ready vs. Full HD scams in set top boxes to avoid? How do you ensure you get the same input as your TV’s capability?