Buying an HD-Ready TV

I get the question a lot, so I thought I might write a post about it as a ready-made answer to the next few.

“I’m gonna buy a new (LCD) TV, should I go for HD Ready or for Full HD?”

Nothing even remotely like HD

1. What’s the difference?

Full HD is (at least) a 1920 x 1080 pixels (also called 1080i or 1080p, depending on whether the signal is interlaced/not as good or progressive/better) resolution. An HD Ready TV will typically only have a 1366 x 768 (WXGA) resolution, but it will still accept 1920×1080 input (that’s why it is ‘ready’).

2. What’s your budget?

You will have a hard time finding a TV that is “Full HD” under the 1000€ mark (Pixmania now has 1 Hitachi of 975€). If you want to spend more like 600€, that solves a lot of difficult choices!

3. Do you ever play 1080p content?

A regular DVD gives you 480p, so nowhere near 720p or 1080p. If you play it, it will be upconverted by your TV, but since the source was only 480 pixels high, you’ll never get 1080 different pixels, right? You will need some kind of BluRay/HDDVD content, or a recent Xbox or Playstation to get full 1080i input. If you don’t, maybe having Full HD does not make a lot of sense.

4. Will you see the difference?

Now there’s a good question! Let’s take this article as an inspiration: “1080p does matter“. While it focuses a lot on the ‘larger sized’ home cinema (a 123″ screen means: 3,12m diagonal, or a screen of 153cm high, that’s right, almost as high as a person), the calculations are interesting.

Let’s say you buy a 40” LCD TV (diagonal: 101cm). The THX norm -used a lot in home and ‘real’ cinema – would want you to sit no further than 191cm from the screen, and preferably 136cm, regardless of the resolution. Do you typically watch your TV from that close? If I used to sit that close to the TV, my mom would tell me I’m ruining my eyes. What I’m saying is: you normally sit quite far from your TV.

Carlton Bale’s calculator says that you will only notice the difference between a Full HD and a HD Ready when sitting closer than 223cm. If you sit closer than 158 cm, you might actually need a higher resolution than Full HD. Yes, it exists, there is 1440p (WQXGA) on the horizon (HDMI 1.3).


Go for Full HD if

  • you can spare the money
  • you have some source of 1080i/1080p content
  • you normally sit close enough to the screen
  • none of the above, but you want to impress the neighbours

4 thoughts on “Buying an HD-Ready TV”

  1. That source of 1080i/1080p content could also be the output of your digital photo and film camera. At least if that camera has such an output. Almost all recent Sony products have such an output. Don’t know about other brands…

  2. I was not the one and only who turned to you in my hour of need? Somehow I feel ripped off. Don’t ask me why… 🙁
    And what about digital tv: aren’t all those providers preparing lots and lots of HD content? (that would be my reason to acquire a full HD-set (apart from impressing the neighbours, of course). And what about ordinary content :are the imperfections showing more with a full HD -tv-set or is there no difference?

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