HDTV, HD-Ready, Full HD, 720p 1080p... Which is is which and what is what? If you're about to purchase a plasma or LCD TV, you can be confronted by loads of confusing terminology. High-Definition Television can be bewildering to the newcomer, and sometimes even the more technically knowledgeable.
High Definition versus Standard Definition
Let's start with the basics. High-definition television is, in the simplest terms, video that is better quality than the standard definition picture found on DVDs and in analogue television broadcasts.
If "better quality" sounds a bit subjective, "High-Definition" basically means more resolution. "What is 'resolution'?" you're probably asking. If you look closely at your TV screen or monitor, you'll see the picture is composed of dots. These dots are called "pixels". The more pixels on a screen, the more detail it is capable of showing or "resolving", and so a higher resolution image is, simply, an image consisting of more pixels.
Standard definition in Australia consists of an image 768 pixels wide by 576 pixels high in a format called the PAL standard. Any colour television bought in Australia can show a PAL image without any trouble. DVDs are standard definition and can be played on any PAL TV.
Unlike standard definition, HDTV in Australia consists of a number of different resolutions. If you're watching high-definition television broadcasts, you'll be watching anything from an enhanced 576p (852 by 576 pixels as used by SBS), to 720p (1,280 by 720 pixels as used by ABC), to 1080i (1,920 by 1,080 pixels as used by Seven, Nine and Ten).
Here's where it gets confusing. A TV that is marked as "HD-Ready" is not necessarily capable of displaying a full high-definition image; it simply means that it is capable of accepting and showing a high definition source, like an HD Set-top Box, a Blu-ray player, a Sony PlayStation 3 or an XBox 360. You'll be able to watch whatever these devices are showing, but you may not actually be able to see all the detail. The minimum native resolution for an HD-ready TV is 720 pixels in height or 720p, which is not enough to display all the detail found on Blu-ray or 1080i HD channels like Seven, Nine and Ten.
The signal input resolution the amount of resolution your source puts out. Many high definition devices can usefully upscale or downscale their resolution to provide a better match to your TV's native resolution.
"Native Resolution" means to the actual number of pixels that make up the screen itself. An HDTV can only fully resolve an image as detailed as its native resolution, if the input signal resolution is higher than the native resolution, then its full detail will not be visible.
There are, in fact loads of different native resolutions available, the most common of which in the lower end of the HDTV market is 1,366 by 768 pixels, but in order for you to see literally every detail from all current high definition sources, you need a TV with a native resolution of 1,920 pixels in width by 1,080 pixels in height, otherwise known as Full HD or 1080p. A screen with 1080p resolution is capable of displaying every pixel stored on a Blu-ray disc,
If you are buying a larger screen—42 inches and up—it is advisable to spend a little more and get a Full HD LCD or plasma TV or projector. It's the only way to get the most from every high definition source. Luckily, Full HD/1080p sets get cheaper every month, and it's slowly becoming the norm.
If this answers your question, use Getprice to compare TV prices and features or delve deeper into our HDTV Glossary for more answers and definitions of all the technical terms.