For the most part, a 720p set is suitable only for buyers who are on a budget or who don't plan to watch Blu-ray films. For everyone else, since buying an HDTV is a long-term proposition, a 1080p television provides the best future-proofing.
Want to see the difference for yourself? We took screen captures of the same scene in both 720p and 1080p on a PC to show the difference in resolution. Open these two images yourself and compare them. When you zoom in, you'll see that the 1080p image looks much crisper and more detailed--and the difference gets magnified when you look at images displayed on a large TV screen instead of a smaller PC monitor.
Don't Believe In-Store Picture Quality
One of the biggest mistakes consumers make when buying an HDTV is to think that the set's picture will look just as good at home as it does at the store. This error often leads to extreme disappointment.
Most retailers display televisions with picture-quality settings that are ideal for viewing under the fluorescent lighting of a typical in-store environment. Also, all of the pastel colors you see are adjusted to capitalize on the notion that the more vibrant the picture is, the better the television is.
In fact, a properly calibrated HDTV might look rather dark at first glance. But what you lose in vividness, you get back in detail and in energy-cost savings.
Does that mean you should opt for the dullest-looking set in the store? Not a chance. But there are some things you can do at the store to improve your ability to evaluate the available sets accurately.
First, make sure that the HDTVs you're interested in are displaying an HD video source and that they're using an HDMI cable to pump that content to the television. If one set shows standard-definition content while another displays HD programming, you won't be able to compare the televisions fairly.
Next, ask the salesperson whether you can change the picture settings on the TV. Changing its video settings so you can see what it might look like at home can help you avoid getting the wrong idea about a showroom-optimized set.
You might also want to bring your own Blu-ray film with you to test out the HDTVs' picture quality. If you bring a movie into the store with you, make sure it's a film you know well. If you've seen it often enough, you'll know what particular scenes should look like, and that information should go a long way toward helping you make the right buying decision.
Does a Lower Price Mean Poorer Quality?
Generally, if one device costs less than another, the cheaper device is of lesser quality in some way--so you get what you pay for. But some instances, the television industry bucks that trend.