Sunday, December 24, 2006

The joys of HDTV

It's Christmas Eve, so I thought I'd throw in a little something relating to television, since it is on this night that Santa Claus brings computers and videogames and high-tech toys to good children of all ages. Here's a quickie guide to help you understand the brave new world of High-Definition Television.

The image above is a mock-up of the three different levels of definition available today.* The left side represents 1080, or "Full HD"; the middle is 720, or "HD"; and the right is standard-definition television. Looking at the image of the screen as a whole, you can't tell much difference, even if you click to see the graphic at full size. However, if you look at the closeup images below, you get some idea of how much more detail you see in High Definition.

The numbers indicate the lines of resolution in the picture; Standard Definition is about 480 lines. When you see advertisements for "1080i," "720p," etc., the suffix is I for Interlaced or P for Progressive. All other things being equal, P is better than I, but 1080i is better than 720p.

The simulated screen image, by the way, is a photo I took of Daniel Ellsberg at an anti-torture rally in Berkeley about three months ago. I'll get more political again after Christmas, I promise.

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* There's also EDTV, Enhanced Definition, but EDTV will be deader than Betamax before you can blink twice. With prices on 720p sets popping below $500, there's no reason to even consider EDTV.

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