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720p vs. 1080p: Can You Tell The Difference Between HDTV Resolutions?

720p vs 1080pWondering if the human eye can spot the difference between 720p and 1080p resolutions? 

Its a good question, and an important one at that. There’s a bit of a price difference between HDTVs that display in 720p and ones that display in 1080p, so why should you fork over an extra wad of cash for something you might not be able to see? Sure, the price gap between 720 and 1080 has shrunk considerably in the past few years, but it’s still there, so it’s worth considering.

So lets get down to it: Can you tell the difference? Is the human eye capable of discerning a  720p display from a 1080p one?

The answer? It’s complicated. What you see depends on three factors: The size of your TV, the resolution of the screen, and the distance you sit from it. Your eyesight also plays a role, but we’re not optometrists here, so we’ll leave that part out of this discussion.

720p vs. 1080p graph comparison

Because the Digital Trends’ crystal ball is locked up in storage right now, there’s no way for us to know your TV’s size, resolution, or distance from your couch, so we’ve included this graph to make things easier. It’s not 100 percent accurate, but it’s a good reference. Generally speaking, if you sit more than 10 feet away from your TV, and your display isn’t bigger than 50 inches diagonally, you won’t be able to tell the difference between 720 and 1080. 

The above graph should be a good starting point, but if you’re not fond of data visualizations, here are a few general-purpose tips.

  • If you’re considering getting a bigger TV (over 50 inches), go for a higher resolution or consider sitting further away from the display
  • If you’re looking at a smaller display, 720p should be adequate unless you’re sitting really close.
  • Are you nearsighted? Go for 720p. Farsighted? Since you can probably make out pixels from a distance, you might want a higher resolution

For a deeper discussion on screen resolution, head over to our article “Does your living room need 4K?” or check out our TV buying guide for more HDTV tips.

Graph via rtings.com