HD Resolution Smackdown: BluRay vs AppleTV vs DVD

May 18, 2009

Reviews, Technology

HD, SD, 720p, 1080p & Upscaling – wheat from chaff

I once penned an email to my friend (Sarah) extolling my perspective on the relative quality a range media and TV hardware resolutions.  The data was far from scientific, but it’s based on a reasonable exposure to a range of media and output formats.  The following is a liberation of these thoughts as well as a illustrative relative comparison of the range of formats:


Further explanation

My original thoughts were prompted by an excellent article on iLounge (Apple TV 2.0 vs. Blu-Ray, DVD & HD Cable: The Comparison [updated]) but that I felt were misleading.  This is the way I rank relative picture quality:

Out of 10:

9½ …………… HDDVD/BluRay (loses half a point for the flicker)
8½ …………..  Apple TV HD (not BluRay, but the extra clarity is appreciable)
8     …………… DVD  Upscaled (who knew! you really can see the difference!)
7    ……………. DVD
6    ……………. Apple TV  SD best
4½ …………… Regular Analogue TV
4  …………….. Apple TV  SD worst (sometimes it’s shockingly bad, but never better than a DVD)
½ …………….. iPod Nano :-/

Most surprising:- the incredibly good quality of DVDs when upscaled
Most disappointing:- the poor quality of some of the iTunes TV rips (eg, the TV show “Breaking Bad”)

Size matters

Above all, the most unexpected thing about migrating from a 51cm CRT to a 106cm HD plasma was not the resolution and not even the width (though doing without those letterbox shutters is a treat), it’s the larger visible area.  I found that even watching recorded VHS (that’s about 250i!) on the 106cm was a significantly more enjoyable experience – simply because of the larger format.

To emphasise the above – if given the choice to watch a SD or HD show on Apple TV, I’ll often choose the SD – not because I am penny pincher, but because the nice thing about the experience is the larger format and the sense that HD really doesn’t add that much to my level of enjoyment.  There are exceptions of course – movies like The Island and Australia, deserve to be seen in HD .. but beyond those exceptions, it’s not just a compelling case.

Photo credit: “HD  TVs Everywhere” by Kreg Steppe

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About Justin Moss

An information and engineering technologist. Unabashedly opinionated, open-minded and an oft overthinker. Born Sydney Australia, home of the 'Southerly Buster'

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2 Responses to “HD Resolution Smackdown: BluRay vs AppleTV vs DVD”

  1. Jack Says:

    Throw a VUDU Box into the lineup and see where it falls.

  2. Justin Moss Says:

    Quite right Jack – if only I had a VUDU box to test, .. and a Rokubox for that matter.

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