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125 HDTVs tested for resolution performance

The HD Guru tests 125 high-def TVs for motion resolution and 1080i de-interlacing.

The monoscope pattern is used to test for motion resolution. CNET has published a survey of the resolution capabilities of 125 high-definition televisions.

The survey was conducted by HDGuru's sole proprietor, Gary Merson, who subjected the sets to a variety of test patterns and recorded the results in a handy PDF table. The patterns tested for 1080i de-interlacing performance of both video and film-based sources, still resolution (bandwidth) and motion resolution.

The results of the tests make interesting reading for people who follow the evolution of HDTV technology. More TVs than ever are passing the de-interlacing tests, most 1080p TVs pass every line of 1080i and 1080p still resolution, and big differences emerge between TV technologies in terms of motion resolution. In general, Merson found that plasmas scored best on the motion resolution tests, 120Hz LCDs scored lower, and standard LCDs (along with one rear-projection DLP) the lowest. The overall motion resolution winner was Samsung's LN46A950, an LCD with 120Hz processing and LED backlighting.

I think it's important to understand, however, that resolution, while an important factor in HDTV picture quality, isn't as important as factors like black level (contrast ratio) and color accuracy. Yes, high-definition wouldn't be what it is without high resolution, but once you get to high-def, the ability of human perception to notice any additional resolution increases drops drastically, in my experience, and those other factors become much more important.

In many side-by-side tests using real program material such as Blu-ray movies and HDTV broadcasts, I've placed 50-inch plasma HDTVs next to one another--one with 1080p resolution and another with 1,366x768--and been unable to see any real difference in detail between the two. We've found it similarly difficult to perceive differences in motion resolution between two sets placed side-by-side viewing normal, non-test-pattern material. Conversely, side-by-side comparisons routinely reveal significant differences in black levels, color accuracy and saturation, viewing angle, uniformity, and video processing, such as noise reduction and de-judder.

That's not to say that resolution tests are worthless by any stretch, especially since different viewers have different levels of perception and may be more or less sensitive to resolution differences or to motion blur (in the form of insufficient motion resolution), for example. In fact, CNET conducts the same tests Merson does on HDTVs I review, and he deserves a lot of credit for pioneering their use and for giving buyers another measure by which to differentiate between scads of HDTVs. But I also believe undue emphasis has been placed on the importance of resolution by manufacturers, the press, and salespeople who should know better.

What do you think? How important is HDTV resolution to you compared with other picture quality factors? Are we just crying sour grapes or has resolution truly been overblown as a contributor to picture quality? Sound off below.