Any new technology tends to bring with it a sense of suspicion and confusion, if not outright fear, among the very people who are supposed to be buying the stuff. And this seems truer than ever when it comes to high definition.
The problem with HD is not people understanding the basic principle of what it does, though; it’s easy to comprehend that it just makes your TV pictures look loads better. No, the problems for HD are being caused by the presence of two different HD formats: the 720-line progressive 720p one, and the 1080-line interlaced 1080i one.
The existence of the two formats has opened a whole hornet’s nest in the UK as some ill-informed press coverage has got people concerned that if they buy a 720 or 768-line TV – the resolution offered by the vast majority of current LCD and plasma TVs – they’ll lose some of the picture quality contained in 1080i HD pictures, because they will have to be scaled down to fit the TV’s 720-line resolution.
The truth is that unless you’re watching a truly huge screen – above 50in in our opinion – the visible differences between a 1080i picture shown on a 1080-line screen and a 1080i picture shown on a 720-line screen are generally minimal.
That said, dedicated HD purists doubtless still won’t be able to resist the lure of the full 1080-line TVs slowly starting to appear – especially now that Sky has just announced that all of its HD programming will, from launch, be in the 1080i format, not 720p. All of which brings us to Hitachi’s 42PD9700 plasma TV, and its claims to be the first 1080-line 42in plasma TV in the UK.
This is significant enough in itself, but couple the resolution with a price tag that’s very competitive with most ‘normal resolution’ 42in plasmas, and you don’t have to be Carol Vorderman to calculate that in the current 1080-obsessed climate, Hitachi might just have a substantial hit on its hands.
The 42PD9700’s 1080-line claims actually come as a big surprise, as we didn’t think it was currently possible to squeeze so many pixels into a 42in plasma screen. And in fact, it turns out that Hitachi’s 1080 lines aren’t achieved by 1080 lines of actual, hard pixels, but by a technology called Alternate Lighting of Surfaces - or ALIS for short.