720p vs. 1080p – When to Go “True HD.”

Last year we posted a photo of a football game projected onto the side of a house. It’s the kind of image you can only get from a projector, over 10-feet diagonal, literally filling the entire area with the image. It was one of our most popular 720p native projectors, and one of our best sellers last year (Panasonic PT-AX100U). At the time, we thought it looked fantastic. We even featured it on our “Football Packages” page to highlight it’s impressiveness.

[ 720p image: Panasonic PT-AX100 (native 720p projector) displaying HD football on the side of a house last year. ]

This year, we have an image of the same house, and an image that’s about the same size. But the picture is simply stunning. It’s an obvious improvement over the previous images, which already looked very good.

[ 1080p image: Panasonic PT-AE2000U (native 1080p projector) displaying HD football on the side of a house this year. ]

So, we thought we would share those images with those trying to choose between 720p and 1080p resolutions, and discuss our own thoughts on the matter. To start, we will talk about viewing distance recommendations from related to field-of-view, and then talk about resolution and image size.

Screen Sizes and Viewing Distance for Optimum Field-of-View

Screen manufacturer Da-Lite has established a basic guideline for selecting a screen size. Essentially, it boils down to recommending your seats be approximately two feet back for every (1) foot of image. So, if you want a ten-foot wide image, you need to be back about 17 and a half feet back from the screen. Our most popular screen sizes are 92″, 106″ and 120″ respectively.

Screen Size Suggestions based on Field of View
Screen size Optimum Viewing Distance
92-inch 14.4 feet
106-inch 15.3 feet
120-inch 17.3 feet

The Da-Lite screen suggestions are all about finding the distance that allows you to keep the entire screen in view without moving your head from side to side (aka field-of-view) for the complete picture. Their suggestions have nothing to do with the resolution of the projector.

Resolution and Screen Size Recommendations from Projector People

Our customer feedback and our experience here in our own testing is that 720p looks as good as 1080p on about any screen under 80-inches from a reasonable viewing distance, but the 1080p is a dramatic improvement in an image over 120-inches when compared side by side. Ultimately it may come down to how picky you are about your image. But if you can afford to go 1080p, there isn’t much of a downside, other than the lack of true 1080p source material.

Resolution Suggestions Based on Screen Size and Pickiness
Screen Size Not Picky Kinda Picky Very Picky
92-inch 720p 720p Either
106-inch 720p 1080p 1080p (true HD source)
Over 120″ 1080p 1080p (true HD source) 1080p (true HD source)

This chart is based on customer feedback and our own experiences with in house demos. If you want some more technical discussion on the topic you can read this article from this blog.

If you want to see the most popular 1080p projectors in action, check out our blog post. Scroll to the end for some video.


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