Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: HDTV Resolution - Standards vs. Capability ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: HDTV Resolution - Standards vs. Capability
Category: Reference, Education and News > Consumer Information
Asked by: rhworsham-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 30 Jul 2002 16:28 PDT
Expires: 29 Aug 2002 16:28 PDT
Question ID: 47089
What is the resolution (# vertical pixels x # horizontal pixels, or
vertical and horizontal dot pitch)of typical Direct View CRTs which
are HDTV ready?  Specifically, I'm interested in the Sony HDTV models,
with 32-36" diagonal Direct View CRT screens.  Is this a sensible
question?  Also, why do reviewers say that the better plasma screens
are fully HDTV ready when 1080i requires about 2 million pixels on
screen while the highest resolution plasma TVs have a resolution of
about 1 million pixels? (I realize that the number of pixels updated
per second in 1080i is about the same as the number of pixels updated
per second by the plasma screens because the former is interlaced
while the latter are progressive, but this does not seem to be
Subject: Re: HDTV Resolution - Standards vs. Capability
Answered By: huntsman-ga on 30 Jul 2002 23:30 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
The only time that "insensible" enters this picture is the way I feel
after sorting out all the HDTV specifications. I want my NTSC!

Until there's a nice HDTV sale, that is.  

To calculate the overall screen resolution -- the total number of
pixels -- of any TV set, you multiply the number of horizontal scan
lines by the number of pixels in each scan line.

For old times' sake, let's start with NTSC analog TV, the kind we've
all grown up with. Although NTSC has a total of 525 horizontal scan
lines, it only uses about 480 of these for the actual image. There are
720 pixels in each interlaced scan line, so our NTSC pixel calculation
looks like this:

   480 scan lines x 720 pixels/line = 345,600 pixels   

Rounding up slightly, we get about 350,000 total pixels on an
old-fashioned NTSC TV set.

The main promise of joy with digital HDTV (High Definition Television)
is its much greater resolution. HDTV pixels are smaller and squarer
than NTSC pixels, so HDTV can resolve finer details and hold smoother
curves. Plus, you get considerably more pixels to look at.

HDTV has a total of 1,125 scan lines, but it only uses 1,080 of these
for the actual image (hence the "1080i" HDTV specification). There are
1,920 pixels in each interlaced scan line, so our HDTV pixel
calculation looks like this:

   1,080 scan lines x 1,920 pixels/line = 2,073,600 pixels

Rounded off, an HDTV set gives us about 2 million total pixels, about
six times the number of NTSC pixels.

Obviously, there's a lot more visual potential with HDTV, something
that also makes its movie-like 16 x 9 aspect ratio possible. NTSC only
gives a 4 x 3 aspect ratio, which ends up whacking off the ends of a
normal movie. You just can't see all those gladiators waiting in the
wings like you can with HDTV.

Sony's current HDTV models can be seen here:

   Sony Style
   HDTV & Widescreen (16:9)

Only one Sony HDTV model with a 32-36" diagonal, direct view CRT
(cathode ray tube) is shown:

   Sony Style
   34" FD TrinitonŽ WEGAŽ High Definition TV

While an actual pixel count is not given, the KD-34XBR2's top
interlaced resolution is 1080i, which means that it adheres to the
highest HDTV standard (with total pixels as calculated above).

One thing to remember about pixels: although a larger TV has a bigger
screen than a smaller TV, the total number of pixels on the screen
remains the same. There aren't more pixels on a bigger screen: the
pixels themselves are just bigger, so the actual resolution doesn't
change. If you get a big TV, you need to sit further away for it to
look as sharp as a smaller TV.

Now, let's look at the resolution of plasma TV screens, such as the
Sony KZ-42TS1:

   Sony Style
   42" Plasma WEGA™ Flat Panel Television 

With plasma screens, you must consider their "native" or "addressable"
resolution. This is the maximum number of built-in pixels which they
can display. With the Sony KZ-42TS1, its maximum native resolution is
1,024 lines by 1,024 pixels. Let's do the math again:

   1,024 lines x 1,024 pixels =  1,048,576 pixels

Thus, we get about 1 million pixels, half the number of total pixels
that HDTV is capable of delivering. Although the Sony KZ-42TS1 plasma
screen is an HDTV monitor, and will accept all HDTV signals (it is
"fully HDTV ready"), it simply cannot display all of the incoming HDTV

Instead, the plasma screen "downconverts" the 2 million HDTV pixels so
they can be shown on its 1 million pixel display. The more lines a
plasma screen has, the higher quality HDTV picture it can display, but
it still may not be able to match HDTV's full potential.

While a plasma TV loses HDTV resolution (compared to a CRT), it may
not be a full 50% difference due to the particular conversion methods
used. Numbers and specifications can't completely determine overall
picture quality, so you should try to compare different TVs
side-by-side whenever possible.

Comparing the relative resolutions of interlaced video images to
progressively scanned images can be a little trickier. With
interlacing, the TV displays one half of a video image (its
even-numbered scan lines) first, then displays the other half of the
image (its odd-numbered scan lines). Your eyes and brain put these
alternately striped image halves together and you see them as a
single, whole image. This is the same "persistence of vision" effect
that theatrical films have depended upon for over a hundred years.

Strictly speaking, only half of an interlaced image is displayed by
the TV at any one moment. Using our current HDTV example of 2 million
pixels, the TV only offers 1 million pixels at a time.

Disregarding our persistence of vision, one could argue that only half
of the available pixels are shown, and thus claim that the TV only
delivers half of the potential resolution.

The highest progressive scan resolution from an HDTV set is 780 lines.
With 1,920 pixels per line, this gives us an approximate total of 1.5
million pixels. So, for a moment -- look *real* fast -- a progressive
scan display could theoretically offer more resolution than an
interlaced display.

However, that's not the way I, or you, or anyone else sees it. 

Thank you,

References - 

In particular, the glossaries and FAQs on the following Web sites were
very helpful.

   Corporation for Public Broadcasting
   Glossary: Digital TV Transition

   DigitalTV Zone
   All About Digital TV

   DTV City

   HDTV Info Guide

   Home Theater Magazine


   Digital TV: A Cringely Crash Course

Search Terms & Google Results - 

   1080i hdtv glossary

   plasma screen hdtv resolution

   "persistence of vision"

Request for Answer Clarification by rhworsham-ga on 03 Aug 2002 08:43 PDT
Thank you for a very good answer to my questions.  Your explanations
agree fully with my own research.  If I could find a store showing
plasma displays beside direct view CRT displays, that would be great,
but I haven't been able to find such yet; hence the questions.  This
is even more fustrating, because my own calculations of the capability
of the human eye to see HDTV indicate that at normal viewing distances
and moderate sized screens, we can't see more than a million pixels
anyhow.  (For example, if you assume the resolution of the human eye
is 1 arcminute, sitting 8 ft. from a 42" screen or 6 feet from a 32"
screen allows you to see about a million pixels.)
One clarification: Since Sony refuses to publish the resolution of
their direct view CRT TV (they say no standards have been established
for measuring resolution, and any specification might be misleading),
how do you KNOW that the CRT can display 2 million pixels?  What stops
Sony from playing the same games with their CRT display that they play
with their plasma displays - claiming HDTV capability just because the
set can accept the HDTV signals?

Clarification of Answer by huntsman-ga on 05 Aug 2002 14:04 PDT

I know what you mean: "specifications" can be pretty subjective at

At some point, I guess you just have to trust the manufacturer.
Although they may bend specs in their own favor, it is not in their
best interests to give outright false or misleading information. This
is particularly true for major manufacturers like Sony who command a
large share of the market.

I called Sony Customer Service today at 1-800-222-7669 and waded
through their system until I got to operational tech support for Sony
TVs. The tech I spoke to acknowledged that the actual pixel count for
the 34" FD Triniton WEGA HDTV KD-34XBR2 is not available, he did say
that this set accepts *and* displays the full 1080i HDTV signal: it is
not downconverted.

To get the facts from Sony users, I have also posted this question
(under "huntsman") on the following third-party forum:

   The Complete Unofficial Guide to Sony Products
   Forums > Television Misc

The question is in their "Television Misc" forum, and has the subject
line "Pixel resolution on KD-34XBR2?". I suggest you monitor this
thread for any responses.

Thank you,

Search Terms & Google Results:

sony trinitron resolution pixels hdtv
rhworsham-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Excellent and very thorough research.  By the way, the best overall
discussion of digital TV I have found is at

Subject: Re: HDTV Resolution - Standards vs. Capability
From: mikekennedy-ga on 09 Dec 2004 05:39 PST
using Sony's top line of HDTV's, the XBR series, I compared the
resolution / number of pixels, and prices of Plasma vs. LCD vs.
CRT/cathode ray tube/ 'tube' HDTV's :

actual numbers on for pixels/max resolutions of current
XBR models as of 12/04:  (i added retail prices)

All Sony XBR (top line) models:

Sony LCD 32 in. :      1289 x 768 = 983,040 pixels

Sony Plasma 42 in:    1024 x 768 = 786,432 pixels

Sony LCD 42 in.:       1366 x 768 = 1,049,088 pixels

Sony Plasma 50 in.:   1365 x 768 = 1,048,320 pixels

Sony Plasma 55 in.:   1365 x 768 = 1,048,320 pixels
($12,999)  ouch

Sony Plasma 61 in.:   1365 x 768 = 1,048,320 pixels
($19,999)  ow bigtime 

Sony 34 in Tube HDTV: 1920 x 1080 = 2,073,000 pixels**** 



also - the resolution / number of pixels for the CRT tube hdtv 34 in.
was not given on, and customer service said that it is
"unpublished information".   thats pretty shady huh?  i think its
obvious that if they reveal that the cheapest hdtv also has twice as
good a picture- that would hurt the sales of their plasma and LCD
tv's.   trickery!


Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy