At face value, "1080p high definition" means 1920×1080 pixels presented progressive scan (all at once). But if a clip is 1080p that alone doesn't necessitate that it will look good. Just as you can stretch a thumbnail in Photoshop to any gargantuan size you like, so too can content providers give you ugly 1080p.
So when Dish Network announced premium 1080p VOD that they compared to Blu-ray quality, we were more than a little sceptical. Sound & Vision was as well, which is exactly why they sat down with a Dish and Blu-ray version of Speed Racer to compare:
DISH 1080p immediately impressed me. Speed Racer's brilliant colours and intricate details looked fantastic whether I was watching the satellite or the disc. Flipping back and forth between the two sources while sitting at a normal viewing distance, I could detect only subtle differences. In fact, I couldn't be sure I was seeing any difference at all...From the way-too-intimate viewing distance of about 4 feet, I started to notice a subtle graininess in the DISH 1080p picture, especially in scenes of slow, steady motion...but the fact that there wasn't a substantial difference in picture quality between the satellite and the disc bodes well for DISH's new service.
So in other words, there's a difference between Blu-ray and Dish Network, but it's a pretty small one. So what's the catch? Only exclusive Dish VOD looks this good—most of their 1080p leaves a lot to be desired—and there won't be much of this premium content any time soon.
Still, it's good to see content providers step it up and provide 1080p content worthy of its reputation. [Sound & Vision]