For Christmas this year, Prairie and I have decided to treat ourselves and upgrade our TV set from the one I bought when I moved to Seattle seven and a half years ago (!!!!!). It’s a nice enough TV (a Sony Wega 27-inch), but it’s huge, heavy, and while still in good shape, it’s old tech. The original plan was to wait until it died, but between Sony’s generally good longevity (my parents had a little Sony 13″ TV that went for almost thirty years) and my geeky techno-lust, Prairie surprised me by suggesting that we go ahead and upgrade to the new hotness.

So, the hunt is in progress. At this point, I’m pretty much decided on a 32″ Samsung, most likely either the LN32A550 or the LN32A650, depending on where prices land in the weeks between Black Friday and Christmas.

Of course, with the jump to an HDTV comes the jump to HD programming. Day-to-day entertainment will come courtesy of Comcast — we’re already getting our cable through them, so we’ll just upgrade that to the minimum possible digital/HD package. For movies, though, we’re doing a bit of back-and-forth (though, to be honest, Prairie’s on the “back” — that is, staying with what we have — while I’m on the “forth” side of the discussion).

My movie-loving, technology-geeking little heart tends to go all a-pitter-pat at upgrading to Blu-Ray. I jumped onto the DVD bandwagon as soon as it dropped into the realm of affordability, loved the jump in video and audio quality from my old VHS tapes, and have been looking forward to the next step forward.

Prairie, however, doesn’t really see what all the fuss is about, and her approach is one that I’m having an amusingly tough time arguing against: if we can see the show and enjoy the story, than what’s the big deal? She never saw a big difference between VHS and DVD, doesn’t really care about surround sound (a moot point at the moment, as living in an apartment building means that standard stereo at reasonable levels is far more realistic than full surround and gut-thumping subwoofers — something we really wish our neighbors would realize…), and just doesn’t see the point in adding another piece of electronics and another remote to the stack we have to keep track of already.

I’ve gotta admit, it’s hard to really say, “But…it’s better!” without realizing just how foolish that sounds.

Not that I don’t try. I’d have my geek card revoked if I didn’t at least try.

(And on a not-unrelated-at-all side note, I think it works wonderfully that our respective geek levels generally balance out into reasonable end results. I don’t know how couples made of dual übergeeks can manage!)

In any case, I think part of the conversation is simply the fact that we don’t really know how much of a change we’re going to see when we upgrade. Sure, I’ve looked at all the numbers and can see the mathmatical difference between SD 640×480 and FullHD 1920×1080, I’ve done simple little experiments looking at resolution increases, and I’ve been working with digital photography long enough that I can get a feel for the difference betweeen a .3 megapixel image and a 2 megapixel image (the approximate difference between SD and FullHD). But running numbers and reading webpages is no substitute for actually seeing what happens when we plug it all together.

So I tried a little experiment today, and tossed out two questions on Twitter…

You who’ve moved from “old school” TV to a new HDTV (pref. w/some form of HD feed): is it really that big of a difference? Turned up to 11?

Same question, part 2: Along the same lines, how about the DVD to Blu-Ray transition? Again, is it that much visibly better?

…and got the following responses:

  • axsdeny: DVD to Blu-Ray: yes. If you have even a 720p TV you can tell the difference. It’s beautiful.
  • lyracole: i don’t notice the difference between my standard and hd, but sir does. also, fuck blu-ray.
  • stoppableforce: w/r/t the difference between SDTV and HDTV: YES. YES. DEAR GOD YES. The difference in clarity is A-FUCKIN’-MAZING.
  • stoppableforce: w/r/t the DVD-to-Blu-Ray thing: Not so much. We’ve got both, Blu-Ray looks slightly better, not enough to make me buy a PS3 yet.
  • mellzah: I hate to admit it, but blu-ray looks great. DVDs don’t look sharp on my TV– non-HD projection 50ish inch–but Blu-Ray movies do!
  • skyler: Huge difference. I attribute most of it to HDMI, actually. Clearer interference free signal. Xbox 360 + 1080p is great w/DVDs.
  • antifuse: short answer? Yes. Longer answer? Depends what you watch. Plain DVDs upscaled by Blu ray look fab, and many shows look great too.
  • wnalyd: Finally answering your HDTV question: Heck yeah there’s a difference bwtn HD + SD. Turned up to 17. Wouldn’t go back.

So the final consensus (admittedly, since I used Twitter, drawing from a very weighted sample of at least somewhat geeky-type people), while not clear-cut across the board, seems to be that yes, there is a difference, ranging from “better” to “A-FUCKIN’-MAZING”. We’ll just have to wait and see where we fall along that spectrum with the equipment we have (we’ll have the HDTV and HD cable from Comcast for the pretty pretty pixels, and a non-upconverting DVD/VHS combo deck for movies), and maybe see if I can find anyone with a Blu-Ray player for us to borrow for a night to help us decide if we want to add that piece, too (of course, if the Blu-Ray players don’t drop into affordability, that’ll make the whole point moot as well).

Did I miss anything?