Wallowing in HD

I've been wallowing like a hog in mud in my new HD living room. There's a big ol' goofy smile plastered to my face as I soak in the crystal-clear imagery of a Sunday NFL battle or a US Open tennis match or an HBO HD movie. Yeah, that's me, wiggling around on my back in front of my TV, laughing and drooling atop Doritos and spilled Mountain Dew.

Every once in a while, I'll pause in my revelry and just admire that HD image as if I'm taking in a work of art at a museum. I'll inspect it for flaws, for digital artifacts, for shimmering, for anything less than perfect. When I first purchased my Xbox 360, I noticed after playing for a while that the imagery wasn't all that spectacular. Oh, don't get me wrong, it was better than what I remembered squeezing out of my original Xbox, but it wasn't mind-blowing—until I realized that the resolution had defaulted to 480p as opposed to the higher-quality 720p or 1080i.

After I set the resolution to 720p, which my TV can display, I was back to flailing happily on the ground as I walked through Perfect Dark Zero. But then I sat up again. What about 1080i? My Panasonic plasma TV supports both 720p and 1080i, but can display only 720p. Just for kicks, I tried both, toggling between them, and didn't notice any appreciable differences in image quality. So, I set the console to 720p and resumed my giddy giggling.

But wait. What about all the whispers about 1080p I'm hearing? According to a recent announcement, both the Xbox 360 and the forthcoming PlayStation 3—not to mention a gaggle of displays and high-definition DVD players on the horizon—are set to support the "Holy Grail" of resolutions, 1080p, through future releases and patches.

My eyes can't even fathom image quality more pristine than what I'm looking at right now. But that's always the way of technology, isn't it? We once thought pan-and-scan VHS tapes provided great (well, at least adequate) video presentations. We once thought CDs were the end-all-be-all of music quality.

When I get a good look at 1080p, will I no longer be wallowing in bliss on my living room floor? My TV won't support the Holy Grail, so part of me fears that when 1080p becomes standard in a few years, I'll no longer be in HD nirvana in my living room but rather kicking and screaming with frustration. I watched a 1080p demo at Best Buy last week, and admittedly, it looked spectacular. But I've never trusted demos at stores.

I wonder how spectacular 1080p will be in the real world.

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