Apple’s HD TV Shows – Are they worth the extra buck?

My favorite television show of all time is “The Office”. My favorite television show from my childhood is “Knight Rider”. So, as you can imagine, I was really excited to see that NBC is back in iTunes. Yesterday evening I spent a little bit of time with iTunes 8, my AppleTV, and HD downloads, to see if I should be buying these shows in HD for $2.99 or SD for $1.99.

The first thing I had trouble with was actually downloading anything. I use the Shopping Cart feature of iTunes so that I don’t accidentally click on something when I’m trying to preview it – and for some reason that currently isn’t working for many iTunes users. So I had to disable the shopping cart to get anything to download.

After getting that fixed I download the first episode of “The Office” Season 4 in both HD (720p) and SD (480p).

The SD version came in at 501.3 MB, and the HD version is 1.33 GB (which is larger than the hard drive on my first computer, btw). I loaded them both up on my AppleTV, and both had a very easy time streaming to the device. I compared them both one to another…and I honestly couldn’t tell a single difference in the two videos.

I have a 52 inch RCA rear projection screen HDTV that is capable of 1080i HD video – so it’s not the absolute latest technology, but I can clearly see a difference between a DVD and an HD-DVD or a DVD and broadcast HD.

Here, though, there is almost no distinction in the picture quality. The SD picture looks GREAT. Much better than my Season 1 and Season 2 episodes of “The Office”, which were also purchased in iTunes. The HD looks equally as good – but remember it costs $1.00 more and takes up twice as much hard drive space.

So, for now, I can clearly say that I’m sticking with SD downloads in iTunes. The HD video may be here, but it has a long way to go to be worth the extra storage and extra price.

Comments

  1. What about sound quality? Do you think the picture is brighter on the HD version. A key attribute of HD is luminance.

  2. I could see a significant difference in video quality when comparing an episode of The Office on my 42″ Vizio LCD but it could be me scrutinizing every aspect of video quality (as I do with almost all video I watch). But, in regards to whether or not the extra $1 is worth it, I personally don’t believe so, unless it is your favorite show and you can actually notice the difference. I will probably only purchase two season passes for the seasons coming up and that is for The Office and Lost, both will be purchased in HD. But, for everything else, if I miss an episode of any other TV show I’ll probably just purchase the SD version.

  3. Sounds like quite a technical observation??! Yawnnnnn

  4. Hmm… I have to disagree with you on this one. While “seeing a difference” is surely a subjective topic, I will still point you the authoritative treatise (complete with authoritative results!) at http://kruper.org/blog/archives/83

  5. @John

    That’s an article about HD movies on the AppleTV. That’s not the same thing. Take a look at the HD TV shows and judge for yourself. I can see a much clearer distinction between the SD and HD movies on the AppleTV than I do on the SD and HD TV shows.

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