Why do 42” Plasmas have a 4:3 aspect ratio resolution?

For a while now, if someone asked me what I thought about Plasma HDTV’s that were less than 50″, I would say, “Back away slowly…there’s something wrong with ’em!”

I had good evidence for that. They have a native pixel resolution of 1024×768. That is a 4:3 aspect ratio, not 16:9, which is the normal widescreen aspect ratio that any HDTV worth a damn must have. So how do all the PDP (Plasma Display Panel) manufacturers sleep at night pushing this bogus resolution on us?

I turned to the HT Guys to help answer the question. I recently started listening to their HDTV Podcast, and was impressed by the breadth of knowledge that they possessed, while at the same being accessible and comprehensible even to the lay person.

It turns out that there’s a simple explanation, although not necessarily a satisfactory on in my opinion.

That’s one of mankind’s unsolved mysteries.  Technically, because HD is measured by horizontal lines of resolution, those televisions are HD (they have more than 720 lines).  However as you pointed out, they don’t have the full width necessary to get a complete 16:9 image, that would require at least 1280×720.  To get a 4:3 aspect ratio on a 16:9 screen, they use rectangular pixels.  Strange huh?

It’s done for manufacturing purposes, and has always been that way.  But we’ve never heard a really good answer for why.  But that strange resolution means everything you watch on your TV has to be scaled, even 4:3 content.  You can’t even go pixel for pixel at 1024×768 since the rectangular pixels would look funny.  That doesn’t mean that they don’t look good.  They still look great, but everything has to be scaled.

If you want a flat panel in the 40-42″ size range, with a native 16:9 aspect ratio, you need to get an LCD.

There you have it my friends. Rectangular pixels! Even with this suspicious explanation, in the Electronic Dude’s opinion, steer clear of PDP’s in this funny resolution. That means, if you are getting a plasma, don’t get anything less than 50″!

Thanks, HT Guys, for the explanation. Keep up the good work!

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