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In the most basic terms, HD Ready TVs (and set-top boxes) are capable of displaying 720p video, which is 1280x720 pixels. Full HD TVs and boxes can show 1080p video, which is 1920x1080 pixels. The HD Ready standard came about in Europe around 2005, so that people could be sure they were buying TVs that actually supported HD.
In the US, HD Ready for a TV means that the display can output 720p images. In most cases, this also indicates that the TV has a built-in digital tuner, which is necessary to accept digital TV broadcasts (which have largely replaced analog signals). This same HD Ready logo is also printed on several projectors, computer monitors, and other devices, which don't have a tuner.
TVs show video as a series of lines; resolution is simply the amount of pixels that make up a display, both horizontally and vertically. The shorthand numbers used for resolution (720p and 1080p) represent how many vertical lines can your TV display at one time.
1920x1080 resolution (1080p) means that there are 1920 pixels horizontally and 1080 pixels vertically. 720p resolution is 1280x720 pixels. Having a higher resolution results in a sharper image, because there's more information on the screen at once.
Interlaced video conserves bandwidth, and was thus used in older analog TV broadcasting. While efficient, it's also more susceptible to distortion, especially for fast-moving video. In the US, most TV broadcasts today are either 1080i or 720p, with the latter preferred for sports since they move quickly.
Remember that video will play at the lowest resolution supported by any device in the chain. For example, if your TV is Full HD (1080p), but your set-top box is only HD Ready (720p), your TV will show 720p video. A PlayStation 4 capable of outputting in 1080p won't be able to show that 1080p video on a 720p TV.
720p resolution has become the default minimum for nearly every display device. If you're buying a TV, monitor, projector, or anything like that, it will almost certainly support 720p video at least. Unless it's extremely cheap, chances are that it supports 1080p as well; the Full HD tag lets you know for sure.
But when considering a purchase, you should go beyond these stickers and check the actual product details of a display before you buy it. Online, look in the specifications for a field titled Resolution or similar, which should have a value like 720p or 1920x1080. When in a store, look at the device's box or ask an employee for more details.
In general, unless you're looking to spend as little money as possible, we don't recommend buying any display that's under 1080p. While 720p is still referred to as "HD," 1080p is the HD standard in most people's minds. It's used for Netflix streaming, Blu-ray discs, game consoles, and similar. 2b1af7f3a8