Our favorite HDTV celebrity-basher Phillip Swann has a guest column up on today's TV Predictions, with a couple of responses to the recent Microsoft exec announcement that "1080i is just as good as 1080p." One of the columns points out that people are probably using component cabling for their sets, which means they'll only be getting 1080i in the first place, so they can't do a good comparison between the 720 lines versus the "540p x 2" that 1080i gives you. If they'd just move up to HDMI (or presumably DVI as well) then they could really see the difference, says the columnist. Then there's a rebuttal to that, saying that many first-generation sets (like the CRT RPTV I have) only had component connectors, so HDMI makes no difference to the quality of picture they can get.
Of course, we pointed out when we covered the Microsoft story that they have a vested interest in making 720p sound as good as possible, given that they are pushing it as the "best" resolution for gaming, and viewed in the light that the PS3 is capable of outputting 1080p (on the HDMI-equipped model). I also believe that when more 1080p content and equipment -- Blu-ray and second-gen HD DVD players, for example -- take full advantage of its capabilities, 720p will look less appealing. Compare the 921,600 pixels of 720p versus the 2,073,600 of 1080p, and you'll see the benefits of the progressive scanning and the increased resolution of 1080 lines, while dropping problems with bob and weave (at least, for natively-progressive content). Then again, if someone smarter than me, like HomeTheaterMag, says it doesn't matter, then what do I know?