Q. I am concerned about TVs that are 720 pixels and 1080 pixels. In my opinion 1080 produces the better picture but I find salespeople seem to push the 720 models, stating you can't tell much difference in smaller sets. But I think they are instructed to push the 720 sets because they do not sell as well.
-- E.B., of Fairview Heights
A. In theory, you're absolutely right about the potential difference in picture quality.
A 720p (which stands for 720-progressive) set means your TV is delivering 720 horizontal lines of information from the top to the bottom of your screen. Each line may contain 1,280 dots, so a 720p set gives you a picture with roughly a million "pixels" -- or teensy-tiny "picture elements."
On the other hand, a 1080p has the capability of giving you 1,080 constantly changing lines of information from top to bottom. Multiply that by 1,920 dots in each line, and you could get a picture with more than 2 million pixels. Hey, that's twice as many as a 720p, so obviously it's going to give you a much better picture, right?
Well, not so fast, says Greg Zabawa, a veteran TV salesman at Gil Klein's in Fairview Heights. Depending on your TV viewing habits and the size of the TV, you might throw theory out the window and be perfectly happy with a cheaper 720p. Here's why:
Whether you get your TV signal through cable, satellite or rabbit ears, broadcasters in general are capable of transmitting only 720 lines of information, so it's not even using the full potential of your 1080p set. Even a conventional DVD produces only 720 lines of info. So the potential picture quality will be roughly the same on either set.
Now, if you're a gamer or a fan of Blu-ray, it's a different picture, so to speak. Devices like PlayStation and Xbox and Blu-ray DVDs can produce 1,080 lines of information, so you may notice an appreciable difference, Zabawa said.
One final note: Many channels now do broadcast a 1080i (1080 interlaced) signal. Without getting too technical, suffice it to say that it may produce a somewhat better picture than a 720 but not as good as a true 1080p.
"It's kind of tricking your eye," Zabawa said. "It's still 720, but by interlacing what's already there in a random way, it gives the illusion of a little bit better picture."
So, what's the bottom line if you're buying a TV? These are the points you probably should remember, according to Zabawa and other experts: * If you do a lot of gaming or Blu-ray watching, you'll want the 1080. Otherwise a 720 may do just fine, especially smaller sets -- and you probably won't find large 720p TVs, anyway.
"If you're talking 32 and under, 720 is going to do you just fine," Zabawa said. "You're not going to have a noticeable difference."
* Some even say you may not notice a huge difference unless you sit relatively close to a really large set playing Blu-ray, because the extra pixels produce a denser, richer picture.
"We believe a 1080p image has to be at least 5 feet wide and viewed from about 1.4 times the picture width before you can begin to appreciate what is in a high-quality 1080p image," says Joseph Kane, founder of JKP Productions in Valley Village, Calif.
* Finally, remember picture quality may differ from set to set depending on their signal processors. In the end, it should come down to which picture looks the best to you, not some highfalutin spec you can brag about to your brother-in-law.
You could even save a few bucks in the process.
Q. What's the connection between WIBV-FM 102.1 and our old WIBV (1260-AM) in Belleville? They say the station has been a Southern Illinois icon since 1947.
-- Don Kaiser
A. Other than the familiar call letters, there's no connection I know.
If you grew up when I did, you know that the station that brought you years of such familiar voices as Moe Harvey, Norm Greenberg, Otto Schultz and Joe May along with wall-to-wall high school sports, was eventually sold to Radio Disney. It eventually quietly retired the WIBV call letters to become WSDZ in 1998.
Later, Stratemeyer Media, a Metropolis-based company that owns six radio stations, picked up WIBV for its country station, which has its main studio near Richview. But other than trying to conjure up good memories, there's no direct link.
Does alcohol really disappear in cooking?
Answer to Tuesday's trivia: Created by psychologist-writer William Mouton Marston, Wonder Woman made her debut in All Star Comics No. 8 in December 1941. But years before that, Marston and his wife developed a blood-pressure exam, which is now part of the lie-detector test.
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or firstname.lastname@example.org