Should I pay for HD or standard resolution?

Or “What is the difference between these formats?”

post it grid

My uncle used to talk about having an eight track player in his old van and how he would listen to some band I can’t remember the name of over and over. I was too young for that, but I remember when cars used to just have cassette players. Then they had CD players. Now they have connections for an MP3 player or bluetooth. The same procession of technology is happening with video displays and ever increasing quality.

When people use terms like standard resolution, HD, or 4k UHD they’re talking about the number of pixels in an image. A pixel is a single dot of color. Imagine if someone gave you a bunch of colored post-it notes and said “Arrange 25 of these to make a face”. It would look pretty crude. If they said “Arrange 100 of these to make a face” you could include a lot more detail. More pixels results in more detail. So when you’re planning meetings & events what are your options and how do you weigh value versus cost?


The industry is rapidly changing, but at the time of this writing many rental projectors still have a native resolution of 1024×768 pixels. This is a standard called XGA.

More recent projectors can come in higher resolutions like 720p (1,280×720 pixels) or 1080p (1,920×1,080 pixels). When someone talks about “HD” or high definition they could be referring to either of these.

The most important thing to determine what resolution you need is the source material. If you’re just showing a powerpoint with some funny video clips I wouldn’t worry about the difference between standard resolution and HD. It’s possible to get by showing higher resolution images on these projectors by “scaling” the image, which shrinks it and removes some detail. It’s typically not enough of a difference for attendees to notice or care.

On the other hand if you’re doing a high profile event with video materials in HD it makes sense to spend more for a better quality image. Some examples might be previewing a movie trailer, product releases for tech companies, or any highly image conscious organization.

My company recently did an event with “4k” resolution projectors, which were 3,840 x 2,160 pixels. (Also called 4k UHD or 2160p) The client spent a huge premium to play a video that was less than 10 minutes. But it was important to position themselves as a leader in the field as well as demonstrate technical capabilities on their side.

Resolution comparison

Monitors (ie. TVs)

Consumer electronics have been moving faster in upgrading to higher resolutions than the professional audio visual industry. Any LED or plasma monitor you’re renting will be at least 720p if not higher. As a result when planning an event which calls for a high definition image in the 32″-80″ size range you may find it easier / more cost effective to get HD monitors than HD projectors. Plus they take less room in your event space.

I mentioned “4k” resolution, which is the next big thing. If you have videos or other material that requires this level of resolution my comment about monitors being more cost effective than projectors also applies, although at the time of this writing it’s still fairly costly.

Have a question? Click here to ask!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *