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HD Ready vs Full HD TVs: what’s the difference?

The devil’s in the details: here’s everything you need to know about the difference between these two TV formats.

HD Ready vs Full HD

Read any television’s specs, and you’ll find a stream of serial numbers, jargon, acronyms, patented technology names and all sorts of other stuff. Some of it you can ignore; some of it you can’t. And if you’re after an HD television, one thing you definitely need to know is the difference between HD Ready and Full HD TVs.

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This tech has now been around for a while: HD television was first broadcasted in the UK back in 2005, and there are now hundreds of Freeview channels that deliver their content in this format. But what is the difference between HD Ready and Full HD – and which is better?

For a wider list of TV terminology that we’ve decoded, you can read the jargon glossary in our in-depth guide on which TV to buy. Read on for our explainer on the differences between HD Ready and Full HD televisions, followed by our pick of selection that is currently available on the market.

Full HD TV deal: JVC 40-inch LT-CA790 TV Full HD TV | £299.99 £229.99 at Currys (save £70 or 23%)

Currys has this 40-inch television from JVC on sale for almost a 25% less than usual, making it a serious bargain is you’re in search of a Full HD at minimal expense. Cutting-edge the High Definition picture quality may not be, but it’s percectly fine for a TV screen of this size. We particularly like the built-in voice assistant.

What does HD Ready mean?

HD Ready vs Full HD

HD Ready is certainly an unusual turn of phrase – and you’d be forgiven for thinking that any TV marked with the HD Ready logo can play high-definition TV, but you’d be wrong.

HD television measures 1920 by 1080 pixels in resolution, but HD Ready sets only offer 1280 by 720 pixels by comparison. So how are HD Ready televisions set up to play HD content? They do it by using internal processors that downscale the resolution of the image. The resulting picture quality is, admittedly, better than Standard Definition television (a mere 640 by 480 pixels) – but it’s not HD.

If you think this sounds confusing to the point of misleading, then you’re not alone. When HD Ready televisions were launched on the market, many people were underwhelmed by the jump from SD to 720p television and felt hoodwinked by the terminology. The best we can say about HD Ready as a phrase is that it’s less of a mouthful than, say, Almost HD But Not Quite.

Which is better, HD Ready or Full HD?

That’s easy: Full HD is better. In contrast to an HD Ready television, Full HD sets offer the full 1920×1080 resolution of high definition. You’ll often see Full HD sets marked with ‘1080p’ in their specs: this is short for ‘1080 progressive’ and tells you that the set contains an HD tuner, meaning there’s no downscaling (you’ll also hear the term ‘interlacing’) of whatever HD content you’re watching.

The vagaries of HD Ready and Full HD television were once a subject of hot debate – but here’s the thing: by TV industry standards, this is all fairly ancient history. It was way back in 2005 the HD Ready license was granted, and televisions have drastically advanced since then. Just like their SD predecessors, HD Ready sets have been slowly inched out of the market in favour of Full HD television, which themselves have now been almost entirely supplanted by 4K.

For more information on Ultra HD definition television, and how it improves upon standard HD, take a look at our what is a 4K TV explainer.

HD Ready vs Full HD: which should you buy?

Of the two, that’s easy: Full HD. HD Ready televisions were once a sensible option for people who wanted to avoid the high spend of a Full HD TV, but we’re talking about a decade ago. In 2021, you can pick up a Full HD television for less than £200.

There is one exception to this: if you’re looking for a very small TV – around 24- to 32-inches – perhaps for a countertop or another secondary place in your home, and simply wish to part with as little cash as possible, then an HD Ready television will be perfectly fine. We’ve picked out a couple of excellent HD Ready choices on Amazon, both costing less than £200.

The Toshiba, in particular, is a gem because it contains a feature you certainly wouldn’t have got in the heyday of HD Ready television: a built-in voice assistant in the form of Amazon’s Alexa.

Toshiba 24-inch WK3A63DB HD Ready TV with Alexa

Toshiba 24-inch WK3A63DB HD Ready TV

Panasonic 32-inch TX-G302B HD Ready TV

Panasonic 32-inch TX-G302B HD Ready TV

Otherwise, Full HD television should definitely be your go-to, since there’s so little price difference. The LG and Sony sets we’ve listed below are both prime examples of HD TVs you can buy right now.

LG 43 Inch 43LM6300 Smart Full HD HDR LED Freeview TV

LG 43 Inch 43LM6300 Smart Full HD HDR LED Freeview TV

Sony 32-inch KDLWD751BU Full HD TV

Sony KDL 32 inch Full HD TV

But here’s our caveat: if you’re thinking of buying any TV that’s larger than 43 inches in size, we urge you to opt for 4K instead. (Your eyes are unlikely to notice the difference in resolution with any smaller sets.) If you’re unsure what size screen size is best for your viewing space, then read our what size TV should I buy article.

HD television has definitely had its day – but 4K will be the standard TV resolution for the next decade or so. Before you buy your next TV, think in the long term. Choose wisely!

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Searching for a televisual bargain? Don’t miss our pick of this month’s best smart TV deals, or find something to watch tonight with our TV Guide