TV output quality
Ask iLounge offers readers the opportunity to get answers to their iPod-, iPhone-, iPad-, iTunes-, or Apple TV-related questions from a member of the iLounge editorial team. We'll answer several questions here each week, and of course, you can always get help with more immediate concerns from the iLounge Discussion Forums. Submit your questions for consideration using our Ask iLounge Submit Form. We reserve the right to edit questions for grammar, spelling, and length.
Q: I’ve read everything iLounge has written about the differences in how Apple TV, the iPod classics, the 3G iPod nano, the iPhone, the iPod touch, and the 5th gen iPod handle video out. Because all that information is spread among many different articles, how-tos, and Ask iLounge Columns, I was wondering if you could bottom-line it for me. My question is what the different devices are capable of sending to a TV as compared to HD and DVD. Please don’t use words like 420i, 1080p or whatever. No one cares about those tech-speak numbers.
It is my understanding that the 5th gen iPod is capable of sending sub-DVD quality images to a TV and the Apple TV is capable of sending better-than-DVD quality images to the DVD – but not as good as HD. And the rest of the iPod family is somewhere in between. Are any of the iPods capable of sending DVD-quality images to a TV, given the right hook-up and without an upconverter?
A: With the release of the enhanced fifth-generation iPod in 2006, it was considered by many as a “near-DVD quality” solution. Of course, how “near” is largely dependent upon your source format, and more importantly the aspect ratio of that material (ie, whether it’s in a standard TV format or a widescreen format).
It’s impossible to accurately describe these differences without getting into a bit of tech-speak, but to keep it fairly simple, the idea behind “480p/480i” is simply indicative of what a normal standard NTSC television can output, and represents 480 “lines” of resolution. This corresponds directly to the “640 x 480” resolution of the iPod itself (note the “480” in the second part of the number).
The problem is that 640 x 480 is the resolution only of standard television content (basically what you see on standard broadcast television channels). Most DVDs for movies and even newer TV shows use a widescreen format that is actually 854 x 480 when played from a normal DVD player. You still get 480 lines, but the width is much greater.
This is where the iPod falls short, since it cannot support that full width. As a result, it has to scale down the image, and you end up with less than 480 lines of resolution. The causes the image to look a bit “fuzzier” on a normal TV if you’re watching widescreen content from your iPod (the actual resolutions end up being 640x352 or 720x404, depending upon the model of iPod and software used to encode the video).
The Apple TV, on the other hand does support High-Definition formats, but only in the lower “720p” (720 lines) standard that is common to some broadcast television channels. HD-DVD and Blu-Ray use a “1080p” (1080 lines) resolution, so the Apple TV does fall short of what you can get from a High-Definition DVD, but not necessarily short of what you would get from a broadcast HDTV source. Note that presently the only way to get High-Definition content onto the Apple TV is to encode it yourself, or subscribe to some of the few podcasts that are encoded in HD resolutions. The iTunes Store does not presently sell any movies in any resolution higher than that supported by the iPod.
So can the iPod actually output “true” DVD quality? That’s largely dependent upon your definition of the term, since you’re talking about video in a completely different format, so the conversion process from DVD itself is going to be a factor in the overall output quality. It is safe to say, however, that with standard-format TV content, you can encode videos that should be indistinguishable from the original DVD. Widescreen content will suffer slightly due to the decreased vertical resolution, but for most people the difference will not be significant enough to be noticeable on all but the largest TV screens.
Note that there are advanced methods for encoding widescreen content to take full advantage of the full DVD resolution, but these are not supported by most video encoding applications as a standard setting, and is beyond the scope of this particular discussion.
It should also be noted that the new 2007 iPod models now have a component output accessory available for them. This will produce a slightly better quality picture on most TVs that support component input. Further, among the 2007 iPod models, the iPod classic and iPod nano offer slightly better quality video output than the iPod touch or iPhone, even with the same cable, since they support non-interlaced output.
So, the 2007 iPod models are capable of sending DVD quality output of standard TV content, and slightly below DVD quality for widescreen DVD content (how much below being entirely dependent upon how you’re encoding your videos). The Apple TV can display full quality output for DVD and most broadcast HDTV content, but falls short of the Blu-Ray and HD-DVD specifications (although it should be noted that the present difficulty in extracting and converting content from HD-DVD and Blu-Ray discs to any other format makes this a minor issue at this point, however).
Our Guide to iPod, Apple TV and iPhone Video Formats is our most comprehensive source of the more technical details of this.
- Will removing a credit card from Safari also remove it from Apple Pay?
- Can I mute Handoff calls coming into my Mac from my iPhone?
- How do I keep my iPhone calls from ringing on my Mac?
- Why doesn’t Traffic show up on my Today Notifications Screen?
- Why doesn’t my iPhone reconnect to Wi-Fi after I turn it on?
- Why can’t I see the iPad-style landscape view on my iPhone 6 Plus?
- Spotify penalizing artists who release Apple Music exclusives
- Apple releases new round of iOS 10 and tvOS 10 betas
- Report: 2017 iPhone to eliminate home button
- Apple to add payment technology to iPhone for transit passes, Apple Pay in Japan
- Apple releases iOS 9.3.5 ‘security update’
- Report: Apple developing its own Snapchat-style social video editing iOS app
- Apple announces Apple Music Festival lineup including Alicia Keys, Britney Spears + more
- Universal calls an end to exclusives amid criticisms that Apple Music is hurting the industry
- Apple reveals some of its upcoming AI advancements for the iPhone
- Apple Music’s royalty rates complicate Spotify’s contract negotiations
- Western Digital My Cloud (OS 3)
- Distil Union Stanley Stand
- Philips Sonicare FlexCare Platinum Connected Bluetooth Toothbrush
- Audeze EL-8 Titanium Over-Ear Headphones
- Defined Corp Dome Stand for Apple Watch and iPhone
- Speck StyleFolio Pencil for 9.7” iPad Pro
- Audeze Sine On-Ear Headphone
- First Alert Onelink Wi-Fi Smoke + Carbon Monoxide Alarm
- Logitech Create 9.7” iPad Pro Keyboard Case
- iDevices Outdoor Switch Power Outlet
- Inside the betas: iOS 10 Photos gets Advanced Computer Vision
- Inside the betas: iOS 10 Music app delivers ‘clarity and simplicity’
- Inside the betas: iOS 10 Maps gets a major redesign
- Inside the betas: iOS 10 shakes up the user experience
- Inside the betas: watchOS 3 promises a real speed boost
- Inside the betas: A sneak peek at what’s new in tvOS 10
- Filling the Gap: A look at third-party HomeKit apps
- Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of tvOS 9.2
- Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 9.3
- Opinion: Why Apple needs a dedicated HomeKit app