iTunes 1080p movie on the left, Blu-ray movie on the right

The new iPad and the new Apple TV have one thing in common — full HD video. Both products recently received significant hardware upgrades to allow them to playback 1080p content. Heck, the new iPad can even capture its own hi-def videos.

But is full HD video really worth the upgrade? Ars Technica published a report this morning aiming to answer that very question. The site takes a look at the difference between iTunes files encoded in 720p and 1080p. And 1080p versus Blu-ray…

The first thing you have to understand is that 1080p video files in iTunes aren’t equal to 1080p Blu-ray files. Users download iTunes content over the internet, and sometimes even stream it. So iTunes files are compressed quite a bit to keep them a reasonable size.

Fun fact: 1080p iTunes files are only slightly larger than 720p files, and are a fraction the size of Blu-ray movies.

iTunes 1080p movie on the left, Blu-ray movie on the right

As expected, the compressed 1080p movies in iTunes are significantly sharper than their 720p counterparts. But surprisingly, they’re also on par with Blu-ray movies, as far as video quality goes. That’s pretty impressive given the difference in their file sizes.

The bottom line here is, if you upgrade to the new Apple TV or iPad hoping for better video quality, you won’t be disappointed.