How 1080p content in iTunes compares to Blu-ray

By , Mar 14, 2012

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.

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  • Prathik Nair

    how many people work at apple, i know that even tho they are one of the biggest companies in the world, but they have like 20,000 employees (in the corporation). This is nothing compared to IBM and Microsofts 300,000 people working there

    • http://twitter.com/pokeh123 Shawn Davis

      Just shows you don’t tons of people. Just dedication.

    • http://twitter.com/EmanuelReyes24 Emanuel Reyes 

      Its not quantity its quality, thats why apple is what it is today.

  • http://twitter.com/sivkai Siv

    Great article, very informative for prospective aTV buyers. Too bad I have a Boxee :p

  • Anonymous

    This is industry standard compression that is used on thousands of bluray rips, why make such a pointless post and make out like Apple have somehow improved the quality of rips on iTunes …. They’ve just compressed the raw files, exactly the same as anybody with a bluray movie, bluray writer and some software can do !!!

  • Anonymous
  • http://twitter.com/ldnhal Hal Halvorsen

    on par? really “The BRD retains detail while the iTunes version blows them out” and “But despite an impressive effort by Apple, Blu-ray still reigns king when it comes to image quality”.

    I’ll stick with BRD for now.

  • http://twitter.com/Bu1137 Bu1137

    Sorry this is way off topic. I’m having a soapbox moment. If uninterested, please skip reading.

    It must really suck for writers on this blog to have nearly every single story they write, stolen and re-written without credit being given, by a certain “Red” blog which shall remain nameless. You guys are my favorites – by far. Great job!

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thomas-N-Shanna-Bernauer/100002948594321 Thomas N Shanna Bernauer

      This website does the same thing about 5-6 hrs later. Plz get of your knees and wipe the brown off your nose

      • http://twitter.com/Bu1137 Bu1137

        Not so. Most times the sources are properly credited here. ie: “BGR reports that…”

        It’s not stealing when proper credit is given.

  • http://twitter.com/Beschoenen Kevin Richter

    i cant really see the difference

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/2O7RUNPS7M5I6LV6QK3FREP5E4 James Taylor

      Thats because this guy is displaying a 1920×1080 capture at a extremely low resolution and he is showing a still which makes no sense when comparing videos.
      Basically he is doing a back handed review. He wants people to say “I see no difference”.

      It’s impossible to make a iTunes 5mbps stream as good as a Blu-ray 40mbps stream without losing a lot of detail. Apple needs to step up and provide much higher stream rates.

  • http://localhost/ Trubbel

    Those images are way too small to even be able to compare them. Next.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1541077745 Shalva Yfrimashvili

    Mother of IPAD

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/2O7RUNPS7M5I6LV6QK3FREP5E4 James Taylor

    I am disappointed.

    iTunes still streams video at the very low 5mbps even at 1080p.
    Thats the same as the old 720p stream and far less then the almost 40mpbs Blu-ray stream.
    Come on Apple, either support Blu-ray or stream at least at 25mbps.

    The photos above are mis leading, the resolution is too low to differentiate video at 1080p.
    And it has to be shown as video, not a still pic in order to compare.

    Online streaming is very convenient, but does does not do justice to my high end entertainment system or even my 1080p laptop.

    Fast moving scenes, dark scenes, look blocky.
    The 1080p resolution looks more like 720p.
    There was no trick here. Its just a upscaled 720p video thats also been highly compressed.
    Hence it looks the same as the old 720p movies.

    Why even bother upgrading to Apple TV 3 or iPad 3 if Apple won’t support the high resolution?