I just read the The case against 1080p article on cnet by David Carnoy. I think the article offers pretty decent commentary on side-by-side viewing comparisons of 720p and 1080p flat panels. However, the article states that it “isn’t the most scientific test” and that “At larger screen sizes, the differences might become somewhat more apparent, especially if you sit close to the screen.” Kudos to the author for pointing these out; I’ve addressed these issues in this post, which explains when and why 1080p (and 1440p) are important.
I’m particularly impressed that the cnet article references the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF), stating the the most important aspects of picture quality are (in order): 1) contrast ratio, 2) color saturation, 3) color accuracy, 4) resolution. The first three factors are definitely more important but also significantly more difficult to quantify, so resolution gets all the marketing attention (just like digital cameras and mega-pixels).
The one major cnet oversight was to compare a 42″ 1024×768 Plasma to a 47″ 1920×1080 LCD flat panel. No matter how hard you try to look only at sharpness/resolution, it is difficult for the differences between Plasma and LCD technology not to have an impact (Plasma is generally superior in areas of contrast ratio, color saturation, and color accuracy). Because the screen sizes are different, it is not an accurate comparison if they are viewed from the same distance (which they may or may not have been). I would much rather see a comparison between a 50″ 1365×768 Pioneer Plasma and a 50″ 1920×1080 Pioneer Plasma.
So, while I disagree with the statement that 1080p isn’t important, I do agree that the average consumer is not likely to notice the difference. But if you are into home theater and have a room setup for optimal viewing, you will definitely benefit from the increased resolution.