When buying and downloading HD movies from iTunes, frequently, you can notice iTunes HD movies or TV shows provide two versions, 720p and 1080p, and the two versions are available to download. In this case, how to choose between them for offline viewing? Is higher resolution always delivering better quality? Is 1080p movie really suitable for your devices?

Before you decide which to download, you may take some time to figure out the difference between 1080p and 720p. Then we write this article to thoroughly compare the 720p and 1080p iTunes movies and help you make a judicious selection. You can also know how to switch download 1080p HD movies from iTunes. Read on this article and it may clear up your confusion.


Part 1. iTunes 720p vs 1080p: Differences and Comparison

What does 720p mean?

720p is short for 1280 pixels x 720 pixels resolution. That said, it has 720 horizontal lines of 1280 pixels, and multiple the two numbers for a total of 921,600 pixels. 720p is usually known as HD or "HD Ready". This resolution is also the minimal requirement for HD.

What does 1080p mean?

1080p, also referred to as Full HD, has a resolution of 1920 pixels x 1080 pixels. In other words, it has 2,073,600 pixels from its 1080 horizontal lines of 1920 pixels – more than twice as many pixels as you'll find in a 720p video content. 1080p has been a popular HD resolution for a while now.

Picture Quality: Bigger is Better

720p (HD)

1080p (Full HD)

1280 x 720

1920 x 1080

Pixels play an important role in image quality. This is because clarity, color, and detail are all stored in those mini pixels. The presence of more pixels used for image info makes the image quality much sharper, brighter, and smoother. And theoretically, 1080p resolution displays more detailed and better image quality than 720p.

However, despite the video content resolution, your screen size and seating distance are also important factors that can influence your viewing experience when watching 720p or 1080p movies. We'll talk about that later.

iTunes Movies 720p vs 1080p Picture Quality

File Size: 1080p Takes More Space Than 720p

720p (HD)

1080p (Full HD)

Around 5GB (for a 140 min movie)

Around 6.5GB (for a 140 min movie)

When it comes to file size, a 1080p movie download can be roughly 30% larger than the 720p one. And the file size is related to storage. Clearly, a bigger file size requires more storage of your computer or devices. Therefore, file size and storage space should be taken into consideration when you are hesitating about which one to download.

Compatibility: 720p > 1080p

Generally speaking, 720p video content enjoys better compatibility than 1080p. When it comes to smaller screens especially, 720p performs just as well as 1080p. But as loads of brand-new smartphones connect a decent display that supports 1080p, 2K, and even 4K Ultra HD, it is a good idea to go with 1080p instead of 720p if you prefer watching movies on your smartphones.

But if you are inclined to watch iTunes movies on your PCs, 720p should be an optimal choice. Just check if your computer is able to play 1080p videos before you download it.

Part 2. iTunes 720p vs 1080p Movies: Pros and Cons

Now that you may know the differences between iTunes 720p and 1080p videos, you may still wonder which is better for you. Therefore, we've compiled a pros and cons chart between the two resolutions.


  • 720p takes up less storage space.

  • 720p is supported by much hardware.

  • 720p requires less CPU power to decode.

  • 720p requires buffers less than 1080p does when streaming in iTunes or Apple TV app.

  • Cons

  • 720p is lower resolution than 1080p.

  • 1080p has bigger pixel density that allows the video content to present superb details.

  • 1080p iTunes movie will look crisper and sharper than the 720p video on a 720p display.

Part 3. iTunes 720p vs 1080p Movies: Which Should I Download?

Will I be able to see the difference between 720p and 1080p video quality?

Video quality is one of the major concerns for most people when downloading an iTunes HD movie. Many people value video resolution and believe that 1080p videos always deliver better video quality. But the truth is a bit different. 1080p is not necessarily always better than 720p. Apart from resolution, videos have certain parameters such as bit rate, quality ratio, and format encoder or container used to determine its quality.

It is also needed to be mentioned that all the movies you can buy for download from the iTunes Store are compressed to save space. Therefore, any of the parameters altered during the video compression process may cause data loss. Some of this loss is visible when watching on a large screen, otherwise, the picture quality loss is unnoticeable. For instance, if you play a movie on a laptop-sized screen, the difference between 720p and 1080p is too small for most people to perceive. But if playing the same videos on a large-screen 4K TV set, the difference becomes much more obvious.

Your seating distance and the resolving power of your eyes help you distinguish the difference to a certain extent as well. If close, yes, you'll probably notice the difference, but from farther away, perhaps you won't be able to tell.

iTunes 720p vs 1080p Differences

To simply conclude, the difference between 720p and 1080p is not really big. The bigger screen in which you play the videos may display better video quality. As a result, you can spot the difference between two resolutions on this big screen. Still, it will be a smart choice to download a 720p video if you watch on an average display, as the difference in video quality will be negligible and you will save more storage space.

How to Always Download Movies in 1080p HD Quality From iTunes?

You may encounter a situation that you've already upgraded to a 1080p-supported device and want to buy and download a 1080p movie for a later view from iTunes, but you get a 720p content. The reason is that movies downloaded from iTunes are set at a resolution of 1080p by default. Therefore, to get a 1080p movie and not ending up with a 720p, you need to change some settings.

STEP 1. Open iTunes.

Mac users: select iTunes > Preferences.

Windows users: select Edit > Preferences.

Select Edit and Preferences

STEP 2. In the Preferences window, click on the Downloads tab.

STEP 3. Now you should have the Download full-size HD videos checkbox ticked, and then click OK to save changes. iTunes is set to download 1080p content whenever possible.

Choose Download full-size Videos


Not all content in the iTunes Store is available in the 1080p format. Just beneath the Download full-sized HD videos option is a note that says the program will prefer 1080p over 720p. With that setting, you'll get 1080p HD content whenever it's available. If it's not, you'll get 720p.

iTunes may also send an alert informing that your computer may not be able to play 1080p videos, but you can still download these videos for use on other devices.

Besides, if you previously set your computer to download lower-quality videos, switching Download full-size HD videos will not automatically update all your 720p files to 1080p. So, you should manually delete and re-download the 1080p version.

How to Always Download 720p iTunes Video?

When you set to download iTunes HD movies instead of SD movies, iTunes will automatically offer the 720p version to download. Normally, you don't have to change any settings if you want to download 720p iTunes movies.


Perhaps you want to keep your purchased movies or TV shows playable outside iTunes, such as on your TV, tablets, and other devices. And we suggest you should convert iTunes movies to a common format such as MP4. Then you can try TuneFab M4V Converter! It helps covert your iTunes 1080p/720p videos to MP4 with their original quality at 30X faster conversion speed.

TuneFab M4V Converter


The difference between 720p and 1080p is not that visually drastic. Resolution is just one aspect that may affect your viewing experience. Screen size and viewing distance are also factors that enable you not to negate the difference but perceive the details.

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