Monitors/When can I see a difference between 720p and 1080p
Hi! I currently own a 7 year old HD Ready 720p tv that is 32 inches. I am in the process of deciding on which video game console should I get, The Xbox One or the PS4. On some occasions the Xbox One can only show 720p whereas the PS4 is capable of 1080p. So when I move to my own apartment in the coming years and when I have to buy a new TV it is going to be around the same size and I was wondering if you could assist me in this. My distance to the TV will likely be between 1 and 5 meters when playing a game. So do you think that will I see a difference between 720p and 1080p or not. I know this must be a question you're not used to answer but please give me an answer based on your intuition.
In general I would say "never" or "almost never" - when dealing with film/multimedia content you generally will not notice a difference between display resolution unless there is a massive mismatch between the content and the display itself (for example playing VHS back on a QHD (2560x1440) display) where artefacts are introduced by the up-scaling process. This is becoming less and less of an issue with the increasing popularity of higher-than-1080p resolutions for computer monitors and TVs.
At further distances it becomes generally harder to tell differences between display resolutions with any content, assuming the display size is constant. As display size changes relative to resolution, you change the display's density, which can influence how "sharp" it appears - the higher the density the closer you can comfortably sit to the display and still have a clear picture (for example this is why many mobile phones have VERY high density displays, even if the overall resolution is fairly low, yet large "jumbotron" type displays at arenas are usually fairly low resolution, yet still appear very sharp at a few hundred meters). This "sharpness" is more noticeable with text or photographic content (so-called "static content" - that which does not move) when the display is viewed up-close. If you intended to use the TV as a computer monitor when you weren't gaming, I would suggest going with a higher resolution (or physically smaller) TV depending on how close you wanted to sit (this applies inversely too - if you want to sit 5 meters back and browse the web, going with the 720p 32" TV is probably a better choice; same idea as the jumbotron).
With a 32" TV at 1-5 meters running movies or videogames you will be hard pressed to pick between 720p and 1080p, and keep in mind that the system that can run at 1080p can also run at 720p (to natively match the lower resolution display - if the system cannot "Scale down" internally for whatever reason, the TV's video processor will handle that step), while the system running at 720p will require its output scaled-up to 1080p (in general this is not problematic, but with a very old or very cheap TV (yes, the worst case is a very old AND very cheap TV) it may introduce some slight visual artefacts or input latency (this will be perceived as the controls feeling "sluggish" or "weighted")). With a fairly standard TV you should have absolutely no problems either way - video scaling has come a long way in the last few years, and most TVs do it without much fuss.
I would probably look at additional criteria between the two consoles in making this decision as well - for example supported software titles, and additional features (for example is there some killer app that PlayStation supports and Xbox lacks, or vice versa?). If the previous generation of hardware is anything to go on, the most popular titles (for example The Elder Scrolls) will be released cross-platform, but other titles may only appear on one console or the other (for example Halo is exclusive to Xbox).
Finally, I would suggest waiting to purchase a new console if you can - the prices will eventually come down on the hardware, so unless you need the hardware immediately, the cost-savings are worth the wait in my opinion.
If you have further questions or need clarification, feel free to post a follow-up.