After a long battle I finally got my first look at ESPN HD on our newly installed Airtel DTH HD. We have a Samsung Series 5 40" LCD (LA40C550) which is a full HD capable one. I have already played HD content like Avatar trailer, "Waka Waka" and so on. Of course I was not expecting Avatar picture quality on ESPN HD. But it seemed more compressed than I expected. The obvious things you will notice once you switch to ESPN HD is the aspect ratio. If you have an HD TV and are stretching the Standard 4:3 feed into 16:9, you get used to the stretching. But once you watch full HD resolution (1920x1080) you realize all of a sudden that humans are not that fat.
To compare the two side by side I would need two setups, which I do not have. So I tried to concentrate on the match and not the channel logo on top, to see if I could see a lot of difference between the two feeds. To be honest the difference was there, but not on the face. Even though HD was still HD in resolution, the bitrate I am sure is much lower than any HD content on disc. So that brought in similar blotchy-ness in the content as SD format, but much, much less. Yes you could see the players with much more clarity, and the overflowing color patches that are common when you view the field from distance was not present as much. Overall its a good view. I could not test surround audio since we do not yet have a 5.1 setup on our main A/V receiver.
So final verdict? Well I will say, unless you are crazy about pixels, you can wait for the prices to go down, or maybe HD becoming the "standard" equipment in DTH.