Despite the large different in file sizes, 1080p content from iTunes held up surprisingly well against video from a Blu-ray disc in a recent comparison by ArsTechnica.

Last week, the site found that new, full high-definition video from iTunes does look better than its 720p counterpart, without a huge increase in file size. And to take the comparison one step further, an iTunes 1080p file was compared to a Blu-ray version of the same movie – horror flick “30 Days of Night.”

The iTunes file, even though it just weighed in at 3.62GB, held up well with the Blu-ray disc video, with some notable exceptions.

Because of hardware and DRM issues, photos of the screen were compared instead of screenshots. The same screen, a Dell high-resolution monitor, was used to view the download and disc.

With the movie titles, the iTunes version was nearly indistinguishable compared to the Blu-ray version, as seen in this comparison shot by ArsTechnica. The iTunes version is on the top and the Blu-ray image is on the bottom:

Also, the iTunes version of an early scene in the movie on an ice-filled ocean nearly matched the detail level of the disc. Color reproduction was also nearly identical, as seen in the top picture. The iTunes version is on the left.

But, in other movie scenes, the 1080p version from iTunes suffered issues in highlights and with noise from image compression.

So, despite some strong moments in the downloadable version of the video, the site said iTunes isn’t completely up to the image quality found on Blu-ray.

I was surprised to see how close the iTunes 1080p download comes to Blu-ray, considering that it’s only a fraction of the file size. And let’s be honest: there are lots of Blu-ray titles that look much worse than this iTunes download. But despite an impressive effort by Apple, Blu-ray still reigns king when it comes to image quality. And unlike iTunes titles, BRDs can have uncompressed multi-channel audio, multiple audio language options, and special features.

With the iTunes 1080p version holding up well with the Blu-ray version, are we finally closer to leaving the disc behind in favor of a download-only entertainment future? Or, are you still a fan of Blu-ray disc image quality?

(Images via ArsTechnica)