Home » Blog » Buying Guides » What's the Difference Between 1080p, 1080i, 720p and Other Resolutions?
August 20th, 2007
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1080p seems to be all the buzz in the electronics world today. I know that you've heard the term before in commercials for High Def TV's, Blu-Ray Disc Players or from the "all knowing" salesmen in the electronics isle of a department store. It is true, 1080p resolution will give the highest picture quality possible. However you have to have equipment that can support it, and at the moment there isn't a whole lot that can. The average consumer has absolutely no idea what resolution will even do for them and will probably end up getting provoked into buying something that will do them no good. I'm not saying that manufacturers or service providers are trying to swindle you, just that the average consumer's lack of knowledge may lead them to making the wrong decision when buying TV equipment. I'll give you a quick scenario of what happens to many un-informed consumers. Lets say you see a commercial for a Blu-Ray Disc Player that offers movies in 1080p Full HD resolution. You think that sounds good and buy one immediately. You get it hooked up and turn on a movie to test your new investment but you notice that it doesn't look much different than before. Did the manufacturer lie to you? No, the reason it probably doesn't look any different is that your TV might accept the 1080p resolution but won't play the movie in full 1080p because the TV isn't capable of doing so. To avoid this kind of mishap, you need to first know what the number and letter mean in 1080p. The number 1080 refers to the number of horizontal lines used by a TV to produce an image on the screen also known as resolution. As of right now there are two different kinds of resolution Interlaced (i) and Progressive (p):
  • Interlaced Resolution- a method of scanning vertical lines onto a TV picture by scanning the odd lines first and then scanning the even lines to create a uniform picture.
  • Progressive Resolution- a method of scanning vertical lines onto a TV picture by scanning the lines in one consecutive pass allowing for a sharper picture. Flat Panel and most Digital Projection televisions use Progressive Resolution.
So 1080p means 1080 lines of progressive video rendering. Now that you have a better understanding of how to read resolution, here's how you can apply it to find out what definition you are actually watching. There are four different levels of definition right now.
  • Standard Definition (480i). Standard Definition is what you would see on Digital Cable with a basic connection.
  • Enhanced Definition (480p), an example of Enhanced Definition would be a DVD playing on your typical DVD player, slightly better quality than standard but still not high definition.
  • High Definition (720p-1080i) - High definition produces a much better picture because of the large number of lines it is able to produce. This allows for images on the screen to have much greater detail.
  • Full HD (1080p) -The fourth level of definition and the highest available, found only on Blu-Ray Disc and HD DVD players.
1080p produces one incredible picture, but you need to have the right equipment to see it. Also keep in mind that just because you have a 1080p capable TV, that doesn't mean you're going to be seeing a 1080p picture every time you watch TV. There is nothing wrong with 720p and 1080i High Definition they both produce a terrific picture. To be completely honest it will be hard for most people to even tell the difference between High Def and Full HD. So before you go out and make a big purchase to improve the resolution of your TV whether it be to High Definition or Full HD, make sure your equipment is compatible. The TV's that have come out in the last year or so can accept 1080p but only a select few will actually play it. To take advantage of High Definition Television you need three things.
  1. An HD Display (Plasma, LCD TV)
  2. An HD Source ( HDTV Tuner, HD Satellite, HD Cable Box, Blu-Ray, HD DVD Player)
  3. Proper Cables (HDMI, Component Video)
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