March 11, 2008 by Dan Fulmer
Q. What is the difference between 720p/1080i and 1080p and how can I evaluate the differences? - Evan, Boston, MA
A. Most people have heard of resolution and number of pixels per inch, etc. This is what the numbers refer to; how many pixels or single (in some cases, multi) colored boxes in a given area (sq in.). The more pixels per inch, the higher or better the picture will look as it will appear smoother, more refined and more complete to our brains. The “i” and “p” refer to the way in which a TV “paints” or refreshes it’s screen. Each time the image changes, the TV needs to repaint it, this is usually done at between 30 and 120 times per second, depending on TV and technogies used. It can do this in 2 methods, one is to repaint every OTHER line on the screen, then repaint the opposing lines. Called “Interlacing”, this is a little more cumbersome and less resolved, making the picture appear not as clean and refined. The better method is called “Progressive scan” and it involves basically repainting every line, every time, leading to a smoother more complete picture in our brains. To sum it up, 1080p provides a better picture than 720p/1080i.
In layman terms, 720p and 1080i are pretty darn close in resolution. 1080i and 1080p are basically what is available in newer TVs at this time. 1080i has been around for several years or longer and there is a ton of content available for it. While 1080p is the newest and best format available, there is still very little content available for it. The average consumer will have a hard time telling the difference between 1080i and 1080p, and it is a little subjective.
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