Differences Between High Definition Display Modes

Available Resolutions: 480, 720, 1080

If you have been television shopping recently you most likely have noticed 720i, 720p, 1080i or 1080p stamped all over every flat panel television you have looked at.

If you are not tech savvy, this can be extremely confusing. Luckily it is a lot easier to understand than you probably think.

The number indicates the number of horizontal scan lines the TV is capable of producing if the appropriate signal is hooked up. The letter than follows the number, will either be i or p.

Flat Panel TVProgressive Scan or Interlaced?

The i or p indicates whether or not the television set is capable of displaying 720/1080 lines in interlaced mode or progressive scan mode. Progressive scan is better as it can handle all frames simultaneously while an interlaced TV will either use line doubling or some form of processing to combine two frames (each half of the total resolution) to make a single frame. Interlaced video tends to appear much less fluid when compared to a progressive scan image which means sports and movies tend to look much better in progressive scan. Because of this, when viewing an action movie, a 720p picture will actually look better than a 1080i picture.



480i contains 525 lines of vertical resolution although only 480 are actually displayed. When digitally transmitted the horizontal resolution of most 480i televisions tends to be 720 or 704 resulting in 640 horizontal pixels and an aspect ration of 4:3 or VGA mode (640x480).


480p also contains 480 lines of visible vertical resolution and most have 640 lines of horizontal resolution. However the i denotes this TV set can also handle a progressive scan signal which could come from your DVD player. Also, maybe 480p TV's are capable of displaying 864 horizontal pixels allowing some 480p TV's to display a 16:9 aspect ratio. If your 480p television is running at 60 Hz, it is considered to be enhanced definition television (EDTV).


720i does not actually exist. There is no broadcast standard on this earth that permits 720 interlaced lines in a video frame. Whenever somebody refers to 720i they are usually meaning to refer to 720p


720p has a native aspect ratio of 16:9, with 720 lines of vertical resolution and 1280 horizontal pixels resulting in a 1280x720 resolution


1080i is an interlaced format that contains 1080 lines of vertical resolution and a horizontal resolution of 1920 pixels totally over 2.07 million pixels on your screen.


1080p is very similar to 1080i although it supports progressive scan imaging. 1080p is the only video source to be considered full HD or full high definition.


There is one format that is currently higher resolution than 1080p and one that is in the research phase. 2K/4K digital cinema is commercially available and is currently a more advanced picture than 1080p; also, Ultra High Definition which is in the research phase is intended to be a format with a resolution of 7680x4320. UHDTV would effectively contain four times the pixels or resolution of 1080p making the picture unbelievably stunning.