What’s the difference between 720p vs 1080i vs 1080p?

720p 1080i 1080p Difference
While you’ve been shopping around for computer monitors and televisions you may have come across the references to the resolution of such as in 720p or 1080i or even 1080p. Well it’s important to know the difference because the differences are just astounding.

Example of Well Known 1080P (aka. “Full HD”) HDTV Brands and Models
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Image Quality Difference Between 720p and 1080p

Figure 1 : Difference in Image Quality Between 720P (Right) and 1080P (Left).

That crisp picture, that stunning visual you see on some HD monitors and HD televisions or even at the movies is basically the resolution of a camera’s reproduction or a display device’s display. Let’s take a look at what each means and what they provide.

Pixel Numbers Between 720P 1080i 1080P

Figure 2 : Difference in Pixel Numbers Between 720P / 1080i / 1080P including 480i

1080p with the “p” standing for “progressive” is the 800lb gorilla in this scenario as it provides the most vibrant of resolution displays. Everyone wants it and it’s now found in the most advanced displays and cameras. There’s no mistaking 1080p, once you’ve seen it in action you will marvel at how it captures every color, every detail. It calls for a powerful graphics card and input compatibility though and it’s been quite a challenge to get that input optimization. It’s wise to check with the testing of each and every manufacturer to make sure they’re up to specs on utilizing 1080p.

1080i stands for “interlaced”. It’s the way that the old school CRT or cathode-ray tubes used to present an image. There would be lines of scanning that shift back and forth to give the impression of a single image. However, as time and technologies improved the progressive images send more data in a single pass which is easier on the eyeballs.

Difference Between Progressive Scan and Interlace

Figure 3 : Difference Between Progressive Scan (P) and Interlace Scan (i)

So in effect 1080p and 720p do look somewhat the same, however, the 1080p is far more stunning an image and more 1080p content is being produced each day. If you look at 1080i vs 720p you might not notice that much of a difference but sharper eyes can see it. Take a look at some website comparisons to get the full impact of each technology. The real test between 720p, 1080i, and 1080p HDTV comes when you look at your favorite movies, TV shows and cartoons in the different resolutions. It’s amazing to look at some great movie of the past to see it in new detail and vibrancy. Sometimes the special effects don’t always stand up to the scrutiny though. Yes, you will see some wires!

Don’t get fooled however as to save on mental strain, any resolutions below 1080p are usually referred to as 720p and that includes resolutions such as 1,366×768 to 1,024×768 and more. That’s why some people can’t tell the difference between some 720p displays and 1080p. Also some people can’t tell which is better between 1080p, 1080i, and 720p HDTV.

Frame Rates Difference Between 720P 1080i 1080P

Figure 4 : Difference in Frame Rates Between 720P / 1080i / 1080P

Viewing Distance Difference Between 720P 1080i 1080P

Figure 5 : Difference in Viewing Distance Between 720P / 1080i / 1080P

Now one of the big factors regarding all three formats is the price. Yes 1080p HDTV is more expensive and for good reason. When a broadcast or movie is in 1080p a 1080p display captures all of it. Nowadays with the high end cameras and constant push for better quality especially in the massive video game industry the need for 1080p is going to continue to grow.

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