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Resolution part 1: i vs. p what does it mean?

Resolution part 1: i vs. p what does it mean?
Doug Kasper - Fri Apr 10, 2009 @ 07:21AM
Comments: 418

Have you ever heard you neighbor say I got a 1080 HDTV?

What does that mean? The 1080 they are referring to has to do with the resolution, but is it 1080i or 1080p there is a big difference. We have found that many people do not really understand whatresolution is and what the letters i and p mean.

What is Resolution?

Resolution is a measurement of how many pixels are used to make up the picture on your TV. Usually this is listed as a number followed by the letter i or p. The number stands for the number of  lines on a television screen from top to bottom. The letter i stands for interlaced and p stands for progressive. One way to visualize what interlaced means is to put your hands together in front of you with your fingers from each hand alternating.  This represents the picture you see on the television screen.  If you take one hand away and then when you bring that hand back in you remove the other hand and continue alternating you are mimicking what happens while watching a show that is interlaced. Obviously it is happening very fast and it is not something you usually notice.  So with an interlaced picture you have odd and even lines alternating which ones are displaying on your screen. For example if you are watching a picture with 1080i you are watching something with 540 lines on the screen at one time.

Interlaced vs. Progressive:

Progressive or p means that one line is progressively scanned on to the television at one time.  Thus back to our fingers demonstration you would only remove one finger at a time and then replace it while removing the next adjacent finger and so on down the line until you start over again.   So as you may be starting to realize you if you are watching something in 720p you are watching a picture with 720 lines on it at one time, where 1080i is only giving you 540 lines at one time.         

So does this make sense to you?  What this means is that 1080i actually is a lower resolution than 720p. We have been watching interlaced television all of our lives.  Standard definition television is 480 lines interlaced.  This is difference between interlaced and progressive is becoming more apparent because our televisions now have ability to display higher resolutions.

In order for anything to be considered high definition it must be 720p or 1080i. 

This obviously is a very simple representation as to the difference between interlaced and progressive, but it seems to be a way that most people can actually start to understand what the difference is.  We will go into more depth and what the difference means to you as a viewer next.    

Here is a list of some common resolutions:

  • 480i Standard Definition old analog television still found from service providers
  • 480p Enhanced Definition found on DVD
  • 720p High Definition found from over the air and service providers
  • 1080i High Definition found from over the air and service providers
  • 1080p High Definition found only in Blu-ray and Movie Downloads


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