720p Vs. 1080i: Which Is Better for Television Viewing?

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When you buy a high-definition television, many factors can influence your purchase. Many consumers are wowed by bigger screens and fancier features. But the best choice may come down to your viewing habits and which resolution format best suits those habits. Typically, your choice will be between the 720p format and the 1080i format.

What is 1080i?

  • In high-definition televisions, the term 1080i denotes a specific class of picture resolution and display technologies. The number "1080" denotes the resolution of the picture displayed by the television, in this case 1,920 by 1,080 pixels. The letter denotes the type of scan the television uses to produce images. In this case, the "i" stands for "interlaced scan." Interlaced scanning produces images by alternating the two sets of pixels on the screen.

What is 720p?

  • Like 1080i, 720p is a classification of high-definition resolution and display technology. Unlike 1080i, 720p encompasses three levels of resolution: 1,366 by 768 pixels, 1,280 by 720 pixels and 1,024 by 768 pixels. Any television with these resolutions is considered a 720p television. The "p" in this classification refers to "progressive" scanning. Unlike interlaced scanning, progressive scanning displays each frame of a show or movie individually, then displays the next one instead of transitioning between the two.

Which is Better?

  • Each type of resolution and scanning technology presents its own benefits. While 720p has a lower resolution than 1080i, it is better suited for certain types of broadcasts. Because of the progressive scanning technology, 720p presents smoother displays and transitions between frames when the show or movie contains a lot of motion. According to "PC World" magazine, major networks that show sports often opt for 720p, as it better displays fast-moving sporting events. But when it comes to media that features little high-speed movement from frame to frame, 1080i can display more detailed images.

Other Options

  • There is one other resolution format that combines the benefits of 720p and 1080i. This format is called 1080p. As its name suggests, 1080p combines the higher resolution of 1080i with the scanning technology of 720p. However, 1080p has a limited distribution. High-definition broadcasts are typically either 720p or 1080i, with little chance of that changing. However, high-end video games and movie technologies such as Blu-ray discs may support this enhanced resolution format.

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