1080i Vs. p: Which is Better?

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1080i Vs. p: Which is Better?

In case you are clueless about which among 1080i or 1080p is better, this article will help you decide. Here we ‘resolve’ the mystery entirely.

The ‘Resolution’ is one of the most defining features of a television set, primarily taken into consideration while making a purchase. It specifies the picture quality, clarity and degree of detailing that you can expect in the displayed picture. The next most important factor considered is the scanning technique used. While resolution decides the number of displayed pixels, the scanning technique decides in what manner the pixels are rendered. The two prime video mode choices, available to consumers when selecting a new television today are 1080i and 1080p, both offering 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution (assuming an aspect ratio of 16:9), but each uses a different scanning technique.

While planning a new television purchase, the resolution and scanning technology used, is pretty much the decider of overall viewing experience and the applications for which the TV could be used for. That’s why you are bound to be sucked up into a debate between 1080i and 1080p, that can only be ended with a straightforward comparison. 1080i and 1080p are two video mode technologies used by modern television manufacturers. Let me first define what the specifications of these video modes are and how they fundamentally differ in terms of intrinsic technology.

1080i Vs. 1080p – Comparison

1080i 1080p
Resolution in Pixels
1920 x 1080 1920 x 1080
Scanning Technique
Interlaced Scanning
(i = interlaced)
Progressive Scanning
(p = progressive)
Displays 1080 lines in alternating
or interlacing fields
containing 540 lines each
Displays 1080 lines sequentially
Used In
Over the Air Broadcasts,
Satellite HD Channels
Modern HDTVs
(LCD, Plasma,
Gaming Consoles
(Sony PlayStation 3,
Microsoft Xbox 360),
Satellite HD Channels,
Camcorders, Cameras
* Needs Low Bandwidth * Sharper Picture
* Renders 3D Games,
High Motion Scenes Well
* No Distorting Visual Artifacts
* Interline Twitter Effects
* Needs High Refresh Rate
* Needs High Bandwidth

Difference in Technology
First, let me clear the mystery about the number ‘1080’. The number refers to resolution and is in fact the number of vertical pixels that can be displayed on a TV. The full resolution should be actually referred to as 1920 x 1080 pixels, where 1920 is the number of pixels displayed horizontally or the horizontal resolution. As a short hand notation, the resolution is only written as 1080. Both 1080i and 1080p resolution is the same and they differ only in the scanning technology. The ‘i‘ in 1080i refers to ‘interlaced‘ scanning while the p in ‘1080p’ refers to ‘progressive‘ scanning. To summarize, both 1080i and 1080p are abbreviations that convey the display resolution and scanning technology used in a device.

Progressive scanning technology, as its name suggests, is far superior to the older interlaced scanning method. In progressive scanning, the video image is rendered by sequentially scanning 1080 lines within 1/24th of a second. Thus it renders 24 such frames per second to create the illusion of a moving image for our eyes. The keyword to be noted here is ‘Sequentially’. It renders the pixels one line after the other. 1080p is the modern HDTV standard. ‘Full HD’ refers to television sets that present video output with 1080p resolution. Most modern camcorders, cameras and smart phones (like Apple iPhone 5) provide 1080p video recording. Due to the high number of pixels transmitted per second, 1080p TVs require HDMI cables, that provide high bandwidth.

Older CRT monitors and TVs used ‘interlaced’ scanning while most modern LCD screen and TVs use the progressive scanning method. Interlacing displays two separate fields with odd and even lines that form the image, while the progressive scan displays lines serially, one by one. Within 1/30th of a second, first the field consisting of odd number lines is displayed, followed by even numbered lines.

Among the many advantages that progressive scan offers over interlaced scan, one lies in the fact that the picture it creates is less jittery and flickers less. It has no screen issues like ‘interline twitter‘, which interlaced scanning is notorious for. It is the default standard used in HDTVs, LCD TVs and plasma TVs. It can display high motion images better than interlaced scanning. This is the main point of difference, when you debate which among 1080i or 1080p is better. Since progressive scanning provides the entire frame in one go, it renders a comparatively sharper image, with more detailing. This makes it ideal for rendering videos that involve rapidly changing visual frames like action movies or 3D games.

One thing to note is that no matter what kind of video content (1080i or p) is transmitted by a source device (like a satellite TV box or a gaming console like PS3) to a TV, it will only be rendered according to what scanning mode is functional in the television set. So if you use satellite television which transmits picture in 1080p, but you have a 1080i TV, the picture will be rendered in interlaced (1080i) scanning mode. In other words, the rendering and scanning technology used by your television is independent of video signal source.

Unlike CRT TVs, modern LED and LCD based HDTVs don’t use an electron beam to render the picture, which makes the term ‘scanning‘, that refers to the travel of the beam, itself obsolete. These modern sets simply light up the appropriately positioned pixels on screen. Nevertheless, the differentiation between progressive and interlaced scanning still holds, with respect to the order in which the lines are rendered. All modern high-definition television sets use 1080p scanning by default. So the argument between the two scanning methods, as far as television sets are concerned today, is already largely unnecessary.

Which is Better For Gaming & Video Editing?
In case you are wondering what are the other benefits of opting for 1080p video mode TVs, they are inevitable choices if you are going to use for gaming or a specialized application like video editing. Most LCD monitors are based on 1080p video mode.

Gaming consoles like Sony PlayStation 3 (PS3) or Microsoft Xbox 360 work best with a 1080p video mode TV. DVDs and Blu-Ray discs provide superior picture on 1080p video mode. However, HDTVs are also compatible with 1080i video mode display. So my verdict is the following. Opt for 1080p as it is by far the better technology overall if you are buying a new television. It is a bit costlier than 1080i, but it is worth the extra money with the excellent picture quality it offers.

If you are planning to use your television for video editing or gaming, 1080p HDTV, with its progressive scanning technology is the one you opt for. Otherwise, the 1080i technology is good enough and can be purchased at a low cost. As it is, most modern television sets with the ‘Full HD’ epithet are 1080p. I would personally advise you to go for 1080p as it offers amazing picture clarity and makes for a good investment in the long run.

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