1080p vs 1080i

When it comes to resolutions, one might get a bit confused from all the numbers and specifications. In this guide I will explain the differences in 1080p vs 1080i.
Many plasma TVs as well as other types of HDTV have their screens rated as having a native resolution of 1080p and/or supporting 1080p and 1080i resolution. There is a difference between native and supported resolution and I will explain this focusing especially on 1080p vs 1080i.

Because I respect your time I am going to tell you from the start the conclusion: there is not much difference between 1080p vs 1080i and you shouldn’t give to much thought to this.

Native vs Supported Resolutions

Other than HDTVs that have a native resolution (real resolution) of 1080p, most of the other HDTVs (rated as having a native resolution of 720p) support 1080p. This is because they can accept 1080p video feed. That means you can watch a high definition DVD like Blue Ray (which is 1080p) but you only see the amount of detail specific to 720p. Basically most of the HDTV on the market support many resolutions. They can display 1080p, 1080i, 720p, 720i, 480i, etc. because they resize the picture to their actual native resolution. Flat panel displays are in nature progressive. Even if you watch a interlaced (1080i) video feed on a plasma or LCD TV, its internal processing system actually converts it to progressive.

1080p vs 1080i Scan Modes

The “p” letter in 1080p stands for progressive while “i” letter in 1080i stands for interlaced. These are two modes to build a picture on a TV. There are fundamental differences between the two but practically for the viewer the difference is in most cases unnoticeable. If you want to understand how progressive and interlaced work you can read in the Plasma TV & HDTV Resolution guide. When talking about progressive vs interlaced (1080p vs 1080i) you refer to the video source resolution not the display native resolution. All displays support both progressive and interlaced scan so it’s nonsense to compare them at display level or compare displays based on 1080p and 1080i.

Now, with the content source in mind rather than the TV, in very practical terms progressive gives you a sharper picture for fast motion scenes like sports and action movies. For example think at a tennis ball flying through the air – in 1080p its edges will be sharp while in 1080i if you pay close attention you will notice a slight blur to the edges of the ball as it flies through the air. However, unless you pay attention to the edges of the moving objects you will probably not notice the slight blurred edges from 1080i. For content without fast moving scenes there is no visible difference.

One note I must make here is that the type and quality of your HDTV can affect the sharpness of the moving scenes more than the scan mode used. For example if you are watching sports using 1080p feed on an LCD TV with a not too great refresh rate (higher than 5ms) the motion blur will be more noticeable than if you would watch the same content on a plasma TV using 1080i feed. This is because the refresh rate of the plasma is better than that of the LCD – a reason that recommends plasma TVs for watching sports (and sports are usually broadcasted in 720p vs 1080i).

Amount of Detail

The amount of detail you get on the screen is the same for both 1080p and 1080i. Though the amount of information (data throughput) transmitted through the cable is higher in the case of 1080p, the number of pixels you actually see it’s the same – 1920×1080.

Practical Comparison Between 1080p and 1080i

The difference between 1080p vs 1080i is not something to worry about. In fact you shouldn’t even bother too much about it. When referring to the data source (e.g. TV broadcast) you don’t even have a choice because at this time there is no 1080p HDTV broadcast. The only used HDTV broadcast formats are 1080i and 720p. When it comes to buying a plasma TV (or any HDTV for that matter) there is still no practical difference because their native resolution is either 1080p or 720p. So a 1080p vs 1080i discussion can be done only while referring to content resolution not display resolution.

Resolution Guides:

  1. Plasma TV & HDTV Resolution
  2. 720p vs 1080p
  3. 1080p vs 1080i

36 thoughts on “1080p vs 1080i

  1. Warren Rabner

    I had purchased a Hitachi 50″ plasma tv a 1080i and had a picture problem. After being in the shop for well over a month I was told to take it back to Best Buy for replacement. I did that last night and when I did they tried to tell me that a 720p is equilavent to a 1080i.

    I don’t believe that but this what the new tv is can you please tell if this is correct if not can you explain the difference.

  2. 720p is not the same as 1080i. First of all, “p” stands for “progressive” while “i”stands for “interlaced”. All HDTVs are progressive in nature. If they display interlaced content, they do it in a progressive way (by performing a conversion from one scan mode to the other). They just receive it interlaced. That means, your 1080i TV could have a 1920×720 resolution (or 1024×720) and accepts 1080i signal, downconverting it to 720(p). The other possibility is that it has a 1920×1080 resolution but its video processing system is not capable to handle 1920×1080 progressive signal (1080p). Usually when a salesman tells you the TV is 1080i, it means the TV accepts signal up to 1080i not that the physical resolution is necessarily 1080p (1920×1080). So, I would assume your TV is 720p. Regarding the differences between 720p and 1080i, they are similar to 1080p vs 1080i with the difference that 1080i offers more detail than 720p, while 720p handles fast moving scenes better. If you tell me the exact model number of your plasma TV, I can be more specific.

  3. Alex

    I have a 50 inch Samsung 720 Plasma tv. I am looking to buy a PS3 for the Blue Ray. Im planning on purchasing another Plasma tv for it too. Which is better for Blue Ray, 720 or 1080? Do I need to upgrade to 1080 or just get another 720?


  4. @Alex: Blu-Ray is 1080p so an 1080p plasma TV is ideal. However, make sure that from your viewing distance you can actually see the extra detail. If you’re not close enough, you may not be able to see any difference between 1080p and 720p. Check out the guide titled “Plasma TV Size & Optimal Viewing Distance” to find out which resolution is better for your viewing distance and screen size.

  5. Alec

    I have just got a 42″ Hitachi 1080i Plasma. My intention is to get a Blu-Ray player to see movies just like the ones I see in the demos of Best Buy or Target. Now I am kind of scared since I have heard that 1080i does not work for Blu-Ray! Is this true? If not, is there a noticeable difference between 1080i and 1080p playing Blu Ray movies?

    I have not unpacked the TV set…so I still on time to change it.


  6. @Alec: Sorry, I have been away for a while. HDTVs rated as 1080i are able to playback 1080i content. Native resolutions of a HDTV are all progressive (p). They also vary and are not always identical to content resolutions as you can see from this High-Definition Display Resolutions page on Wikipedia. Basically, in order to get the full detail of Blu Ray movies you need a TV that has 1080p native resolution (1920 x 1080 pixels). You can watch Blu Ray movies on your 1080i TV but only if the TV accepts 1080p input (not likely) or if the Blu Ray player can output 1080i instead of 1080p. However, if you really want to see the full amount of detail you will need to buy a 1080p plasma TV and you will have to sit close enough to it in order to actually be able to see the full detail. Read Plasma TV Size & Optimal Viewing Distance, 720p vs 1080p and Plasma TV & HDTV Resolution for more details.

  7. David Thwaite

    I wish to hook up my NAD upscaling DVD player set with only 1080p output to my Panasonic Plasma HDTV set at 1080i input. Should there be any problem with non-matching output/input when using a high-quality HDMI cable as the link?

  8. @David Thwaite: Yes, it will not work. The source (DVD player) output must match the TV input. You must either be able to select 1080i as output for the DVD player or 1080p input for the TV. 1080p sends twice the amount of data compared to 1080i so if your TV doesn’t handle 1080p input you can’t hook them together.

  9. Rachel

    If I buy a 1080p TV, will I still be able to watch HDTV from my cable provider in 1080i or do I need to confirm the tv is capable of 1080p AND 1080i- or is there such a thing as doing both?

  10. Giannis

    Dear Best PlasmaTV,

    i am planning to buy a TV but before i do i so i would like some advice.

    First of all i would like to note that i want to opt for the maximum picture quality/price that i can get
    I expect the viewing distance to be about 1.5-2meters

    This is what i thought:

    I would like to buy a Blu-ray player Samsung BD-P1500

    Uitvoer Resolutie (HDMI/Component) 1920 x 1080 P Yes / No
    1920 x 1080 I Yes / Yes
    1280 x 720 P Yes / Yes
    720 x 480 P Yes / Yes
    720 x 480 I No/Yes

    For about the same price i can get
    42″ HD Ready LG Screen 1366×768 resolution as stated in the producer site ( http://nl.lge.com/products/model/detail/lcdtv_42lg3000.jhtml#)

    32″ Full HD LG screen 1920 x 1080 ( http://uk.lge.com/products/model/detail/lcdtv_32lg5700.jhtml)

    Looking at these components AND assuming that compatibility issue discussed above (080i & Blu ray)
    are both TV compatible with the blue ray player of my choice?
    Also would i notice any quality difference from that viewing distance? Do you reccon i am better off wit the 42″ one?

    Thank you

  11. @Rachel: HDTVs that have a native resolution of 1080p support all the lower resolutions, including 1080i. The opposite can be possible however – a 720p HDTV may or may not support 1080i or 1080p input. In conclusion, if you buy a TV with 1080p native resolution, it will support 1080i.

  12. @Giannis: Get the 32 inch one. The 42 inch model is 720p and it is too big to look good from that distance. The 32 inch LCD TV coupled with the Blu Ray player will give you the best picture. They are compatible.

  13. phil

    Thanks for your columns and great advice.

    I’m saving for a purchase in August ’09 for either the:

    (1)Panasonic TH-65PZ850U,
    (2)the Pioneer Elite PRO 151 FD,
    (3)the new Panasonic 65″ V10 series. ( if the street-price is right, say, less than $5000 ).

    The distance in the room supports 60-65″ easily. Not much light, and well controlled . Seating is adjustable.
    I LOVE movies, and have gone broke buying them and spending countless hours watching them. I am moving up from a 7 year old 61″ SharpVision RPTV that served me well, but with the newer film cinematography and Blu-Ray technology, I can no longer wait. It’s time to upgrade, (Star Trek will be released on Blu-Ray in just a few months—and, god, that’s going to be good on those TVs!)

    So, whaddaya think? Will I lose much with (1), will (2) be just fine, sans the 5″ screen real estate b/c of the better picture? Is (3) likely to nix the issue altogether by being a tremendous improvement that equals Pioneer’s (former) flagship line?

    The best of all worlds would be to have a great (color correct) inexpensive Panasonic at 65″ for under $5000 (street). Barring that, I defer to you to help me create a Plan B, or C, or D.

    Thank you,

  14. @phil: They are both great TVs. The problem is I don’t know if you will still find any Pioneer plasma TVs in August. Pioneer has abandoned the TV business and I don’t know for how much time you will find them on the market.

    Pioneer Elite PRO 151 FD is certainly better than the Panasonic models. It has both more accurate colors as well as visibly better black levels. The Panasonic V10 series I haven’t reviewed yet so I can’t say much about it. From what I’ve read it is a very good plasma (it is the equivalent of PZ850 for 2009). However, if we are to stick to the facts it has less deeper blacks than Pioneer and a wider color gamut. Depending on your personal taste you might like the wider color gamut or not compared to Pioneer’s perfect colors. The overall picture quality, experience and the differences are not extremely big, but they are visible. It’s not an easy decision and personally I don’t know what I would choose if I ware you. I would have to see them both in order to make my mind, and that’s what I suggest you to do.

    .Good luck!

  15. John

    I recently purchased a 42″ Vizio VWLF HDTV and had the ATT U-verse installed. The manuel for the tv states that it supports 1080p and 1080i. When you go to the options menu on the u-verse receiver to select the aspect ratio for the tv, it gives you 1080i. My problem is that when I select the 1080i, I get broken white lines on the top and bottom of my screen on some channels. It seems to me that if the tv is 1080p and my manuel says that it supports both ‘I’ and “p” then does the signal ATT is sending out need to be upgraded? I believe the statement above that a 1080p tv can support a 1080i input, but if thats true then why would I get these lines? It seems to me that there is some incopatibility issues when you have a tv that is 1080p( or a tv that supports both i and p) and the signal or input that you receive is 1080i. Could it be this type/model of tv as being defective? I need some help, have been learning so much about 1080i vs 1080p but still no solutions.

  16. Joe

    I have a 42 inch plasma HCT that is 1080i and i just recently bought a PS3 for the blue-ray. Everything is working and looks great but when there is a lot of action on the screen you can see lines flash across the screen like the tv cant keep up with the dvd. Is there something i can do to fix this?

  17. @John: First of all, what has aspect ratio to do with resolution (1080i)? I don’t know why you get those lines. Something could be defected, or the signal you get from the provider could have problems. Call the provider and ask them for help. The most probable cause is the signal or the receiver (because you don’t get the lines on all channels).

    However, if the TV supports 1080p it also supports all resolutions inferior to that (1080p is superior to 1080i). And there are no incompatibilities there. If the TV doesn’t support a signal you probably get nothing on the screen.

  18. Joe

    HCT is a Korean brand i believe, i am in the Marine Corps and stationed in Okinawa Japan. Their website is a .co.kr webpage. Hopefully that helps… if not thanks anyway….

  19. Joe

    sorry it seemed all sorts of problems were being adressed with the whole 1080i and 1080p and blue-ray. appearently i missed the disclaimer, thanks for your time.

  20. Me

    Let’s say that a Blu ray on a 1080p LCD 40″ TV is, on a scale of 1-10 a 10.

    OK so what would a Blu ray on a 1080i 40″ LCD TV be? A 9? 8? 7? Anyone?

  21. Nan

    We are ready to purchase a tv for our family room, the viewing distance is approx 200 inches. The room size is 30′ x 28′ with windows all around this room. What size tv and 720 or 1080 should we purchased?

  22. @Me: The answer is not that simple. All flat panel TVs are progressive. That means there is no such thing as 1080i native resolution on an LCD TV. When a flat panel is rated a 1080i what that means is the set has 720p native resolution but accepts 1080i input. That being said, it matters at what distance you’re sitting at. If you are sitting at optimal viewing distance for 40″ 1080p, a 40″ 720p will not look as good because you’re sitting too close to it. If you move further away from the TV and sit at the optimal viewing distance for 40″ 720p then the perceived image is good but you’re missing the difference in detail between 1080p and 720p. Whether it is a 9, 8, 7, etc. it is quite a subjective opinion and different people will have different answers. What I can tell you is that the difference between 720p and 1080p is not even close to the difference between 480i (SDTV) and 720p. The difference between 720p and 1080p is visible but not big. That being said, resolution is not the most important picture quality factor. Saturation, colors, blac levels can be more important for the end result. In conclusion, if you would see a 720p LCD TV with fantastic picture quality side by side with a 1080p LCD TV with significantly inferior picture quality, you will probably like the 720p model more. However, keep in mind that these days, most if not all 720p models are entry-level so their picture quality is not great.

  23. Henry Philippeaux

    I am saving $8000 to buy a front projector. My choice is between a SONY Bravia or a pre-owned high-end CRT which I think has the best film-like quality. Weight is NOT a concern. What advice can you give me now though my purchase time may be a year down the road?

  24. Kurtis

    Hi…Well im looking to buy a 50″ plasma..and right now i do alot of gaming and i will also be watching alot of sports too..And im not to sure what to get. 1080p, 1080i, or 720p. I will be sitting about 8-10 ft. from my tv. Im looking for a big screen and a great picture. What should I be looking for? thanks so much

  25. @Kurtis: First of all, if you want to play games on it a lot, buy an LCD TV because it won’t get burn-in. If you watch TV and movies at least as much as you play games, you can choose a plasma as well. See the plasma TV burn in guide for more information on this topic. Most if not all HD sports channels are 720p. However for gaming the bigger the resolution is the better. Also, all 720p models are low-end and don’t offer a picture quality comparable to that of mid-end or high-end models. 1080i HDTVs are actually 720p in nature but accept 1080i input. In other words, their physical resolution is 720p (1280×720) not 1080p (1920×1080) as you might think. For your viewing distance best screen size is between 52 inch and 65 inch. If you choose to buy an LCD because you’re playing games on it, the largest LCDs measure 55 inch. Also in this size range there are no 720p models, so no need to worry about that anymore. On the homepage of this site you can find the top with best plasma TVs and on Best HDTV you can find best plasma and LCD TVs.

  26. Frank

    I own a Hitachi P42H401 plasma tv. It has a native resolution of 1024X1080. I’m debating whether I should buy a blu-ray player or just stick with my upscaling dvd player. The tv’s manual says it accepts 1080P signals via a HDMI cable. Does this mean it will play a bluray in full 1080P? Thanks!

  27. @Frank: 1024×1080 means its pixels are not square. If they would be square it would be 1920×1080. That means you won’t get 1:1 mapping between source pixels and display pixels. I won’t go into details here, though. What is important is that if you sit close enough, you will notice improvement between Blu Ray and DVD.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *