Resolution: What is meant by TV resolution and Why it is important to have an idea about it

If you were looking for TV lately you should have definitely come across a term called “Resolution” or a specification called “1080i or 720p” among other technical specifications of a TV. What is it all about and is it something important to consider prior to your purchase decision on a TV.

Answer is pretty simple, Resolution is about how detailed the picture is and it is really important to have an idea what sought of a resolution you should go for. If we go more detailed into resolution, there are two main parts, namely,

  • Number of pixels
  • Scan type

Number of Pixels

Have you ever observed your TV screen very closely? If so, you should have definitely noticed very tiny squares of color. These tiny squares of color are called pixels and these individual squares together called a picture which you see on your TV screen.

Considering the technical aspect of pixels, pixels are arranged on a grid and measured as the number of horizontal lines time the number of vertical line. However in our day to day life resolution is know by the number of vertical lines. As an example, if number of horizontal lines are 720 and number of vertical lines are 480, you would see on your technical spec as 702 X 480, so the resolution of the TV would be known as either 480i or 480p (i/p – scan type is discussed in the second part of the article).

However until very recently most common grid size available was 780 X 480 in other words either 480i or 480p. This is the resolution you would come across in any standard TV channel, VHS tapes or in DVDs. With the introduction of the HDTVs this was changed. Initial HDTVs had a resolution of 1280 X 720 (only 720p) and then resolution was improved up to 1920 X 1080 (both 1080i and 1080p). As a result you would only find the five resolutions 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i and 1080p in any TV currently available in the television market.

So going back to our second question, why do you need to consider the resolution of a TV or the number of pixels, it is very simple. Higher the number of pixels more detailed the picture would be on your TV screen. In other words you would see a more detailed picture in a TV with a resolution of 1080p opposed to 720p. Furthermore if we count or calculate number of pixels in a TV with 1080p resolution you would find that it has almost six times as many pixels compared to a standard definition of 480p resolution. Which means picture is six times clearer than the standard which you were used to watch in the past.

Scan Type

The letter which follows the number of pixels on a vertical line is known as the “Scan Type – i or p”. If we consider a movie theater, normal practice is to show movies using a series of individual pictures. On the other had TVs show pictures in lines rather than as whole pictures. Display of pictures in terms of lines can be further divided into two parts.

  • Interlaced scanning (i)

Interlaced scanning show pictures using odd lines and even lines where all odd lines as visible for 1/60 of a second, followed by all even lines which is also visible for a 1/60 of a second. As a result entire frame has been shown for a 1/30 of a second.

  •  Progressive scanning (p)

On the other hand with Progressive scanning each line is displayed in order from top to bottom within 1/30 of a second which provides a smoother, clearer picture compared to interlace scanning. This makes people to consider that 720p to provide better picture compared to 1080i even with fewer pixels.

After having an idea about the resolution, now you may be worried that your DVD collection won’t play on your new HDTV. But that is not the case. HDTVs can play lower resolution, but the issue would be that you won’t be able to get the best out of your brand new HDTV.

So as a final note, resolution is all about how detailed the picture you would see on your TV screen. Higher number of pixels means that you would see the better or clearer picture as it is more detailed. Naturally people tend to go for progressive scanning (p) as the pictures are more smother compared to TVs having interlaced scanning (i).

Click Here to go through various LED TV reviews to get an idea about different types of “Resolutions” available in the television industry.


You may also read following Technical information of LED/LCD TVs,