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The 1080 and 720 in 1080p and 720p stand for vertical screen resolution, or height, in pixels. The more pixels there are in an image, the clearer it will be. As such, a screen resolution of 1920x1080 (two million pixels when multiplied) should appear twice as sharp as a resolution of 1280x720 (fewer than one million pixels). Meanwhile, the p in 1080p and 720p stands for progressive scanning, which updates full frame images more quickly than traditionally interlaced content.
HD DVDs contain 720p content and sometimes 1080p, while all Blu-ray discs contain 1080p content. Regular DVD quality can vary considerably, with some displaying content at a resolution lower than 720p, such as 480p. Moreover, there are still DVD players around that only carry support for up to 480p or 480i, meaning a viewer cannot get the full experience of any high-definition DVD they insert into the player.
Netflix typically streams at 720p, but with the release and expansion of what it calls "Super HD," users are able to stream more and more content at 1080p quality with a high-speed internet connection. Apple TV allows users to choose between 720p and 1080p streaming. DirecTV displays a "1080pHD" logo on 1080p pay-per-view content, and all their latest DirecTV Cinema content is in 1080p. On YouTube and Vimeo, high quality videos often allow for 720p or even 1080p streaming.
Modern smartphones, like the iPhone 5c/5s, the Samsung Galaxy S5, and the HTC One, tend to film at 1080p quality and at 30 frames per second, if not better. Again, resolution is not all there is to picture quality, but for the average user, modern smartphones' video recording capabilities have the potential to be just as good for casual video-making as cheap camcorders.
Screen resolution can be especially important in video gaming. Because there are more pixels in 1080p, less anti-aliasing is required for a smooth visual experience. This means that 1080p will not only likely look better than 720p, but will lead to a better gaming experience overall, as anti-aliasing can slow down a console or computer.
One of the first things you see when shopping for a TV is its resolution. You'll often see the resolution slapped right on the box or even in the model name. 4k TVs started to dominate the TV market in the middle of the 2010s, and they soon took over from 1080p as the most common resolution found on TVs. Almost every TV from big manufacturers has a 4k resolution, and it's actually hard to find 1080p TVs now, but what exactly are the differences between each?
4k and 1080p refer to the resolution of the display. A 1080p TV has 1920 horizontal pixels and 1080 vertical pixels, while a 4k TV has 3840 horizontal pixels and 2160 vertical. It can get confusing because 1080p refers to the number of vertical pixels (1080), but 4k refers to the number of horizontal pixels (3840). So while the name makes it sound like a 4k display has four times the amount of vertical pixels, in actuality, the amount of vertical and horizontal pixels on a 4k display are each double that of a 1080p display. However, this means that overall, a 4k TV also has four times the total amount of pixels as a 1080p TV, which you can see in the table below.
There are different marketing names for each, but having a 4k TV doesn't necessarily mean it's better than a 1080p; there are many different factors that affect the picture quality. A higher resolution simply means it supports more content and delivers crispier images. You can see some of the differences between 4k and 1080p below. You can also read about resolution here.
As 4k TVs are the norm, native 4k content is also easy to find on most streaming apps like Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon Prime Video. Physical video sources, like Blu-ray players and gaming consoles, are starting to support a 4k resolution as well, but they were limited to 1080p for a long time. Regular Blu-ray discs are 1080p, and there are now 4k Ultra HD Blu-ray discs as well, but it's an entirely new format and requires you to upgrade your Blu-ray player and purchase new 4k Ultra HD Blu-ray discs. The original Xbox One and PS4 were limited to 1080p, and then the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X/S, followed by the PS5 and Xbox Series X, were each released with 4k support.
It's becoming harder to find 1080p TVs in the 2020s, and they're usually limited to small, entry-level models. If you have limited space and need a small TV, you'll likely need to get a 1080p model, since 4k TVs are usually available in larger sizes.
The two photos above illustrate an identical image at different native resolutions, which means the image's resolution and the TV's resolution are exactly the same. The first photo is a 4k image displayed on the Hisense H9G, and the second is a 1080p image displayed on the TCL 3 Series 2019.
Native 4k content is very popular, especially on streaming apps, but some of what you watch may still be lower-resolution content upscaled to UHD, which will look different from native 4k. To present lower-resolution material on a 4k TV, the TV has to perform a process called upscaling. This process increases the pixel count of a lower-resolution image, allowing a picture meant for a screen with fewer pixels to fit a screen with many more. However, it doesn't increase the detail of the image since the signal has the same amount of information. Above you can see the difference between a 1080p resolution on the 4k Hisense and on the 1080p TCL.
HDR, which stands for High Dynamic Range, started to become more popular around the same time as 4k TVs. While it's often marketed together, it has nothing to do with the resolution and actually refers to the colors and luminance. It allows content creators to use a wider range of colors and luminance levels. It helps improve the picture quality and produces richer, more vibrant colors. There are different HDR formats, and you may see some companies advertise 4k HDR, but just because a TV supports it doesn't mean that HDR looks good. However, the large majority of 1080p TVs don't even support HDR, so if you want to watch your favorite HDR content, go for a 4k TV. You can learn more about HDR here.
This chart illustrates the dividing line for normal 20/20 vision. To use the chart, check your viewing distance on the vertical axis and the size of the TV on the horizontal one. If the resulting position is above the line, you probably won't see a major difference between a 1080p and a 4k TV. Essentially, there's only a noticeable difference if you sit close to a large screen TV.
In the United States, there are two standard resolutions for cable TV broadcasts: 720p and 1080i. Much like 1080p, the number refers to the vertical resolution of the screen, 720 and 1080 pixels. The letter refers to either progressive scan or interlaced scan. Every TV sold today uses progressive scan, but they're also compatible with a 1080i signal.
When you're shopping for a TV, it's likely you're going to get a 4k model. A TV's resolution can be its main selling point, as it's easy to throw the 4k label on any TV, but the resolution is only one small factor in the total picture quality. While 4k is an upgrade from 1080p, it may be hard to notice the difference in resolution if you sit far from the TV, or if you just watch 1080p content. Since most TVs now are 4k and it's hard to find 1080p models, you won't really have to choose between 4k and 1080p anyway.
The jump to 4K resolution is an effective quadrupling of 1080p. At 3840 pixels across and 2160 up and down, 4K jams four times as much information into the screen, with a whopping total of over 8 million pixels. While not quite the standard, prices on 4K TVs in smaller sizes without higher-end connection ports such as HDMI 2.1 are widely available in the $300 range. While the highest-end 4K TVs reach towards $2,000 at the largest sizes, some of the best models of more modest dimensions are available at a shade under $1,000.
These days when we say HD we're talking about what gets called 'Full HD', a resolution which measures 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, often called 1080p. This display resolution is common on Smart TVs and many modern smartphones, PCs, laptops and monitors. Both HD resolutions here use a 16:9 aspect ratio (so there are 16 pixels horizontally for each 9 vertically), which can be described as widescreen. However, on a phone 1,280 x 720 becomes 720 x 1,280 when it's held normally.
True 4K displays are used in professional production and digital cinemas and feature 4,096 x 2,160 pixels. UHD is different because it is a consumer display and broadcast standard with a resolution four times that of a Full 1080p HD resolution: 3,840 x 2,160 pixels. The difference comes down slightly different aspect ratios between digital cinema and home displays. UHD is another 16:9 aspect ratio standard, which means screens are backwards compatible with Full HD content.
1080p refers to the total number of pixels running across the screen vertically (there are 1080 pixels). 4k refers to the number of pixels running across the screen horizontally (there are almost 4000 pixels).
On a screen, 4k video contains more than 8 million pixels compared to just 2 million pixels for 1080p. That starts to add up with finer detail in the rendering of hair or feathers, as well as better quality overall when viewing the footage up close.
Unlike 1080p footage, 4k can be cropped, zoomed in, or reframed without any loss of quality. This means you can create the effect of a second camera, cropping up to 300% closer, creating second angles, or even panning across the video as though to create a slider effect.
Full HD, or FHD, refers to the image resolution of a display panel. FHD delivers 1080p image resolution and is an impressive step up from the typical High Definition 720p image resolution - about double the pixels to be exact.
In the case of a monitor with an industry-standard Full HD 1080p resolution, this display has a resolution of 1920 x 1080. This means that the screen will have a width of 1,920 pixels while the height of the screen will be 1,080 pixels. This results in a grand total of 2,073,600 pixels on-screen. 2b1af7f3a8