- 1080p, also known as Full HD or FHD, has a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels.
- Displays with 1080p are roughly twice the resolution of 720p but just a quarter of 4K.
- The "p" in 1080p is a holdover from the early days of HD when 1080i devices could not draw the entire screen at once.
When shopping for a new TV, you'll inevitably have to contend with all sorts of specifications, not the least of which is the screen's resolution, or how many pixels comprise the onscreen image. One of the more common screen resolutions is known as 1080p, also referred to as Full High Definition or FHD.
What 1080p means
1080p is a shorthand way to refer to a display that has 1,080 lines of resolution, which you can think of as 1,080 rows of pixels. Traditionally, TV resolution is identified this way — by its vertical resolution, with the number of pixels across the screen implied. All 1080p displays have 1,920 pixels across and 1,080 pixels up and down, usually written as 1920 x 1080.
TV resolutions often have multiple names, and 1080p is also called Full High Definition, Full HD, or just FHD. All these terms mean the same thing.
4K vs. 1080p vs. 720p
The most common TV resolutions include 4K, 1080p, and 720p. Even these aren't all the resolutions you may encounter; for example, some of the newest (and priciest) TVs offer 8K resolution, though there's very little 8K content available to take advantage of that screen size and these TVs are generally still very expensive.
Instead, 4K is the reigning display champion in home entertainment, and it gets its name from the fact that its horizontal resolution is close to 4,000 pixels. 4K is generally defined as 3840 x 2160. That means 4K displays have about twice the vertical resolution of 1080p (2,160 vs. 1,080) and about four times the total number of pixels (8,294,400 vs. 2,073,600).
Likewise, 720p displays offer lower resolution. While 1080p has 1080 lines of resolution, 720p displays have only 720 lines. 720p is 1280 x 720, and is the lowest resolution display that qualifies as "high definition." As such, 720p is generally referred to as High Definition or HD, in contrast to 1080p's Full HD.
You might have noticed that 4K uses a different method to measure resolution than 1080p and 720p. Because they're older standards, 1080p and 720p measure resolution vertically, whereas 4K (as well as 8K) is a newer format that measures resolution by how many pixels span the screen horizontally.
1080p vs. 1080i
There's one other element that bears explanation: What the "p" in 1080p refers to. In the early days of high definition, not all display devices had the speed or processing power to show all 1,080 lines of video at once. As a result, competing 1080i and 1080p standards were developed.
A 1080i device displayed 540 lines of video, leaving a gap between each, and then displayed the intermediate 540 lines on the next pass. The result was that the full screen was only refreshed 30 times a second, rather than 60 times a second. This was referred to as an "interlaced" display. The total resolution was still 1920 x 1080 pixels, but all the pixels weren't drawn on screen at once and it affected image quality. In contrast, 1080p (referring to "progressive" scan) drew all 1920 x 1080 pixels on screen at once and refreshed the whole screen with each pass.
The 1080p name remains, but there are no longer any 1080i devices still found on the market.
Dave Johnson is a technology journalist who writes about consumer tech and how the industry is transforming the speculative world of science fiction into modern-day real life. Dave grew up in New Jersey before entering the Air Force to operate satellites, teach space operations, and do space launch planning. He then spent eight years as a content lead on the Windows team at Microsoft. As a photographer, Dave has photographed wolves in their natural environment; he's also a scuba instructor and co-host of several podcasts. Dave is the author of more than two dozen books and has contributed to many sites and publications including CNET, Forbes, PC World, How To Geek, and Insider.
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