Progressive and Interlaced Displays Explained

Progressive/interlace displays are the two main categories for screens today. Put simply, progressive is better because it will minimize picture flickering.

Progressive displays re-draw every single horizontal line each cycle. For example, a 1080p (p for progressive) full HD television at 120 hz will re-draw every single one of its 1080 lines 120 times per second. Interlaced displays re-draw every other line each cycle. So, the same TV displaying 1080i (i for interlaced) will redraw 540 lines 120 times per second. This requires half the work of the progressive display, and was the original reason interlace was invented in the first place.

Back in the days of vacuum tube televisions, electronic processing was much slower than it is today. Re-drawing every single line would result in a jerky picture. Even though re-drawing every other line would result in some picture flickering, it was preferable to jerky motion. Modern displays easily have enough processing power to display smooth progressive picture.

Today, almost all new displays can display progressive output. Progressive displays can also display interlaced, while interlaced screens cannot display progressive. Thus, interlacing is an older technology which only exists in new equipment so it an be used with older equipment.

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