I'm curious about why we mostly use and see "1080p" and "1080i" over "1080P" and "1080I"? (and the same on 720/480/360) Does anybody know any professional reason of that?

I've seen some capital ones, but mostly with lower case, I'm wondering the reason why, but didn't find an answer.

For example,

  • Wikipedia uses 1080p and 1080i,there is no single 1080P or 1080I in these two pages
  • European Broadcasting Union use 720p, 1080p, 1080i in their tech doc
  • Netflix uses 1080p, 720p in the Help Center(Resolution under Netflix Features)
  • Youtube uses 1080p in their Help Center
  • Apple Supports also uses 1080p in their doc, HDV use 1080i / 720i on the logo
  • Google and DuckDuckGo prompts keywords with only 1080p even I input 1080P!

For above examples, I refer to some huge companies or organizations, but to be honestly I didn't browse all their public materials, so I'm not so sure they do only use "1080p" but not "1080P", just want to show the resolve I found.

Really appreciate if somebody can resolve my question, many thanks.

  • Why should they use capitals? The p and i are supplementary, not the most significant info in the description.
    – Dr Mayhem
    Sep 13, 2019 at 17:59
  • 1
    Welcome! It is only an educated guess, but I think engineers made lower case the de facto convention because of the potential for confusing an upper case i with a 1 or lower case L. One outlier to the convention: ITU-R Rec. BT.709-6 uses upper case. If I'm reading the version history right, that wasn't added in to the standard until well after the lower case convention was already entrenched. Sep 13, 2019 at 23:12
  • @MichaelLiebman I've looked into BT.709-6 but only see some 60/P 30/P in it but didn't see 1080P or 1080I, so I didn't mention this one, as it's still a little bit different IMO. Sep 15, 2019 at 6:56
  • 1
    @DrMayhem one designer told me it's about the visual balance, the alphabet and the numbers. I don't think we should use capitals, but I didn't have a strong reference says we should use lower case in it. Sep 15, 2019 at 6:58
  • Also PsF. Who cares, really, it is just a convention. As long as you don't confuse "M" with "m" and "B" with "b" you are good ;-)
    – Rusty Core
    Sep 17, 2019 at 19:54

1 Answer 1


Here are my starting premises.

  1. In the scientific community, There are some standards in the assignation of letters for units.

    Normally a capital letter is assigned if the unit cames after the last name of a person, like Kelvin or Newton, and a lowercase letter in the case of just words like the case of a meter.

  2. In the case of the liter, where it is not based on the last name of a person, the usage of capital L is permitted to avoid confusion with the number 1.

  3. There are also some conventions on the usage of acronyms, where you should use Upper Case letters, for example, PPI.

  4. And there are some more on the usage of abbreviates, where lower case letters should be used.

My assumption is that convention 1 and 2 are the most important in this case. Although in this case, they are not units, the reasoning could apply.

p and i, in my opinion, are not acronyms, so the capital letter would not override the first 2 conventions. They can also derive just from an abbreviation so premise 4 would also apply.

Regarding the K in a 4K resolution, according to one note in the wikipedia it is just an informal way to say thousand, but with an implied unit, in this case the implied unit could be a pixel, 4kpx. It is based on the idea of the kilo but does not use the standard notation.

But something curious is that it is the common practice to denote a Kilobyte and not kilobyte. Probably to make it more uniform with some other prefixes in Uppercase, like Megabyte and Terabyte.

One idea about prefixes was that lowercase prefixes were used to define smaller than the base unit, and Uppercase to define greater than the unit... but the kilogram has a really strange history. Add that the unit for temperature is a big K.

It could also be just a gimmick. We were used to see the capital M (based on the standard prefixes) regarding resolution, for example, "a 24Mpx camera". Using a lower case letter probably has less impact than using a capital letter.

"Goodbye to the old 1080p, Wellcome the 4k"

"Goodbye to the old 1080p, Wellcome the 4K"

  • Thanks @rafael! Does the pattern also fit the terms 4K**/8K**? As I noticed they are using capital "K"? Sorry that this may not looks like part of the original question but I think they are related and can help me or the others understand the conventional properly, thank you again. Sep 18, 2019 at 4:24
  • I added some notes about the K.
    – Rafael
    Sep 18, 2019 at 5:04
  • @curious The K in 4K stands for kilo, as in 1000×. 4K video is about 4000 pixels across. What will be interesting is if they keep fudging as panels increase resolutions. 4K is actually 1920×2 pixels wide, 3840. 8K is 1920×4 pixels wide, 7680. You see the problem, much like my 1TB thumbdrive actually having only 930GB, a significant loss in storage. But I guess the asterisk on all the packaging makes it honest [smh].
    – user3643
    Sep 19, 2019 at 23:10
  • I would have gone with 4X, since it's 4 Full HD resolutions in a 2x2 grid. That highlights that it's "4 times better, 4 times clearer", etc.
    – user3643
    Sep 19, 2019 at 23:17
  • I'm neglecting that in film, 4K is a bit wider, breaking the 4000 pixel mark. Consumer tech marketing kind of hijacked the term. There's no such thing as 8K in film.
    – user3643
    Sep 19, 2019 at 23:23

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