U.S. digital TV 480p may be either 640 x 480 or 704 x 480. The 1080i is 1920 x 1080. For analog video 480p, and analog material upconverted to 1080i from other formats, the scan line may be subdivided into any number of "pixels" which may vary from one scan line to the next.
While an HDTV may resolve picture details in any of 1920 x 1080 possible pixel positions, almost no HDTV being sold today can make spots that small. Thus three pixels in a row can't all be distinguished. Also subject matter can be watered down so details 1/1920'th the screen width are not preserved even though the format is still 1080i.
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