Low-definition television or LDTV refers to television systems that have a lower screen resolution than standard-definition television systems. The term is usually used in reference to digital television, in particular when broadcasting at the same (or similar) resolution as low-definition analog TV systems. Mobile DTV systems usually transmit in low definition, as do all slow-scan TV systems.
The most common source of LDTV programming is the Internet, where mass distribution of higher-resolution video files could overwhelm computer servers and take too long to download. Most mobile phones and portable devices such as Apple’s video iPod, or Sony’s PlayStation Portable use LDTV video, as higher-resolution files would be excessive to the needs of their small screens (320 × 240 and 480 × 272 pixels respectively). The current generation of iPods have LDTV screens, as do the first three generations of iPhone (480 × 320).
A VHS videotape could be considered SDTV due to its resolution (approximately 480i x 320), but using VHS for professional production will yield results comparable to LDTV because of VHS's low bandwidth. VHS supports interlace and high motion, which are not typical of LDTV signals. Professional-level Betacam SP tape produces approx 440 × 486; some college TV studios use Super VHS at ~560 × 486.
Older video game console and home computers generated a nonstandard NTSC or PAL signal which placed both fields on top of each other. This is equivalent to 240p and 288p respectively. Conversely, the FCC forbade TV stations from broadcasting in this format. The Video CD format was introduced on such a console (CD-i), and it likewise uses a progressive LDTV signal (352 × 240 or 352 × 288), which is half the vertical resolution of SDTV.
With the introduction of 16-bit game consoles, 480i was supported for the first time, but rarely used due to limited memory and processing power. Thus, 240p remained the primary format on all fifth generation consoles (Sega Saturn, PlayStation and Nintendo 64) With the advent of sixth generation consoles and the launch of the Dreamcast, 480i use become more common, and 240p usage declined.
More recent game systems tend to use only properly interlaced NTSC or PAL in addition to higher resolution modes, except when running games designed for older, compatible systems in their native modes. The PlayStation 2 generates 240p/288p if a PlayStation game calls for this mode, as do many Virtual Console emulated games on Wii. Nintendo's official software development kit documentation refers to 240p as 'non-interlaced mode' or 'double-strike'.
Shortly after the launch of the Wii Virtual Console service many users with component video cables experienced problems displaying some Virtual Console games due to certain TV models/manufacturers not supporting 240p over a component video connection. Nintendo's solution was to implement 'Wii Component Cable Interlace Mode' which forces the emulator to output 480i instead of 240p, however many game released prior have still not been updated.
Upcoming sources of LDTV using standard broadcasting techniques include mobile TV services powered by DVB-H, DMB, or ATSC-M/H. However, this kind of LDTV transmission technology is based on existent LDTV teleconferencing standards that have been in place for a decade or more.