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440 pixels per inch for $200: HTC Droid DNA vs iPhone 5 vs Galaxy S III vs Nexus 4 screen comparison

440 pixels per inch for $200: HTC Droid DNA vs iPhone 5 vs Galaxy S III vs Nexus 4 screen comparison
Breaking the Full HD screen barrier on our handsets has been the subject of myths and speculations ever since we broke the HD one, and now, with the HTC Droid DNA, we have for the first time something tangible we can buy and carry a 5" 1920x1080 pixels screen with us at all times. 

Just to put this  in perspective, the record-breaking MacBook Pro with 13" Retina Display is at 227ppi. At the Droid DNA's print quality 440ppi pixel density, the main advantage is that the image is closer to the perfect human eyesight, which maxes out at around 477ppi, than anything out there. Is this a revolution in mobile screen technology or an incremental improvement? We'll give you the facts and let you decide for yourself. 

First off, the perfect eyesight graces almost nobody, and it is Apple's Retina Display term threshold of 300ppi at 12" (30cm) distance that holds true for the vast majority of people. Those with great 20/15 or even 20/10 vision might still be able to distinguish individual pixels from a foot distance at 300ppi, whereas at the Droid DNA's 440ppi this is nearly impossible for anyone, unless the screen is brought very close to the face of a person with a perfect eyesight.

440 pixels per inch for $200: HTC Droid DNA vs iPhone 5 vs Galaxy S III vs Nexus 4 screen comparison
Still, this pixel density reduces border jaggies in text and small detail much more compared to even the current high-end HD screens, as you can see in the microscopic comparison on the right. 

While it makes reading, for example, a bit less tiring for your brain in theory, as it has to spend less effort to recognize the letter, the difference of efforts in reality is very minuscule and unlikely to be noticed in comparison with a nice high-def mobile screen, even if you read for hours on end. 

Another advantage is that you can watch Full HD videos with 1080 definition in their complete glory on this display, so you will be able to see all the details of the footage taken with the phone's camera, for example. The difference in perception, compared to an HD 720 video on a screen of this size at a normal viewing distance, however, is unlikely to tip the scales in the 1080 definition favor just for this feature alone. You also gain more details to zoom in and work with if you are editing a photo on your screen, which again is an unlikely pastime on a phone display, at least not in depths and duration.

440 pixels per inch for $200: HTC Droid DNA vs iPhone 5 vs Galaxy S III vs Nexus 4 screen comparison
What about the other important display characteristics besides pixel density? Given HTC's traditional ties with Sony for its mobile display panels, in the Droid DNA we might very well have not LG's 1080 panel, but rather something like the 5" Full HD panel on the right that Japan Display Inc said will go into mass production in October, just in time to be fit into the DNA's inventories for Verizon. 

The company is a joint-venture of Sony, Hitachi and Toshiba, created with the help of the Japanese government precisely to take advantage of the mobile revolution. A further proof to that theory is that HTC is calling the display type Super LCD 3, and S-LCD is a Sony's term for the tech that allows us high quality IPS-LCD displays, like the one we find in iPhones and Android or WP8 flagships. Such Full HD 5-incher, but with the company's WhiteMagic technology, is expected to make a cameo in Sony flagships next year, too.

Moreover, Japan Display says the screen is just 1.4mm thin overall, with extremely narrow 1.2mm frame, which would explain how HTC was able to boast yesterday that the Gorilla Glass layer cascades over to the sides of the phone for an almost edge-to-edge experience in a thin and pretty compact for the display size handset. Here is a table of the panel's other specs:

Module Specifications
Display modeTransmissive IPS
NTSC ratio71%
Contrast ratio1000:1(typical)
Viewing angle> 160 degrees, top/bottom and left/right(with CR>100:1)
Screen size5.0-inch (12.6cm) diagonal
Number of pixels1080x1920 (full-HD) RGB
Luminance500cd/m2 (typical)
Dimensions64.3㎜ (width) x 118.8㎜ (height) x 1.4㎜ (thickness)

As you can see, besides the incredible pixel density, which brings about 2.3 times more information situated on the screen at any given time compared to the current 1280x720 high-ends, the rest of the specs match them closely. 

We have 500 nits of brightness, which seems to be the threshold for decent sunlight visibility. The S-LCD 3 technology allows for brighter light transmission at lower power consumption, which somewhat explains the pedestrian 2,020 mAh battery in the Droid DNA, since the power draw in the end is not higher than the one of current HD displays. 

That brighter backlight, however, doesn't translate in more than 500 nits partly since at such pixel density the dots are packed much tighter in comparison with a 720p mobile screen. Indeed, in the smartphone row below, we notice that the Droid DNA screen is not brighter than the iPhone 5 or the One X, for example, which are examples for two of the great mobile LCD screens currently out there, and seems to be about on par with the Nexus 4 at maximum brightness.

Left to right - Apple iPhone 5, Gogle Nexus 4, HTC Droid DNA, HTC One X, Samsung Galaxy S III

Left to right - Apple iPhone 5, Gogle Nexus 4, HTC Droid DNA, HTC One X, Samsung Galaxy S III

Moreover, the iPhone 5 covers the standard NTSC color gamut almost perfectly, and can be the benchmark for color temperature and calibration against other handsets. In comparison to its true white, the Droid DNA colors look somewhat off, which is backed up by the 71% NTSC ratio in the spec sheet above, meaning it is able to display about 30% less than the standard color gamut, which is nonetheless comparable with other good mobile LCDs out there. The Galaxy S III's AMOLED panel, for instance, goes way above the NTSC color gamut with its punchy colors. Screen calibration specialists say displaying less than the standard is actually preferable to going above, if you are a screen purist, though a lot of people enjoy the vivid AMOLED colors.

As for the contrast ratio, it seems to be on par with the other good LCD screens out there, and the viewing angles are high up there too. In a nutshell, what we get with the HTC Droid DNA is a 5" Full HD LCD screen which sports resolution worthy of a perfect eyesight, while the rest of its specs like brightness, color representation, contrast and viewing angles are comparable to some of the best mobile screens currently on the market. 

In that case, what do you think, is the 442ppi pixel density a "must have" for you, all other things being equal, or a "nice to have" ?

  • Options

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 04:47 10

1. wendygarett (unregistered)

i still prefer iphone 5 eventhough it's not the best :)

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 04:57 33

3. Wiki_jaan (Posts: 704; Member since: 24 Jun 2012)

than y u use Nexus7 Pic as your DP...???

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 05:08 21

8. Commentator (Posts: 3570; Member since: 16 Aug 2011)

What, so now you can't have an iPhone and a Nexus 7?

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 06:59 9

28. XPERIA-KNIGHT (unregistered)

in her "phones you own" section it displays a One X....... :(

That being said DNA and Nexus 4 FTW!!!

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 05:07 15

6. Jonathan41 (Posts: 532; Member since: 22 Mar 2012)

Wendy, when did you become such an iFan?

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 05:09 29

9. darkskoliro (Posts: 1066; Member since: 07 May 2012)

shes been trolling everyone since forever.

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 05:10 10

11. Kuherrn (Posts: 16; Member since: 09 Nov 2012)

Why do you prefer something that is not the best???

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 05:22 3

17. wendygarett (unregistered)

It is not the best when it come to screen comparison above ONLY!!!

At least I can afford it with one hand my friends :)

and iphone is the slimmest among all these, if I want the 1080p screen device, why bother when I can get the iPad instead LOL

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 06:08 6

25. ReddD (Posts: 37; Member since: 29 Oct 2012)

ever tried pinch zooming with one hand? or any multi touch for that matter?

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 06:19 1

26. wendygarett (unregistered)

Three fingers hold the phone and pinch it using motherthumb and pointy finger :)

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 06:46 5

27. Nathan_ingx (Posts: 3486; Member since: 07 Mar 2012)

Darn Wenda, do you do that when you're outside? I'm worried about the position of your middle finger when you do that...
P.S. If you still choose to do that, don't ever lift your phone up to your eye level.

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 04:52 5

2. maryaaadil (Posts: 146; Member since: 07 Apr 2012)

Waiting for note 3.

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 05:00 15

4. Jonathan41 (Posts: 532; Member since: 22 Mar 2012)

The Note 3? The Note 2 just came out.

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 06:04 9

23. maryaaadil (Posts: 146; Member since: 07 Apr 2012)

thats why i m waitin.......

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 08:32 3

34. Nathan_ingx (Posts: 3486; Member since: 07 Mar 2012)

Got to admire that spirit of yours...
But it still makes you sound dumb...'cause you're way ahead of Samsung!
Especially when Samsung haven't even announced it yet. Not saying Note 3 won't exist, but Note 2 is still a big thing in the mobile universe!!

posted on 15 Nov 2012, 00:17 1

49. maryaaadil (Posts: 146; Member since: 07 Apr 2012)

well i dont feel like upgrading to note 2 my sgn1 and sg3 r just too good for me right now....
But surly both my phones will be aged when sammy release note 3.

posted on 04 Dec 2012, 16:51

73. downphoenix (Posts: 3050; Member since: 19 Jun 2010)

might as well wait for the Note 4 then.

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 09:52

38. Droid_X_Doug (Posts: 5993; Member since: 22 Dec 2010)

You have at least 6 months based on the Note I > Note II progression. With the DNA, you could be showing your friends what 1080p love looks like in 1 week. Or, your friends could be showing you....

posted on 15 Nov 2012, 00:19

50. maryaaadil (Posts: 146; Member since: 07 Apr 2012)

I live in India.
Will take HTC some time to get here......

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 05:05 9

5. Jonathan41 (Posts: 532; Member since: 22 Mar 2012)

This phone is awesome. I've been waiting for HTC to drop a 5" phone on the market. The screen is amazing. It sets a new standard for pixel density in today's market. I want this phone as soon as it drops.

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 05:10 5

12. darkskoliro (Posts: 1066; Member since: 07 May 2012)

waiting for international version!!

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 05:08 8

7. preet27in (banned) (Posts: 173; Member since: 07 Jul 2012)

droid dna is just the best monster out there. better than any in its catagory. look at the build quality, htc is always a step ahead in terms of quality. but lacks marketing. any ways i hope dna will just rock, good luck htc. love ur phones.

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 05:18 6

15. Commentator (Posts: 3570; Member since: 16 Aug 2011)

What troubles me is the lack of battery behind the display. My Evo has a 2000mAh battery and while I can't complain about its battery life, it could be better. The DNA has virtually the same battery pushing twice as many pixels and a quad-core processor.

And yeah, HTC could really use a marketing campaign like Samsung has been forcing down our throats for the last few months. If Verizon is making this their flagship, no doubt it will get plenty of ad time.

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 09:55

39. Droid_X_Doug (Posts: 5993; Member since: 22 Dec 2010)

That is why VZW is selling accessory battery packs when you pre-order the DNA.... They already know you will be needing more than one battery to get through the day with the DNA.

posted on 15 Nov 2012, 02:02

51. preet27in (banned) (Posts: 173; Member since: 07 Jul 2012)

oh and yes for nokia lovers.... 920 lumia is a good phone too but its totally different from this version of android. i would say if HTC really works on marketing this time, then no is gna beat htc. in terms of quality, sense software and music its just steap ahead of all phones or so called phablets. thanx all. and again HTC... WE LOVE UR PHONES.

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 05:09 2

10. someones4 (Posts: 624; Member since: 16 Sep 2012)

S4 will definitely have this. Waiting for it. 6 months tops.

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 05:38 4

19. Commentator (Posts: 3570; Member since: 16 Aug 2011)

6 months is a LONG time in this business. For Samsung's sake, I hope they have something a bit better by then.

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 07:21

29. redmd (Posts: 1147; Member since: 26 Oct 2011)

Exynos 5 could be inside it. here's hoping.

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 05:11

13. Kriksis (Posts: 92; Member since: 27 Aug 2012)

Where is Nokia Lumia 920 in this comparison???

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 05:17

14. wendygarett (unregistered)

gizmodo ignore wp so much

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 06:04

24. jubbing (Posts: 150; Member since: 20 Aug 2008)

Giz USA only.

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 05:20

16. XiphiasGladius (Posts: 813; Member since: 21 Aug 2011)

Deym. now I can't wait what's in store for us come CES 2013.

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 05:33 2

18. blackspot (Posts: 102; Member since: 14 Nov 2012)

I'm "all-for" companies pushing boundaries as far as incremental improvements in screen quality, the dimensions of a phone, better cameras, RAM, and other components. However, I would like to see an even bigger push in battery tech and energy consumption.

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 05:42 3

20. Owlet (Posts: 450; Member since: 21 Feb 2011)

The whole article sounds kinda like yeah, it's a new ground breaking resolution for a phone screen, but what is such a big deal really, what does it really give you...

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 05:49

21. thelegend6657 (unregistered)

If sony has a Super LCD joint venture , why it still uses TFT display for its phone like Xperia S ?

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 05:56

22. wendygarett (unregistered)

It has a technology call bravia engine, which make the screen brighter and more natural compare to other

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 09:40 2

36. predator93 (Posts: 122; Member since: 28 Aug 2012)

They can use their bravia engine with ips lcd, it will help in improving the viewing angles (one area where displays used in sony phones are not upto the competition).

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 07:24

30. kobainez (Posts: 413; Member since: 13 Apr 2012)

U guys better wait for SONY XPERIA YUGA that will unveil at ces 2013










posted on 14 Nov 2012, 07:31

31. kobainez (Posts: 413; Member since: 13 Apr 2012)

Dragontrail Glass is the same glass that is used in xperia active. Its almost undestructible

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 08:03 4

32. smartphonelover (Posts: 36; Member since: 26 Nov 2009)

Phonearena, can you provide a source that says our eye sight maxes out at 477ppi?

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 08:21 1

33. SpeakYourMind (Posts: 7; Member since: 01 Nov 2012)

Expect to see a larger capacity battery from HTC soon. Thus far, HTC was not able to produce a smartphone with a better than decent battery life.

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 08:53

35. nooraldeen (Posts: 49; Member since: 21 Oct 2012)

there isn't a big difference between the nexus 4 and the droid DNA so it's not a "must have" for me , still going for the lumis 920 hhhh

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 09:50 1

37. ChafedBanana (Posts: 366; Member since: 20 Sep 2011)

Its not the lack of a big battery that disappoints me (I have a Galaxy Nexus so I'm used to averaging only 8 hours on a charge), its the lack of a removable battery that is the huge disappointment. What's with this trend? RAZR HD, Nexus 4 and now the Droid DNA? Why do phone makers think a non-removable battery is the way to go? Is it because Apple has done it all along? LG made the Nexus 4 with a non-removable battery and also made the new Spectrum 2 at the same time WITH a removable battery. The only phone that I can accept this with is the RAZR Maxx HD. That's it.

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 11:00

40. joaolx (Posts: 364; Member since: 16 Aug 2011)

I remember when you guys said that you couldn't tell the difference from iPad 2 screen to iPad 3 screen and know you all want this 1080p on 5inch screens. This is an amazing screen and good work for HTC but you guys should stoping hating just Apple.
That's just stupid.

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 14:38

45. Berzerk000 (Posts: 4250; Member since: 26 Jun 2011)

Eh no, I'm one that's still on the fence about 1080p displays on such a small scale. From the iPad 2 to the iPad 3, from a normal viewing distance there was minimal improvement for the average person. With 1080p on 5" displays, there is still very little improvement. If the DNA had a 1280x800, I would bet everyone would still be satisfied.

Though, at 1280x800 would just be 301 ppi, so there would be a little bit of improvement visually. However, anything over about 315 ppi is overkill and can no longer be detected by the human eye. Just because the iPad is a tablet, and you're supposed to view it from a long distance, is that required pixel density lowered.

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 12:41 1

41. darac (Posts: 2156; Member since: 17 Oct 2011)

Actually, I'm the most surprised by how relatively good the S3 screen sharpness turned out.
I thought the One x would be leaps ahead but it actually produces more jagged edges on some parts of the image

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 14:42

46. Berzerk000 (Posts: 4250; Member since: 26 Jun 2011)

Yeah, the GS3 has a relatively good text quality compared to the others, but do you see that white? Neither do I, because it looks green with red/blue dots in it.

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 16:07

47. darac (Posts: 2156; Member since: 17 Oct 2011)

True, but when looked from distance it just look slightly bluish and cold compared to warmer, yellowish LCD white.
From up close, I think the S3' sub pixel arrangement produces some kind of distorted overblown effect for the viewer.

In practice, I have no problems with how white looks on my s3.
I notice a difference when comparing with LCDs side by side, but really it's more than enough white for me - in fact my screen is never on maximum brightness despite the technically low nits value.

The only real problem with the S3 screen is the rarely mentioned, horrendous black clipping software glitch that makes dark ambient scenes far to dark. Movies like Prometheus or the Dark Knight are barely watchable.

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 12:42

42. Iphone4 (unregistered)

iPhone screen look better

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 19:40 4

48. romeo1 (Posts: 675; Member since: 06 Jan 2012)

you should see an optician

posted on 15 Nov 2012, 08:10 1

52. Iphone4 (unregistered)


Anther android dum fan who can't afford iPhone 5.

Next time keep you stupid comment to you self

posted on 16 Nov 2012, 07:49

56. romeo1 (Posts: 675; Member since: 06 Jan 2012)

How would you even know if someone can't afford an iphone 5 if you don't know the person? Talking about a stupid comment XD
If you weren't an biased you could see the iPhone's text is smaller and even then the letters aren't as sharp as the one on the dna its not about about a matter of taste it's just a fact

posted on 17 Nov 2012, 12:07 1

57. Iphone4 (unregistered)

U r a Proper android.

Yes I am iPhone fan and still think iPhone 5 is best

Phone arena full of android fans like u.

Who ever say iPhone is best all they get red thumbs down

I am giving my opinion

U don't like it who cares.

Anther galaxy y or htc hero user


posted on 18 Nov 2012, 08:47

62. romeo1 (Posts: 675; Member since: 06 Jan 2012)

As I said before it's not about an matter of taste (or even an opinion) wich one is sharper it's a fact the dna's screen is sharper.

I'm not a fan of android/ios/wp8/bb, I just look what I find the best for me before I buy it.

Like the dna I would not buy it because I don't like the way htc phones feel and the sense ui is not my thing the same with the samsungs. At the moment I like the sony phones cause they feel/look nice in my opinion.
But I won't say the xperia s screen is sharper than the dna cause it just isn't but it's sharper than most of the phones at the time.

I'm also not giving thumbs up or downs. If I got something to say I just say it.

posted on 19 Nov 2012, 12:58 2

64. Iphone4 (unregistered)

So next time don't make comment to people they need to go to optician.

Different people got different opinion you should respect other people.

posted on 02 Dec 2012, 09:16

68. romeo1 (Posts: 675; Member since: 06 Jan 2012)

You're acting like you've made a point? are you serious?
if could read you would've seen i'm not saying its about an opinion it's a FACT that the screen on de dna is sharper.

Talking about respect you where laughing saying that i'm dump and can't afford an iphone.

posted on 17 Nov 2012, 13:10 1

58. Iphone4 (unregistered)

As i am a iPhone 5 user for me that DNA screen it's all that.

I5 4" 326 and DNA 5" 440 it's a same old crap

Nothing new PA still thinks i5 screen is the best maybe it's will change after DNA which I dout it

posted on 15 Nov 2012, 08:15 1

53. Iphone4 (unregistered)

iPhone still look better

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 13:27 2

43. ngo2dd (Posts: 896; Member since: 08 Jul 2011)

Wow look at the whites on the S3, it is very bad. I am all for vivid color but give me better whites

posted on 14 Nov 2012, 13:57

44. RapidCat (Posts: 351; Member since: 12 Jun 2012)

i only see sgs3 screen have the best white colour. and droid dna have the best black colour and the crisp text

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