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What's the benefit of having an HD screen

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What's the benefit of having an HD screen
Okay, so it looks like we're making quite a big deal out of the fact that we're beginning to see phone screens sporting HD resolutions. With all this hype around such displays, like the ones present on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and Galaxy Note, it seems logical that we should also be well aware of the extent to which we're actually benefiting from this.

Before we had those first displays surpassing the 720x1280 mark, the closest offering out there was the so-called Retina Display, present on the iPhone 4 and 4S. With a resolution of 640x960 pixels, laid out on a real estate of 3.5 inches, this screen was marketed as “Retina Display” for a reason. The reason is the incredibly high pixel density of 326 ppi (pixels per inch), which guarantees that we see some ultra-sharp visuals, getting rid of any jagged edges around fine details or letters. Actually, a pixel density as high as 326 ppi means that you just cannot observe any pixelization, in case you are holding your phone at a normal distance from your eyes (about 10 inches). And this brings us to the idea that we actually don't need a higher resolution than that, on a display this big. There would be hardly any use in it, and the production cost for the handset would unnecessarily go up.

What's the benefit of having an HD screen
However, what happens with Android phones, where screen sizes are usually significantly bigger than 3.5”? Until recently, their screens relied on 480x800, or 540x960 resolutions at best. What this meant was that users typically enjoyed pretty decent, but not insane image clarity on their 4+” handsets. And this is where the new 720x1280 resolution display of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus comes in. With this resolution, even on a sizable real estate of 4.65”, we can now enjoy a spectacular pixel density of 316 ppi, which is just marginally lower than the iPhone 4S's 326 ppi. Finally, images on large-screen smartphones will be just as crisp as they are on the iPhone's Retina Display. And thankfully, the fact that the Galaxy Nexus is using a PenTile matrix isn't hampering the quality of the image in almost all cases.

By now, we should have made it very clear that what matters for your viewing experience is not the sheer amount of pixels, but rather the pixel density, which depends on both the resolution and the diagonal of the display. That's because you can still have an HD resolution, but if your screen is, say, 10-inch, you won't be even close to getting a ppi of above 300, which would translate in to a significantly more jagged display.

We test:

What's the benefit of having an HD screen
Indeed, we took a few “scientific” shots of both the HD Super AMOLED screen as found on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and the Retina Display found on the iPhone 4. We wanted to capture the screens so that we can determine the difference we get in detail/pixel density, and the photos that we took proved the numbers. By looking at these images, it becomes clear that both handsets are very close to each other when it comes to sharpness, with the 4.65” HD Super AMOLED screen being just a tad behind the 3.5” Retina Display. The difference is of course negligible, as both displays are incredibly crisp.

And this, guys and gals, is the ultimate benefit of having an HD-resolution screen on a phone. While there wouldn't have been much use in it if it was installed on a smaller handset, like the iPhone 4S, having such a great resolution on a smartphone with a large screen, like the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, can be priceless, as it allows us to experience Retina Display-quality images, on a much larger display. Good thing that technology is moving forward, right?

HD Super AMOLED on Galaxy Nexus
Retina Display on iPhone 4

HD Super AMOLED on Galaxy Nexus

Retina Display on iPhone 4

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posted on 26 Oct 2011, 11:12

1. tech-head (Posts: 133; Member since: 02 Sep 2011)

I have a question. I am someone trying to decide whether to get a GS2 or a Galaxy Nexus. Both have great screens with one being HD. Of course the Nexus will look better and have ICS but what about app compatibility? Games? Will apps/games look like crap on a HD phone?

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 11:54

14. networkdood (Posts: 6330; Member since: 31 Mar 2010)

SGS2 will get ICS...someday - if you are into rooting, then XDA will have the newest firmware from the samsungfirmware.com website up and running on the SGS2 in no time.

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 12:17 2

23. rf1975 (Posts: 258; Member since: 01 Aug 2011)

As still we did not see any bench mark it hard to decide. I heard that the Nexus is using an overclocked PowerVR540GPU which is not good as Mali-400MP found in GSII. If you are a mobile gamer then better go for GSII. iPhone 4S uses a better GPU (543MP2) but its screen is very small for mobile game. Or wait for GSIII ;-)

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 12:35

27. arcq12 (Posts: 733; Member since: 13 Oct 2011)

then wait 8 to 10 months..

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 17:24

41. Jasonhunterx (Posts: 111; Member since: 20 Jul 2011)

But its has better cpu which should pick up slack an gpu is overclocked an benchmarks i have seen put Nexus ahead in some cases an good benchmarks 2 Java Script

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 16:53

40. kshell1 (Posts: 1143; Member since: 05 Oct 2011)

go with the nexus. the point of ics is to reduce fragmentation by puting together the best elements of 2.3 and 3.2 to make the os better overall and raise compatibility.

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 18:03

43. Ivan6479 (Posts: 249; Member since: 26 Jun 2011)

Also the GS2 has gorilla glass and the Galaxy Nexus doesn't. That alone would seal the deal for me. Some think it doesn't make much of a difference, but I beg to differ. Here is a link to a video of the GS2 vs the iPhone 4S, so have a look and then think about your decision.


Also seeing how the GS2 is Samsung's Flagship device I'm sure Samsung will be working hard to get the people ICS. At least hope anyways. :)

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 21:05

47. remixfa (Posts: 14255; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)

gorilla glass is a big deal for me, for sure.

Between the 2 its a toss up. do you want the better processor, maybe better camera, and gorilla glass... or do you want the better screen, ICS with guaranteed updates, no manufacturer UIs or junk, hardware taylor made for the OS, and a bigger screen?

posted on 27 Oct 2011, 05:53 1

55. Firedrops (Posts: 249; Member since: 06 Sep 2011)

I would prefer T-Mobile's SGS 2, which has a 1.5GHz which afaik is not overlocked. That means it can be clocked to even higher speeds if you want to. In a few months the GS2 is going to get updated with ICS anyways.
The apps will not look like crap on a HD phone, in fact they should look better. Most apps render images based on percentage of screen size, so proportions are usually maintaned.
As others have pointed out, GS2 also has the advantage of Gorilla Glass.

posted on 28 Oct 2011, 12:52

62. KRONeage (Posts: 142; Member since: 17 Apr 2011)

Since Android 1.6, developers have all had to have three sets of assets. A set for Small displays, Medium displays and Large displays. Since Android 2.1 they've added Extra Large or Tablet screen assets. Which means every App since Android 2.1 has had super high resolution quality assets!

Contrary to Apple's philosophy of one set for whichever device the App is for and then the device uses a scaler to zoom graphical assets on a larger screen like iPad's. But that's why they made tablet specific platform graphics. So they didn't have to scale far inferior graphics meant for phones. Scalers are cop outs no matter what the quality is and it's what keeps iPhones locked into 3.5" screens.

With a larger screen they are forever locked never having native sized assets and everything gets scaled. As it is, all older apps are using scaling. Scaling is taking the same pixel resolution and line doubling it. These leaves holes where data has to be interpolated and is no longer a true representation of the original artwork or graphics. In video that is routinely in 16:9 wide screen, the larger screen benefits are negated with padding top and bottom along loss of detail.

Although scaling makes it less evident, it doesn't come close to being like near native screen resolution on Android w/ four sets of assets on the majority of games and Apps in the store. DPI is the deciding factor on Android. This means majority of apps and games will display beautifully on Nexus, because it already has high DPI graphical assets w/o using any quality reducing scaling just using Tablet PC assets on HD screened phones!!!

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 11:13 1

2. dirtydirty00 (Posts: 421; Member since: 21 Jan 2011)

i agree. there is no difference.

but this is just some crying from iPhoneArena not being able to call the retina #1 any longer in resolution.

i have a TB and to be honest... whats the diff between my screen and a retina? nothing that will make a difference in the way we actually use our phones.

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 11:28 6

5. ayephoner (Posts: 850; Member since: 09 Jun 2009)

how is this crying? they are saying that android has caught up. if it upset 'iphone arena' they simply wouldnt cover it.

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 11:36 3

7. roldefol (Posts: 4242; Member since: 28 Jan 2011)

Agreed, I think PA has been very fair in their coverage of both iPhone and Android lately. Just because you personally don't like the iPhone doesn't mean it should get ignored or berated by the site.

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 11:33

6. roldefol (Posts: 4242; Member since: 28 Jan 2011)

There may not be much difference between the Retina and your TB screen, because both will require you to zoom in to read text - because it's too small on the iPhone and because it's too blurry on the TB. On the Galaxy text will be both larger and clearer. It'll make a huge difference reading web pages and documents.

posted on 27 Oct 2011, 09:39

58. clevername (Posts: 1436; Member since: 11 Jul 2008)

Unless you have poor eyesight you don't need to zoom in at all on the iPhone 4(4s). I know I never needed to.

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 14:45 1

37. FAW-Q (Posts: 63; Member since: 29 Jul 2011)

If you haven't notticed, Phone Arena is actually one of the only blogs on the entire internet that does not show any biases towards Android or iPhones in their articles. Why do you think there are so many Android Fanboys hanging around this site?

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 21:06

48. remixfa (Posts: 14255; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)

it all depends on WHO is writing the blogs. It used to be crazy biased twards apple, but they have gotten a lot better in the last few months.

posted on 28 Oct 2011, 07:24 2

61. ayephoner (Posts: 850; Member since: 09 Jun 2009)

ive been reading the site for years. this is absolutely not true.

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 11:13

3. android_hitman (unregistered)

let me translate this: don't buy other phones, just buy the outdated Iphone 4s because the differences are not that big! Really?
buy and Iphone 4s because the quality of the movies are the same as a professional Canon camera.

i love PhoneArena ads :) keep them comming

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 11:38 4

8. ayephoner (Posts: 850; Member since: 09 Jun 2009)


the iphone used to have a clearly superior resolution. all they are saying here is that android has caught up.

how can you dolts see this as anything other than a proandroid article?

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 11:44 5

10. roldefol (Posts: 4242; Member since: 28 Jan 2011)

Well, since it didn't put down the iPhone, it must therefore be pro-iPhone. I swear, it's like national politics here. If you're not against something, you must be for it.

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 21:07 3

49. remixfa (Posts: 14255; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)

only the sith think in absolutes! :)

posted on 27 Oct 2011, 05:55

56. Firedrops (Posts: 249; Member since: 06 Sep 2011)

That statement itself is an absolute! You're a sith! :D

posted on 27 Oct 2011, 09:41

59. clevername (Posts: 1436; Member since: 11 Jul 2008)

My sentiments exactly. Guys like that show the difference between fans and fanboys.

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 11:55

15. networkdood (Posts: 6330; Member since: 31 Mar 2010)

hmmm, I mean the iphone 4S is a nice phone and has an excellent camera - the SGS2 has a camera that some say is just as good.

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 12:04

18. roldefol (Posts: 4242; Member since: 28 Jan 2011)

But the SGS2 screen has pretty poor fine detail, which is what we're discussing here. Check out PA's article on HD Super AMOLED Pentile. SAMOLED Plus is very pixelated compared to both the iPhone and Nexus.

Now, the SGS3... that'll be a killer phone.

posted on 27 Oct 2011, 21:03

60. cupcake (Posts: 106; Member since: 15 Apr 2010)

If this is how the article has translated to you, you have very abstract logic. Also, if you see most PhoneArena articles as ads, why do you bother not merely reading, but also taking the time to create an account and comment on them ...? o.0

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 11:26

4. Synack (Posts: 677; Member since: 05 Jul 2011)

Now I'm not gonna go and do what I normally do when people write articles saying the iPhone4S is better than the Galaxy Nexus. Normally I call them out for being an idiot.

This time, I'll say this, if you look at the LETTERS and not the background patterns, like most people do, then you'll see the Nexus letters are very slightly clearer and the iPhone's are slightly blurrier. In this case, you wrote an article saying the iPhone was better than the Nexus, but you posted a picture saying the exact opposite. Good job!

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 11:41 1

9. ayephoner (Posts: 850; Member since: 09 Jun 2009)

how are they saying the iphone 4s is better?

this is a comment section to be used as example of fandroid bias.

the article is saying that DESPITE a slight edge in ppi for the iphone, the galaxy nexus is close enough to be considered equal AND has a bigger screen.

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 11:51 3

12. snowgator (Posts: 3583; Member since: 19 Jan 2011)

Wow. There are a handful of obsessive iPhone haters out here. Throw any article with the iPhone name on it and they lose their ever-livin'-minds, even when the article is very complimentary to an Android device. I truly do not get how you can read this piece and not see how it is a pro-Nexus. Besides, is it really that offensive to say the iPone still has a good screen?

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 13:01

32. Synack (Posts: 677; Member since: 05 Jul 2011)

Absolutely not offensive. But when you throw around false facts with picture proof right next to it, then it deserves to be called out.

"with the 4.65” HD Super AMOLED screen being just a tad behind the 3.5” Retina Display"

This being what I'm talking about. This article is not pro Nexus. All I am saying is the words are not supporting the facts. There is no opinion meant to be put across here. I agree both have great screens but simply looking at the pictures with a good eye will tell you the clearness of the text is a tiny bit better on the Nexus than the iPhone.

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 13:08

34. roldefol (Posts: 4242; Member since: 28 Jan 2011)

In those pictures, I think black text looks better on the Nexus due to the higher contrast of AMOLED, but gray text looks better on the iPhone. PA had their own judgment call based on the picture, but it's very close and very subjective in this case.

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 21:12

51. remixfa (Posts: 14255; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)

blacks will always look best on an Amoled... its impossible to look better. Amoleds turn the pixel off completely when its black. Which gives it infinite contrast.

Thats also a big part of the reason gingerbread was progressively darker than 2.2 and ICS is based on black areas. ICS was designed to be used on Super Amoled displays. The darker it is, the more battery you can save.

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 13:22

35. ayephoner (Posts: 850; Member since: 09 Jun 2009)

not real sure about that.

the pentile coloring really comes through on the nexus (greenish tone). this hides the faint grey around some of the letters. i really dont see one being better than the other, i just see difference. its strange the 'e' in each pic looks a bit different too.

the first time i read the article, i just saw the ppi being a bit better, but it seems they are also seeing a slight edge in sharpness too. i am sure their pics are better evidence than what we are looking at (a posting of a pic subject to our own screens' resolution)

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 21:09

50. remixfa (Posts: 14255; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)

lol, unfortunately we have a few "taco and gallito's" on the android side of the fence too.

i dunno. i never really thought resolution was a big problem on the bigger phones. i get them so i can read text larger and still see more at the same time. I dont normally put my nose on the phone to read.. lol.

either way, gotta love progress. :)

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 15:26 2

38. SweetLou (Posts: 17; Member since: 20 Oct 2011)

If an article so much as mentions the iphone, people rush to the comments to scream bias. If he actually read the article, he might understand that it was merely an informative comparison article.

Assuming people actually read the articles they comment on is obviously ridiculous these days.

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 11:49 2

11. arcq12 (Posts: 733; Member since: 13 Oct 2011)

in real world, they just have the same resolution. resolutions that you can't determine which one is better.

so the main factor to consider then is the screen size.. bigger is better..

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 11:52 2

13. roldefol (Posts: 4242; Member since: 28 Jan 2011)

In general I'd agree, but not for everyone. I wouldn't recommend a Nexus to a girl with tiny hands.

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 12:23 4

24. burnetet (Posts: 6; Member since: 18 Oct 2011)

I bet the girl with tiny hands would tell you that bigger is better. :)

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 12:43

30. roldefol (Posts: 4242; Member since: 28 Jan 2011)

There's such thing as too big. >:)

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 21:13 1

52. remixfa (Posts: 14255; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)

thats NOT what she said. :)

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 12:40

29. arcq12 (Posts: 733; Member since: 13 Oct 2011)

right, and as far as screens smaller than 4", 800x480 looks great.. and of course android is about choices..

as for Apple, if you want a bigger screen, you get the iPad.. =)

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 13:02

33. Synack (Posts: 677; Member since: 05 Jul 2011)

I know of a 4'11 girl that loves her 4.3 inch phone.

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 12:06

19. Dark4o90 (Posts: 205; Member since: 20 Feb 2011)

they do not have the same resolution in the real world

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 12:08

21. Dark4o90 (Posts: 205; Member since: 20 Feb 2011)

maybe the same ppi bu not the res

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 12:37

28. arcq12 (Posts: 733; Member since: 13 Oct 2011)

alright smartass.. what i mean is you won't really notice the difference when you put them side by side.. yes the paper says this and that but your eyes wont notice anything different..

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 12:46

31. roldefol (Posts: 4242; Member since: 28 Jan 2011)

My eyes don't see resolution, they see ppi. It just happens that because the Nexus has a much bigger screen it needs 50% more pixels to match the iPhone.

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 12:01

16. Lion86 (Posts: 1; Member since: 26 Oct 2011)

Andriod is way a head of the Iphone there screen is 3.5 that's y they can fit so much pixel density on there screen because is is very small I would like to see them do the same thing with a screen bigger then 4

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 12:02

17. networkdood (Posts: 6330; Member since: 31 Mar 2010)

Maybe it just comes down to pricing as some Androids are going for 299.99 with 2 yr contract and the iphone 4S 32GB is the same deal. Each consumer has to weigh what they value in a phone and go with what they really want. Some want the iphone because it is an APPLE product with an 'i' at the beginning. My wife likes the 4, because she feels the 4S will have too many issues at first and the 4 is on clearance. Problem is that the 4 is almost out of inventory to where all that is left is an 8GB model and she wants 32GB. Her perception of Android is that it is too complicated. I feel that once I get the SGS2, and even if I do not root it and upgrade it to ICS 4.0, that she may come to realize that the phone is easy to use.
My gripe with iphones is the battery and memory being non-removable - memory more so than battery, and you can use iCLOUD to move stuff and store it, but will cost 25.00/yr at some point. SGS2 is 199.99 and memory to expand to 48GB would cost 100.00 or less and I have DROPbox and MINUS for all of my storage needs, as well as other programs like SPOTIFY for music and even other countless apps.

It just depends what suits you and what you feel is best for YOU.

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 12:06

20. jackhammeR (Posts: 1548; Member since: 17 Oct 2011)

Next step i 1080p..it's insane and useless.
I wonder how battery works with that kind of screen.

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 14:43

36. p0rkguy (Posts: 685; Member since: 23 Nov 2010)

7" tablet for 1080p!

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 12:12

22. MorePhonesThanNeeded (Posts: 645; Member since: 23 Oct 2011)

What weirdness is this, that photo comparison of the fonts up close is a little weird. First why are they both not using the exact same font style? Up close the iPhone looks jagged and the nexus has color matrix easily viewable, who the hell has their face that close to the screen? The photo side by side in the dark is much better, and the Nexus is absolutely huge, but the screen colors are off and look a bit yellowish while the iPhone looks white(er?).

Nexus screen output might be lower and accuracy might be a bit lacking. First generation teething problems I take it. But looks good though, anyway back to my cubby hole.

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 12:24

25. ygswagg11 (Posts: 8; Member since: 26 Oct 2011)

i am very happy to see this type of article seem so un-bias unlike engadget just out right bashing the nexus prime aka GALAXY neXus the HD 1280 by 720p screen is going to be crisp point blank period people dont have no knowledge how screen resolution,pixels rgb pentile etc work so they bash soon they see 316 ppi vs retina 326 ppi and think because the numbers arent the same its not as good as retina well u are all wrong whoever thinks that soons its released u will all see how gorgeous and crisp it is once u have this beast in your hands.. PA keep the un bias articles coming we all enjoy that keep it real site...with that being said retina display had its time to shine but now it must bow down 3.5 is too small for u to actually game,watch movies etc......so this hd screen will be a joy to have,,,

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 12:34 1

26. koutrelakos (Posts: 30; Member since: 17 Mar 2010)

Coming from an OG Droid, Incredible, and the 4" Incredible 2, the added width on my 4S makes the difference in screen size negligible. I have medium sized hands, almost able to perfectly work a phone like the Incredible 2 with one hand. The Prime is just a tad bit big, though. Not everyone wants a screen this big, and that's the joy of personal preference.

One can't just make a statement like, "A 3.5 inch screen isn't suitable/big enough for mobile gaming," as a fact. That's an opinion. Would I like it to be 4 inches? In an ideal world, yes. But as it stands, it's easy to play Need for Speed, and the screen response is unbeatable.

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 19:09

46. jroc74 (Posts: 6005; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)

Yea its opinion about gaming and watching videos on a 3.5 inch screen but..

After using my Droid X and Droid 1...I do most all that stuff on my Droid X if I can help it. I got netflix and I dont even bother using it on my Droid 1.

IMO....gaming, web browsing and watching videos is better on a screen bigger than 3.5". 4" screen is ideal to me and the lowest I will go now.

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 17:28 1

42. ledbetterp3 (Posts: 467; Member since: 31 Aug 2011)

I've notices there are a lot of retards that posted in this article...

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 19:04

45. jroc74 (Posts: 6005; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)

Whats the benefit? To say you have an HD screen...didnt you know?

Seriously...I agree with a bigger screen the higher screen res makes it better. On a phone as small as the iPhone 4 or Droid 1 it seems like a waste now after using the Droid X.

On a technical note only Android phones in the US are catching up. There were Android phone(s) out overseas with the same screen res as the iPhone 4.

posted on 26 Oct 2011, 22:40

53. schinnak (Posts: 91; Member since: 26 Oct 2011)

They missed out the main benefit. In 720 P when you scroll, there will be less blur. Also, when there are flash based banners or movements in the website while browsing, HD screens will have less blur and the image will be more crisp even while moving.

posted on 27 Oct 2011, 04:56

54. saiki4116 (Posts: 379; Member since: 31 Mar 2011)

tablets dont need insane pixel densities because you would not hold a tablet as you would hold a mobile...ie you would hold somewhat far from your eye,that is why you are not bothered about pixel densities on a 21" or 27" full hd display.i think that we need high pixel densities for mobiles..

posted on 27 Oct 2011, 08:43

57. aravinddr (Posts: 12; Member since: 27 Oct 2011)

HD screen clarity mainly depends on type of backlighting used my LCD used in the specialized devices....AMOLED or any LED display with its own LED backlighting providing better ppi and low consumption of battery charge......

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