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Quad HD displays in smartphones? Not always worth it, say our readers

Posted: , by Chris P.

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Quad HD displays in smartphones? Not always worth it, say our readers
Ah, the naughty pixel! The culprit behind so much controversy—whether we're talking cameras or displays. But it's not that there's something inherently wrong with Mr. Pixel, it's that too much of him tends to do you little good. At least most of the time. Notably, however, more pixels are a time-tested and proven strategy for pushing new products, so marketers often stretch the truth a little bit. As we've illustrated over and over again, there are fundamental and practical limits to pixel hoarding, and perhaps more importantly—serious performance and efficiency overheads—involved when going for a 4K UHD resolution on a tiny smartphone screen.

But 4K UHD is (and will hopefully remain) an outlier in the smartphone world, so we thought we'd instead talk about the current de-facto (Android) flagship standard: Quad HD, or 1440 x 2560 pixels. We wanted to know whether you, our readers, thought the objectively small improvement in detail was worth the extra processing time required to drive the additional pixels, and the subsequently increased power draw—at least on average. So we asked you. And many of you spoke their mind.

Unsurprisingly given the flak we've been getting when addressing Quad HD in the past, a notable chunk of our readers (~17%) say that the extra resolution is worth it regardless of screen size. We take it they wouldn't mind a 4-incher with a Quad HD display, then. Probably an experimental bionic eye or something. Anyways, this particular group is, thankfully, dwarfed by readers within the more reasonable, Quad-HD-only-after-5.5" camp, which amassed ~44% of the votes. We can certainly agree that some improvement in detail is available then, so that makes sense—even if we'd rather have smoother performance and arguably better efficiency. Finally, the remaining 39% of voters disagree Quad HD is worth the overhead, regardless of screen size. See for yourself:

Phonearena polls
sort by
Do you think the performance overhead of Quad HD displays is worth it?
Yes, regardless of screen size 17.34% (321 votes) (321 votes)
Yes, but only with 5.5" displays and larger 43.65% (808 votes) (808 votes)
No, regardless of screen size 39.01% (722 votes) (722 votes)

1851 votes

  • Options

posted on 30 Dec 2015, 05:41 8

1. GreekGeek (Posts: 1276; Member since: 22 Mar 2014)

I'd say 6 inches and beyond...there is a discernible difference between QHD vs 1080p...but only with folks with a 20/20 vision that is

posted on 30 Dec 2015, 05:43

2. hung2900 (Posts: 965; Member since: 02 Mar 2012)

I would say it's from quite clear to clear on >5 inch Pentile display

posted on 30 Dec 2015, 06:24 5

4. sgodsell (Posts: 4864; Member since: 16 Mar 2013)

When using VR, then the resolution matters regardless of the physical display size. So the higher the resolution, the better.

posted on 30 Dec 2015, 07:57 3

10. jellmoo (Posts: 2035; Member since: 31 Oct 2011)

The caveat there is that it requires VR to be a consideration. I'm thinking that this is a priority for a very small number of people.

posted on 31 Dec 2015, 19:40

26. techperson211 (Posts: 1280; Member since: 27 Feb 2014)

And when the fruit implement it. They'll say it's worth it. I remember people saying 720 is overkill them 1080 is overkill then 2k is overkill now it's 4k overkill. If the technology is there why not? Nikola tesla didn't stop inventing even if he was dubbed a mad scientist. Why should company stop making innovation?

posted on 30 Dec 2015, 09:14 1

14. IOSANDROID (Posts: 102; Member since: 30 Sep 2015)

Sure but what will prefer a very detailed vr experience (for like 15 minutes) or a great performer phone with better battery (for the rest of the day) just making clear what is the priority of most users

posted on 30 Dec 2015, 07:31

8. TyrionLannister (unregistered)

20/20 is average vision, not perfect one. There are a few people with vision of 20/6, and any person with good eye will have between 20/10 to 20/15 vision.


I can clearly see the difference at 5.5" and above. But I guess it depends on your eyes and the content. Our eyes are very good at filling the gaps and smoothing a moving footage. So the difference between QHD and 1080p video won't be that much. On the other hand, text and simple vector images is the area where difference is most visible. For example, the text while browsing or simply the signal and battery indicator in notification area.

Simply stating 6" without any information to back up your claim is kind-of absurd. So well, why not calculate it. 20/20 vision means a visual acuity of about 0.6 arc minute. Let's say the distance between eye and screen to be 10 inches. So the pixel size will turn out to be = 0.00174 inches = 573 PPI.

So for 20/20 vision, the difference will be 573 PPI, which means about 5.1 inches.

posted on 30 Dec 2015, 07:38 1

9. TyrionLannister (unregistered)

Correction: Turns out I'm wrong. 20/20 or 6/6 vision(feet and meters) refer to an acuity of 1 arc minute, hence the PPI at 10" will be 343, or the magic apple number steve jobs claimed.

posted on 30 Dec 2015, 18:43

22. SYSTEM_LORD (Posts: 1021; Member since: 05 Oct 2015)

Hence why many, including myself, say that HD and FHD are all that are really needed on phones...as long as we're talking about LCD screens here. Pentile could actually use QHD very well at all sizes over 5"

posted on 30 Dec 2015, 12:38

19. SprintGuy26 (Posts: 229; Member since: 21 Mar 2011)

I have bad eyes (glaucoma and cataracts) and i can always tell the diff between 1080p and QHD! no 20/20 vision here..

QHD is way better in the sun and better viewing angles...i can take my cheap ($50) QHD phone against my brothers iPhone and my screen looks soooo much better!...

not dissing Apple so please dont jump all over me for this post just being real and this can go for Android phones that have LCD's...QHD beats everything

posted on 30 Dec 2015, 15:43

20. Plutonium239 (Posts: 1079; Member since: 17 Mar 2015)

Those of us living in developed countries typically have our vision issues corrected in some manner(contacts, glasses, lasic, etc..) and typically this gives us better than 20/20 vision, as such, differences between QHD and FHD on a ~5 inch screen and larger is clearly discernible. QHD is vastly more sharp than FHD, however QHD is not good enough for use in the Gear VR(no matter how much samsung tells you). It would require a 4k panel to even be acceptable, preferable 4k for each eye(which would be much more acceptable.

posted on 30 Dec 2015, 06:13 5

3. kefalin (Posts: 288; Member since: 08 Feb 2015)

I have full hd on 5,5 inch screen and its enough.

posted on 30 Dec 2015, 06:28 2

5. legiloca (Posts: 1461; Member since: 11 Nov 2014)

I can discern the difference between a FullHD and a QuadHD for I can still go pixel peeping on the former while the latter looks super realistic especially on the GS6/edge..

posted on 30 Dec 2015, 06:40

6. wargreymon (Posts: 763; Member since: 05 Nov 2013)

Same, as long as you can see difference I say its worth it. Since when did humans ever say "Nah, this is fine, lets not go any further"?.

posted on 30 Dec 2015, 09:22 3

15. IOSANDROID (Posts: 102; Member since: 30 Sep 2015)

I get your point but I think is wiser to advance once the other technologies are on par with it. For me performance is more important than let's say 2k on a 5.1 inch smartphone, just saying my opinion, I know nobody asked for it

posted on 30 Dec 2015, 07:13 3

7. XperiaFanZone (Posts: 2226; Member since: 21 Sep 2012)

Just waiting for Apple to invent 4k displays on their smartphones and tech journalists to no longer stress that 4k is an overkill.

posted on 30 Dec 2015, 08:31 2

12. Chris.P (Posts: 567; Member since: 27 Jun 2013)

Sit tight, it'll be a while.

posted on 30 Dec 2015, 09:26

16. IOSANDROID (Posts: 102; Member since: 30 Sep 2015)

I'm not an ifan but I have to say that most of the time apple do jumps in resolution when the prosscessor is ready for it with the exeption of the ipad 3, however I really think that the IPhone 6 4.7 inches should have been1080p as well.

Note: I refer to apple mobile devices only.

posted on 31 Dec 2015, 00:09

24. AlikMalix (unregistered)

The thing is, it'll be fine with 4k, 8k, 250millionk, as long as there's no trade-off... currently the trade-off is slower performance, jitters and such, and battery. and if you say note 5 kills iphone - i have couple of youtube videos for you from phonebuff....

posted on 30 Dec 2015, 08:31 7

11. theguy2345 (Posts: 1216; Member since: 24 Jun 2014)

1440p isn't worth it because there is almost no content for 1440p. 1080p is where all the content is now, with the next jump being 2160p. 1440p is just a gimmick to make people go out and buy a new phone every year. They should have just stayed at 1080p, figured out all the battery issues, then jumped to 2160p, where all the content will be in a couple of years.

posted on 30 Dec 2015, 09:29 1

17. IOSANDROID (Posts: 102; Member since: 30 Sep 2015)

I absolutely agree with I'll just ad to the battery performance, I know is not only the fault of resolution but also of software optimization.

posted on 30 Dec 2015, 09:00

13. Bfrenz (Posts: 192; Member since: 26 Aug 2012)

@chris.p seriously? Its been ages since this fight and debate started, we're going to the future and I'm damn sure that we're gonna see the light of 8K and 12K displays in near future. so saddle up and stop blaming people for having 2K or 4K displays. yes we don't need them but we're going to get them for sure
@others tech journalists always come up with these ideas like this and say we dont need this and that. we're not in the realm of needing anything its just the way tech evolves.

posted on 30 Dec 2015, 11:39 2

18. Tizo101 (Posts: 515; Member since: 05 Jun 2015)

I would like to know why it is an itch on someone's bum if some people choose to buy 2K smartphones?

posted on 30 Dec 2015, 17:49

21. Hitokage (Posts: 103; Member since: 01 Mar 2015)

I used to be entire opposed to QHD on anything, I'm more open to it on tablets now though. The Tab S2 display is simply gorgeous, and the only game that seems to be impacted by the resolution is Asphalt 8 so far. Now, on a < 5.5" display, yes it's pretty redundant for MOST use cases

posted on 30 Dec 2015, 21:48

23. jeroome86 (Posts: 2112; Member since: 12 Apr 2012)

I remember how good the battery life was on G2. When G3 came out it went to crap. Whether the 2k had anything to do with this who knows. Remember how everyone thought they lost there minds when going to 1080p from 720p? Just think when we go to 4K these same people will say I can tell a difference on a 5.5 screen. It will happen just wait. It's all good as long as it don't effect performance or battery life.

posted on 31 Dec 2015, 02:20

25. skyline88 (Posts: 610; Member since: 15 Jul 2013)

no difference for devices with screen below 6 inch, 720 is sufficient, 1080 is overkilled, Quad HD is just marketing gimmick.

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