What's the benefit of having an HD screen

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.

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:

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?


Related phones

GALAXY Nexus
  • Display 4.7" 720 x 1280 pixels
  • Camera 5 MP / 1.3 MP front
  • Processor TI OMAP4460, Dual-core, 1200 MHz
  • Storage 32 GB
  • Battery 1750 mAh(8.33h 3G talk time)
iPhone 4s
  • Display 3.5" 640 x 960 pixels
  • Camera 8 MP / 0.3 MP VGA front
  • Processor Apple A5, Dual-core, 800 MHz
  • Storage 64 GB

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60 Comments

1. tech-head

Posts: 133; Member since: Sep 02, 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?

14. networkdood

Posts: 6330; Member since: Mar 31, 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.

23. rf1975

Posts: 264; Member since: Aug 01, 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 ;-)

27. arcq12

Posts: 733; Member since: Oct 13, 2011

then wait 8 to 10 months..

41. Jasonhunterx

Posts: 111; Member since: Jul 20, 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

40. kshell1

Posts: 1143; Member since: Oct 05, 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.

43. Ivan6479

Posts: 250; Member since: Jun 26, 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. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elKxgsrJFhw&feature=share 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. :)

47. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 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?

55. Firedrops

Posts: 254; Member since: Sep 06, 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.

62. KRONeage

Posts: 144; Member since: Apr 17, 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!!!

2. dirtydirty00

Posts: 428; Member since: Jan 21, 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.

5. ayephoner

Posts: 858; Member since: Jun 09, 2009

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

7. roldefol

Posts: 4744; Member since: Jan 28, 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.

6. roldefol

Posts: 4744; Member since: Jan 28, 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.

58. clevername

Posts: 1436; Member since: Jul 11, 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.

37. FAW-Q

Posts: 63; Member since: Jul 29, 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?

48. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 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.

61. ayephoner

Posts: 858; Member since: Jun 09, 2009

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

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? or 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

8. ayephoner

Posts: 858; Member since: Jun 09, 2009

what? 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?

10. roldefol

Posts: 4744; Member since: Jan 28, 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.

49. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

only the sith think in absolutes! :)

56. Firedrops

Posts: 254; Member since: Sep 06, 2011

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

59. clevername

Posts: 1436; Member since: Jul 11, 2008

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

15. networkdood

Posts: 6330; Member since: Mar 31, 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.

18. roldefol

Posts: 4744; Member since: Jan 28, 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.

60. cupcake

Posts: 106; Member since: Apr 15, 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

4. Synack

Posts: 688; Member since: Jul 05, 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!

9. ayephoner

Posts: 858; Member since: Jun 09, 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.

12. snowgator

Posts: 3617; Member since: Jan 19, 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?

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