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Summary:

Unless your eyesight is better than 20/20, it’s not likely you’ll see much benefit from a 5.5-inch 2560 x 1440 screen. Is LG creating this to improve the mobile experience or simply for bragging rights? To my eyes, it’s the latter.

LG HD quad hd featured

Great news if you’re addicted to pixels: LG has developed what it calls the world’s first Quad HD display for smartphones! The new 5.5-inch screen boasts a 2560 x 1440 resolution, which works out to a whopping 538 pixels per inch. By comparison, Apple’s first retina display handset, the iPhone 4, debuted with 326 pixels per inch. Congratulations are in order for LG’s achievement, but does the market need a small screen with so many pixels?

LG quad HD screen

LG seems to think so. In its press release, it says this about the display:

“LG Display’s Quad HD panel for smartphones realizes clearer images with 4 times more pixels than HD at 1,280X720, thereby reproducing more delicate colors as well as improving contrast and vividness when compared to current mobile displays. This advancement will enable consumers to fully enjoy more life-like and crisp images, and even Blu-ray equivalent video, on their smartphones. The panel also features the highest ppi among current mobile device displays.

In addition, the new Quad HD panel will enable users to enjoy a full view of PC-version web pages at a single glance without image distortion; a contrast to current Full HD displays which only realize 3/4th of a full screen. Also, even when enlarging the screen, users will be able to enjoy undistorted and sharper text.”

That all sounds good on paper, but color me skeptical. Here’s why.

To push all those pixels, a smartphone or small tablet is going to use up quite a bit of power, both from the battery and a high performance GPU. Meaning: Don’t expect a device with LG’s new Quad HD panel to get better battery life than a similar device with a lower resolution screen. Notice that power consumption isn’t mentioned in the press release.

“Wait,” you say. “I’m willing to sacrifice some potential battery life for a better viewing experience!” Perhaps that’s true, but how much of an improvement will you gain with this 5.5-inch panel? Less than the cost of the battery life is my suspicion.

If you hold a mobile device around 10- to 12-inches from the eye, it only needs to have a pixel density of around 320 pixels per inch for the individual pixels to “disappear” for those with average eyesight. I’ll grant that a 5.5-inch screen may be held a little farther from the eye than a 4-inch screen — I experienced that behavior with my 5.5-inch Galaxy Note 2 — but this screen just seems like overkill. And this is why I’m not concerned that the Moto X I’ll be buying has a 720p display, not a 1080p screen: The visual improvements of a full HD screen on that device are marginal at best to my eyes.

In regards to LG’s second quoted paragraph — viewing a full PC-version web page on the screen — this is interesting, particularly for those that have a new Nexus 7 tablet. The 7-inch display is a 1920 x 1200 screen and yes, you can view a full web page on it. And if I squint really hard, I can read the very small, but crisp, text.

It’s not optimal on most web pages though. There’s still a need to zoom in for a comfortable reading experience in most cases, which renders the benefit of a Quad HD panel a bit moot.

I’ll stay open-minded until I see the new display panel in a product, but until then, this seems like technology for the sake of it and bragging rights, not to push forward a better mobile device experience.

  1. Think you meant Nexus 7 and not Nexus 4 Tablet.

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    1. Oops, you’re spot on – correction made. Thanks! :)

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      1. 2 Thoughts – One, with more pixels, display makers can tweak brightness and saturation levels with pixels that won’t be seen individually, but make a difference to the whole. I don’t know if they SHOULD do that, but it’s there. Two, they’re probably making way for MHL 3.0 and the new 4k standard. Bump up a couple of years in the future, and we’ll probably be using our phones as our actual PC hard drives/processors, and dock them with monitors and HID’s. So, at that point, screen resolution also becomes important.

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  2. This may be overkill for a phone but sticking one of these in a future version of the Oculus Rift would be a huge bump in image quality for something that’s just a few inches from your face.

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  3. 2 Thoughts – One, with more pixels, display makers can tweak brightness and saturation levels with pixels that won’t be seen individually, but make a difference to the whole. I don’t know if they SHOULD do that, but it’s there. Two, they’re probably making way for MHL 3.0 and the new 4k standard. Bump up a couple of years in the future, and we’ll probably be using our phones as our actual PC hard drives/processors, and dock them with monitors and HID’s. So, at that point, screen resolution also becomes important.

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  4. What we need is also hi res desktop displays, come on ! When is that coming ?

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  5. “I’ll grant that a 5.5-inch screen may be held a little farther from the eye than a 4-inch screen — I experienced that behavior with my 5.5-inch Galaxy Note 2″

    That merely means that it needs *less* pixel density. The further the display is from the eye, the harder it is for the eye to resolve individual pixels. This display is overkill, unless you’re going to be mounting it in something like the Oculus Rift.

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  6. This display + OQO 02 + Windows 8.1 + 4.5W SDP Haswell = SIGN ME UP NOW!!!

    Haswell’s IGP can handle upto 4K just fine, and with an extended battery, shouldn’t be an issue for handheld use.

    As for the PPI argument, check out the macro shot in the article here:

    http://lgponthemove.blogspot.com/2013/08/second-take-google-nexus-7.html

    I’m fortunate to have better than 20/10 eyesight, but while consumers may squint, enthusiasts will always appreciate the extra pixels.

    Now all we need is 17″ notebooks to get past 1080P :-/

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