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LG G3 QHD Screen: The case for and against 2K phone displays

Gordon Kelly

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LG G3 screen
LG G3 screen

Are QHD Phone Screens Pointless?

The haters are out. LG has confirmed it will use a QHD (2560 x 1440 pixel) display in its upcoming LG G3 smartphone and the howls of discontent can already be heard. Pointless, wasteful and inefficient are the well-worn claims, but with rivals expected to follow suit are the accusations correct?

We're going to have a look at the arguments both for and against this technology. Is it spec overkill, or is there still room for improvement?

The Case Against

MacBook

Like any good court room we start by looking at the case for the prosecution and when it comes to small putting a QHD display on something as small as a smartphone the case is strong:

"No-one can tell the difference"

This is the most frequent and damning accusation and it carries a lot of credence. When Apple announced the Retina Display with the iPhone 4 in 2010 the company claimed its pixel density of 326ppi (pixels per inch) was “so high your eye is unable to distinguish individual pixels”.

To achieve that the iPhone 4 only needed to pack 960 x 640 pixels into a 3.5in display. Jump forward to the LG G3 and it will cram 2560 x 1440 pixels into a 5.5in display to deliver a monstrous 538ppi. Surely this is pointless?

"It wastes battery life"

Few topics are hotter in smartphone land right now than battery life. Handsets like the Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC One M8 are finally starting to deliver on all day battery life even with heavy use and along will come the LG G3 and start a pixel war that sucks in rivals and sees handsets once more lasting until lunchtime.

Increasing the resolution means a phone must drive more pixels to the screen, which uses more processing power and therefore consumes more battery. If you can’t see the difference, what’s the point?

Price increase

At £400 the LG G2 was one of the more reasonably priced flagship handsets last year, but this could all change if the G3 comes packing a QHD display. As with any new technology it carries a price premium and with the Galaxy S5 and One M8 costing a hefty £550, LG may have decided QHD gives it an excuse to up the price.

Given the first two points for the prosecution, that would seem a ridiculous decision and one that could potentially bury LG’s slow but steady comeback.

The Case For

MacBook

But not so fast. When Apple announced the Retina Display the same arguments were made and it became the (then) fastest selling iPhone to date. Neither performance nor battery life was impacted and it inspired the pixel war the G3 is set to elevate. Furthermore:

Screen size means you can tell the difference

While many were dazzled by iPhone 4’s Retina Display no-one would herald its once-mighty 326ppi as cutting edge now and there is a visible difference between it (and the matching 326ppi of the iPhone 5S/5C) and 445ppi displays of 5-inch 1920 x 1080p smartphones. But when the screen size increases further things change quickly.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 has a 5.7-inch screen and 1080p display and that brings the ppi back down to just 386ppi. Given the G3 will pack a 5.5-inch screen (larger than any of its non-phablet rivals) why downgrade arguably the most head-turning aspect of the phone?

New technology brings new efficiency

LG has been at the forefront of cutting edge display technology for a number of years and along with its increased resolution the G3’s display also brings key advances. At the forefront is its use of low temperature polysilicon (LTPS) which allows electrons to pass more efficiently through the panel, reducing its power demands and by extension processing demands and battery drain.

LG isn’t alone in using LTPS, but it claims this new panel raises the bar. The LG G2 already has the best battery life of flagship smartphones in 2013, so when combined with either the more efficient Snagdragon 801 or 805 (both are heavily rumoured) it could still keep this title.

The price should remain lower than rivals

Since the G2 was so much cheaper than its rivals the LG G3 would need a 30 per cent hike to become as expensive as the new S5 and One M8. More to the point LG is using its own display technology rather than having to buy it in from third parties and the promise of 1.15mm bezels (less than the G2 which already has the thinnest bezels on any smartphone) means it could sport this larger, dazzling display without any significant size or weight penalty.

The Early Verdict

While implementation is far more important than claims and specifications on paper, the case against a QHD display in the LG G3 isn’t as clear cut as many would have you believe. Of course it takes more than a big screen to woo today’s discerning punters, but with so many other features being relatively equal in the smartphone world right now it could prove to be the ace card.

Next, read our best mobile phones round-up

Prem Desai

May 12, 2014, 12:02 pm

The biggest disadvantage is cost.

Cost of initial purchase. Cost of replacement screen if you drop your phone. Let's face it, these are more delicate. Cost of insurance.

Ultimately it's nice to have the choice, but I could justify this on a mobile device that is bound to be dropped, scratched, etc.

How about a 60 inch tv with QHD instead??!!

Tim Sutton

May 12, 2014, 12:14 pm

I just gave myself toothache in my eye straining to try and make out individual pixels in the 6 inch 1080x1920 display on my Lumia 1520.

I failed.

Progress is always good, but I'm really not excited about 2k on a phone. Even if there aren't any downsides, there aren't any upsides.

Mark Colit

May 12, 2014, 1:10 pm

Phone technology is reaching its upper limits. Everything peaks eventually, due to costs, plateauing and technological limitations (a holographic screen would be nice). 1080p on a 5.5 inch phone is more than enough. However, 2K on a 10.1 inch tablet makes perfect sense. The future for mobile technology lies in improving battery life to at least a week's continual use, and continual improvements from then on. Maybe a revolutionary nano-solar panel the size of a rfid chip will come to the rescue, embedded on the phone's housing?

Pg

May 12, 2014, 1:44 pm

While I do question the need for such a resolution on a device, I'm certainly open to be proved wrong in the case that it does make a noticable improvement to a 5.5 inch screen.

I also think that mobiles have been cash cows for companies (500+ for new phone) who don't want the gravy train to end - so increasing specs to try drum up interest when the consumer gains no appreciable benefit. Or maybe that's just the cynic in me.

Phones are hitting the performance level of desktop machines which themselves have stalled in regard to new hardware driving sales - the latest cutting edge hardware won't speed up viewing of facebook, emailing or browsing the web, at least over mid range machines.

Without something new to capture peoples attention, I believe phones have progressed to a point where hardware improvements will stop being a major drive for people to update their phones due the the improvements being so slight to not justify the extra cost.

TheRealPatriot

May 12, 2014, 3:28 pm

Wrong wrong and wrong again ! You will be able to tell the difference in the screen. Phones are really nowhere near as powerful as a desktop and neither are laptops for that matter. Phones have not reached the limits and they never will actually because new technology will change things and processors cpu and gpu will continue to evolve and improve. It also will not hurt battery life because processors keep getting more efficient with every new generation and dye size. After all we do not even have pico projectors and projection keyboards yet !

Mark Colit

May 12, 2014, 3:34 pm

Unfortunately, there's no cure for Techie-loon syndrome. You're a case in point.

Tim Sutton

May 12, 2014, 4:23 pm

"It also will not hurt battery life because processors keep getting more efficient with every new generation and dye size"

Die size is the term used in the process of marking out printed circuits. Dye size is how big a box of Clairol is.

TheRealPatriot

May 12, 2014, 4:44 pm

It is Looneytech syndrome ! My Note 3 screen is a higher resolution than my Note 2 screen looks a lot better and gets just as good or better battery life. Anyone who wants to stay with 1080 or 720 I am sure we'll be able to for some time. For me though until I can not tell a difference I will keep moving up. So far everyone of my old devices screens look noticably worse so no reason to stop now !

iFrank

May 12, 2014, 7:05 pm

If it becomes easier to read web text, texts and contacts info on phone screens and perhaps, even smaller screens, without the need for donning spectacles, then there is a sizable need for the market to satisfy. It could be lucrative.

R&D costs are being met probably to some extent by TV screen manufacturers pushing the boundaries, I seem to recall that's how we got Amoled.

The implication for the medical business & advancing remote surgery may be considerable.

I hope the progression continues!

Lawrence Velociraptor Bridgewa

May 12, 2014, 7:44 pm

I agree with the case for the QHD screen. Some people are eyes are slow and don't work very well. IPhone users probably think 326ppi is wonderful....lol. I have the LG G2 and at 423ppi to me it looks better. With it having a 1080p screen even not at maximum zoom you can still see the pixels. With QHD you probably wouldn't be able to...finally. besides, if you record 4k video at least you can see half the pixels with a 2k screen. I just love when I show most people a pic or video in my phone it wows them....the LG G3 will continue to do the same.

Pg

May 13, 2014, 1:11 pm

How will higher resolution mean you can read without your glasses on? Screen size is all that will make a difference to that - in that you can display more large text on screen.
Being able to display even tinier text which is ledgable on screen won't help you see it if you need glasses.

Pg

May 13, 2014, 1:32 pm

What difference was there between the galaxy s4 vs s5? Fingerprint scanner? Lets face it, water resistance is probably the most useful addition, which has nothing to do with screen size or how fast the phone is.
Sure, increasing screen resolution was of hugh benefit, but it's now a case of seriously deminishing returns.
They've no idea where to go hardware wise to make consumers want to upgrade, or for them to feel that the cost of upgrading is worth it. Apple have a religious following where rational thought doesn't come into it when a new iPhone is released - although I feel part of it is to be seen having the latest iPhone.

Similar to the PC industry, unless it's cutting edge processors or gpu (which have massive power requirements), hardware hasn't changed much of late. SSDs are nice, but evolutionary, rather than revolutionary. Nothing has come out which is a must have item that everyone wants.

Your average consumer has no need for cutting edge gear so won't pay for it. To your average consumer, their phone/tablet does pretty much what they'd want a PC to do - which is really where phones/tablets have caught up to PCs technology wise. They are powerful enough to replace PCs, therefore they're are as powerful when it comes to doing what people want to do on them. Obviously a mobile device tied to a battery as a power source will not beat PCs in terms of raw performance, especially those requiring a power source of 1000w+, but they don't have to.

It's all about money in the end, companies will make whatever sells more, which is how phones have leaped and jumped in terms of what they offer. I'm not saying technology won't improve above what it is, it's just the improvements between generations are getting so small that upgrading is almost pointless and definitely not worth the money. More and more people will skip generations of phones as the hardware changes will be minor that they won't inspire consumers to part with their cash. That or new phone releases will grow further apart.

Darknut

May 13, 2014, 4:01 pm

Might as well just get a UHD TV set :P Plenty of those around.

TheRealPatriot

May 13, 2014, 5:01 pm

It is true that a lot of people do not care care or do not know any better. However these same people will also use an upgrade when available just because they have one in some cases. All it takes is for someone to suggest it to them. Also the Galaxy S5 screen is a pretty big improvement over the S4 screen even though it is the same resolution. The better your screen is the more enjoyable the user experience. I really liked my Note 2 but like my Note 3 a lot more because the screen looks so good on it comparably. I believe there will be done breakthrough technology in the near future they we do not think about because we know nothing of it yet. I always go test or devices before I but them and as long as I see improvement I Will use my upgrades. I am sitting on two right now though because I wanted to wait for 2k screens before upgrading. I have had my S3 for about two years and I am ready to upgrade it.

AS

May 14, 2014, 12:14 pm

"No-one can tell the difference"

This is just false . just because you can't measure the size of individual pixels, doesn't mean they are not useful in improving image quality.

"It wastes battery life"

No, it doesn't. New processors and screen technology are more efficient than current ones. The Japan Display 4k 10inch screen uses less power than current 1080p 10inch screens

iFrank

May 14, 2014, 8:44 pm

In fact it has become easier now to read screens with more advanced technology.
I have a 'mini laptop' as it was described circa 2004, a 9:5" screen that almost needs binoculars to be read. Subjective I know but it serves.

Remember though that the possibilities go beyond mobiles. CCTV and medicine are two that come to mind. There are bound to be many others.

The 'average consumer' whoever that is, doesn't actually have a dog in this fight, if the mobiles become too expensive they won't be bought.
Not likely to be a major possibility though. The R&D costs are mostly met by the TV screen manufacturers and the TVs DO sell! The benefits are passed to mobiles.

Why on earth would anyone want to halt the progress? I look forward to 3D mobile screens, that when tapped, project an A4 sized hologram in front of your eyes.
Could it be by 2020? Twenty Twenty, now that would be a really ironic date.

Pg

May 15, 2014, 1:06 pm

Yeah, there will always be that desire to want to have the latest gadget, I understand that. Especially if you can afford it.
To me screens are one of the most important parts of a phone - a good screen can make all the difference. Love OLED screens and their inky blackness - moving to an OLED screen would definitely look great. I guess I'm only considering a resolution only increase - same screen tech.
At the end of the day, if someone considers it a worthy reason to upgrade, that's all that matters.

Gordon Kelly

May 28, 2014, 12:46 am

Didn't get to the 'Defence' part where I address both these points before you commented, did you? ;)

Gordon Kelly

May 28, 2014, 12:47 am

You spotted a typo, but didn't resort to sarcasm that's gr... oh. wait. ;)

Gordon Kelly

May 28, 2014, 12:48 am

Weighing up the pros and cons of a new technology is techie loon? Interesting take.

Gordon Kelly

May 28, 2014, 12:49 am

Possibly, but the LG G3 just launched with the same RRP as the Galaxy S5 and HTC One M8.

orbitly

May 28, 2014, 12:51 am

I don't know where people got the idea 2560x1440 was 2K. It isn't. It's 2.56k. 1080p (exactly 2048x1080, 1920 is the television aspect ratio version) is 2K. Last years model was 2K. This is not 2K.

AS

May 28, 2014, 6:20 am

I read every part of your article. My comments are directed at the original statements because I felt your 'defence' needed bolstering. If you notice, I am referencing the arguments, not your opinions. I put them in double quotes to make that clear

Tim Sutton

May 28, 2014, 6:42 pm

It's the only way they'll learn.

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