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Screen Resolutions: When is enough, enough?

Sterling Keys (translation)
11

In economics, economies of scale are cost advantages that certain enterprises have. Up to a certain point, there are increasing benefits as more output is yielded. However, at most of these economies has a limit point, or sweet spot, at which point each additional unit starts to cost more and more.  Keeping this in mind, it seems like we may be soon approaching this point when it comes to screen resolution.

pixels
The differences between a Full HD screen (Xperia Z on left at 1920 x 1080 pixels) and a HD Display (1280 x 720 pixels on right) / © AndroidPIT

Right now, Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) is a standard in the smartphone and tablet market when it comes to screen resolution. However, one of the better references for this value would actually be the pixels per inch (ppi) or the density of pixels that we have within that resolution. Human eyes can detect about 300 ppi at a distance of 30 centimeters. Anything more than that is really a moot point, unless of course you’re Superman.

However, we’ve already crossed that point. While most displays are sitting around the 300 ppi point (I mean, Apple's retina display sits at 326 ppi on it's mobile devices), we’ve got a generation of smartphones that have jumped it above and beyond 400 ppi, most notably the Sony Xperia Z or the Samsung Galaxy S4. Even HTCs front running phone is boasting a ppi of 468, and while this does great on a spec chart, it really does nothing for the human eye.

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Realistically, at about 30 centimeters you wouldn't be able to tell the difference between Full HD and HD screens as shown here.  © AndroidPIT

A new standard for tomorrow?

Even by new standards, there have been reports of display manufacturers in Japan working on pixel densities of up to 500 ppi. Even more-so, with the expansion of the density of the pixels, we’re also looking at change in resolutions for smaller devices: 2500 x 1600 pixels possible on devices with display that are under 6 inches.  While this larger resolution has already been attained on the Nexus 10, it fits into a display that is around 10 inches and brings down the ppi to “only” 301 ppi.

As with any progression, it seems like each company is out to outdo the other, regardless of whether it has any bearing on what consumers want or need. LG and Samsung are already working on the next generation of smartphones that would have a 500 ppi and other companies will definitely take note and either emulate or exceed.

And so, with progress, comes displays that are not only ridiculously high definition by nature, but also something that we as humans will not really be able to tell the difference between.  Would it not make sense to devote the time and effort into something that us, as humans, could appreciate with our naked eye? Or will we end up in a resolution economy where we’re on the losing side of the economies of scale?

What do you think? 

Do you think we've reached the limit for screen resolutions?

 

Comments

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  • tekf33k3n 9 months ago Link

    This reminds me of an old VW bug billboard many years ago that reminded everyone that the speed limit was still 55 MPH. This was to justify that it was OK to buy a relatively slow car in order to save gas and save money. Funny how no one got in line to get rid of their Mustangs, Corvettes and Chargers to deal with economy of scale. The manufacturers know that the general populous isn't well educated on what they buy. So more will ALWAYS be better. Why would anyone think that it should be different in the smartphone market? You're trying to apply educated logic to uneducated consumers. It just won't work and we all pay the price for it.

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  • ljhaye 9 months ago Link

    Too bad, all this develoment isn't taking place on the software side of the equation, so the OEMs compete on hardware. Too bad, outside of Samsung no one is making any money on hardware. Apple will be around for a long time as they own iOS for MOBILE devices and can simply tweak it for different form factors. These OEMs need to beef up their software and then they'll be able to truly differentiate themselves and then make money.

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  • Reg Joo 9 months ago Link

    Screen resolution can only go so far, and look at the pc industry, remember the cpu wars, it was all about how fast they could go. Pc companies had to rethink that, thus it's core wars now(and that is slowly dying). As far as I think, they should be concentrating on efficiency, and making the software easier to run(even on cheaper android devices). But the big thing is battery life, that's where the focus should be.

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  • Sterling Keys 9 months ago Link

    Amen to that Reg. I would much rather see some innovation into better battery life. With all these improvements on the hardware side of things, there's one constant: the battery is never enough.

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  • Philipp Junghannß (My1) 9 months ago Link

    @OP "Even the HTC Champion is boasting a ppi of 468" I'd rather write "Even the champion, the HTC One [...]" especially since you Capitalized Champion, it can be seen as a name and there will be ppl who think "What is an HTC Champion, never heard"

    Back to topic:
    I think these are uselees I have a screen at home with 19-21 inch (dont know (for real) and a stunning 1600x900 resolution which probably creates (as standard for PC screens) an amazing 72 dpi
    </sarcasm>
    anyway 720p for smartphones is ENOUGH...

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  • John Mantle 9 months ago Link

    The only thing you get from higher resolutions or more cores is poor battery life. 720p and 4 cores (or even 2) is more than enough to have a smartphone capable of doing anything, with a battery that doesn't suck too much.

    Research should definitely focus on better batteries, specially bigger capacity batteries that don't need to be physically bigger to last longer. That would be a huge improvement.

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  • Philipp Junghannß (My1) 9 months ago Link

    @John more cores actually do more battery life, coz you can kill the cores if not needed, a phone with a 3GHz CPU sucks more than a DualCore 1,5GHz CPU...
    but about resolution I have the same oppinion: unnesessary.

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  • Andy Gee 9 months ago Link

    640K is more memory than anyone will ever need

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  • Sterling Keys 9 months ago Link

    "640K is more memory than anyone will ever need"

    The 80s were a weird time.

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  • Tarun Singh 9 months ago Link

    All the consumer needs now is rapid evolution of eyesight and the DPIs would start making sense.

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  • CJ Brown 9 months ago Link

    Resolution - as long as its on par with my laptop - or flatscreen - then its already hit the benchmark for Hi-Def Viewing (I guess the next step is if we want 3D equivalent to those 3D flatscreens / blu ray disc players) ....

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