By Joe Levi | May 4, 2012 11:42 AM
The Galaxy Nexus and recently announced Samsung Galaxy S III both have 720p HD screens. That’s not “full HD”, but when packed into a smartphone, it’s pretty amazing. “Full HD” means 1080p, or 1920*1080, is significantly higher resolution than 720p, or 1280*720.
Higher resolution screens and faster processors are the target of every major manufacturer out there. But what comes next, and what are the consequences?
Is 1080p worth it?
If screens stay the same size, say 4.8″, but increase from 720p to 1080p, images will be more detailed, text will be crisper — and the GPU will have to work a LOT harder!
Adding pixels comes with a cost. A screen that’s “twice as big” as its predecessor requires four times the processing power. Luckily, it doesn’t appear as if we’ve maxed out the GPUs in the current generation of smartphones and tablets, so the industry likely has a head-start on screen resolutions.
There are a total of 921,600 pixels on a 720p display, compared to 1080p’s 2,073,600 pixels. That’s a whole lot of pixels! Each pixel is made up of several sub-pixels representing red, green, and blue.
Everyone wants a better looking screen, and everyone complains about pentile displays. RGBG pentile displays differ from “traditional” displays using RGB stripe in both the size and layout of the subpixels they use.
An RGB stripe display is laid out such that the subpixels are in the same order, and are the same size, which provides more accurate colors, and a sharper picture.
A pentile display is laid out differently, with sub-pixels of different sizes and an “extra” green subpixel in each group. It has advantages over RGB stripe, specifically lower power consumption than RGB stripe displays, and its ability for HD resolutions on today’s AMOLED screens.
Is 1080p on such a small screen worth it? Likely so! But it comes at a cost!
If I give her any more, she’ll blow, Cap’n!
Being able to process all the data to be displayed on such a high-resolution screen requires quite a bit of processing power, and not just graphics processing: the CPU has to be able to keep up as well.
If quad-core isn’t required for full HD it will certainly be recommended — plus a powerful GPU as well!
What comes next?
As far as screens go, resolutions don’t stop at 1080p. Yes, there’s even “Fuller HD”, if you want to call it that! Among some of the futuristic resolutions we’ll see include 2160p (3840×2160 with 8,294,400 pixels), 2540p (4520×2540 with 11,480,800 pixels), and even 4320p (7680×4320 with 33,177,600 pixels)! That’s a lot of pixels, and a lot of processing power!
Hex- or octa-cores will be the “answer” to pumping out anything higher than today’s full HD. Who knows, maybe we’ll stick with quad-core CPUs, but have deca-core GPUs to pump out all those pixels at 50 or 60 Hz.
The fly in the ointment
Everything’s fun and games until the reality of the situation kicks in. Take a look at your power consumption, what is it that’s taking up so much juice? Is it your multi-core CPU? Is it Facebook? How about your LTE radio? Voice calls, perhaps?
Nope, you’re way off! Nine times out of ten it’s your display. That’s right, the screen itself is sucking down your battery MUCH faster than anything else you do. Increasing the number of pixels is only going to accelerate that consumption. Increasing the GPU processing power will accelerate it even more. Adding in the necessary “gazillon-core” CPU will drain it even faster!
Before we start talking about cores and higher definition screens we really need to solve our battery issue. 1750mAh doesn’t cut it today. It won’t come close tomorrow.
What we need is a HUGE LEAP in battery technology, and for manufacturers to start packing 3000, 4000, and even 5000mAh batteries in our smartphones — and double that for our tablets — if we’re going to be able to take advantage of the screen and processor advancements that are right around the corner.