When we’re discussing smartphone hardware specs, it’s important not to let one impressive figure dominate our attention to the point where we might ignore other pertinent details. For instance, news of a phone with a 16-megapixel camera sounds great at first, but we need to remember to look at things like the actual sensor size, lest it have a high resolution but poor low-light performance. When it comes to displays, a high resolution screen may sound good, but we have to remember to look for what subpixel layout it uses. While there’s a lot of personal taste that goes into your impressions of screens composed of the various subpixel options, we’ve noticed a general backlash against displays using a PenTile matrix. While some of you may have been disappointed to see Nokia launch the Lumia 800 with just such a screen, the company has now confirmed that the Lumia 900 will go another route and use a traditional RGB matrix.
What’s the difference between RGB and PenTile? Since the human eye has differing sensitivity to different wavelengths of light, it reasons that there’s no point in devoting equal screen real estate to all colors. The PenTile array on the Lumia 800 (see below) has twice as many green subpixels as blue or red, for instance, though the individual green subpixels are smaller. The net effect of this is supposed to require fewer total subpixels in order to create a comparable resolution to an RGB matrix. Some users, though, are sensitive to the appearance of a PenTile display, noticing jagged or dotted-line artifacts, especially when displaying straight edges on-screen.
If you don’t mind PenTile, this won’t matter either way, but for those of us who groan a little every time we hear that word, Nokia’s Lumia 900 is now looking a whole lot better.