One of the biggest selling points of flagship smartphones is their display resolution. A high resolution allows for better rendering of images and text on the screen and enhances the overall viewing pleasure. While grainy displays have become a thing of the past, with even sub $100 smartphones touting qHD and HD displays, the question now is, how much is too much.
Phone manufacturers are constantly striving to equip their devices with the sharpest displays, outperforming rivals in terms of clarity and accuracy of color reproduction. While shopping for a new smartphone, you might have come across terms like retina, HD, 2K and 4K displays. However, post a certain figure, it is doubtful if there is any discernible improvement in the clarity.
When launching the iPhone 4, Apple had claimed that a resolution of 960×640 pixels on a 3.5″ screen (translating to 326 pixels per inch) was as much as a normal human eye could discern when viewing from a distance of 9″. Going by that statement, a screen resolution north of 326 ppi would not cause any tangible improvement in clarity, while increasing production costs. Though iPhones have bigger screens now, their ppi remains constant at 326, whereas some other manufacturers have been pushing increasingly higher resolution screens on their latest releases. Most smartphones launched in the past year by tech giants like Samsung, LG and newcomer Oppo have panels with pixel densities of and above 415. The first smartphone to feature a 2K display was the Xplay 3S, launched by Vivo with a 6″ screen that sported 491 ppi. Soon after, Oppo launched the Find 7 smartphone, also with a 2K display of 2560×1440 or an astronomical 538 ppi. These figures are way ahead of retina displays, but in case of smartphone displays, after a certain point, more might not always be merrier.
Of course, the screen size has a huge role in determining how many pixels need to be packed in per square inch for delivering the perfect viewing experience. Moreover, a lot depends on the distance at which the screen is kept from the eyes, as closer viewing distances mean that more pixels can be resolved by the human eye. However, in no way is the average smartphone user going to be able to appreciate the difference between say, a 350- and a 500-ppi display. Stuffing more pixels per inch into an LCD panel is only more taxing on the battery. Therefore, an ultra-high resolution 2K display needs to be powered by a bigger battery as well, along with a superfast CPU to provide juice for all those extra pixels.
A 2K display, or the absence of it, should not be the only factor to consider when looking for a new smartphone. While it does make for a great viewing experience, it is more than likely a slightly less ppi count will not cause any noticeable decrease in clarity. It is a good feature to have on a smartphone to boast about, but it comes at the cost of battery life and processing speed.