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New display will vie with LG, Samsung, and others for dominance

While Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KSC:005930currently dominates the thriving smartphone commodity display market, a number of Asian rivals are aiming to unseat the South Korean giant.  Among them is Japan's Sharp Corp. (TYO:6753).

Sharp announced this week that it would be mass-producing a monstrous 443 ppi (pixels-per-inch) 1920x1080 pixel smartphone screen.  The 5-inch screen could appear in devices as early as the holiday season, but will likely show up in greater quantities next year.  The new display features a brand new pixel technology dubbed CG-Silicon, which Sharp promises brings smartphone displays in line with their full-size counterparts.  Sharp's display likely makes use of the company's new "Igzo" power efficient thin-display tech, as well.

The release marks the latest round in a game of brinksmanship by Japan and South Korea's top display makers.  Early this year South Korea's LG Electronics Inc. (KSC:066570) announced production of a similar 5-inch 440 ppi unit, which will likely launch in a similar window.  LG calls its display technology "Retina" displays.

Sharp Aquos
Sharp is thinking small with its latest 5-inch 1080 display. [Image Source: IntoMobile]

Sharp is reportedly looking to displace LG in Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) coveted iPhone, using a slightly smaller display unit.  The company announced in August that it would be shipping displays for the iPhone 5 en masse.  LG announced similar shipments, indicating that Apple would split its demand between the two manufacturers.

A third player is Japan's Toshiba Corp. (TYO:6502), which recently demoed a 498 ppi 6-inch display.  Toshiba's display could be the most impressive of the bunch -- unfortunately it's not yet quite ready for the market.  

Sources: Sharp, UnWired View

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RE: Pointless
By BZDTemp on 10/1/2012 12:14:27 PM , Rating: 2
There's no point is such pixel density on such tiny screens. It's a fascination with a spec that has no practical benefit.

I strongly disagree.

Super small pixels means clearer text and graphics are possible - of course one can waste the resolution by simply scaling graphics to emulate a lower resolution but if the text and graphics is drawn taking advantage of the small pixels there certainly is a gain.

Look at the output from a dot printers - the early ones was 300dpi and I am sure anyone prefers reading output from more current ones which deliver 2400dpi or even more.

RE: Pointless
By dgt224 on 10/1/2012 12:54:57 PM , Rating: 2
Look at the output from a dot printers - the early ones was 300dpi and I am sure anyone prefers reading output from more current ones which deliver 2400dpi or even more.

But the original 300dpi printers printed binary pixels - black or white. A 2400dpi printer doing the same thing prints an 8x8 pixel array for each 300dpi pixel, which lets it do 65-level grayscale at 300dpi. A 300ppi 24-bit display provides grayscale resolution similar to a 4800dpi printer with binary pixels, in addition to displaying color.

In practice, I find my 264dpi iPad's pixels are right at the resolution limit of my mediocre, post-cataract-surgery eyes. I could easily see the difference between 300dpi laser printer output and 600dpi; I suspect the difference between a 264dpi full-color display and a 433dpi display would be almost undetectably subtle. YMMV.

RE: Pointless
By geddarkstorm on 10/1/2012 1:04:03 PM , Rating: 2
I could easily see the difference between 300dpi laser printer output and 600dpi

If that's so, then shouldn't you be able to see the difference between 264 and 433 dpi? Run any sort of 3D graphics, or read lots of books, and you will definitely notice the difference.

After 433 or 500 or so, then probably not so much.

RE: Pointless
By mcnabney on 10/1/2012 1:27:54 PM , Rating: 2
DPI and viewing distance go hand in hand. Knowing a DPI is useless until you also know from what distance it will be viewed. For example:
The iPhone retina display has a dpi of 326 - which makes the ideal viewing distance 10.5". At that distance you can just barely see all of the detail that the screen offers. You gain nothing by being closer, and you lose detail being further away. So for a smartphone, 300-400 dpi is an excellent dpi for the usage distance.
Now this 443 dpi screen is really pushing it. The ideal viewing distance will be 6.5". Pretty close to the face. Since it is 5" I would expect it to be held 12-16" away - so a lot of the detail this screen can deliver will never be seen. This is actually a bad thing since the screen will need more power to operate and a beefier GPU will be needed to throw that many more pixels. Do you really want to take a big hit on battery life to render pixels you won't even see? It also raises the price considerably just to maintain the same performance.

RE: Pointless
By geddarkstorm on 10/1/2012 1:37:52 PM , Rating: 2
Ideal viewing distance is only one metric, and it isn't even that accurate for how people perceive quality (as we've seen from the blu-ray/HD-DVD emergence days and the tests done then). Run a 3D game; aliasing is reduced the more you increase ppi, and thus you don't have to use things like anti-aliasing algorithms. This will be noticeable whatever your viewing distance, as long as you aren't so far away that all the details are lost, and applies to text, color gradients, and even sharpness of contrast.

A device will never be used only at it's ideal distance, and edge cases are important to user experience. If you've ever looked at the retinal macbook display next to a standard one, you'll very much know what I mean -- the difference is huge along any working viewing distance, not simply the ideal.

There are indeed trade offs that you point out, and those are absolutely true. But, technology keeps getting better, and does so faster the more we push. None the less, I very much agree with you that after 330-443 ppi you are hitting diminishing returns and probably aren't going to be increasing quality significantly outside of 3D graphics or art applications. But this 443 ppi is itself not pointless, as the title of this thread claims.

RE: Pointless
By mcnabney on 10/1/2012 8:23:30 PM , Rating: 2
I would point out that IBM's beautiful and OLD 4K 22" monitor (3840×2400) was only 204 pixels per inch. Do you really think that workstations need TWICE the dpi?

Even the 85" 8K uber-display that has been making rounds at electronics conventions only offers ~60dpi.

RE: Pointless
By someguy123 on 10/1/2012 8:26:19 PM , Rating: 2
high PPI is not going to magically fix AA problems. that's essentially bruteforce supersampling. the whole reason the industry dropped FSAA in favor of multisampling is because it was incredibly resource heavy. If you are running a game at an obscene resolution you are also drastically increasing the computational complexity. Basically trading object, shading, physics and AI complexity for AA.

Text rendering already looks pretty good on cellphones. I've gone through the galaxy S to S3 and for text rendering the difference is hilariously marginal (400 to 720).

blu-ray and HDDVD introduced higher bitrate mpeg standards and h264 for long running video on top of increased resolution. You're also talking gigantic screens versus 3~5 inches of cellphone real estate. Even with all this it was a tough sell for years.

Increasing resolution is only the logical step forward when we have so much excess battery and computational power that it becomes relatively negligible. I don't see the point for years to come considering the size of these screens and general battery life.

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