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Should we believe AUO's 513 ppi QHD claims; also: high resolution smartwatch display also announced

Taiwan's AU Optronics (AUO) -- the entity formed from the fusion of Acer Display and Unipac Optoelectronics Corp., and later Quanta Display -- has been a key player in the mobile displays market since its formation in 2001.  In recent years price fixing accusations have set AUO back and the Taiwanese firm has been overshadowed by its South Korean competitors, such as LG Display Comp., Ltd. (KRX:034220) and Samsung Display (the subsidiary of Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KRX:005930) (KRX:005935)).

But AUO appears to be bringing its A-game to the era of smartphone QHD (quad high definition) displays.

The company this week announced a gorgeous 5.7-inch WQHD (2560x1440 pixel, 513 pixels per inch) AMOLED display.  A mere 0.57 mm thick, the display also packs advanced drivers for supporting super-precise multi-touch detection of up to 10 touch points simultaneously.  AUO also announced a 1.6-inch smartwatch display -- which may be based on the flexible OLED display tech. that AUO has been working on. 

While there's reason to get excited about AUO's claims of having the world's highest resolution OLED display and the first officially announced AMOLED/OLED QHD display, there's also plenty of cause for skepticism.

AUO has been gunning hard to join the elite ranks of display manufacturers capable of OLED mass production, a club that includes Samsung Display, LG Display, Sony Corp. (TYO:6758) (Japan), and Sharp Corp. (TYO:6753) (Japan).  But it's been for AUO to move away from its breadwinning LCD display manufacturing technology, a technology that is approaching obsolescence in the high end market.

AUO girl

In 2012, AUO reportedly abandoned plans to upgraded its Generation 3.5 OLED fab in Taiwan for mass production, instead reserving it solely for research and development.  With that decision, responsiblity for AUO's display future came to rest largely on a Generation 4.5 fab in Singapore, which had faced many delays in reaching sufficient production volumes.

Today that fab is reportedly still only getting yields of around 40 percent, and is just now submitting 720p (1280 x 720 pixel) smartphone panels to Chinese OEMs to try to win production bids.  Meanwhile companies like Sony, Samsung, and LG already have 5-inch 1080p OLED/AMOLED panels on products in the wild and reportedly are seeing much higher yields.

AUO's OLED effort has struggled to reach production levels.

Thus don't be surprised if AUO is beat to market by its more succesful rivals.  QHD panels are expected to be found in smartphones that goal on sale later this year, or at the latest, early next year.  Next year will potentially bring the first round of "4K" smartphone displays, a mobile display technology that Samsung and others are currently running through the prototype phase.

While AUO deserves some criticism for its history of delays, it also deserves modest praise for actually completing OLED product (at 720p) that may reach actual handheld devices.  By contrast Innolux Corp. (TPE:3481) and RitDisplay, AUO's local Taiwanese competitors, both promised OLED, but appear to have abandoned that push having failed to make it out of the prototype phase.

Sources: AUO, OLED-Info

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By Zak on 4/11/2014 3:40:12 PM , Rating: 5
513 ppi? Why? You'd need superman vision to benefit from that.

RE: Why?
By Flunk on 4/11/2014 4:09:42 PM , Rating: 5
Well maybe YOU can't tell the difference. But I'm a highly evolved DPIphile and I can see the difference between 400 and 500 dpi har har har.

P.S. Yes, audiophiles, this is what you look like to us.

RE: Why?
By Sivar on 4/11/2014 4:11:26 PM , Rating: 4
Same reason people shop for speakers based on max volume or cameras based on megapixel count (damn the actual quality) --

They aren't educated about what they are buying, so look for a simple, single-number metric by which to measure relative worth. The fact that the metric is meaningless is overshadowed by the fact that it is simple.

RE: Why?
By daboom06 on 4/11/2014 5:07:13 PM , Rating: 4
i only buy amplifiers that go to 11. it's just louder, innit?

RE: Why?
By GulWestfale on 4/11/2014 5:13:08 PM , Rating: 2
well you could just buy amps that go to 10, and then make 10 a little louder.

RE: Why?
By boeush on 4/11/2014 6:58:00 PM , Rating: 3
But 11 isn't as loud as 12...

RE: Why?
By Motoman on 4/11/2014 7:06:13 PM , Rating: 2

People can't grasp the fact that there are 5mp cameras that take better quality photos than some 10mp cameras. Likewise, there's an inherent disconnect with reality for people who think massively high resolutions on tiny screens like smartphones makes any real-world difference.

But I've hashed through this before, and have even gone so far as to do live "taste tests" on unsuspecting bystanders to prove the point. We reached "good enough" in screen resolution a long, long time ago. And in this case, good enough is definitely good enough...there's virtually no chance a given person would actually notice much difference between this screen and a similarly-sized screen at a quarter of the resolution. Or probably even less.

Stupid is as stupid does though. And the customer is always going to be convinced that they need the one with the bigger gee bees.

RE: Why?
By wordsworm on 4/12/2014 11:53:42 AM , Rating: 2
Hassleblad does make a 50MP camera. MP do make a difference. I won't touch anything under 14, but even that will choke on something as detailed as a tree. The more MP there are, the easier it is for the camera to catch edges and not fuzz up so badly. Yes, glass makes a huge difference. Lighting makes a huge difference. And 'film', or the ability of the sensor to translate light into code, also makes a difference. But make no mistake, a higher MP rating is important. They don't put 10MP sensors on high end cameras.

RE: Why?
By Sivar on 4/12/2014 12:04:06 PM , Rating: 2
MP does make a difference in that you need a certain PPI for printouts, so higher MP cameras can produce good-looking, larger printouts. Cropping and zooming are of course more of an option as well.
However, the context is consumer-grade P&S and mobile phone cameras with tiny sensors. A 4MP image from an EOS1D has much higher quality per pixel than a 16MP image from a Galaxy S5.

RE: Why?
By bug77 on 4/13/2014 12:18:58 PM , Rating: 2
Hassleblad does make a 50MP camera. MP do make a difference

They do. They place 50MP over an area that is 50x larger than a compact camera's sensor that these days packs 16MP or more. See here:

They don't put 10MP sensors on high end cameras.

Nikon's D4 is 16MP.

There is a point in having more pixels, but the user has to understand how to match the sensor to the lens, to AF performance (important if they plan on shooting action), to the lighting. Otherwise, it's like putting a Ferrari engine into a Camry.

RE: Why?
By Jeffk464 on 4/14/2014 3:18:52 PM , Rating: 2
I kind of like taking pictures and video in native format. So right now I think 1080 is good but soon will want 4K. I definitely want my pics to be 16:9 format.

RE: Why?
By bug77 on 4/15/2014 10:11:45 AM , Rating: 2
I don't. I like 5:4 or even 4:3.

RE: Why?
By daos on 4/15/2014 5:46:00 PM , Rating: 2
Are you being serious? PPI is one of the ONLY single points you can judge a screens resolution or potential for detail. How else are you supposed to gauge resolution? It is just as simple as "that" number. The higher the PPI the higher the resolution. The higher the resolution, the higher the amount of detail that can potentially be displayed onto the screen.

Seems extremely simple to me.

RE: Why?
By boeush on 4/11/2014 7:02:54 PM , Rating: 5
513 ppi? Why? You'd need superman vision to benefit from that.
You'd also need a desktop-class GPU to drive such a display. Weird, how we sacrifice battery longevity and overall device performance -- real-world, tangible metrics -- for the intangible/imperceptible 'improvement' in screen pixel density. And on top of that, we're willing to pay more for such a demented trade-off.

IMO this disproves the maxim of "the customer is always right": it turns out most of the customers among us are raging idiots...

RE: Why?
By bug77 on 4/13/2014 12:25:52 PM , Rating: 3
Weird, how we sacrifice battery longevity and overall device performance -- real-world, tangible metrics -- for the intangible/imperceptible 'improvement' in screen pixel density.

That's understandable when reviews tell you everything you need to know about a smartphone, except for battery life and call quality. Everybody sweeps that under "depends on usage" or "depends on your network". But hey, it's not like people buy phones to make calls or anything.

RE: Why?
By Jeffk464 on 4/14/2014 3:22:10 PM , Rating: 2
My Samsung nexus phone taught me that battery life is EXTREMELY important. In fact that and screen size are of primary concern to me.

RE: Why?
By Close04 on 4/15/2014 5:47:17 AM , Rating: 3
raging idiots...

...with the money you want if you're the vendor.

RE: Why?
By Ktracho on 4/11/2014 7:15:08 PM , Rating: 4
I wonder why 30 years ago when I was in school it didn't occur to me to say, "What a waste that books are printed at 2400 DPI!" Instead, I remember thinking, "How I wish I could have access to a 600 DPI laser printer!" There is a very noticeable difference in printed black and white text going from 300 DPI to 600 DPI, and text looks even sharper going from 600 DPI to 1200 DPI, even if you can't make out the individual pixels at 600 DPI. Whether it's worthwhile to get to such high resolutions on a smartphone display is a different matter.

RE: Why?
By Solandri on 4/12/2014 4:42:39 PM , Rating: 2
There is a very noticeable difference in printed black and white text going from 300 DPI to 600 DPI

There's only a slight, subtle improvement to text if you go from 300 dpi to 600 dpi. I doubt 99% of the population would ever notice it if you didn't point it out them. Back in the 1990s all the printer reviews included magnified images of the text output. While the difference between 300 and 600 dpi was there, it was slight.

There's actually a bigger quality difference between inkjet and laser. Inkjet is substantially worse than even 300 dpi laser, but you don't see that impacting sales of inkjet printers. Here's a 2400x1200 dpi inkjet vs 600 dpi laser.

and text looks even sharper going from 600 DPI to 1200 DPI, even if you can't make out the individual pixels at 600 DPI

There is no perceptible improvement to text beyond 600 dpi. At that point the quality of the printer and toner makes a bigger difference than the dpi.

300 dpi is about the point where it's "good enough" for most people. The real reason laser printers have gone up to 600 and 1200 dpi is because they can only print in black and white. Either there is toner or there isn't - there is no greyscale. So the printer has to simulate grey by half-toning (printing patterns of dots which simulate a greyscale). Going to 600 dpi allows you to give a 300 dpi "dot" 3 shades of grey (in addition to black and white). Going to 1200 dpi gives you 15 shades of grey.

RE: Why?
By GTVic on 4/14/2014 3:58:19 PM , Rating: 2
Good summary.

My criteria for acceptable would be if you are talking about CAD graphics on a display, the desired end result is smooth lines at any angle without resorting to anti-aliasing.

And where you can easily tell the difference between closely spaced line weights (e.g. 1mm vs 1.1mm) when shown side by side.

I don't know what DPI you would need for that but I'm guessing 600 at least.

RE: Why?
By Ktracho on 4/15/2014 3:05:11 PM , Rating: 2
I don't know if you were using laser printers to print text back in the late 80's / early 90's. Reading a book printed at 300 DPI is definitely more tiring than one printed at 600 DPI, even when there are no pictures involved, where half toning would come into play. And if you compare a book professionally printed at 2400 DPI, text looks even sharper than printing on a 600 DPI laser printer - compare something printed with a 600 DPI laser printer and a professionally printed textbook, for example. Perhaps where it doesn't make a difference is when you use low-quality fonts like Courier or Arial (commonly used for web sites, for example), but it's definitely noticeable with fonts like Baskerville, Bodoni, or Goudy's fonts, or even Palatino. I do agree that while dots can be discerned at 300 DPI, few can discern them at 600 DPI, and even then only by putting the paper right up to their eyes. I could be wrong, but I don't think half toning comes into play (or at least should not be theoretically necessary) with text.

RE: Why?
By TSS on 4/11/2014 8:43:10 PM , Rating: 3
For smartphones, yes.

For VR devices.... just imagine a 4K oculus rift. Can't wait to see that. Keep pushing that resolution up!

RE: Why?
By Piiman on 4/12/2014 3:41:12 PM , Rating: 2
gee they haven't even release their current model and you already want an upgrade? I'd be happy if they just started selling something.

RE: Why?
By firewall597 on 4/12/2014 5:19:48 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly what I was thinking. One of the bigger barriers to full presence is the screen door effect on VR headsets. Imagine looking at half of a 1080p display stretched out across your entire FOV, and you can only focus on the center.

We NEED this kind of pixel density to make VR better.

RE: Why?
By Keeir on 4/11/2014 9:12:44 PM , Rating: 2
Why does this always come up?

Unlike a TV or a Desktop Monitor, a smartphone is often held close to the eyes.

YMV, but I tend to hold my smartphone between 8" to 12" from my eyes when reading email, web, or watching random videos.

When I use a desktop monitor, its often 30" to 36" away from my eyes.

513 ppi on a smartphone is 150 ppi on a desktop monitor. This doesn't seem absurbly high to me. I definately notice a difference moving from ~75 to ~100 to ~125 ppi panels.

RE: Why?
By Reclaimer77 on 4/12/2014 5:52:20 AM , Rating: 2
Apple has brainwashed a generation into thinking 600p is high-res on a smartphone. So whenever they hear about beyond 1080p resolutions, they instantly have this kneejerk reaction that it's excessive and there's no benefit.

RE: Why?
By inperfectdarkness on 4/12/2014 1:32:24 PM , Rating: 2
Because it's not just about the ability to identify individual raw pixels. There's so many benefits to a higher ppi screen that are hard to quantify. Even 1080p naysayers who decry the need for 4k have changed their minds when seeing my 3k MSI GT60. So long as ppi keeps increasing, the clarity of images and renderings will continue to improve.

You may not be able to individually resolve pixels, but you can notice the cumulative effects of having more of them. I can promise you that.

RE: Why?
By Solandri on 4/12/2014 5:25:49 PM , Rating: 3
The GT60 is a 15.6" screen. Its 2880x1620 resolution gives it sqrt(2880^2+1620^2)/15.6 = 212 ppi, whereas 1920x1080 is only 141 ppi. Both of these are still far below the ~300 dpi resolving limit of the eye for something read from about 2 feet away. So of course the 3k screen will show a noticeable improvement. (Less so with text, since subpixel font rendering effectively turns the 1920x1080 screen into a 5760x1080 anamorphic screen.)

At 2 feet, your 15.6" screen covers the same angle as a 94" screen at the 12 feet typical for a living room. That would in fact be around the point where I would say a 4k screen is worth it. But a 50" screen at 12 feet is like a 8.3" screen at 2 feet. Do you really think a 3k or 4k display would be worth it on your laptop if its screen were just 8.3" diagonal?

All that said, there is one very important benefit we're hopefully going to see in about 20 years from these ultra-high dpi screens. When you get the dots smaller than the diffraction limit of light (a few ten-thousand dpi), you can start to create diffraction patterns instead of images. That means your display can create holograms. That's right - holographic 3D displays. I'm skeptical OLED can get that high in DPI, it'll probably be quantum dots which get us there. But that's what these insanely high dpi screens and super-fast 3D video cards are eventually going to result in.

RE: Why?
By inperfectdarkness on 4/13/2014 6:42:50 AM , Rating: 2
True, and I agree with your assessment. In the interim, however, the 4k & eventually 8k displays will push content creators to capture their media in higher definition formats...which in turn will mean that the image presented will be sharper, less blurry, etc.

RE: Why?
By audioheaven on 4/13/2014 1:11:53 PM , Rating: 2
Why? Because as of yet, I can tell the image is an image. When it is high enough resolution that no one can tell whether it is real, then we stop.

RE: Why?
By mxnerd on 4/14/2014 1:08:33 PM , Rating: 2
LG G3 reportedly will feature a 5.5in 2560x1440 qHD screen, with a pixel density of 530ppi, even higher than AUO's screen.

RE: Why?
By Jeffk464 on 4/14/2014 3:13:31 PM , Rating: 2
513 ppi? Why? You'd need superman vision to benefit from that. -

Yup, I can't tell the difference from my old samsung nexus 720 screen to my newer LG nexus 5 1080 screen. The only difference I see is the color saturation difference between OLED and LCD. You have to love how the screen goes almost all the way to the edge on that phone though.

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