Like many people out there, I was pretty confused when tech blogs like The Verge wrote sensational articles about how disappointed they are about the Galaxy S III‘s screen. “Pentile displays belong in the past” says Vlad Savov… but maybe he needs to get with the times!
First of all let’s discuss what a PenTile display actually is, and then evaluate why a PenTile display isn’t the worst thing in the world.
What is PenTile?
Screens are made up of pixels (tiny dots of Red Green or Blue) that can combine to make other colours). Each pixel itself has configuration of “Sub-pixels” which allow the pixel to turn Red, Green or Blue depending on what’s needed. PenTile or PenTile Matrix is the name given to a particular way in which these sub-pixels are arranged. The “pen” in pentile signifies 5 of something, and in a traditional PenTile display you get two red and two green sub-pixels around a single green one.
What’s smart about PenTile displays is that (the very clever) Candice Elliott was inspired to invent them by the way the human eye works. Inside the retina, different types of cells are responsible for sensing different types of colour. It turns out that there are much fewer “S cones” in the human retina, and “S cones” are the cells responsible for sensing blue light.
A PenTile display, therfore, uses less Blue Sub-pixels because our eyes genuinely don’t see as much blue light. We don’t need it to be there, so why bother? Makes sense, right?
A traditional RGB stripe pixel line-up has equal numbers of each colour, which is sort of inefficient when you think about what PenTile is doing.
Why is PenTile in the Galaxy S 3 a good thing?
The PenTile display in the Galaxy S 3 has an RGBG configuration, similar to that in the Galaxy Nexus (pictured above). This takes even more information about how we actually see things into account, favouring green sub-pixels over red and blue. It turns out that the human eye is most sensitive to green light in high resolution: so more green makes sense, right?
Blue? Longevity? Whatnow?
The PenTile display is particularly good for AMOLED dispalys. AMOLED stands for Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode and uses organic materials which light up a certain colour when an electrical current is passed though it. As is the case with dyes and creating blue coloured objects in the rest of the world, blue OLEDs are the hardest to produce. It took a long time for Blue to have a long enough life-span to even be considered viable for mass-production even a few years ago. Check out this graph from HDTVINFO from 2008 which shows that Blue OLEDs were (and are) kinda rubbish:
Essentially the colour Blue isn’t all that good at being bright! A Blue sub pixel requires more current to be passed through it in order to have the same brightness as its counterpart Red and Green sub-pixels. Thanks to PenTile (and of course the inevitable increase bettering of OLED tech), this problem of longevity has been overcome. A PenTile display’s sub-pixel rendering allows for 2/3 the amount of sub-pixels to be used in comparison with RGB stripe technology. This means lower over all current, and therefore a longer luminescent lifetime!
Fewer over all sub-pixels gives more area to create light relative to dead-space, reducing the current per needed per unit area. This gives an overall longer lifetime of the display (especially for the power hungry and quickly dwindling blue).
If you’re the kind of person who can’t afford a brand new device ever 12 months (most of us, right?) then this is the kind of technology we want to see in screens.
It also means that the value of a second-hand PenTile display device will be much higher, as the screen won’t be all washed out. They’re also (rumoured to be) significantly cheaper to produce than an LCD screen. This means that if you were (eek!) to break the Gorilla Glass 2 screen on your Galaxy S III and somehow shatter the screen beneath it, it’s going to be pretty cost effective to replace. Also much faster and easier!
Fuzzy Blurry Lines?
Previous PenTile displays have got some bad press for being “fuzzy” or “blurry”, an it’s true: they did. However, these displays had a much lower resolution than what we see now 1280 x 720 – That’s immense! Most people’s TVs don’t even have that resolution yet! The pixel density of over 300ppi and the resolution means that any problems people have had with PenTile displays in the past will not be apparent. If they are apparent, then you either have a microscope or you have some really funky eyes…
Do you remember people being so angry about PenTile being used in the Galaxy Nexus or Galaxy Note? Nope… I don’t either. All this fuss around the Galaxy S III having a Pentile display is a little bit silly in my opinion.
Something really important to notice here is the over all price of a brand new Galaxy S 3. With a UK RRP of just £499.95 for the entire package? Amazing! Don’t forget that it’s predecessor, the Galaxy S 2 had an initial RRP of £649.99, £150 more! See below for how much it costs right now
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The Galaxy S III is one of the most powerful devices around today, with one of the nicest and largest screens you can get. With an extremely competitively priced initial RRP of £499.99 it’s going to fly off the shelves no matter what! We sortof get why some people are angry that they can’t spend £800 and have a device with a 400ppi screen and … but I don’t really think they’re representative of the mass consumer market. Also, you could do far better things with £800 than spend it on a mobile phone… just sayin’.
What bothers me most is that there seems to be silly amounts of bad press about the PenTile screen on the Galaxy S III from people who haven’t had a long time to play with the device or even get used to it. I guess that’s the problem with uninformed rumour-mill-tabloid-tech journalism.
Most importantly – please take other people’s opinions with a pinch of salt. At SG we always recommend that you go to a shop or borrow a friend’s device to try it out before you buy. What’s important is what you think about a device, not anyone else.
For more information about PenTile displays (and where I got most of my information from) check out Nouvoyance and their blog, “PenTile Blog”– the world’s leading PenTile development company. It’s really interesting!