Followup to the Ars article

I wanted to collect a few of the most insightful comments I get in response to the Ars article in one place.

Update: I wanted to highlight Jakub's link in the comments below to a side-by-side closeup comparison of PenTile and non-PenTile displays (HTC Desire vs. HTC Legend).

Lone Shepherd said:
I must say I'm continually surprised at the lower quality of comments on front page articles compared to the Ars forum. What's with all the fanboism, accusations of FUD, and people insulting the author because he dared investigate and criticize a design decision?
You guys need to take this article for what it is: a technical investigation on the display tech used on the Nexus One. If you're a tech enthusiast, you might find this sort of analysis interesting. I know I did. The article isn't about bashing the N1, or making the iPhone or Droid look better, or whatever. It's talking about tech, period. It's not about dissing your phone, or ignoring another phone, or making yet another phone look better in comparison, or any of that partisan, fanboy crap.
Get a grip, people.
lhopitalified said:
Your comment about rods and cones is not entirely correct. Density of rods and cones varies depending on angular distance from the fovea (i.e. cones are most dense at the fovea, rods are most dense about 20 degrees away), which complicates the matter of a single numeric comparison. Moreover, the whole "rods are for luminance" and "cones are for color" argument is rather simplistic. Cones are the only photoreceptors that get mapped into color channels, but that does not mean that they are not used for luminance. Unlike rods, fewer cones map into an individual retinal ganglion cells (the actual "pixels" of the eye). This is a method used to boost the low-light sensitivity of rods.
When reading, it is clear that the cones are being used -- when you focus on one letter of text, it is very difficult to make out letters that are a short distance away unless the text is really big because the resolution of cones decreases dramatically. The opposite occurs at night when viewing dim stars -- if you view them directly, they disappear because the cones are not sensitive enough, but reappear when you shift your focus point away and let the rods do the work.
My main point is that the human visual system is a LOT more complex than most people give it credit for!
neatchee had a great comment for balance:
OHS NOES! Images crafted with the sole purpose of causing irregularities on the Nexus One's screen cause irregularities on the Nexus One's screen?! Whatever shall we do!
Seriously, this article is a whole bunch of sensationalism. Luke has a valid point in there somewhere but it's lost among the cries of "oh em gee it doesn't follow the exact specifications I expected and other screens have used!" NONE of these examples show a real world scenario. Stippled images? When the hell will I be viewing a stippled image on my N1 except in this article? Not to mention, if you change the zoom level by even 1%, the effect disappears. It's like my kid saying "it hurts when I twist my head like this, and put my arm over here, while I jump up and down."
In practice the N1 screen is vibrant, and text is about as readable as it comes. If you're specifically looking for fringing then I'm sure you can find it. But you'll have to hold the phone so it's touching your nose, and squint, and mutter something akin to "I think...I'm pretty sure I see it...yeah, I think I see it." Text is not "blurry" it's solid as compared to the Droid screen where I can actually discern individual pixels in a solid color area (it's like looking at a white wall and seeing each individual molecule). Here's a tip: when an image has a white background, I want it to look like a solid white background, not hundreds of white dots.
I should say that I asked Ars to remove some of the sensationalist language that they added in, in a final round of edits, and the editor rejected my changes.  I guess I'll self-publish from now on.

klassobaneiras said:
Smartphones are sold on their awesome specs, and who lives by the specsheet dies by the specsheet.
Plus, you can't blame people for wanting to feel they got what they paid for.
alexvroger said:
Why all the nexus hate ?
No matter what tech site I check (Wired, Engadget, Gizmondo) there's some bad press about Nexus One.
I have Nexus One and it's screen is absolutely the best I've ever used. The Iphone compare to it is a joke (and I had 3GS). 
Nexus One is easily the best smartphone on the market, so please stop all the hate


  1. Hi,

    I have took a picture of HTC Legend AMOLED display. It uses classic RGB layout unlike Nexus. Picture and description is on my page here: http://jtra.cz/stuff/android/legend/display/index.html

    I still consider the Nexus One and HTC Desire display to be superior to HTC Legend display, though not as much as could be inferred from just resolution figures. Nexus has about 1.7 times the number of subpixels of the HTC Legend, but resolution would imply 2.5 multiplier.

  2. Hey Luke,
    enjoyed your article on the Nexus One subpixel issue.  One thing I haven't seen anywhere is the likelihood that the Incredible will have the same pen-tile arrangement.  As best I can tell, the incredible's closest analogue is the desire and I'm not sure if anyone has addressed the subpixel arrangement on that.  I know we can't be certain until the incredible is in our hands, but I was wondering if there was any evidence pointing either way (including how the desire is).

  3. Hey Jackson -- my understanding is that all high-end HTC phones in the near future will have the same AMOLED display with PenTile technology. I don't think things will change until (1) it's possible to manufacture AMOLED displays with standard RGB layouts that have the same reliability as PenTile displays (if you believe the marketing that PenTile gives you fewer dead pixels), and (2) it's clear in people's minds that standard RGB layouts *are* better than PenTile (which will require undoing some Nouvoyance hype).

  4. I have updated my detailed pictures so here is macro detail of both HTC Desire and HTC Legend displays:


  5. Luke, I'd like to ask if you ever opened the pictures in anything other than the Gallery3D app on the Nexus one? I ask because the gallery app has a really horrible color resampling bug, and the pictures (I downloaded the zip file) look completely different in other picture viewers on the nexus.

  6. Also the droid was recently updated to 2.1 and has the same gallery bug.

  7. Avian: Yes, I wrote my own pic viewer app that plots without color distortion and with exactly 1:1 scale, and it displays the images just fine -- basically identically to Gallery3D but a little bit sharper.

    I did try viewing with Astro, but it doesn't remove the notification bar, so the images appear smaller than 100%.

    Gallery3D doesn't have "horrible" color resampling that I'm aware of, but the colors are a bit different from the image and the image is a bit blurrier -- this is due to mapping the image onto a polygon and plotting with OpenGL -- it seems that there's a fraction of a pixel misalignment or something, probably due to inaccuracies in the texture renderer, but the images still show up with almost the right color fringes.

    The other thing with Gallery3D is that there's a diagonal line from corner to corner through each image, and the triangle above the line shows up slightly darker than the triangle below the line, this is due to the image getting rendered as two separate triangles, possibly with different normals or at least with some sort of directional rounding error.

  8. I've tried 'picture viewer' which appears to show images at 100% and I don't see any color distortion, and it looks different from either rendering you have on your Ars post.

    I'm just not as willing as you to throw the nexus one under the bus. I have simply never seen a screen on a phone that is as nice as the Nexus.

  9. The Ars post uses digital photos, which munge the color -- and I had to intentially blur them to remove moire' effects.

    The "horrible" color resampling you're referring to is probably the fact that the default color mode for OpenGL apps is RGB_565, not RGB_888.

    I'm not throwing the phone under the bus, it's a great phone overall. What you like about the screen is the brightness and color reproduction. That is a property of AMOLED, not PenTile. What I'm "throwing under the bus" is PenTile, and its effect on text crispness.

  10. Interesting comments about rod and cone cells in the eyes. I remember reading about this in early 2000. Me and a colleague at work where trying some experiments suggested in the articles and found ourselves wondering through treacherous terrain in the middle of the night with nothing more than a glowing glowing disk for a light source. Though results where more than inconclusive... The experiments where a LOT of fun!