Do I re­ally need... higher res­o­lu­tion?

Computer Active (UK) - - Reviews -

What does it do?

The higher the res­o­lu­tion of a screen, the more pix­els it con­tains, and the more de­tail it can show you. Com­par­ing screens that are the same phys­i­cal size, the one with higher res­o­lu­tion (A) has smaller pix­els packed closer to­gether, giv­ing higher ‘pixel den­sity’ than (B).

Why would I want it?

More pix­els means you can see more stuff at once, which is why the typ­i­cal PC screen grew from 7-10in to 2327in. But we don’t want phones and tablets to keep get­ting big­ger, so man­u­fac­tur­ers are minia­tur­is­ing LCD cells fur­ther to pack more de­tail in.

What’s the catch?

Be­yond a cer­tain point, you can’t see any more de­tail within a given space us­ing hu­man eyes. That point was ar­guably reached in 2010, with the iphone 4’s Retina dis­play. Yet screens have con­tin­ued to gain pixel den­sity way be­yond Retina’s 326 pix­els per inch (ppi). Sony’s Xpe­ria XZ Pre­mium phone (see our re­view, Is­sue 508) has more than 800ppi.

So can I do with­out it?

Un­less you’re bionic, your eyes can’t tell the dif­fer­ence be­tween, say, 500 and 600ppi. So science tells us you can’t possibly need 800. But smart­phones can now be used as dis­plays for vir­tual-re­al­ity apps (see Is­sue 490, page 22), which cre­ates a real need for more res­o­lu­tion by de­pict­ing a wider field of view, mak­ing each pixel big­ger to your eye.

For ev­ery­day tasks, high res­o­lu­tion is more than a gim­mick. A sharper screen makes text clearer and more com­fort­able to read. Com­bined with high-dy­namic range, high den­sity also makes pho­tos, videos and games feel more real.

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