As the dawn of 2K screens begins to hit out smartphones, an inevitable trade-off is set to be thrust upon consumers between image quality and battery life… Is a super-crisp 2K image worth losing a few hours of battery life, or is a UHD screen simply a waste of precious power?
The screen quality debate has currently hit the media after both LG and Samsung announced smartphones with “quad HD” 2K screen, whilst Sony have stuck with the ‘traditional’ Full HD 1920x1080p format.
Sony’s director of marketing at Xperia Calum MacDougall, was pretty steady with their stance on 2K. Sony don’t “believe the trade-off between having a 2K screen and battery consumption is the right trade-off for a consumer.”
In his interview with Trusted Reviews, MacDougall commented that “it is very difficult for the human eye to discern the difference between 2K and Full HD”, especially on screens up to 8 inches.
Are Sony right or just covering their tracks?
So do Sony have a point? Is Ultra HD wasted on smartphones? Or are they just covering their backs after lagging behind the market leaders?
Well, on the outset it seems like Sony have got a point. It’s the law of diminishing returns: The more pixels you have, the more your screen draws power and costs more to make, however the difference a user can distinguish in quality is minimal.
Once you’ve got rid of pixilation of an image (to the human eye) it’s pretty pointless to keep perfecting it.
Starting with the 2K screen. Stuffing more pixels into an 8 inch-screen does not automatically give you a better image quality. In many cases, the human eye can’t actually process that amount of detail over such a small area- especially when read at a ‘healthy viewing distance’.
Samsung actually downgraded the pixel density of their S5 smartphone compared to the S4. The market leading manufactures instead opted to upgrade the rendering systems and graphics of the S5, compensating for the slight loss in pixels.
Naturally this is not the case for screens larger than about 10-Inch, as the resolution become an issue again.
As for battery life, there’s still some debate. On the face of it a higher pixel density screen should draw more power. However both Samsung and LG are adamant their battery longevity is still competitive.
For the Xperia Z3, Sony are claiming that without the 2k screen it can last for 2 days. An amazing feat for a modern smartphone, I personally can’t remember the last time my phone lasted 24 hours never mind 48. Would be a great coup for Sony if that is the case.
So is 2K a gimmick on a Smartphone then? The cynical user out there will probably say yes, a pointless addition for a screen too small to even see.
On the other hand, many users will believe there is a discernible difference in screen quality. 2K does look great especially on the larger smartphones.
The battery drain is a huge issue, unless manufactures can improve longevity there will be a tug of war between image quality and battery power.
Until a new breed of long-life batteries are introduced, for me 2K is an unnecessary drain on devices under 6-Inch, even though it does look awesome.