Is Pentile really a big deal?

Posted Apr 27, 2012 at 3:52 pm in Threads > Opinions

I have followed this website since the beginning, even though I didn’t create an account right away (since we can comment without one). Even with everything I have ever read, I think the Samsung Vibrant that I have has one of the best screens that I have seen.

So, if a phone like the HTC One S has the same screen as the Galaxy S phones (Samsung SAMOLED) but at a higher resolution, why do so many people complain about the One S’s screen? People seem to compare the One S’ to some of Motorola’s phones, were Motorola’s AMOLED screens also made by Samsung?

I’m just saying, if one thinks a new-ish Samsung display is bad, that person must have some high standards, no?

  • Bpear96

    Id say that at a high res, pentile doesnt matter as much, but at 800×480 (atrix for example) it is HORRID, like its incredibly noticeable. But i highres non pentile screen is still much better, and looks much sharper.

    • CTown

      Would qHD be considered high res? I would think so. (I would think anything over HDPI is high res!)

      • Bpear96

        Yea just realized that the atrix was qHD, and it looked horrible to me, but like others have said it was a LCD with extra white pixels. so maybe a SAMOLED with extra red or whatever, at qHD wont look so bad.

    • ralphwiggum1

      Atrix is 4 inches and qHD (960×540). It’s Pentile is an extra white subpixel I believe. I had the Droid X2, which had the same resolution at 4.3 inches and had the white subpixel. It was definitely bad for color reproduction and also for noticeable jaggedness. HOWEVER, I did get used to over time and it was VERY bright in direct sunlight when every other phone I used was horribly washed out.

      I did get to try two Windows Phones from Samsung. One had Super AMOLED (3.7″ at 800×480 pixels) and I really liked that screen, though it is a bit jagged but very nice looking. Another has a 4.3 in Super AMOLED Plus (same as the GS2), and it doesn’t have jaggedness and looks great, but whites look a little blue, especially at an angle while the regular Super AMOLED didn’t do that.

      I guess everything has it’s strong points.

      • CTown

        I thought one of the concerns of pentile was it lack of “true whites”… or was that a problem with AMOLED displays?

        • ralphwiggum1

          Just from what I’ve seen, my Droid X2 with it’s Pentile LCD (with Extra white) excelled at white and bright (mostly bright).

          The Super AMOLED (which is Pentile with extra red) has great whites even at an angle. (This was with the Samsung Focus Flash Windows Phone)

          The Super AMOLED Plus (which is not Pentile) had blue-tinted whites which are more noticeable even at a slight angle. (This was with the Samsung Focus S Windows Phone)

          Both AMOLED screens, of course, excelled at blacks making it almost impossible to not see black even in pitch black at night (in LCDs, blacks look gray due to the backlighting which is more noticeable at night).

          Just my experiences and some issues may be software related.

        • MarlowXIm

          I think the real problem was with banding

          Partially due to the arrangement of pentile and lack of color color calibration.

          It’s true you can’t get a really true white but you could calibrate the RGB values to come close.

          Even with the newer Amoled+ displays I often see gradient banding as well especially if it’s grey background particular.

          • ralphwiggum1

            Ooh, extra green subpixel, not red.

          • CTown

            Well according to the article (thanks for the link), the problems from the pentile displays can be fixed through software.

            So, if a pentile screen can be fixed by software and is cheaper than a non-pentile display, shouldn’t display manufacturers continue to work on pentile displays?

          • John M

            Crazy how almost no one knows what they’re talking about here.

            The banding is due to screens supporting only 16 bit color. That’s the only reason. Banding cannot be eliminated on these screens, it can only be hidden via dithering techniques to fool our eyes into seeing more colors than there actually are.

          • kazahani

            Crazy how some pretentious visitor to the site expects fans of an Android blog to be technically knowledgeable about color calibrations on cutting edge displays.

          • eallan

            Or, you know, just don’t talk unless you know what you’re talking about?

          • kazahani

            Or how about we all have a discussionabout our own experiences with pentile displays, since that is the reason for this thread.

            I don’t know how a display really works or how it’s made, but my last 3 phones have used pentile displays with RGBG subpixels, so I am able to contribute to this conversation.

    • Jojnj

      I can’t notice it on my 960 X 540 ATRIX.

  • ralphwiggum1

    To comment on the qHD displays in Motorola phones, I don’t think any (starting from Droid X2, to Bionic, Droid 3, Droid 4) was a AMOLED screen. I think they were just LCD with Pentile arrangement (with extra white subpixel for brightness). Maybe the RAZR is a qHD Pentile AMOLED? If that’s the case, when I checked it out at the store a few months back, I thought that it looked horrible (I think it has an extra red subpixel like all Samsung Pentile AMOLED displays) maybe because it wasn’t configured to have less saturation.

    • eallan

      Motorola has used both RGBW TFT LCD pentile displays, and RGBG AMOLED pentile displays, and they’re both absolutely horrible. Motorola hasn’t put a good screen in a phone since the FIRST Droid.

  • tnnm

    I’m all for SAMOLED screens – not only do they look better, they weigh significantly less. Don’t believe me? Go hold a Samsung phone compared to a phone from any other vendor.

    • John M

      Yeah, let’s keep making phones lighter until we can’t even feel them in our pockets. Oops it slipped out. Forgot it was there. I actually prefer some weight.

    • redraider133

      i think the build materials have a lot more to do with it than just the screen, plastic is going to be lighter than the other manufacturers materials

      • CTown

        Yeah, plus the battery can weigh more than the phone itself (at least that feels true for my Vibrant)! And we want bigger batteries!

  • Phil Nolan

    Just yesterday I upgraded from a Droid X to a RAZR Maxx. I’m really happy wighvyhr qHD screen. Supposedly this is Pentile but it looks great to me. One thing I noticed is that the color on the Razr is considerably warmer than the Droid X. I can really see a difference if I put them side by side with the same thing on the screen, but even when not not side by side I can see it.

  • John M

    PenTile is a big deal for the manufacturers, as they’re cheaper, allow for smaller batteries, and most people can’t tell the screens apart or just don’t care about the subtle differences. For those of us with an attention to detail, they’ll never have a place. The screen-door effect is horrible and it doesn’t take much for me to notice it.

    The over-saturation in SAMOLEDs is also unrealistic to say the least. It’s only designed to “pop” and stand out from the rest of the phones on display, similar to “beats audio” when it comes to sound.

    There aren’t many screens that are worth a damn right now. At least Apple has the decency to use 24 bit IPS screens (don’t get me wrong, I hate Apple, but it’s the truth).

    I’d like to know how many Android screens actually support full color. The original Droid did… but I don’t think the successors do.

    • John M

      Another point to ponder is that phones with 16-bit PenTile screens are wasting processing power dithering images to look right to the eye. A full-color screen can just send the pixels on through as they were intended, with little to no “post-processing”.

      Even with the speed of today’s phones, this is still a problem, as screen resolutions are increasing, too. The more pixels you’re processing, the less processing you ideally want to do.

    • CTown

      That makes a lot of sense… I assumed all screens would be 32-bit already since Win98 was the only OS that I have seen that has anything like that in its settings.

      Never realized how much information manufacturers leave out when it comes to screens. Even though these phones are only as good as their screens will allow! Thanks for the response.

      • John M

        No problem. :-P

        Most desktop screens don’t support full color, either. It’s just that we sit at a far enough distance from our monitors to not notice any difference. Plus, the dithering techniques on some of them are so good you can’t tell the difference. (Android hasn’t yet gotten to that level.)

        Also, to clarify why I said 24 bit instead of 32: The extra 8 is just the alpha/opacity level.

        Android mainly uses RGB565 (green gets the most of the share because our eyes are most sensitive to greens). That doesn’t leave anything for alpha, so anything with alpha has to be encoded as ARGB8888 and dithered to fit 16 bits (the alpha of a pixel is processed first, and the underlying color is blended with the pixel above it).

      • John M

        They also tried ARGB4444, but leaving only 12 bits for color data, it looks absolutely awful most of the time.


    id love a 720P nonpentile sharp SAMOLED plus display

  • 4n1m4l

    Pentile doesnt really matter. Most last year had a terrible color balance though

  • SGB101

    some nice extreme close ups at Endgaget

    • CTown

      I’m not really sure if that counts (since there is no microscope in my eye).

      All jokes aside, I get where the article is coming from it was very extreme, that icon is as big as my palm.

      • John M

        Well it does and doesn’t count. It really depends on what your eyes see.

        I went and checked out the One S the other day. It didn’t take me long to notice the screen door effect, and it bothers me. I’m probably the exception though. I don’t think most people will ever notice.

        Reminds me of when I bought my Sensation. I had a major problem with the pinkish hue on the Acer screen variant (they also had some early shipments using Sharp screens which I preferred). I couldn’t get anyone working there to tell the difference between them. I think they thought I was crazy.

        BTW my eyes kinda suck. I’m nearsighted, have a lazy eye, and next to no vision in one eye. Still, I see pretty well up close, and that’s my comfort zone, so perhaps that’s why details bother me so much.

      • John M

        It’s also worth noting, from the screen shots, you can tell the Pentile layout doesn’t have very good pixel coverage. Check out the visual gaps between the pixels.

  • SGB101

    some nice extreme close ups at Endgaget

    of the oneX Vs oneS

  • theDL

    Honestly, the only time I ever complain about a screen is on the lower end Samsung phones that sometimes have a sort of bluish tint. But on all the high-end phones I have no complaints.

  • professandobey

    I’m liking my gNex, with it’s 720p SAMOLED pentile display. The pixel density is enough that the layout doesn’t matter. Yes, the colors are a little over-saturated, but it helps keep the details recognizable on such a small screen, especially in videos.

    My wife’s Bionic (qHD LCD pentile with an extra white subpixel) on the other hand looks much too washed out. I can see the jaggedness, but only if I am looking for it, otherwise it looks good enough for daily use. It is extremely bright, and as I understand it, more power efficient.

    • PacoBell

      Ever tried CM9 with its color calibration profiles? It uses SurfaceFlinger to adjust the entire display.

  • redraider133

    I think it depends on the screen and who makes it. Moto is notorious for their bad pentile displays, but other manufacturers who use similar displays it doesn’t seem to be as noticeable problem but of course tech sites like these who take macro shots are going to look worse than it will in everyday use since nobody puts their phone that close to their faces.

  • orangestrat

    Pentile SAMOLED screens have this odd one-two punch of suck. Most of the time, the colours are really badly calibrated, but thats an easy fix with software and so most ROMs have gamma and colour multipliers. I thought the display on my nexus S looked sexy, and then I flashed CM7 and fixed the colours and it looked even better. That’s the main issue.
    The other one that is nearly impossible to fix is that because it lacks the sub-pixels, most things just look grainier. Textures that are supposed to be smooth aren’t. If someone points it out to you its really hard to unsee. Edges can have these weird fringes, and white on black occasionally looks totally off. This is really mitigated by going super high-res like the galaxy nexus.
    They were really amazing on the galaxy S because they were new, bright and vivid, but for the really picky nerds in the crowd, they didn’t age well. I don’t like the display on my nexus S because I’ve used a galaxy nexus. If you like the screen on the One S, you’ll probably continue to like it though :)

  • Paul

    I am looking to get the Google Galaxy Nexus sold on Google Play. What are the specs of that particular screen and what are its advantages and dis-advantages? I saw above it has a pentile display but I don’t know exactly what this means for this particular phone.

  • kazahani

    I currently run that Galaxy Nexus, my old phone was the Galaxy S 4g, and before that I had the Samsung Vibrant. All 3 are PenTile. All three screens are beautiful.

    I used to put my Vibrant next to an iphone 4 and turn the brightness all the way up. It blew the Retina display away. Pictures were brighter and colors were more vibrant.

    Sure there were a lot more pixels in the retina display, but I couldn’t see the pixels in my Vibrant’s screen unless I was 4 or 5 inches away from it. I’ll take a PenTile SAMOLED over the Retina or SLCD any day. Haven’t seen the SLCD 2 screen yet so I can’t say about that.

  • bin artyte

    a big deal yes. I love the contrast ratio, I love the saturation, the viewing angles, the colour, maybe the brightness… BUT I FKIN HATE THE GRAINY GREEN EFFECT. Super amoled plus anytime even if the resolution is s2′s.

  • fc1032

    I personally have no problem with pentile. I’ve owned and used all generations of pentile (N1, SGS and now the Gnex).

    If no one pointed this out, I’m sure I won’t notice it at all. Plus, the positives of contrast, view angles and general look of the screen make it ok.

    On the Gnex, the pentile thing is much less noticeable. Sure it would be nice to have full RGB, but as it stands, its fine.

  • MoSDeeb

    Owning both the iPhone 4S and Galaxy Nexus I can say the clarity of a non-pentile screen is just great. I do hope we can have the next Nexus with a 1080p non-pentile screen. That would be amazing and with better color reproduction if it is once again amoled.

    • kazahani

      Are you saying that you put the Gnex and the iphone right next to each other, and turned the brightness all the way up on both, and you like the retina display better?

      That’s crazy talk. Pull up the same picture off google image search on both devices and tell me honestly that the Gnex doesn’t make that image pop in ways the retina never did.

      • MoSDeeb

        Both have great displays, but the nexus does over exaggerate the color reproduction. This is the reason the image pops, but it is not accurate.

        This is a limitation of amoled screens which as I’ve read is continuously being improved.

        As I said though, they both offer high quality displays, but the iPhone does have better color reproduction.

        This is not a slight against the Nexus as I have a great time using it; as well as the iPhone.