The Scourge Of Pentile Returns With The Galaxy Nexus

As a man once said: “Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.” How true that saying is regarding the promises of high-definition mobile screens. Samsung fooled me once with the Galaxy S series, the Pentile-based display of which gave me headaches just to look at. And now, after they fix that problem with the Galaxy S II, I hear they’ve brought it back for the Galaxy Nexus? Can’t get fooled again, Samsung. Can’t get fooled again.

If you’re not familiar with Pentile displays, here’s a quick rundown: in traditional LCDs, each pixel is made up of one red dot, one green dot, and one blue dot or sub-pixel. If you look closely at the screen from some angles, you can usually make them out. A Pentile display, however, lets pixels share dots by using a different dot layout and algorithms for determining what pixel gets which dot and when. The end result is technically a higher resolution, since you can get more pixels out of the same number of dots:

No better demonstration of this than the Galaxy Nexus itself: the total number of red, green, and blue dots in its screen is 1,843,200. Coincidentally, that’s the exact same number of sub-pixels as the iPhone 4. But those sub-pixels are making up 1280×720 = 921,600 pixels on the Galaxy Nexus, and 960×640 = 614,400 pixels on the iPhone. Does it seem logical to you that a display can increase the number of pixels created by a number of sub-elements by a third and suffer no ill effect?

They couldn’t do it on the Galaxy S, and it was visible to the naked eye. Text and borders had a sawtooth effect from the way dots were shared between pixels. The Galaxy Note shows a polychromatic artifact effect on high-contrast things like black-on-white text. Will it be the same with the Galaxy Nexus? I haven’t held one in my hand so I can’t be sure, but I’m guessing that the combination of Pentile sub-pixel layout and a larger pixel pitch to begin will indeed make it visible.

Some people don’t notice, and some don’t care. But if you’re picky about the quality of your display, make sure you set eyes on this thing before you buy it. For me personally, it’s a dealbreaker sight unseen. A man’s got to have principles.