Display - qHD RGBW 4”

The original Droid and Droid 2 famously used high quality 3.7” IPS panels, and as a result had excellent contrast and brightness. What always struck me as being a little odd with the arrangement was that the devices used the 16:9 FWVGA (854 x 480) aspect ratio instead of WVGA’s 800x480. The difference was subtle, but as a result the Motorola Droids always did seem more rectangular than most of their other Android bretheren. Since then, qHD has become the hot new high-end Android resolution, which vindicates Motorola’s by likewise being 16:9.

Aspect ratios aside, it’s interesting to me how obvious it is that qHD is the answer to the iPhone 4’s retina display. I’ve been told that the development cycle for most of these handsets is anywhere from 12 to 18 months, and look no further than your calendar and when qHD devices have started shipping to see that in action. Whatever the reason for qHD’s emergence, it’s good to have some display innovation take place.

The Droid 3 ups the size of the primary display from the 3.7” which adorned the old Motorola Droids to 4.0”, and as already noted increases effective resolution from 854x480 to 960x540. Like the Droid X2 and other new qHD Motorola phones, the Droid 3 uses a PenTile L6W RGBW subpixel matrix to achieve effective qHD resolution. I talked about RGBW in the Droid X2 review, and what it boils down to is the inclusion of a fourth white subpixel which increases light transmittance (and thus reduces required backlight power) in a lot of use cases.

 
Left: Droid 3 with RGBW PenTile, Right: Droid 2 with RGB Stripe

Unlike the other RGBG PenTile which adorned AMOLED displays before Super AMOLED Plus swung around, I find RGBW much easier to stomach and completely readable when presented with black on white UIs. Colors still have visible grain, as do some UI elements, but the Droid 3’s 4” display makes this considerably less noticeable than the same resolution on the Droid X2. Only on bright colors is that extra space due to the fourth subpixel readily visible, and thanks to our color-specific visual acuity, greens are the most visible.

I immediately noticed out of the box with the Droid 3 that it wasn’t as super bright as the Droid X2, which was itself almost shockingly bright. That said, the Droid 3 is no slouch and is likewise nice and contrasty as well.

Display Brightness

Display Brightness

Display Contrast

We’re still making plots of brightness (white and black), and white point at 25% brightness steps. The Droid 3’s white point tracking is slightly different from the X2’s despite also using RGBW. It ends up not being visibly blue like some of the AMOLED variants nor noticeably warm like some of the earlier Droid panels were in odd batches.

The next are of concern are viewing angles, which in my opinion the Droid 3 does very well at. I stuck the Droid 3 next to the Droid 2 and shot some pics of it at different angles. It’s surprising to me in retrospect how much color shift and contrast reduction there is in the old Droid 2 by comparison. In this regard, the Droid 3’s display is a clear step forwards.

Left: Droid 2, Right: Droid 3

Outdoor viewing angles are decent on the Droid 3 are pretty good but not totally perfect. RGBW helps keep brightness punchy but in my mind outdoor viewing remains an unsolved problem for just about everyone.

New Motoblur, Software, and Locked Bootloaders Camera - Stills and Video Quality
POST A COMMENT

84 Comments

View All Comments

  • EndlessChris - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    Great review as always. Looks like this will be my new phone :) Reply
  • RaistlinZ - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    Sharp lookin' phone. I like. Reply
  • vol7ron - Sunday, July 31, 2011 - link

    I like this too, larger screen, nice looking keyboard, great looking device. It seems to have it all.

    One thing, does it really have a 0.3MP front-facing camera? I would suspect 1.3MP would be more realistic, especially since there are probably economies of scale for that technology right now.

    Thx,
    vol7ron
    Reply
  • Brian Klug - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    Vol7ron,

    It definitely does have a 0.3 MP (VGA) front facing camera. http://developer.motorola.com/products/droid-3-xt8...

    I'd like to see 1.3 MP sensors on the front for sure, but at this point it doesn't make sense until both the per-pixel quality is the same (same size pixels) and there are apps that can actually do some HD teleconferencing (like if Skype had support). We're almost there though.

    -Brian
    Reply
  • Myrandex - Monday, August 01, 2011 - link

    It would be for me if it wasn't for this bastardization that Verizon did:

    The obvious next part of the story is that WCDMA HSPA+ 14.4 Mbps connectivity. Unfortunately, Verizon has locked the retail Droid 3 out of seeing USA-based GSM/WCDMA networks with an MCC (Mobile Country Code) lock.

    Why can't Verizon just allow the hardware to perform at its fullest rather than finding some way to lock it down? They have always been terrible about locking their phones in some way.

    Jason Cook
    Reply
  • themossie - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    Tried the Droid 3 in store the day it came out, mixed feelings about the screen.
    Found it very usable for applications, not usable for serious reading (news, ebooks, etc). First time I've suffered eyestrain from an LCD screen with decent brightness and contrast. Droid 1 works great for this use case.

    Brian, Anand and the rest of the AnandTech team - any opinions on this? Anyone else?
    Reply
  • themossie - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    Also, thanks for the great review - business as usual at Anandtech! Reply
  • steven75 - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    Indeed. Can't believe he tried to equate this pentile display with less resolution in a larger screen size (significantly worse PPI) with the retina display. They aren't even close. Reply
  • bplewis24 - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    I'll trust the guy who looks at hundreds of phones per year over the hyperbolic masses who troll the internet.

    I'll also trust my own eyes and science, which prove you wrong.
    Reply
  • Finraziel - Sunday, July 31, 2011 - link

    Well, I'll also trust my own eyes, and the picture right above where Brian says he doesn't mind pentile too much really makes the droid3's screen look like crap compared to the lower resolution droid2 right next to it. My experience with other pentile screens also suggests there's absolutely no point in increasing the resolution only by using a trick like this, you end up with noticably lower effective resolution. I'd prefer an actually sharp screen over impressive specifications.
    I really hope when the 720p screen phones come out in the next half year or so they wont be using cheap tricks like this.
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now