This is a good time to be a display lover, both in the mobile space and in the notebook and tablet space. Not that long ago we bemoaned the absurdity of 4.7” WVGA PenTile displays, with pixels so large you could almost imagine them plucking them up with tweezers. Now, we are awash in gorgeous HD displays, PenTile or otherwise, with fantastic viewing angles, fantastic brightness, and somehow adding nothing at all to the thickness of the handset. So, given its family’s ‘halo’ origins, is it a burden for the Incredible 4G to sport a relatively paltry 960x540 qHD display? 

The Incredible 4G LTE’s Super LCD 4” panel is not nearly so bad as the resolution might seem to imply. There’s an error endemic to the industry to use size and resolution as the only hallmarks for display quality, and the price for that are absurdities like the HTC Titan’s 4.7” WVGA display. When Apple introduced the Retina Display on the iPhone 4, it was the highest density display seen in the mobile space. That high pixel density was tied to good color representation and excellent viewing angles, and made the iPhone the gold standard for phone displays. The first return salvo from Android manufacturer’s were bigger. That trend started with the Droid X, which at 4.3” was considered possitively massive at the time; though its WVGA resolution made it adequate at best in terms of pixel density. Over the next year and a half displays continued to grow (capping out at the Note’s 5.3” display), while resolutions stalled first at WVGA, then briefly at qHD and now finally at 720p. PenTile was a temporizing move, that had mixed results at first, and was glaring at lower resolutions. We hope that issue has finally been settled with screens like the Galaxy S III’s 4.8” HD Super AMOLED panel showing that subpixel densities well above 300 ppi make the stripe indistinguishable to the human eye. 

But in real terms, if there are to be smaller screens, there must be lower resolutions. Let's take for example a theoretical 4" 1280x720 panel; with a pixel density of 367 ppi it would be the highest density display on a phone by some margin. There's a real power cost to pushing those extra pixels, both in terms of the panel and the additional GPU performance necessary. Now, HTC could overcome the power issue without resorting to an ever thicker body, or one more oddly shaped, I would be first in line for that device. Until then, though, a 4" phone deserves a greater than WVGA resolution, and qHD is the right choice. 

Display Pixel Subtense

Angular resolution is our latest display measurement, and with it the key to recall is that as you approach and then drop below 1 arc minute, the human eye's ability to discern an individual pixel becomes impossible. The Incredible 4G's panel fares better here than other qHD screens, and is almost but not quite at 1 arc minute. This matches real world performance, where unless I brought the screen artificially close to my eyes, I never noticed individual pixels. Does the One X have a better angular resolution? Yep. Would a 720p 4" panel have a better angular resolution? Yep. Does that make this a bad display? Not at all. 

Brightness (White)

Brightness (Black)

Contrast Ratio

Brightness is comparable to the rest of the One series, though black level isn’t exactly stellar. The result is a contrast ratio which isn’t class leading, but certainly not unlivable. If you watch a lot of movies on your phone you might have some satisfaction issues; but then you're watching a movie on a 4" display so, since you've already overcome that, you'll hardly notice. Where there are no compromises is in viewing angles or outdoor visibility. RGB coverage looks great, and color temperature is good at just under 7000K. In the last few years, smaller phones have been left to smaller pricing, and often suffered from poorer displays as  a result. Here though, there've been no concessions made to quality; if there’s room for a 4” device in the mobile handset space, it should be as good as the Incredible 4G LTE’s. 

Introduction and Design Performance
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  • lunarx3dfx - Tuesday, July 24, 2012 - link

    It will be interesting to see what happens with the new iPhone, but just like Mac vs. Windows, Google and Microsoft can only do so much to optimize for devices considering how varied they all are. Throw in some LTE radios and things get even more interesting. On that point though, I have a Galaxy Nexus and a Focus Flash, and I was completely impressed by the battery life Microsoft was able to squeeze out of Windows Phone. Of course, they restrict what SoC's manufacturers are allowed to use.

    As far as Android is concerned, I don't know which phone you have, but my Galaxy Nexus running the stock rom but rooted outlasts my girlfriends iPhone 4S in battery life. With Android devices, it has been my experience that battery life truly varies device to device.

    As far as UI responsiveness, Google started to fix that with ICS and have made it almost perfect if not perfect on Jellybean. However, you can't really blame them yet again for how laggy Android has been in the past considering the fact that hardware acceleration for the UI was pretty much not an option until ICS was released. Anything running ICS or higher has to be designed to a standard, meaning a GPU that can handle hardware acceleration.

    Microsoft and Google have a much more difficult task than Apple when it comes to designing, maintaining, and improving their mobile OSes because of how varied the hardware is. They don't have the option to optimize to the extent that Apple does. Considering that I think they have both done a fantastic job so far, and it is only getting better.
    Reply
  • sssbbb - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    What's 3G? Reply
  • legoman666 - Tuesday, July 24, 2012 - link

    How is that a $150 phone + 2 year contract is considered budget whereas a $200 phone + contract is not? The difference after 2 years is a whole $50 out of approximately $2300.

    Please stop ignoring the cost of contracts in your consideration.
    Reply
  • MrSpadge - Tuesday, July 24, 2012 - link

    Doesn't he say clearly enough that the difference is just 50$, and this is not very much - from where ever you look at it. And that difference remains, whatever else you're spending on the phone, contract etc. Reply
  • tbutler - Tuesday, July 24, 2012 - link

    Except that the contract cost is going to be the same no matter which phone you choose. So by reductio ad absurdum, phone cost should never matter, because it will always be a small fraction of the contract cost.... right?

    But, y'know, people do care about these things for some strange reason.
    Reply
  • bill4 - Tuesday, July 24, 2012 - link

    With these absolute garbage Motorola and HTC droid phones-usually incredibly overpriced too boot-, being their "flagships".

    I mean this thing is pathetic by todays standards, 960X540? I'm not surprised it's overpriced too, Verizon phones always are. I'm actually shocked they only charge 199 for the GS3 instead of 299 like they usually charge for top phones, but I think they just didnt want to look horrible compared to the other carriers on that one, if they could have gotten away with it they probably would have priced the GS3 at 399 on contract.

    I still remember when Verizon had the "HTC Thunderbolt" and everybody thought it was so awesome, ATT got the same phone a little later called the inspire for $100 less and nobody cared, because ATT customers dont have nothing but garbage to choose from on a regular basis.. I think Verizon customers rival Apple for their love of being overcharged.

    Verizon is absolutely awful.
    Reply
  • danjw - Tuesday, July 24, 2012 - link

    So Verizon made HTC nerf their version of the HTC One XL? Most of the benchmarks seem to come in worse then her counter parts on AT&T and Sprint. Epic fail Verizon! Reply
  • chrnochime - Tuesday, July 24, 2012 - link

    I'd be happy with a 4" screen phone instead of something even larger. I don't use the phone to play games and nurture my fb page every 10 minutes like a lot of people do or even browse that often, so anything larger is just too bulky to carry around.

    Looks like I'd end up with an iphone, if there's nothing that's not huge running android in a few months...
    Reply
  • geniekid - Tuesday, July 24, 2012 - link

    Too bad about the battery life. I really want a 4 to 4.3" phone, but form is secondary to battery life for me. As it stands, I'll probably give up one-handed usability for battery life by getting the SGS3. Reply
  • amdwilliam1985 - Tuesday, July 24, 2012 - link

    One-handed usability with SGS3 is very possible. Don't get fool by the Apple cool-aids about 3.5" one-handed and >3.5" 2-handed.
    I'm surprise to see a lot of girls in the NYC subway using SGS3 with 1 hand, if they can do it you can too. It just takes some time to get use to it. But once you got used to it, you can't look at or type on a puny 3.5" anymore. Trust me, I went from 3.5"(iPhone 3gs) to 4.5"(TMobile SGS2) and I can't go back anymore.
    Reply

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