Diamond Pixels: Galaxy S4’s unique subpixel arrangement gets a close up

April 30, 2013
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samsung galaxy s4 5 aa 600

A high-resolution shot of the Galaxy S4’s screen reveals the unique subpixel arrangement that Samsung used in order to achieve the 441ppi pixel density on an AMOLED display.

In the months preceding the unveiling of the Galaxy S4, several rumors emerged about the display of the upcoming flagship. Samsung was said to have problems with the design and manufacturing of a full HD (1928 x 1080) AMOLED display. One report even said that the Korean smartphone maker was considering using LCD for the Galaxy S4, due to the supposed insurmountable technical difficulties that would prevent it from making enough panels for the upcoming blockbuster.

But on March 14, the Galaxy S4 was launched, with a full HD Super AMOLED screen of a whopping 441 ppi, a pixel density that is second only to the (smaller) HTC One’s. Not only that, but, as display expert Raymond Soneira pointed out, the display of the Galaxy S4 is a huge improvement over the S3, and is finally closing in on the iPhone in terms of quality.

But how did Samsung manage to pack all those pixels in the display of the Galaxy S4 after all? An image that the Korean manufacturer provided to Soneira gives us a few more clues.

Samsung_Diamond_Pixels_2 Credit: DisplayMate

These are the “diamond pixels” we’ve first heard about in January. As you can see, Samsung employed a combination of diamond shaped and oval subpixels, in order to maximize the number of subpixels that can go on every square inch of the display.

This is still a PenTile arrangement – there are twice as many green subpixels as blue and red ones. However, at this resolution and pixel density, the drawbacks of PenTile arrangements are very hard to notice. For a primer on the difference between PenTile and the “regular” RGB displays, check out our Galaxy S3 vs Galaxy Note 2 comparison.

According to Soneira, Samsung dubbed this novel subpixel arrangement Diamond Pixel, which is a bit misleading, considering that the subpixels (the “dots” of color that make up one pixel) are the ones that are actually diamond-shaped. Samsung probably wanted to distance this new layout from PenTile, which has often been the target of critics due to the “fuzziness” it shows around text and other fine graphics.

Why are the red and blue subpixels larger than the green ones? And why are the green ones oval?

The reason lies in the different efficiency of the three colors. Blue subpixels are the least efficient, meaning that manufacturers have to make them bigger in order for them to output the required luminosity. If you look closely at the image, you will see that the blue subpixels are slightly larger than the red ones. On the other hand, green subpixels are very efficient, so Samsung can make them much smaller than the red and blue ones.

Samsung-gs4-diamond-closeup-img_assist-350x349

In order to maximize the number of subpixels that can fit on the display’s surface, Samsung used the new diamond subpixels arranged in a 45-degree symmetry. Finally, the green subpixels are oval to make the most out of the limited space available between the red and blue ones.

As a comparison, last year’s Galaxy S3 featured a PenTile arrangement composed of rectangular subpixels, as you can see in the image below (contrasted with a regular RGB layout).

rgb-vs-pentile-amoled

Left: RGB; Right: PenTile

The full HD panel of the Galaxy S4 is an impressive technical achievement in its own, one that should finally mute (most of) the critics of the PenTile technology. For the record, this is the first time Samsung acknowledged this new Diamond Pixels technology.

What is your experience with PenTile displays? Are you satisfied with the display of the Galaxy S3? Have you seen the new Galaxy S4?

Comments

  • George

    So far i liked my S3’s display better than most phones.
    The only one i admited was on par or better was the iphone 5.
    (also if you use perseus kernel and calibrate the screen you’ll see how much better can it get)

    • http://www.facebook.com/kevinksmith Kevin Smith

      You don’t think the htc one x’s display was better, either?

      • Sean Bunquin

        It’s his opinion, and I too found the s3’s screen nice (not to say there weren’t better displays offered by the competition)

      • George

        Well,no i didn’t overall.
        It had better whites than the S3 though.

  • MasterMuffin

    So much black, could they fit (when technology gets further) double amount of subpixels?

    • http://AndroidAuthority.com/ Bogdan Petrovan

      I read that’s theoretically possible, so perhaps we’ll see the resolution race going on in the next few years.

      • http://www.facebook.com/JasonYuen Jason Yuen

        2 characters: 4K

        • http://AndroidAuthority.com/ Bogdan Petrovan

          4K smartphones? I am sure manufacturers will make them, I am just not sure we’ll get any benefit from it.

          • http://www.facebook.com/JasonYuen Jason Yuen

            They said that about 720p and 1080p too, but each time they are hailed as a huge improvement over the previous. 4K would be the logical jump from 1080p, but I could see those extra lines of resolution be used for active 3D. If Google glass takes off, imagine 3D Google glass being sold as accessories much like how wireless charging is being pushed today. In addition to smartphones, it could go into tablets, all-in-one systems, as well as help advance desktop monitors and TVs.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=714859472 Rajvir Singh

            The benefit will be that we will be dependent on technology to a lesser extent as the battery life would be whopping 20 mins of ON screen time, LOL
            What I am trying to say is we Don’t need more pixels, WE NEED BETTER BATTERY LIFE!!!

      • MasterMuffin

        Good, and 4k is just really necessary! Everyone who thinks differently is a …….. Smart person :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/jamie.cottrell.92 Jamie Cottrell

      no point in more pixels, but how about bigger subpixels? Could improve brightness which is a problem with AMOLED displays

  • E34V8

    ” What is your experience with PenTile displays? Are you satisfied with the display of the Galaxy S3? Have you seen the new Galaxy S4? ”

    Had the SGS, than the SG Nexus, used the SGS3. All have excellent contrast and sharpness (far beyond any LCD), but I do hate the pentile arrangement. I hope the high ppi on SGS4 means the end of jagged edges and the “net” !

    Now i use HTC One X and it has an excellent display. Smoother than the S3’s , but it’s just not the same as OLEDs in terms of contrast and sharpness. Also black is grey.

  • vampyren

    On my S3 i never was bothered with the penlite thing. The resolution is high enough even when zooming in on text so S4 makes it even better.

    As an example on S2 even if it was not pentile i hated it since the resolution was low and text was blurry so the pixel density is more important than pentile vs this .
    Waiting for my S4 to arrive myself.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JasonYuen Jason Yuen

    It’s not accurate to say that green subpixels are more efficient than blue ones because there is a bigger factor at play. Human eyes are especially sensitive to the green colour. That results in us requiring less green light to perceive the same brightness. I don’t know how efficient each subpixel is in relation to each other, but human perception is a much bigger factor when it comes to our perception of colour and brightness.