The fellas over at Gizmodo have reported the findings of DisplayMates' Nexus One versus iPhone 3GS Shootout and the results aren’t what anyone expected.
The display on the Nexus One that all the reviewers raved over doesn’t render images very well.
We explain, after the break.
DisplayMate seems to think that the way the screen was optimized to display icons and text has an adverse effect on they way larger pictures are shown. Much like the LCD display on your computer monitor or laptop, small images and text render out very nicely at 16-bit color, but bigger images show the lack of color depth and banding at lower settings. The full article at DisplayMate is well worth a read, even if you don’t understand jargon like dithering and PenTile sub-pixel rendering, simply because the example pictures are shocking. If you dig through the user comments at the Gizmodo article, not everyone is agreeing. It looks like this is not just a poor hardware choice for the LCD in the Nexus, and something is going on with the software.
Digging deeper, some Android geeks and gurus over at xda-developers have done some tests of their own. Their results get a little more interesting. Apparently, the same picture at a size closer to the Nexus One's actual screen size doesn't show the banding and color issues that the larger, PC desktop sized images do. All you have to do to see this is read the results at DisplayMate on your Nexus One. The images from the iPhone that don't show the color banding issue display just fine in the Android browser.
Even more interesting, when viewing a large scale image in the browser or gallery application, if you place your finger on the screen to move or zoom the image the banding goes away. As crazy as that sounds, xda Senior Member Rotohammer has a theory that makes sense of the whole mess:
If I use this image:
Which is at 800x616 pixels, I don't see the banding. That tells me its the scaling algorithm in the OS, app or GL library thats causing the stepped gradient, not the AMOLED display itself.
To me, his explanation makes the most sense of the whole mess. There is a bug in earlier versions of Android that causes an image to show color banding and display artifacts when used as a homescreen background. Applications like Wallpaper Set and Save were able to get around the bug, or by editing some of the operating system files so that the image you wanted to use was part of the actual homescreen gallery you could do the same. Android's still relatively new and in it's growing stages, so software glitches like this are expected even though we don't like seeing them very much. If the guys at xda are right (and most times they are) there still some bugs in the operating system and the way it scales and displays highly detailed images, especially those with a color gradient.
To be honest, my own limited experience with a Nexus One left me drooling over the screen like most everyone else. I wasn’t looking for poor image rendering, and I didn’t notice any. Phil said the same thing about his daily use. But the pictures don’t lie. If they are an accurate representation, then there is an issue that needs some fixin'.
Nexus One users - does this represent what you see on your device when cruising through the gallery? Or is something else going on with DisplayMate’s test unit? Let us know in the comments!