The truth about 4K
We all know that our laptops are using very out-dated display technology because of how far our smart phone screens have come in the past 5 years. New phone technology from Samsung and Apple amongst others has shown us that it's possible to have wonderfully rich display technology that gives us natural and vibrant colours viewable from any angle we desire. Turn your phone on it's side and the image looks as crisp and clear as it did head on. So why are we still looking at 10 year old technology in our laptops?
The tide of change
Laptop manufacturer's have been churning the same low quality LCD panels around for nearly 10 years now. Not much has really changed in those 10 years and if anything quality has probably dropped due to big manufacturers being under pressure to cut the prices of the LCD panels year on year.
Finally things look to be changing and there are a handful of laptop models that are now being equipped with screens that rival Apple's established "retina" display technology. This move is being embraced by designers, graphics engineers, photographers, movie buffs and anybody else who's seen the benefits of a high quality display; but are things exactly as they seem?
Many of the 3K and 4K laptop screens (UHD, QHD, QHD+, QFHD) are actually PGBW-Pentile displays such as the Samsung LTN156HL02 fitted to the Lenovo Y50, the Ideapad Yoga and the Asus Zenbook series such as the UX501 and the ASUS/Google Nexus. This means simply that the display is emulating the higher resolution but is missing sub pixels (details or definition) and they actually never achieve their advertised resolution. In addition to this many of these high resolution and high gamut (high colour saturation) screens are actually inaccurate at displaying colours properly when compared to a standard TN panel.
What this essentially means is that the screen is designed to "appear" to be Ultra high resolution using a "trick of the eye" type fraud to deceive the user into believing that the screen has true Ultra high resolution. This is achieved by essentially missing out some of the pixels in a pattern across the screen a bit like saving an image as JPEG. When you save a JPEG image the size of the image is significantly reduced by missing out parts of the image that your eye does not detect. Only upon enlarging the image or closer inspection do you then notice the flaw in quality.
Real High resolution displays
We have found some displays that actually do perform as advertised they are the Toshiba P55t, DELL XPS 13 and 14 models and the Acer Aspire V series. Clevo and Schenker (Clevo rebranded) are also producing some Ultra high resolution screens that a lot of people seem to be giving good reviews to.
Who makes High resolution displays?
The main players in the new Ultra high resolution display market are not the usual suspects such as AU Optronics and Samsung. Whilst these two brands do produce and will be the main producers in the future, at present Panasonic (with models such as the VX16T020G00 - WQHD+) and Sharp seem to be producing the first incarnations of these panels.
Sharp a little known LCD producer made the high quality screens fitted to the Sony 16.4" F series laptops and 3D models. In our opinion Sharp make some of the best screens in the world.
Whilst most producers are using IPS technology for their new ultra high definition laptop displays AU Optronics have developed their own technology called AHVA. AHVA is the same idea as IPS giving a wide viewing angle but AHVA also includes a high gamut or high colour saturation specification alongside the IPS technology making it a better choice in our opinion.
Panels to check out in the next 12 months:
VX16T020G00 - WQHD+ and VVX16T029D00 (QHD+) by Panasonic
LP140QH1 (SP)(B1) and (SP)(A2) by LG Philips
LTN140YL02-H01 and LTN133YL03-L01 by Samsung
LQ133T1JW19, LQ156Z1JW01, LQ156Z1JW02, LQ156D1JX01B, LQ156D1JW01 and LQ140Z1JW01 by Sharp
Laptop display terminology explained - What is a TN panel? - What is IPS? - What is High Gamut? - What is resolution?
The rise of the IPS display
Better quality laptop screens
What does LCD mean?
What is an LED screen?