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HTC / Google stole my pixels!

Now after the HTC Desire is finally available in Germany, my cousin immediately ordered one, which finally arrived last saturday. I couldn’t resist testing the 1 GHz Snapdragon compared to the Motorola Milestone I own. But I never got to doing that…

When I looked at the HTC Desire’s screen, I found it to be looking really odd. I could see red pixels between black and white transitions, which is really irritating when reading text. When looking at a pure gray image, it looked like I was looking at a white background through a mesh. It gave me the feeling of looking at a cheap $100 low-res phone where pixels still could be seen.

After having used high-res screen devices like the HTC Touch Diamond or the Motorola Droid, I’m pretty sure that something was wrong with the screen of the HTC Desire, it simply didn’t look like a 800×480 screen to me. Well, I dropped the seller an email, saying that the phone my cousin got is broken. But today, I got my hands on a Google Nexus One, which I immediately examined for this weird behavior. The Nexus One got the exact same problem. Is that coincidence? I started asking other people whether they are seeing the red pixels, too, but most of them replied no.

I started to dig deeper and found an interesting article on arstechnica.com describing this problem. Basically, the Desire/Nexus One screen only has 2 colors /pixel instead of 3. So the screen is a mesh of red/green and blue/green pixels instead of every pixel having red, green and blue. The whole thing is based on quite a lot of rules of human eye reception, like

  1. Green is a color the human eye is most sensitive to, the screen has the full amount of green pixels.
  2. As the human eye is more sensitive to contrast than color, having a high display density should make this effect invisible.
  3. Having the color information only on every 2 pixels is a very commonly used procedure in compressing video to save space without visible quality loss.

But there is one problem with not beeing able to show all 3 colors at the same time. To show one white pixel, you would need to turn on 2 pixels, as red, green and blue has to be on to mix a white. This wouldn’t be a problem it the colors weren’t alternating between red and blue. So instead of having a nice black with almost invisible blue side, you get a eye-catching ugly red/blue border on every white to black transition.

Well, I sure hope that is the only device HTC will build with such an ugly screen, if not, I’d recommend people to switch to that nice Retina Display of the iPhone 4.

5 Responses to “HTC / Google stole my pixels!”

  1. Alex:

    Um … I’ve got a Desire, too – and I must admit that I don’t understand the problem. I have a crystal-clear display with beautiful colors.

    I just had a look at the Applications menu, trying to reproduce what you said, but everything looks nice to me. The only thing I see, now that you mention it, is a very fine jagged line on some square icons. But that’s far from irritating me.

    YMMV ;)

  2. Qian Qin:

    Yes, that’s was most people see, really weird. The all say that they don’t see the problem, but if you take a picture of the screen, you can clearly see the problem. I suggest you save and look at this picture on your phone at 100% and then zoom in:

    This picture is pure black and white, you will see that if you zoom in, but not when at 100%.

  3. Neal Whidby:

    Bought a brand-new Desire about a month ago as a business cellphone however am very disappointed , firstly i would have about 900 contacts on my previous XDA and was able to view by business or individual, not so on Desire only by personal which is of no use particularly with no search option either. Android 2.2 is intended to have search facility but not different view option launch date seems to differ each time . Battery pretty good approx 18 hrs medium usage. Bluetooth poor, paired with parrott car kit ok for day or so however won’t connect even by unpairing and pairing new, same problem with wireless bluetooth headset……..any ideas

  4. Gabriel:

    Hi Qian,

    I see what you mean and I admire your seek for excellence. I understand that the problem is that HTC advertises the display as very sharp and all that, but what you get is actually an optical illusion of a quality display – not an actual quality display.

    In any case, I´m a happy Desire user, the phone is great and the screen was sharp enough to me until I read your article here. :)
    But I guess I´ll get over it. Thanks for the enlightenment.


  5. Tom:

    Yeah I’ve recently bought a Desire for my dad. He was eager to get the Desire before they switch to the IPS Panel… Although I did read about the pen tile matrix of the Desire and informed him, he still wanted AMOLED because of the color. Now I have the Desire lying by my side, and the effect is clearly noticeable for me. Not only that transitions between black and white show that color problem, the resolution also looks not as sharp as it should be. But I think he is one of the persons who don’t care or notice.

    Btw, I’m happy HTC did not use that matrix for the HTC Legend which I own. It has a lower resolution, but still it looks much better for me (lower resolution and apparent viewable pixels set aside).