RGB displays are more complicated than you think

Nexus_one_screen_microscope

Most people assume that display screens are based on RGB – that is the amount of red, green and blue light emitted is controlled in three signals. We tend to think that there is an RGB ‘value’ at each pixel. However, the reality is a bit more complicated. The picture above is a close up of the sort of display on the Samsung Galaxy S phones, as well as the Nexus One. It is called an RGBG pentile layout. This layout was introduced because our eyes are more sensitive to green light (so green pixels don’t need to be as physically large to appear just as bright to our eyes). However, it means that the ‘pixel’ in a standard AMOLED display consists of 8 colours: RGBG on top of BGRG. Some people claim this leads to less sharp images compared to the standard RGB displays of LCD displays (see below) that are sometimes referred to as real-stripe displays.

LCD-rgb-subpixel-matrix

Some of the AMOLED displays have an RGBW layout, which adds a white subpixel next to the standard RGB subpixels. This allows the display to have an edge in brightness due to a dedicated white subpixel. With that advantage the backlight doesn’t need to be as bright, which saves battery since the backlight is a major user of battery in a mobile device. There is also Samsung’s latest Super AMOLED display technology that has a new subpixel arrangement called the Diamond Pixel. The first phone to use this pentile type was the Galaxy S4. There there are twice as many green subpixels as there are blue and red ones, and the green subpixels are oval and small while the red and blue ones are diamond-shaped and larger (the blue subpixel is slightly larger than the red one).

Displays are much more complicated and varied than you might think. One consequence is that it is not so easy to compare the resolution of different displays technologies beacause they vary in what they call a pixel.

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