by Jin S. Kim
Engadget: The Nokia Lumia 900 sports a 4.3-inch ClearBlack AMOLED, a bit bigger than the 3.7-inch on the Lumia 800. ClearBlack indicates a polarized filter to block light from entering the OLED display, minimizing reflections, and keeping black black. The 4.3-inch OLED packs a pixel format of just 800×480. Unfortunate, but understandable since the single-core Qualcomm CPU probably would have croaked under the pressure of 1280×720 pixels.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. Unless Nokia has gone RGB-stripe on this larger ClearBlack AMOLED display, we’re looking at PenTile Matrix. With Windows Phone 7 touting its beautiful typography the worst possible decision is to marry it with a PenTile Matrix display, which is weak at text rendering. Now that weakness will be more prominent with bigger pixelations. Bigger is definitely not better.
It’s unfortunate. The Lumia 900 is already behind the curve, right out of the gate. Too bad Farhad Manjoo and MG Siegler has it exactly wrong.
Update: The Verge has confirmed the Lumia 900 does not use a PenTile Matrix sub-pixel structured OLED display. Now I’m getting a bit more excited, except in a world moving toward 300+ ppi, the 217-ppi Lumia 900 sounds pathetic.
Update 2: Vlad Savov at The Verge interviews VP for Windows Phone, Joe Belfiore, and titles the post, "Phone will compete on quality, not specs". Belfiore has a valid point when he says Microsoft is focusing its Windows Phone engineering efforts on a relatively narrow set of hardware to improve performance. This approach will certainly yield better results, over existing results. And this method works, in a vacuum with no competition. In the smartphone space the display is it. The 4.3-inch 800×480 ClearBlack AMOLED display on the Lumia 900, is not.
Update 3: The first commercial.
Update 2012.03.26: US$99.99, AT&T, April 8. For Nokia’s flagship smartphone that’s quite aggressive, which is probably necessary.
Update 2012.04.03: Joshua Topolsky, The Verge:
On the other hand, I’m disappointed by the display on the Lumia. Besides being lower in resolution than competitive devices (new Android phones at 1280 x 720 and the iPhone at 960 x 640), I felt colors were far too saturated. This is a pretty common problem with AMOLED screens, but the issue seems pronounced on the Lumia 900 thanks to the starkness of the Windows Phone interface. Combined with the lower resolution display (which is particularly notable with white text against that black background), the effect is jarring.
Flagship smartphone models are moving north of 300 ppi. That 300 ppi is a threshold set by Steve Jobs for smartphones that are used roughly 10-12 inches away. Below it the display does not merit a Retina designation. Only when the display’s individual pixels, at around 300 ppi, melt into digital ink can a smartphone demand to be taken seriously. The Nokia Lumia 900 handcuffed by Microsoft’s 800×480 pixel format limitation packs a decidedly weak 217-ppi OLED display.
I doubt Microsoft is serious about making Windows Phone 7 a success. Why? It failed and continues to fail to understand that to provide a consistent visual experience across many varieties of display sizes on WP7 smartphones you do not set in stone the pixel format, such as 800×480, but the resolution, such as 300 ppi. If Microsoft had known what they were doing, the 4.3-inch Lumia 900 would have sported a much higher resolution and would now be a serious option for those seeking the very best. Unfortunately that is not the case, at all.