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A Closer Look at the DROIDX2 and its qHD Display, PenTile at its Not-so-Finest

When the Motorola Atrix 4G first came out with its “qHD” display, we were all expecting it to be the second coming of some religious figure, but after being analyzed by sites like AnandTech, the term “PenTile” was brought into the light and quickly became the downer it word of the moment.  So naturally, when the DROIDX2 (our hands-on) was released to Verizon and sporting that same “qHD” display, we started digging into it to see what we could find.  

So what is a PenTile screen?  Without being the all-knowing guru on display technology, I’ll have to pull from some other sources on this one and recap.  The theory (as I understand it) behind using a PenTile grid is simply to give you a brighter display at a lower cost with a perceived bigger resolution, and one that also consumes less power.  In the case of a cell phone, this has “win” written all over it, right?  Well, not necessarily.

You’ll notice on a PenTile screen that certain colors won’t display correctly.  Such is the case of the DX2 or Atrix which use a RGBW layout – the pixels have to constantly fight with each other to produce the correct color that you should be seeing.  You may also struggle to view black text over white backgrounds on websites when zoomed all the way out or find yourself with a headache after quickly scrolling.  And then there is the fact that everything tends to look a little grainy.  It’s very difficult for a Pentile RGBW display to produce straight lines, some times leaving spots with an almost jagged (or grainy) edge to them.

At the same time though, you are getting a higher resolution and a supposed sharper image (from a distance), which some would consider a nice trade-off.

To give you a bit of reference to all of this though, here is a macro shot of the DROIDX2, DROIDX and Nexus S all taken in the same light, at about the same time and angle.  The Nexus S wins in color quality, but the original DROIDX appears to be leading the way in clarity.  The DX2 on the other hand, just looks odd and grainy with that PenTile grid.  In fact, the green of the Android Market almost looks brown when you compare it to the other devices.

(click image to see full version)

We also pulled up this site to see the three phones display against a green background with a variety of colored texts.  None of the devices struggled to pull up all of that green, but the DX2 was unable to even display the page correctly do to its grid.

(click image to see full version)

And a quick HD video in case those two pictures didn’t provide enough:

YouTube Preview Image

Final thoughts? The PenTile (qHD) screen is really not the devil of smartphone displays (actually it is).  Sure, it looks awful under a macro lens (something normal people shouldn’t care about), can’t render certain bright green webpages, and may even give you a headache if you zoom all the way out on a web page, but that doesn’t mean it has zero benefits.  Many would take this any day if it were to provide a better battery life and brighter/clearer viewing in an outdoor setting, which it does.  I think the real story here is that “qHD” is another of this year’s marketing gimmicks by Motorola to brag about a higher resolution screen to compete with you-know-who, when it’s pretty obvious here that they are cutting a corner to make those dual-core processors last more than 3 hours without having to increase the price of their phones.

Should you avoid qHD screens? No, not at all Probably.  And to be clear, I haven’t been dissatisfied with the screen on the DROIDX2 by any means, but instead wanted to point out exactly what it is.  Just know that there are some minor drawbacks, which you should be aware of.  And hopefully this post will allow you to realize those and then decide if they are for you or not.

Update:  After spending a lengthy amount of time (our review) with the DROIDX2 after writing this post, we can conclude that this might be one of our least favorite screens of all time.  qHD to Motorola is indeed just a marketing term, because this screen is no where near HD-quality.   You can see pixels on the device with a naked eye, colors are never correct, and the instant head pounding that you receive while scrolling through anything is something I’ve never seen from another phone.  It’s not pretty in the Moto PenTile world.

  • Shyanne.

    Am I the only one that has had problems with DEAD pixels on my screen? and problems with the phone just completely restarting in an instant, out of nowhere? I am really beginning to get aggravated with this phone. The cons are starting to outweigh the pros. Honestly, I would not recommend this phone to anyone.
    Please reply to this if you have similar problems.

  • Alex Condie

    To be honest, I have no problems with my Atrix screen. It’s not as colorful as the super AMOLED. But I think It’s great.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Criswell/100000248491076 Kevin Criswell

    Good article.  I still love my Bionic screen.  I don’t notice the problem in pentile screens.  Guess people need to find the screen that works for them.  

  • Germanshepardman

    ok I still dont get this, I like the display on the droid x 2 and to me the pics in this article look better for the dx2 than the other pics.  Even in the video (which you had to zoom WAY in to see the pixels on ALL  the phones, and yes i watched it in HD) the x2 screen doesnt look any better or worse than the other 2 phones to me. 

    It is like your saying “look at this higher resolution blasphemous screen that uses ungodly heathen DIAGONAL LINES instead of horizontal and vertical, ooooh evil diagonals!  gholem …. gholem …”  

    I have a droid x and an x2 and to me the difference is awesome.  I like the colors better, and i can see a better picture in the screen.  I like it.  I think this is a more subjective issue than what is being percieved.  Granted its no retina display (and motorola should have done that, as well as a front facing camera for the x2 in order to compete with the iphone,)  but the phone is still really nice for the price. 

  • Anonymous

    As I’ve been saying, the Droid X, though while being an OLDER smartphone is superior in screen quality to the Bionic/Droid X2 etc screen.

  • Anonymous

    Just ran across this post…I really don’t think it’s that bad.  Sure it may not look as nice as Super AMOLED color wise but the pixel stuff is not even remotely visable at any normal viewing distance.  Very happy with my atrix and the screen…and most importantly the 40 hours of battery life under normal use (30 with moderate gaming).

  • Truthhurts

    James was hired by a PR firm on moto’s behalf. He is just doing his job. Its not easy to refute reality with propaganda. Please cut him some slack, defending a garbage display is hard work…

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1368032580 James E. Burkett

      I could only wish I was hired by anyone to represent PenTile. You sir, are simply uneducated, and That, my friend, is all too easy.

  • Anonymous

    Have you guys seen the PentileBlog?  It’s setup as a way to make people think pentile is better. http://pentileblog.com/uncategorized/pentile-a-gimmick/

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1368032580 James E. Burkett

      That’s because it is, you idiot.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1368032580 James E. Burkett

    One more thing… I hope the Bionic does have a PenTile display, for the very reason that if it does, you people will bash it and I can come in and drag you around the room again. Everyone pull out your microscopes, and make sure you got your phone on the charger… It’s gonna die if you don’t. A phone is NO GOOD if it Kills Batteries.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1368032580 James E. Burkett

    I have something to say about this whole Pentile display crying I hear all over the web about the display on the DX2. The display extends battery life, period. You can see things fine on it. As far as the pixelation when it’s up close, how much time do you crybabies really spend using the phone three inches from your face?? Who cares what it looks like under a microscope?? You’re probably ugly from three inches away too! As far as color clarity and all that BS, I have been using the phone for about a month now and it seems perfectly adequate, if not just Fine. Are you a photographer? Do you really give a damn if that ONE shade of green doesn’t display exactly like the one on the Samsing? WHO CARES? The phone is phenominal, and you people need to stop crying about the display. Use the phone, or Don’t. If I don’t like something, I just won’t buy it. I won’t run around the web whining about it. Motorola is not going to recall all the DX2 phones and put a AMOLED display in them just so you can have brighter color. They did it so you could read the damn thing outside. STFU!

    • bob

      The reviewer like all of us have a right to our opinion this is his u have urs respect it. You like grid then u probably own an Atari 1600 and love it for the rest of us who have moved on we prefer more since we are paying more. Your happy then b happy and shutup.The rest of us who dont like Pentile have a right not to and will indeed be purchasing from Samsung or HTC.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1368032580 James E. Burkett

        That’s great. Purchase the Samslung or HTC and get off Moto. They did a great job with the phone. If you like looking at displays under a microscope, so be it. Us normal people don’t carry around apparattus to scrutinize every pixel we see, and the display looks just as good (And twice as bright in direct sunlight might I add) as the samsung or HTC phone you speak of, if you aren’t 3 inches from the phone. It also uses less battery to run it. If you like Samsung so much, leave Motorola alone and go buy one.

        • http://twitter.com/Justinwrites Justin True Anderson

          dude, some of us care what the product is like before we pay cold hard cash for it.  don’t like DL reviews, the back button is up and to the left usually.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1368032580 James E. Burkett

            If you don’t like reading what people have to say, you should probably not view a forum, or blog. If you cared about the product you wanted to purchase, you might go LOOK at it before making a judgement against it because some dude who wanted hits on his web page looked at a phone with a microscope. 

          • Anthony

            “If you don’t like reading what people have to say, you should probably not view a forum, or blog”

            How interesting that you wrote that considering it was your rant about other people whining that started this whole thread. If YOU don’t like to read what people have to say (the whiny complaints), then maybe YOU should not view a forum or blog.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1368032580 James E. Burkett

            How interesting that you would point out me telling you to leave as I did you. See how high-school that was? Now that you notice it in someone else’s action, why don’t you take the hint and stop telling people to leave just because they responded to your weak argument?

          • TARSIS BRITO

            justin is another sheep that follows what everybody says lol

      • Garycecy

        Your right you do have a right to your opinion. What james is saying is that if you dont like it then why buy it? Why buy something and then complain about it? And if you didnt buy it then what are you complaining about???? Pick a phone and enjoy it, there is no need to bash other phones just dont buy them.
        Is one of you a developer of these phones??? If you didnt put the work in then you should give credit where credit is due and then shut up about it…..but hey thats my opinion.

      • TARSIS BRITO

        sammy display look to colorful not natural

    • Anthony

      Wow this guy is a dick.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1368032580 James E. Burkett

        Yes, yes I am when I see people who have no idea of the technology talking shit about it. It is the best mobile display technology available, period. You goofballs who keep downing it just because it looks funny from 3 inches away are Morons. Do you usually look at your displays 3 inches away?

      • TARSIS BRITO

        i agree people cry to much remember your eyes get used of anything if you are looking for pixelation u will find it i was having problems when reading on the web with my phone first day then after that i am rocking my droidx2 if this phone would of have lte and front facing what a beast

    • Jniz4747

      actually I pulled it up green page up. It does not display
      properly at std zoom.  Zoom in the grid line appear immediately.  I
      do not love the screen but do not hate it either.  It looks pretty darn
      good outside even at low brightness.

  • Starjacked03

    A better comparison would be against a phone not using that tech and shooting it with the same laser light you shot over those displays.  Personally, I don’t know why you would wanna laser light a display but I guess it makes for a video.

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  • Anonymous

    I Just bought an Atrix i had an Galaxy S before… i just hated the screen, colors looks really washed out and display colors totally wrong… moviment on the phone like scrolling thru pages everything looks really jagged, and the Motorola BLUR on top of that… affff… just hated this phone! 

  • http://www.google.com/profiles/phinnvr6 phinn

    The screen on my Incredible 2 looks *much* better than this, as is my battery life.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Rotkaeqpchen Ulf Schuster

    Sorry, but for ME the Nexus S green is much too unnatural! It’s not that market-green that we all know, so its not the real, although more saturated color. I prefer a rasterized picture, with bright white for outdoor use and less power consumption. Thats my opinion. The DX2 has a really much brighter white.

  • JoelPollack

    You comment:  You may also struggle to view black text over white backgrounds on
    websites when zoomed all the way out or find yourself with a headache
    after quickly scrolling.  And then there is the fact that everything
    tends to look a little grainy.  It’s very difficult for a PenTile RGBW
    display to produce straight lines, some times leaving spots with an
    almost jagged (or grainy) edge to them.

    _______________________________________________________

    This just isn’t so. While PenTile displays do look a little different than RGB stripe, but  they do not render black text on white badly.  See the proof yourself a t(http://pentileblog.com/?p=47)

    It is true that highly magnified green on black will look grainier than RGB stripe, but that is that so bad for the significant power savings gained to extend battery life?  Keep in mind whites will look brighter and specular reflections from water and metal will look more lifelike.  As with any technology there are always some differences, but many agree that PenTile technology is a great fit for mobile devices (http://pentileblog.com/?p=429).

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1368032580 James E. Burkett

      Joel, I cannot believe the things this guy is saying about the PenTile display. Motorola has been using PenTile displays for many years. I am pretty sure the Razr had a PenTile display. I never had a problem out of this display, and I have come to the conclusion that the only thing this guy has Anything to say about the Droid X2’s display is, to get page hits. He is a worthless moron. He sees nothing but “Uh it doesn’t display black on white very well” GIVE IT UP DUDE. “The lines look jagged” Uh yes, under a eff’n Microscope most any line would look jagged. Anyway, my point here is that you do not need to defend this technology… It beats any other display technology hands-down for 3 reasons: It is BRIGHTER, it can be SEEN in sunlight, and one more thing- It is the most current-efficient display technology in the world, allowing a phone’s Battery to last longer. WIN, PenTile.

  • Anonymous

    I can attest to it being bright.  The darkest setting is visible outdoors in full sunlight.  In fact, I almost wish I could lower the brightness some more to save battery power.

    • TARSIS BRITO

      i agree that is one thing i dont like about my droidx2 that i cant not lower the brightness even more but if i have to choose i will choose the display on the droidx with the power of the droidx2 i had the droidx now have the droidx2 i still love the screen though but the display for the droidx was better

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  • Sirus804

    I would just like to clarify.  I own a Droid X2 and You hardly notice any of this.  Only with the green display it does this.  But you can’t notice it when using the phone normally.  As for the color or the “brown greens”.. This is just silly.  Firstly.. Look how washed out the Droid X looks compared to the X2…

    Secondly, The tone of the Android market IS an off green.  When you look up other rich green images, the X2 is flawless.. They look great.

    I have an amazing 22″ Acer monitor for my computer.  When I pull up the same image on my computer as on my droid they literally look the SAME.  The Droid X2 isn’t lacking at all… and the fact that you get a longer battery life and brighter screen is all the more better.  qHD screens are great AND AMAZINGLY CLEAR.

    This is like the whole comparison of LCD to Plasma.  Yes, you are going to get more vibrant colors with Super AMOLED displays… but they won’t be nearly as clear as qHD.

    So to anyone who is on the fence about getting an X2, don’t be discouraged by this.  qHD is definitely NOT a gimmick.. Its a great display. And the X2 is a beast.  No lag at all. (Gonna have to deal with Motoblur though.)  The Tegra 2 games look amazing.

    • TARSIS BRITO

      i do agree 100 % they gave me a droidx2 because my droid x i had an app called imo.im and i thought it was gb that was messing up my phone and it was that application. i put my droidx2 to the lowest brightness the screen looks great i would perfect the droidx display only because i like everything darker like they set the colors when you go to the movies but other than that this phone its a beast tegra and the task manager in it make this phone super fast :) remember guys the task manager that moto uses it is only for the devices u cant stop the applications that make ur phone to work

  • http://www.giquegear.com GiqueGuy

    The true arrival of Android is shown to me in this article.  When the author alludes to this technology competing with “you-know-who”, I immediately assumed he meant Samsung with the Galaxy S II  !!!  Maybe he meant Apple …. either way, Samsung wins my next smartphone investment.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1368032580 James E. Burkett

      LOOK AT THE PHONE before you say this dude. Put them side by side in sunlight and you will see that Samsung loses…. Badly. It also eats batteries for Lunch (About the time the battery will die on your Samsung with moderate usage). congratulations on listening to a guy who puts phones under microscopes for webpage hits. Bravo.

  • http://www.hybridgenius.com Hybrid Genius

    Screens aside, did anyone notice the DroidX and DroidX2 have terrible signal in the video compared to the Nexus S?

  • Droid Grammy

    Screen is much easier to see than my beloved dear departed D1.  I plan on keeping a magnifying glass away from DX2 screen–did not notice the pixelated screen or colors being different until I read articles on the web!  I spend a lot of time outdoors, now I do not have to shield the phone from the sun to see it. Happy with my choice, good for the $ spent. Saving my $ till after 4G is up and running flawlessly in my area. 

  • http://twitter.com/Dirtball_Rotten Dirtball Rotten

    please people dont go overboard with this… i mean really.. the screen looks nice in real life situations. just leave it at that.

  • http://twitter.com/Dirtball_Rotten Dirtball Rotten

    please people dont go overboard with this… i mean really.. the screen looks nice in real life situations. just leave it at that.

  • Rexboe60

    I really like the screen. Had the Droid X and went to the X2. The only thing I noticed is with the higher resolution the icons and keyboard letters and just a little smaller. Outdoors it is a lot better.