Editorials

4K Resolution For The Future, Part 2: Battery Life May Experience Negative Impact

We’re back to continue our 4K resolution series, and our first part titled Users Can’t See The Difference is now a part of our published history here. As I mentioned in that editorial, if you can see the difference between 1080p and 4K resolution up-close, then you can see how much better 4K resolution will be. Of course, you may not see the two resolutions running side by side all of the time, but you’ll instantly spot 4K resolution in an electronics store.

What explains the claim of the site (provided as a source in the above link) that a number of users can’t tell the difference? Well, we don’t know. Simply put, the site never tells us what factors could have affected the claim that some saw the difference between resolutions and others didn’t. The simple truth is that, based on the location of the smartphone display in a home, office setting, or public place, your vision and ability to distinguish between resolutions may be more or less than in others. For example, a nearsighted person (who can see everything up-close but very little far away) who views a 5.7-inch, 1080p display in, say, a Galaxy Note 3, and Sony’s new Xperia Z5 Premium 4K resolution, will likely be best able to distinguish between the Note 3 and the Xperia Z5 Premium. Why? Because the individual in question is nearsighted, which means that his or her vision is quite precise up-close. A person who is farsighted (can see far away but not near) that views the same displays may have trouble figuring out which is sharper.

Most individuals lie somewhere in the middle (neither farsighted nor nearsighted, just “ambidextrous in vision,” I’d say), where they can see both near and far – although their vision may be slightly better with objects near than far, or far rather than near. Dependent upon the strength of their vision, and whether or not they’re wearing corrective lenses or contacts, or have had vision surgery, as well as the distance between their eyes and the smartphone or tablet in front of them, these individuals may or may not be adept at seeing higher resolutions at near or far distances.

So, providing a test like the site did in the link above, without giving any of these factors, is to reduce the issue to an easy “box” of categorization for a discussion that isn’t so simple. I realize that I have stated that yes, people can see 4K resolution up-close, but that isn’t really disputed by the industry. The majority of the industry would agree with me; it’s at long distances from the person sitting on the couch, for example, where they’d say that viewing such bright resolutions doesn’t add anything extra to the viewing experience.

Now, with that out of the way, let’s move on to today’s discussion: whether or not battery life will tank as a result of 4K resolution displays on smartphones.

Will battery life tank with 4K resolution displays?

The claim is made, with each new smartphone with higher-resolution displays: with smartphone “X,” whatever it may be, battery life will be negatively impacted. Back in 2013, most smartphones in the industry were adopting to 720p or 1080p resolutions, but some, like the Galaxy Note 3, featured a 1080p resolution. LG decided to bring 1440p resolution mainstream by introducing it in the company’s smartphone lineup with the LG G3. What happened? Battery life took a tank with the G3. The result is that battery life didn’t perform so well, at least in one test. After one site praised the G3’s battery life, subsequent tests confirmed that the G3’s battery life was worse than the others.

LG started giving battery packs soon after (or additional removable batteries) with its G3 smartphone in order to compensate for tests that continued to confirm its battery life took a toll because of the 1440p resolution in its G3 smartphone. The worst part of it all is that LG took the stage and promised that the G3 wouldn’t be impacted in battery life because it had optimized the G3 to work well with the new Quad HD (1440p) resolution. The results, unfortunately, didn’t play out so well. GMSArena’s own battery tests with the LG G3 discovered that the 1440p resolution phone only provides 6.5 hours of web browsing and 8.5 hours of video playback, on average. In contrast, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, Samsung’s first smartphone to feature a Quad HD display (1440p resolution), fared far better: the huge phablet posted 11 hours of web browsing and nearly 18 hours of video playback. You can see both results below.

Galaxy Note 4 battery stats
Samsung’s Quad HD battery stats in the Galaxy Note 4 give us hope regarding Sony’s 4K resolution in the Xperia Z5 Premium.

LG G3 battery stats

What do these results tell us? They tell us that 4K resolution, as has been the case with Quad HD or 2K resolution, is dependent upon optimization from the manufacturer. If a manufacturer doesn’t optimize well, the display will guzzle down battery life; if a device has been optimized properly, it may take a hit – but you’ll either not notice the slightly smaller battery life or you’ll notice a bit better battery life.

So, what about Sony’s Xperia Z5 Premium with its 4K resolution? Sony’s promising 2-day battery life, but can it deliver? Well, the company’s delivered on 2-day battery life with its 1080p displays, and Sony’s still the top in the business when it comes to great battery life. In fact, Sony’s battery life on its Xperia Z devices usually outperform Samsung’s Galaxy S and Note series when it comes to battery performance.

To get to the point, 4K resolution, like 2K resolution or 1080p, only impacts battery in terrible ways if a device and its software have not been optimized. If a manufacturer takes optimization seriously, then, like Samsung, it can upscale to Quad HD resolution while keeping battery life better than ever. 4K resolution smartphones will prove this same point, if 1080p and 1440p haven’t done that already.

Are there any questions you have about battery life with 4K resolution? Feel free to ask away in the comments below. To see the LG G3 and Samsung Galaxy Note 4 battery results for yourself, visit the links below.

LG G3 battery stats

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 battery stats

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