Archive for November 23rd, 2010

My case against Acer’s new Android smartphone

Acer just announced a new smartphone, with a large 4.8″ screen, and a 2 MP front webcam. I have a beef with the phone’s resolution and aspect ratio though: it’s 21:9, 1024×480. What pisses me off even more is that Acer actually claims that this is a resolution optimized for movies. Well, guess what, it’s not a practical solution for video. Ideally, this phone should have had a 1280×720 resolution instead. As a videographer, movie buff, and an ex-programmer, let me explain.

Users will have to rip or pirate content to properly utilize the resolution of that Acer phone. Even if Acer comes pre-installed with Netflix or Blockbuster, these services don’t encode their material in 1024 pixels wide. Meaning that, to get an exact 21:9 aspect ratio, at a 1:1 sized movie, you will have to rip it yourself, or pirate it. There’s no way around it.

So, when you rip a BD, you will get 1920 px horizontally. The vertical size doesn’t matter, because it’s never the same for movies. Movie editors just cut as much of the vertical resolution as they see fit. Some movies are really cut with a “thin” aspect ratio, and some are at full 1080px vertically. You never know what you’re gonna get, since there’s no hard standard, and so the only number that matters in this argument is the horizontal resolution.

So, for Acer’s 1024px horizontal resolution, its ratio to the “master” 1920 is 0.533333. For 1280px, it’s 0.666666. 720p’s 0.66 ratio is WAY better for faster computation (because it’s a cleaner number to 0.53), and because it’s exactly 2/3s to 100. Faster computation, and “cleaner” number means fewer resources, and cleaner PICTURE. When you resize down your movie to fit the 720p resolution from 1080p, the pixels will align better than on a random ratio that 0.53 is.

But there’s more. Movies aren’t all what people watch on their phone. They also watch 720p HD clips that themselves recorded, or TV shows, which are shot/edited at exactly 16:9, and not 21:9. This means, that all that content is going to get played back with vertical blackbars (which you would agree, they’re a bigger offence than horizontal blackbars). And if they don’t get blackbars, it means that they get resized on-the-fly to fit the screen, essentially making everyone on these videos look fat and unnatural. Surely not how you want to watch your videos.

Not to mention the HD webcam of the phone, which would have also to get blackbar’ed (or worse, stretched) to fit this odd screen resolution!

The right decision for Acer would have been to use a proper 1280×720 screen. It’s possible that our current electronics are not fast-enough yet to drive such a pixel resolution (1280×720=921600px instead of 1024×480=491520px — 720p requires ALMOST DOUBLE the graphics processing power). But honestly, I don’t care. If they didn’t have the processing power to do the right thing, they should have stayed with either 848×480, or 960×540, the other two 16:9 resolutions that also make some sense. But 1024×480, should burn and die.