Should You Buy a Chinese Device with a Retina Display?

Should You Buy a Chinese Device with a Retina Display?

Retina Display

I recently was sent an email asking me this question and I wrote a fairly detailed response. Here was the exchange, for those of you who are shopping and are wondering if now is the right time to go "Retina" if purchasing a China tab. Hope this is helpful!

"Do you see a Retina tab fitting into your plans for the US Market? The Momo (referencing the Ployer Momo 12) looks promising, but I worry that the standard will be Retina soon."


You make a valid point however here are my thoughts based on what is currently being offered from China...

A 1024x768 resolution on a 9.7" (standard for China now) screen is the same as the iPad 2 and it does look very good. Also, there is a big benefit vs. retina in performance and battery life. A 1280x800 on a 10.1" display looks near perfect in my opinion and that is what the Ployer Momo 12 offers and you don't lose much performance jumping up to this resolution.

All that being said, I am not "anti-retina," not at all. I would love to get a device with an ultra-high-resolution display, but I won't offer (or personally use) a retina display if it results in a diminished user experience. The other hardware has to be able to keep up with the display.

Let me explain...

When Apple released the 3rd generation of the iPad, the used the same A5 chipset used in the iPad... however the modified it. The A5 had a "dual-core" graphics processor. Apple knew that wouldn't cut it because their retina display resolution was so high. Also, they knew the battery wouldn't cut it, so they increased that substantially. The result was a quad-core graphics processor and 10,000 mAh battery, verses the "dual-core" GPU and I want to say 6,000 mAh battery used in the previous generation iPad 2. That was Apple... Oh, and Apple, in that they control everything from top to bottom, also forced app developers to make their apps "look good" on their new higher definition display if they wanted them to be available on the iPad 3. Apple has since quietly moved the iPad to using the even more powerful A6 chipset.

China's approach has thus far been to modify neither the GPU (so user experience/performance) nor the battery (run time) and to simply attach a high-definition retina display. So, while the user interface will possibly be smoothed out, if you want to play any kind of demanding game or watch video you are probably not going to have as good of an experience verses a lower resolution display.

Personally, I believe that none of the current generation of chipsets used in Chinese devices are quite ready for "Retina". If optimized, they may run the user interface just fine, but too many other things are going to suffer.

On the very-near horizon is the RK3188 which, once the bugs are worked out, might be the answer if it is paired with 2 Gb of ram. But I would expect prices past $300 at first.

Oh, and the "app" side of things is another discussion. Most android apps are optimized for either a phone screen or a 1280x800 10.1" wide screen display (as that is still a standard with the major brands (samsung, asus, etc.)). I don't think very many are going to look very good on Retina just yet. It will probably be a 2 year shift from now (just my educated guess).

So that is our current stance on Chinese devices carrying retina displays. Do they look nicer/sharper? Of Course! Will it be that huge of a difference vs. 1280x800 on a 10.1" display... That is questionable as long as the panel is good. It is better, imho, to worry about display brightness, color clarity, and viewing angles right now as those are going to have a larger impact on your experience.

I can't wait to carry Retina devices, however, it is my opinion that the supporting technology just isn't there yet. The RK3188 is the only chipset coming out of China at present that begins to approach what is needed to drive a display that resource hungry. Certain Allwinner A31/ 2Gb combination "might" suffice if they are allocating more of the ram to video memory but that is still really a stretch.

I hope this has been helpful!


PS. - Comments are "open" on this one. I welcome some feedback!

UPDATE: After just watching video reviews of some of the retina devices I am going to say again that you should avoid them. The lag is bad and noticeable in many apps (pinch to zoom is very choppy)... Stick with 1024x768 or 1280x800... don't push it beyond that until the processor technology has caught up.