1080p and 4D be damned, just give me a 120hz low-latency UI


Oct 23, 2007
Louisville, KY
More and more phones are cranking out full-on 1080p displays (and I was a little scared for a while that they'd also be going 3D). Sure, they're nice to look at - on the HTC One, at least (the Galaxy S4 screen makes me want to vomit). It's great for staring at up close and personal to try and spot the pixels, but in practical use these bigger and bigger resolutions only exacerbate a growing annoyance. The interface takes more time and oomph to update smoothly. As they throw more pixels in, they are only barely keeping up at 60hz in the most basic UIs. Throw in images, an elaborate website layout, or a graphically rich application, and all of a sudden you see frame drops. This drives me absolutely bat shish kebab crazy.

Then there's the lag behind your finger. If you're dragging something to scroll it, and it doesn't immediately follow your finger movements, it just feels sluggish. The longer it lags behind, the slower the interface feels, even if it is drawing at full speed the whole way through. Android has this problem more, but I still feel it on iOS. Just throwing more pixels at it makes the problem all the more apparent, because it takes more time for it to process and render.

A much better, way more visible improvement to the screen experience can be had by moving to a 120hz panel, reducing the lag between finger drag and screen update, and giving the processor enough oomph to always be able to render the UI at full speed.

Microsoft made a proof-of-concept 1 millisecond response time screen last year.

Granted, the demonstration in the video is not an actual touchscreen or even an LCD at all, but just a light panel. It doesn't have to go through all the motions of averaging the touch digitization to a screen coordinate, applying smoothing filters to the motion, then finally turning it into a gesture for the application to interpret as a scroll, which then in turn has to render the result of that scroll (another 16 milliseconds at the standard 60hz). But the whole idea just makes perfect sense. If the stuff could get optimized and processors get fast enough that this all could happen within the time it takes to draw the frame, we could really get a killer UI out of it--especially with higher refresh rates.

I hope that Apple will lead the charge on these important but oft-overlooked factors. They've done that before, being the first with a really fluid UI on a phone in the first place. But it's 6 years later and the state of the art hasn't changed. 60hz across the board.
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