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Sharp announces a 5.5-inch Ultra HD 4K panel

Sharp is planning to mass-produce a 5.5-inch Ultra HD display by 2016
Sharp is planning to mass-produce a 5.5-inch Ultra HD display by 2016
Judging by the size, the display could be used in smartphones or in VR headsets. First shipments to electronics manufacturers are expected in 2016.

If you thought that QHD (2560x1440) displays on some new smartphones like Samsung's Galaxy S6 are excessive, brace yourself: the display manufacturer Sharp has just announced a 5.5-inch panel with Ultra HD 4K (3840x2160) resolution. That amounts to mildly insane 806 ppi - 801 according to our calculations but the actual panel size could be a tiny bit smaller, leading to Sharp's published result.

While increasing pixel density provides a sharper, more pleasing and less eye-straining image, it also taxes the graphics hardware considerably and increases the manufacturing costs - and therefore, the final price of the smartphone. Additionally, a non-AMOLED display (Sharp will be using its IGZO technology for this one) with such a resolution will significantly increase battery drain. The returns also diminish with increased density - Apple, for instance, has elected to keep its devices to around 220 ppi, despite higher-resolution panels being available easily nowadays. Though it could also be just a matter of time until graphics hardware catches up - there are already rumors of an 8K iMac.

However, it doesn't seem that Sharp has actually specified that the display is meant for smartphones. While there's little doubt that Samsung, HTC and other manufacturers struggling to differentiate their product would be interested in eventually releasing smartphones with UHD displays, Sharp's panel could be much more interesting for VR headsets. The size is just about right - for instance, the first versions of the famous Oculus VR were equipped with a 5.6-inch display. And a VR headset positions its display at such a distance from the wearer's eyes that the seemingly huge pixel density suddenly seems normal - in fact, several VR testers reported mild to severe discomfort from prolonged use of low-PPI headsets.

According to Sharp, there were some difficulties with mass production of this display, so it's not expected to hit the market before 2016.


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Andrey Konstantinov, 2015-04-14 (Update: 2015-04-15)