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Old 02-17-2007, 03:44 PM
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Andreas Andreas is offline
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Join Date: Oct 2006
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Default Extensive screen resolution comparison

When choosing a mp3 player you have to know your way around lots of fancy terms. Lots of players have video these days, but video is a more relative term than most, because there is a LOT of things to take into account if you really want to use your mp3 player for video. Physical screen size, resolution, how many colors can the screen show, hoe many bits are the colors, codecs supported, processing power, background lighting, and all that. While most of those differ too much form player to player, there are usually some standards for what resolution the screens are. Here's a quick guide to what the different resolutions look like. NOTE: this does not mirror how it will look on any player, it just shows you how detailed the said resolution really is, and what the aspect ratio will do to your videos.
I chose to use four different base images for this, a 4:3 ratio screenshot of a real life series (scrubs), a 4:3 ratio screenshot of an animated series (family guy), and a widescreen screenshot from a real life series (stargate atlantis).

Note that these are screenshots, so they won't show you how a photo will look, as a photo has much higher quality.

  1. Widescreen TV show, aspect ratio intact
  2. Widescreen TV show, stretched to fit screen
  3. 4:3 format TV show, aspect ratio intact
  4. 4:3 format TV show, stretched to fit screen
  5. Animated 4:3 format TV show, aspect ratio intact
  6. Animated 4:3 format show, stretched to fit screen
128x128 (Zen Vision V plus):
This player has the smallest/most low-resolution screen i know on a device capable of video, with 128x128 pixels. It is in my opinion way to small to watch anything on, especially when taken into consideration that this aspect ratio (1:1) isnt used on TV or for movies at all, making it impossible to cover the entire screen without some kind of cropping or stretching. 128x128 equals 16384 pixels.

128x160/160x128 (iAudio U3, F2, X5+++):
A little better as it's a much better aspect ratio (when the player is put on the side that is, as 128x160 is high-screen). 128x160 equals 20480 pixels. It is an aspect ratio of 5:4.

176x220/220x176 (Sandisk Sansa e200 ++)
Another high-screen player, but plays video laying down. Almost twice as many pixels as 160x128 with it's 38720, so quite the difference! Screen ratio is good, fits 4:3 shows very well. NOTE: The default program for converting videos for Sansa e200(r) players, Sansa Media Convertor, is set to convert to 208x160, which means the videos won't fit the entire screen even if they could. You can change this, see this forum for tips and hints with regards to doing so.

240x160 (Play Yan Micro ++)
Don't know if any other player have this resolution, but seeing the excellent mp4 playback on the play yan micro for Game Boy Advance/Nintende DS, I think it deserves to be included. This resolution gives you a 38400 pixel screen, which is about the same as the sansa. NOTE: Usually there will black bars on the top and bottom when keeping the aspect ratio, i.e it's made to fit the width not the height. With this, 4:3 format shows are made to fit the height as this screen leans more towards widescreen, with it's 3:2 format screen.

320x240 (Creative Zen Vision:M, iAudio D2, iPod Video, iRiver Clix/Clix2 +++++)
This is the real shift between DAP's and PMP's (Portable Media Players). 320x240 equals 1/4 of TV screen resolution, which means perfect screen ratio for 4:3 format shows and movies! These players usually have a 2.5" screen, with some exceptions (Clix 2 has 2.2"). This means the number of pixels per inch is much higher than that of normal TV's. To put in in another way, the max resolution of a HDTV is 1920x1080 pixels. This equals 6x4.5 such players, i.e 6 screens lengthwise and 4.5 screens heightwise, 27 screens with 320x240 resolution each. A 2.5" screen is approx. 5x4cm's big, which means that if you have a HDTV bigger than 5*6x4*4,5 = 30x18 cm's (an A4 sized piece of paper), it will have a lover pixels per inch than these players. Of course this isn't really comparable as one is a TV made for being watched from far away while the other is meant to be watched close up, but it still gives you somewhat of an idea just how crystal sharp these tiny screens are. 320x240 equals 76800 pixels, with 30720 pixels per inch on a 2.5" screen. NOTE: 320x240 are often referred to as QVGA screens.

480x272 (Samsung P2, PSP, Zen Vision:W, iAudio A2, Archos 404/504/604, most portable DVD players++++):
This is another big jump, from the 4:3 QVGA PMP's to the much bigger 16:9 widescreen PMP's with this resolution. 480x272 equals 130560pixels, so this is also a major jump pixel-wise. If you watch a lot of movies and widescreen TV shows this will mean even more, as you'll now be able to watch them fullscreen, while the 4:3 shows are now centered and left with vertical black bars instead. Players with this resolution have different sized screens when it comes to # inches, but the most common one is 4.3", which gives you about 30360 pixels per inch, which is about the same as the 320x240 pixel players. NOTE 1: PSP's have this as their real screen resolution, but by default only you can only convert videos to either 368x208 or 320x24 depending on the aspect ratio. UMD's (Universal Media Discs, best described as DVD's for PSP) come with full resolution, and there has also been released hack which will allow you to watch fullscreen movies without having to stretch the picture. NOTE 2: Movies aren't always 16:9, some are even wider and will still leave you with black horizontal bars. Thanks goes out to Hollywood for this very clever idea, making movies that no TV can view fullscreen and keep the aspect ratio.

640x480 (Creative Zen Vision, 4:# format TV's)
The Zen Vision is in a class for itself, with the full VGA/640x480 resolution of a 4:3 format TV screen. However, there's a downside. First of all, the screen is only 3.7", which means you'll need a magnifier to see the difference as the pixels are almost to small to make a difference. Still, 640x480 is four times the resolution of a 320x240 screen, and it equals 307200 pixels, with about 83000 (!) pixels per inch on the 3.7" screen. Thats more than 2.5 times that of the 320x240 and 480x272 screens. Note that as I said in the intro, the resolution isn't all that counts. When Creative upgraded this with the Vision:W, they may have given it far lower resolution, but the Vision:W has better viewing angle and a lot of other improvements that might make it a better player despite the lower resolution. Another good point is that the Vision has too high a resolution for most shows you download online, meaning they won't will the screen even if they are 4:3, as shows are rarely released with VGA (640x480) resolution, unless they are HDTV releases like the Stargate episode that one of the base pictures is from. Since that screenshot is the only one with a high enough resolution to cover the entire screen without stretching it, I've cut out the other two on this one, and refer to the base pics instead.

Final notes: I'd like to remind you AGAIN that resolution isn't everything when it comes to video on portable players. For example, the Sansa e200(r) series uses a less processor intensive video codec (mjpeg) that a 22 min 4:3 episode with decent sound and full 220x172 resolution might exceed 400MB, while the same episode might take up only 130 MB on a 320x240 player, and that with better FPS (frames per second), resolution and quality. As I also pointed out, the Creative Zen Vision has by far the highest resolution for any portable player with a screen smaller than 7", but has other flaws that needs to be taken into consideration. Another example is colors, the iAudio D2 is capable of displaying 16.2 million colors, while the Zen Vision only does 262144 colors. Bottom line, don't choose a player based on it's screen resolution only, but also don't ignore it as it does play a big role sometimes.

Last edited by EnzoTen; 02-18-2007 at 01:16 PM.
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