Anyway, here’s what transpired between Ben and me on Slack on a warm, sunny February evening (atleast in India)!
Round 1: Faster is (not) always better
Ben: Hey, Rahul! Did you hear about Xiaomi’s Social-Media-Poll, where they asked about the refresh rate in the new Redmi Note 10? Turns out, 90 per cent of the pollsters prefer a slow AMOLED-Panel over a 120 Hz LCD panel? Are they crazy? Who wants to look at slow displays in 2021?!
Rahul: Really, Ben? You just called more than 8,000 people crazy! If you check the now-deleted poll, you will see that more than 10,000 people voted, of which just 12 per cent voted in favour of a fast LCD panel. Last time I checked, companies make their products based on user feedback and take them very seriously. And the feedback here is overwhelmingly clear – and in favour of a 60Hz AMOLED panel. Here’s an image of the poll (thank god for the screenshots!)
— Ishan Agarwal (@ishanagarwal24)
February 15, 2021
It’s also about time you open your mind to obvious facts. The truth is, people who actually buy these inexpensive phones do not mind having a ‘slow’ AMOLED display over a high refresh rate LC-display. The reasons are many. AMOLED panels are inherently better than LCDs in almost every aspect.
And guess what? Xiaomi is indeed using an AMOLED on the Redmi Note 10 if we are to believe the latest leaks. Democracy FTW and more power to the people!
Ben: I think most of them never saw the advantages of high refresh rates themselves. It’s something that can’t really be shown via YouTube or media. These refresh-rate-comparisons in slow motion don’t really do the fluidity justice. Ever since I used my first 120 Hz panel, every other phone just seemed to be “slower” lists are lagging while scrolling through them, system animation is creeping across the screen and so on. 60 Hertz simply doesn’t cut it in 2021. Do you get me? It’s outdated!
Rahul: Judgemental much, eh? No one here denies the advantages of high refresh rates. I love them myself. But remember that we are talking about budget handsets here, and most devices that will be presented with his conundrum will be priced below €300. And at that price, there will be compromises made, and it is now evidently clear that the lack of high refresh rate panels doesn’t feel like much of a compromise to consumers in this segment.
And this is also what even I felt a good month before this poll even appeared.
Remember my Xiaomi Mi10i (Mi10T Lite) review in which I questioned the use of a 120Hz LCD panel on that phone? If you read that review, you will know that I was miffed with Xiaomi’s decision to favour a 120Hz LCD in favour of a standard 60Hz AMOLED because I wasn’t really able to enjoy all the 120Hz goodness because the software experience was choppy. I was also convinced that the choppy performance was partly because the phone’s ‘mid-range’ hardware had a hard time driving the 120Hz display.
So please, save me the talk of all the high refresh rate goodness on budget and affordable smartphones. I will be much happier with a slower AMOLED panel on my €300 or €250 phone that will not only offer me better display quality, viewing angles and brightness levels – but also consume less battery.
Round 2: Budget phones need high refresh rate goodness too!
Ben: Good that you mention battery life. Because I agree that when it comes to smartphone displays, higher refresh rates are battery-killers, but I think that’s one of the reasons why they really fit into midrange-smartphones. First of all, most phones with 120 Hz panels nowadays come with an adaptive refresh rate, so the phone decides when to boost the frames per second. Also, if you really need to use your phone for a longer period without charging, you can always throttle it yourself to 60 Hz. It’s like having more horsepower in a car – most of the times, you don’t need it, but when you do, it’s really handy!
And secondly, many midrange phones feature huge batteries. Look at the Realme 7i with its 6,000 mAh-battery. Besides, many users charge the phone overnight anyway, even using 120 Hz all the time shouldn’t do much harm given that these batteries are big rough to let you use the phones for well over a day.
Rahul: Too bad neither the consumers nor the brands agree with you. Most new budget and mid-range smartphones seem to be increasingly ditching high refresh LCDs in favour of standard 60Hz AMOLEDs – and rightly so. Take the example of the soon to be launched Redmi Note 10 and the Realme X7 (which I am testing right now).
Both the phones, which will be popular among mid-range consumers, use 60Hz AMOLED panels instead of useless high refresh rate LCDs – the advantages of the latter which these consumers will never get to enjoy. And while it is true that affordable smartphones typically have larger batteries, that doesn’t mean that people who buy these phones aren’t concerned about saving battery at all.
Also, note that the money saved from sourcing a costly high refresh rate LCD panel (that the user won’t get to enjoy anyway) is instead used to get him actually useful features like faster-charging speeds and, of course, a better AMOLED panel. Take the example of the Realme X7, which I am using right now. This smartphone skips a 90/120Hz LCD and gets a standard 60 Hz AMOLED panel. But it also supports flagship-level charging speeds of 50W – a feature that is actually useful for consumers and will give them tangible benefits instead of a choppy 120Hz LCD panel that you can occasionally use to its full capability – that too with a compromised experience.
Besides, what is even the point in having a feature that one can’t enjoy to the fullest? High refresh rate LCDs on budget phones, therefore, make no sense – at least in the present scenario. But don’t worry, there is also a rumour that Xiaomi won’t entirely disappoint the high refresh rate+LCD camp and that they will also have an LCD variant of the phone for those who can’t live without a 120Hz panel.
Round 3: Is there a middle ground?
Ben: Maybe AMOLED panels with 90 Hz refresh rate will become the new ‘middle-way’ in the future. This would be optimal, of course. Quick-Charging is a whole different debate; we shouldn’t start on that (haha). But I also see a huge difference between the need for fast charging and the attention it gets. Most people charge phones overnight anyways.
That’s why I always steer toward high refresh-rates in phones. It’s an advantage you see every time you use your phone. And AMOLED-Displays aren’t by definition better than LC-Displays. I would’ve loved to see the “best 120 HZ LCD” that Xiaomi mentioned but if you people want to play it safe, have at it!
Rahul: Well, surprisingly, I sort of agree with you there. 90Hz AMOLED panels could go mainstream on midrange phones soon, given that the cost of high refresh rate AMOLED panels will continue to go down with increasing demand. But I have already presented you with evidence which indicates that this entire high refresh rate experience on budget phones rarely match their more expensive counterparts – thereby nullifying the need for a seemingly needless feature, at least until future mid-range SoCs become really capable at driving them.
Also, while agreeing with you that most people charge their phones overnight, fast charging will definitely be more useful in cases where you are in dire need of a charge, and you only have a short amount of time to spare. In such scenarios, a short 30-minute charge will give you a days worth of battery. Now, would you prefer having that as an option, or would you rather ‘enjoy’ the choppy, compromised experience of a high refresh rate LCD panel on your €250 smartphone while also draining your battery?
Anyway, let us not continue this discussion, else we might end up doing yet another Slack Fight – this time on fast charging!
While Xiaomi users who took part in that poll voted overwhelmingly in favour of 60 Hz AMOLED panels instead of a good quality LCD, we would like to know what our audience at NextPit thinks of this entire scenario. Would you rather enjoy the no-frills benefits offered by a 60Hz LCD or want manufacturers to cram in a high refresh rate panel even on their budget and mid-range phones? Do let us know in the comments section below or by casting our votes in the poll below.