Display Technologies on Your Smartphone Screen: A Myth Buster

When you are looking for a new smartphone, you often come across some of these display technologies in technical specifications—LCD, LCD IPS, LED, WLED, OLED, SLCD, TFT, Retina Display, AMOLED, Super AMOLED, PLS, Super PLS, and so on. What the heck are these acronyms? How can you find out what is what and what matters the most? It’s a difficult job indeed. There are quite a number of things you need to understand and appreciate. But here, in this article, let me clear a few doubts and myths.

Display Technology

 

When we consider a smartphone screen, there are three major aspects to consider—the basic technology used, the resolution, and the technology used for wide-angle viewing.

The first part is the actual display technology, which you probably know about. In yesteryear computers, you have CRT (Cathode Ray Tube), and then came LCD for flat panel displays. Realistically speaking, if you go into the detail of display technologies, there are actually only two types of major display technologies—CRT and LCD. LCD is extremely popular and they find use in almost all of the smartphones you have there.

The other technologies, like TFT, IPS, Retina, etc., are enhancements to the LCD panel for various end results. Let’s see.

LCD (Liquid Crystal Display)

 

I am just trying to give you a general idea of the Liquid Crystal Display and will not go into the nuances of the technology.

LCD finds its roots back in your old calculators and digital watches that have monochrome LCD panels. The structure of an LCD panel is shown here.

structure of an LCD panel

 

The main element of this display panel is the liquid crystal layer that is aligned between the transparent positive and negative electrodes. As the electricity is applied through these electrodes, the LCD will either let the light pass or not. This creates the image what we see on the screen.

an old calculator uses LCD display

 

One important aspect of this panel is the final layer you see in the image, which could be either a reflective surface, such as a mirror or a backlighting source. In the case of regular monochrome LCD displays such as the calculator you saw above, there is no backlighting source. The display is visible only in daylight. It simply reflects back the light it receives for you to see the image. On other applications, such as your smartphone or the laptop display, there is a backlight, which makes it possible for us to see the images in darkness.

LED Display

 

Is there really a technology known as LED display? When you are watching a sport event in a large stadium, you may notice the huge display panels set up that show live footage of the game. Also, you see billboards all the time. Buses have this marquee-style display lit up with a number of LEDs to show you the route information.

true LED display

 

All of these displays are true LED displays, because they have a number of Light Emitting Diodes (a teeny-tiny light bulb) that collectively show images.

LEDs

 

In actuality, there is no display technology involved here. Then what is the LED, WLED display panels advertised by your TV maker? If you believe that they are actually made of millions of microscopic LEDs, you couldn’t be more wrong. They use exactly the same technology as the LCD above. Then what is the difference?

Remember we told you about the backlighting panel in the LCD structure above? That backlighting panel is usually made using a technology known as CCFL, which stands for Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lamps. This is a thin white tube that emits light. A horizontal panel made using a number of these CCFL tubes form the final layer of LCD displays. It makes the display thick and a little more power-consuming.

CCFL tubes

 

As an alternative, the industry came up with LED backlighting. Instead of using this series of CCFLs, we created an LED panel to provide light for the LCD display upfront. This is what we call LED display, and there is nothing it has to do with regular LED displays you see in a billboard.

First LED display panels involved white LEDs instead of colored ones. This is the reason why they are called WLEDs (White LED displays). Then came along colored LEDs, in three colors primarily—Red, Green, and Blue—later known as RGB LED displays. These panels are easy on the eyes since they give better colors than your regular WLED.

So, in essence, you have only one display technology, LCD, and LED is just an enhancement to it.

The Resolution

 

When it comes to smartphone world, we keep hearing quite a number of terms—VGA, QVGA, XGA, WXGA, UXGA, QXGA, HD, FHD, 2K, 4K, and so on. All of these terms represent only the display’s resolution, rather than the technology used.

For instance, VGA (Video Graphics Array) is a resolution of 640×480 pixels; QVGA is Quarter VGA with a resolution of 320×240; SXGA is Super Extended Graphics Array and represents a resolution of 1280×1024.

Aspect ratio is also closely related to this. For instance, iPhone 5 has a resolution of 1136×640, which corresponds to 16:9 aspect ratio. In the same way, iPad 4 has a resolution of 2048×1536, which corresponds to 4:3 aspect ratio.

Check out this image showing all kinds of resolutions on smartphones (click to enlarge).

resolutions and names

 

To know more about resolution, you can read our 4K TV article.

Another aspect of your display that closely relates to resolution is the ppi ratio (pixels per inch). iPhone 5 has a ppi of 326, which Apple likes to call Retina Display, while HTC Droid DNA has a ppi of 441. This has nothing to do with the display technology used, but everything to do with the size of the display and the resolution.

For instance, if you have a 4 inch display and 1136×640 of resolution, you cannot build it without having 326 pixels every inch. Droid DNA has a 5 inch display and with 441 pixels on every inch, it is capable of getting Full HD resolution of 1920×1080. Hence, the ppi ratio is directly proportional to the resolution and inversely proportional to the size of the display.

So, a smartphone display can show images well without high resolution, while a TV display has to have a high resolution to show images in good quality.

You can read about ppi ratio in our article about Retina Display.

One important thing to note is building too high resolution is also sort of an overkill. You don’t need anything higher than the Full HD on your smartphone, and HD, which is 1280×720, is also quite acceptable. Too high resolution on a smaller display will only make it look weird.

Over time, LCD has also had its improvements, and SLCD (Super LCD) used in most of the devices today (including iPhone, HTC One X, etc.) has come about, and it is manufactured by Sony. SLCD should not be confused with S-LCD, which is a manufacturer of LCD panels (and it is South Korean subsidiary of Samsung Electronics and Sony).

TFT, IPS, & Super PLS

 

You are hearing a lot about TFT and IPS lately, I suppose? These are not new display technologies, but are enhancements to the existing LCD panels. TFT stands for Thin Film Transistor, which is simply a layer on an LCD panel to make it address the pixels better. Just as there are tiny LEDs on a large LED panel, there are millions of tiny pixels on an LCD panel. And these pixels have to be individually managed to make an image appear on the screen.

This management of pixels is done by a Thin Film Transistor layer that has transistors across the rows and columns, directing charge to the pixel array.

The following is a typical LCD pixel array. As you can see, each individual pixel consists of actually three subpixels—red, green, and blue. Each of these subpixels has its own transistor that passes some amount of power to it to light it up.

Subpixel array on LCD panel

 

If you take an individual pixel, you can see that it has a TFT associated with it.

TFT on LCD panel

 

IPS (In-Plane Switching) is another enhancement to LCD TFT technology. If you are familiar with old LCD panels found in laptops and TVs, you know that they have terrible viewing angles. If you try to watch the screen from the side or from slightly above, you literally can’t see anything. But today’s LCD panels have much improved viewing angles, don’t they?

The technology behind this was first developed by a Japanese conglomerate known as Hitachi. In-Plane Switching improves your LCD panel’s viewing angle, and it is used in most of the smartphone display panels these days, may it be iPhone, Nexus 4, or HTC One. They all use LCD (SLCD) IPS panels.

Naturally, IPS would get its share of competition from others, and Samsung did announce another technology that improves viewing angles even further . The Korean beauty shows off its Super PLS (Plane to Line Switching) technology along with IPS panels.

Super PLS vs IPS
IPS and Super PLS side by side

 

Samsung says Super PLS improves the viewing angle and brightness of the display. So, which smartphones use this technology? Several of Samsung’s products in fact, including Galaxy Tab 2, Google Nexus 10, Galaxy Ace 2, Ativ Tab, etc.

AMOLED & Super AMOLED

 

So far, we have seen a lot of technologies, but only one corresponds to the actual technology used in a display, and that is LCD (and its advanced variant, Super LCD). All smartphones out there, iPhone, Nokia Lumia 920, HTC One, Nexus 4, and tablets, Nexus 10, iPad 4, etc., use LCD for their display.

What about a different kind of display technology? Samsung has the other side of the revolution going on.

Samsung has its own in-house solution to display technology, known as AMOLED—Active-Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode. AMOLED is a type of OLED display in which a different kind of technology is used, rather than LCD.

AMOLED actually qualifies as a basic display technology. Other technologies like TFT, IPS, Retina Display, are all various enhancements or marketing gimmicks to existing LCD display with LED backlighting. AMOLED is a different kind of technology altogether.

AMOLED technology structure

 

As you can see, AMOLED panel also uses TFT for pixel addressing. To know various differences between AMOLED and regular TFT panels, visit this article. Super AMOLED naturally provides amazing viewing angles and very impressive black levels; also, AMOLED consumes much less power than LCD. These are major advantages of the display, but it has been identified that the panels can cause color oversaturation. Samsung has later on improved the AMOLED technology and came up with other variants like Super AMOLED, Super AMOLED Plus, etc. The basic technology remains the same.

Quite a number of phones have AMOLED display on them. The first generation Nexus phone, Google Nexus One manufactured by HTC had an AMOLED display; then came Lumia 900 from Nokia with AMOLED panel. Afterwards, quite a number of Samsung smartphones have sported this display panel— specifically Galaxy S series.

Samsung doesn’t have the manufacturing infrastructure to create AMOLED panels for all OEMs out there, and this is one of the reasons why HTC, Nokia, and others have moved on to Super LCD panels, created by Sony.

Sony also has the mobile BRAVIA engine shipping within its smartphones—more recently the Xperia Z. Mobile BRAVIA is nothing but a software program that enhances the display, so that the rendered images are much better. You will see some of the images in that article about Xperia Z smartphone.

In Conclusion

 

The article has already become too long for you to read. It was just meant to be an introductory article to all these display panels. You should check out each of those links as well. They are important links with further information. We have given care not to go into more technical aspects of these display technologies. If you wish to know any specific aspect, please tell us through the comments.

[Image credit: OutdoorLEDDisplayscreen, Wikipedia, Samsung, Reefbuilders]

Why Apples Retina Display No Longer Matters?

Apple trademarked Retina Display in Nov, 2012. Retina Display is one of the major attractions of Apple’s top products. Introduced with the iPhone 4, during Steve Jobs’ reign, it sure sold quite a number of iPhones in two years. At this time, however, is Retina Display still relevant? Should Apple be actively marketing this feature at all? Let’s see.

What Exactly Is It?

Retina Display or any display at that matter has a particular ppi ratio (Pixels Per Inch). [Learn about pixels]. If, on a display panel, there are more than a fixed number of pixels in every inch, that display will be rich enough to avoid the pixelation issue given by older, low pixel-density devices.

If you can see individual pixels, such a display looks rather dull. Look at this image below. One of half of the Apple logo is pixelated, and you can see the difference.

Pixelation on Apple logo

Creating too many pixels and cramming them up within a display is a very expensive job. This is the reason why mainstream smartphone manufacturers were reluctant to provide very high ppi displays. Apple, however, researched into it and found the best possible way to incorporate dense displays.

Retina Display technology works based on the size of the device you are using. For instance, the iPhone is a small device of 4 inch display, and its pixel density is 326ppi. You are supposed to be holding it about 10 inches away from your eyes, and you will not notice any pixels. Get your iPhone closer and you should start noticing tiny pixels.

On low ppi devices, you will notice pixels even if they are more than 10 inch away. However, you really have to look very close.

On the other hand, the MacBook Pro with Retina display has around 220ppi. It is less than iPhone’s because of the viewing distance. On MacBook, you are probably looking at it from more than 20 inches away. This is the intended viewing distance not to notice pixels. On iPad 4, it is 264ppi, and viewing distance is 15 inches.

As you can see, it all depends on the viewing distance. Also, even if you have a yesteryear display panel, like the one that comes on Nokia N8 (210ppi), you are actually not going to notice any pixels unless you look really close.

Another aspect of the original Retina Display is the size of the pixels. Apple, in 2010 during the release of iPhone 4, has marketed the size of pixels on the display. This is what they told us:

In a word, resolutionary.

By developing pixels a mere 78 micrometers wide, Apple engineers were able to pack four times the number of pixels into the same 3.5-inch (diagonal) screen found on earlier iPhone models. The resulting pixel density of iPhone 4 – 326 pixels per inch – makes text and graphics look smooth and continuous at any size.

A pixel with a width of 78 microns is indistinguishably small. But I did a little digging around. Generally, the pixel width of a smartphone display is over 100, some close to 200 microns. Such pixels are large and can be seen on close inspection. But now, iPhone is not the only display with such small pixels. There are others.

Calculation

iPhone 4, 4S, and 5 have 326 pixels on every inch. The display resolution of iPhone 4 is 960×640, and hence it has 960 X 640=61,44,00 pixels. iPhone 5 has1136×640=72,70,40 pixels.

Now, 1 inch=25,400 microns (micrometers or 1/1000th of a millimeter).

Hence, 25,400/326=77.91 microns is the exact width of an iPhone pixel. Consider a smartphone with a better display than this – HTC Droid DNA with 443 ppi.

The size of a pixel on Droid DNA should be 25,400/443=57.33 microns.

It’s not that there are other smartphones with better ppi display than Apple’s Retina Display, but that they are not screaming aloud about their products.

Other Smartphones With High PPI Displays

Anything above 250ppi is definitely a beautiful experience. There are not one or two, but several smartphones with displays better than Apple’s Retina Display (in terms of ppi ratio of course; technology differs). Here are a few of them.

Smartphone Pixel Density (ppi) & pixel width Notes
HTC Droid DNA 443ppi (57.33 microns) By far, the highest among popular smartphones
HTC J Butterfly 441ppi (57.59 microns)
Sony Xperia Z 441ppi (57.59 microns) Upcoming Sony Xperia smartphone, announced in this year’s CES.
BlackBerry Dev Alpha 10 356ppi (71.34 microns) Latest BlackBerry phone (only for app developers), sporting BlackBerry 10 OS
HTC Windows Phone 8X 342ppi (74.26 microns)
Sony Xperia S 342ppi (74.26 microns)
Nokia Lumia 920 332ppi (76.5 microns)
LG Optimus P935 (LTE) 326 ppi (77.9 microns) The same as Apple iPhone

Also, the technology used on Apple iPhone display is simple LCD IPS, which has its own advantages.

In essence, you don’t have to be very concerned about Retina Displays. It is not anything special. It was an innovation in 2010 when Apple first introduced it. But now, the other manufacturers have joined in and have come up with competitive offerings.

However, there is only one real concern in this. The richer the display, the more power it will consume. Hence, you are better off with a ppi ratio between 250 and 300, rather than the unnecessary extreme ppi ratios offered on those HTC phones.

What Is 4K? All You Need to Know About Next Generation Ultra HD TV Resolution

Within CES, the International Consumer Electronics Show, of Las Vegas, we have been seeing some TVs, which sport not High Definition (HD) video output, but better than that, Ultra HD format, also known as 4K and 8K. Many movies are being shot these days in 4K, and broadcasting industry will probably move to this standard in the very near future.

We have also seen the latest Snapdragon 800 processor that supports 4K image/video capture. What is the big deal about these displays, and what is 4K technology really all about? We will see in this article.

In these first few sections, we will introduce the basics to novices.

The Resolution of a Display

 

You might have heard about various terms—VGA, QGA, XGA, WXGA, HD, FHD, etc. In order to understand what they are, you should first understand what is meant by display resolution. Resolution is a measure that indicates the number of pixels on a display.

Pixels are the smallest elements on a screen. These square shaped elements are spread in a grid on your smartphone or TV screen to properly display an image. When you enlarge a display, you will be able to see the individual pixels, like this:

Pixelation

 

A display has a number of vertical pixels and horizontal pixels, which constitute the array, and this came to be known as its resolution. For instance, a display of 640 horizontal pixels and 480 vertical pixels would constitute a display resolution of 640x480 or a total of 307,200 pixels.

Low resolutions like 640x480 are collectively known as Standard Definition (SD). 640x480 is specifically called Video Graphics Array (VGA). VGA used to be a standard for the most part of 90’s. Also, if you notice, 640x480 corresponds to 4:3 aspect ratio. That is, 640/480=4/3.

Right now, the aspect ratio of choice for most of the smartphones and televisions is 16:9 (16 units wide, 9 units tall), and this directly corresponds to HD resolutions.

What Is HD?

 

High Definition and Ultra HD (4K) are just terms to refer to display resolutions consisting of 720 or more horizontal lines. On SD, you have content delivered in 480 or 576 horizontal lines (i.e., 480 vertical pixels or 576 vertical pixels).

Standard Definition vs High Definition

 

Also, they support mostly16:9 aspect ratio. These resolutions include 1280x720 (WXGA), 1920x1080 (Full HD or FHD). WXGA and FHD are the major display resolutions known as HD in the marketplace today.

Also, the terms like VGA, QVGA, XGA, WXGA, etc., do not represent the quality or technology used in the display (like Retina or Super AMOLED) of your smartphone. These are simply the indication of how many pixels the display has.

In HD, if you calculate the number of pixels, you will see 720p HD has 1280x720=921,600 pixels and in 1920x1080, 2,073,600 pixels. They have so many more pixels than the regular VGA resolution displays (aka standard resolution displays). This is the reason why High Definition videos can be displayed with more detail through HD displays.

What Is All About 720p, 1080i, & 1080p

 

There are three common formats in HD—720p, 1080i, and 1080p. What do these letters suggest? ‘p’ stands for Progressive scan and ‘i’ for Interlaced scan. These are terms describing how a particular image or video is transmitted to your HDTV and how it reads that data.

In progressive scanning, the image is scanned in a normal way, top to bottom, and one line at a time. This in essence shows the most natural looking videos and images to you. On the other hand, interlacing doesn’t scan in the normal way. Here, every other line of the image is displayed in one pass, and the rest of the lines are displayed in the second pass. Hence, it requires two passes to display an image. Check out the image below:

Left: Progressive Scan; Right: Interlaced Scan:

Progressive ScanInterlaced scan

 

With interlacing, video broadcasters have an advantage. This broadcasting technique takes up less bandwidth than the progressive version. This is the reason why many broadcasters resort to 1080i instead of 1080p. Also, with 1080p you can get much better motion sense and quality, but at a higher bandwidth of course.

4K & 8K

 

Now, we come to the big question, what are 4K and 8K resolutions. These are the next big thing in video resolutions, available in too few TVs today. In CES, we have been seeing several manufacturers showing off their Ultra HD TVs, with amazingly high pixel density and resolution.

The display is known as 4K because it has roughly four times as many pixels as in Full HD 1080p.

In 4K display, also known as Quad Full HD, there are two popular resolutions: 3840x2160 (8,294,400 pixels in total), or nearly 4000 (4K) pixels along the horizontal line and 4096x2160 (8,847,360 pixels), which is widely known in the industry as 4K. Eight million pixels are four times the current 1080p HD standard. This makes 4K displays extremely vivid and detailed.

4K Resolution

 

You want even richer display? There is the option of course. It is known as 8K, or twice 4K. This one is more appropriately known in the industry as Ultra HD (UHD) display. The resolution is 7680x4320 (33,177,600 pixels) or roughly four times as many pixels as in 4K.

A few 4K TVs as found in CES are here…

LG 4K TV

 

Panasonic's 4K TV

 

Samsung 4K TV
Sony TV

 

Do Regular Videos Work?

 

Regular videos in very low resolutions will not play with quality on 4K TVs. SD and even 1080p HD videos do not have as much pixel information to fill into a 4K screen. Due to this, such videos will not look sharp on a 4K TV. You need to have 4K content to work with these televisions. This is the reason why TV manufacturers are not yet promoting this technology actively. They are waiting for Hollywood and broadcasting industry to move into 4K technology. Only then we will have any real use of a 4K TV.

If you have seen certain movies, such as Avatar 3D, the Amazing Spiderman, or Total Recall, you have seen 4K movies. You can get a real taste of a 4K movie watching this trailer of TimeScapes . This is a documentary created by cinematographer, Tom Lowe. Make sure you have enough bandwidth to stream this video in full detail.

The full movie is available in 4K format for purchase, and the file will be about 160 GB in size.

Disadvantages of 4K

 

Does 4K have any disadvantages? In fact there are quite a few, although most of them do not relate to 4K technology.

The current movie industry is too insecure perhaps to fully adapt to this platform. Also, the broadcasting industry hasn’t even touched 4K yet. Movies being shot in 4K are too few. A few of the movies include The Social Network, Total Recall, The Amazing Spiderman (5K), The Great Gatsby, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, etc.

In terms of the resolution, there is probably no standard in the industry. We came across film camera companies like Red, Sony, Arri, etc., coming up with a number of their own resolutions. They call it 4K, 4.5K, 3K, 5K, and so on. These different formats may not work as perfectly as expected on a standard 4K TV.

Sony already has a 4K digital distribution system to be made available for its 4K TVs. Also, Sony provides support for digital 4K film making and distribution through its array of 4K products including cameras, digital projectors, etc. However, the number of movies available in 4K resolution (including those that were shot in 2K and HD and were re-mastered to 4K) is pretty less, and this makes people’s reception of 4K content lukewarm at best today.

The current infrastructure is too ill-equipped to handle 4K movies and broadcasting. Although Sony provides a compression algorithm that could turn 4K movies into the size of current HD movies, so that they can be broadcast with the currently available bandwidth, we will have to wait and see how the infrastructure is going to come about. For one thing, a 4K movie without compression could take not gigabytes, but up to a few terabytes in size.

Let’s take an example...

Resolution: 4K QFHD (3840x2160)
Frame rate: 24fps (pretty standard)
Color mode: YUV 4:4:4 (high quality video)
Color depth: 8 bits

An hour’s video with these parameters will have the size of exactly 2.15 TB. In order to download a movie like that, even with a 4G LTE connection, you need days.

QFHD & 4K vs regular HD

 

Currently available data transfer technologies and storage systems are not at all equipped to handle sheer sizes like that. You cannot afford to store such large files in a cloud computing platform.

The maximum data transfer speed available in the current market, with such technologies as Intel Thunderbolt or USB 3.0, can work with a few gigabytes of data, but they are ill-equipped to handle terabytes of data. Also, fastest hard disks available today, such as SSDs (Solid State Drives) cannot handle 4K content.

Expensive SSDs work at nearly 4 Gbps bit rate, while the bit rate of a 4K movie could go well beyond that. This means, while watching a 4K movie on your computer, you may experience the buffering issue you come across on YouTube.

If these are the constraints of 4K movies, imagine 8K.

Conclusion

 

4K and 8K are the future of display resolutions. Some even say you won’t be requiring any higher resolution to watch amazing details. However, the infrastructure required to support 4K is so big and complex, and that for 8K will create havoc in the industry.

Due to the sheer size, 4K movies warrant extremely good compression algorithms that can take advantage of scene-by-scene opportunities to reduce movie sizes. Sony has a compression technique they say delivers good quality at amazingly low bit rates, and Red promises to deliver 4K content at the bandwidth of 20 Mbps through their REDRAY Cinema Player.

More advancement in this area will create better entertainment opportunities that we will see in the near future. For the time being, stick with your regular HDTV and do not purchase a new 4K TV.

[Image credit: BradHallArt, CNET, CSMonitor, Engadget, Pocket-lint]

Apps and Gadgets to Take Panoramic Images on iPhone

panoramic photos on iphoneApple iPhone has an amazing camera: 8 MP with a lot of cool features. There have been even speculations of iPhone camera being comparable to a low-end DSLR camera. Redmond Pie has a comparison of iSight camera and Canon 5D Mark III here.

And FStoppers have this extremely hilarious video comparing iPhone 5 camera with two DSLR cams, Nikon D3S and Hasselblad H4D:

Gizmodo has also given a nice comparison of iPhone 5 camera with the other smartphone cameras in the market today.

Apple iPhone 5 already has a panoramic shooting option that gives 240 degree images of high quality. The electromechanical gyroscope made in micro proportions within the iPhone 5 works perfectly with the camera to shoot these images. [Gyroscope is the stability device of a smartphone that helps in display orientation and smartphone gaming.] The iPhone 5 panorama option is good, but it has its glitches too. For instance, if you shoot a moving object, there is a chance that you will capture the object twice in the image.

In order to shoot a 360 degree panoramic image on your iPhone, you have to look for external apps. There are quite a few on the iPhone marketplace, both free and paid apps. Let’s look at some of the most popular ones.

1. 360 Panorama by Occipital

This is a simple and effective app to shoot 360 degree photos. You simply tap the camera button at the bottom of the screen and turn the iPhone a full circle to shoot the image. You don’t have to do any further work as the app automatically builds the panorama based on the image shot.

Occipital 360 degree panorama

It takes advantage of the gyroscope as well to shoot more stable images. In low light conditions, the app may not work properly, and hence you may not be able to do a smooth motion; in such cases, you need to pause after each move to get a proper build.

From within the app, you can also share the panoramas through social media or email.

Check it out: https://itunes.apple.com/en/app/360-panorama/id377342622?mt=8

2. Panoramatic 360

With this app, you can either stitch together already existing photos into a panorama or you can shoot a panorama in landscape or portrait mode. It has an intuitive interface and features, although familiarizing with its interface may be the only issue with Panoramatic 360.

Panoramatic 360

Check it out: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/panoramatic-360/id329855051?mt=8

3. Panorama 360 Camera

This simple 2 dollar app can create regular rectangular panoramas as well as circular and semicircular panoramas. The stitching together of the photos takes around 10 seconds on this app.

Check it out: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/panorama-360-camera/id399394507?mt=8

4. 360 Video Panorama

 

360 Video Panorama

This one is a video shooting app in 360 degrees. Also, it can shoot vertical panoramic images. At 2 dollars for download, the app is worth the money.

Check it out: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/360-video-panorama/id463253019?mt=8

Gadgets

BBC’s tech video service, Click has featured a few appendages for your iPhone that can shoot 360 degree photos and videos. One of the most popular attachments for iPhone that can shoot in panorama is Kogeto Dot.

Kogeto Dot

 

Kogeto Dot

This tiny 49-dollar appendage has a lens that sits on top of your iPhone lens and shoots 360 degree photos and videos. You need to download an app known as ‘Looker’ from Apple App store to work with Dot. The app helps you calibrate the attachment to shoot videos properly. Kogeto also provides stability equipment for iPhone, tripods and monopods.

Link: Kogeto Dot

And the Best Of ‘Em All

 

Steve Wozniak

A few days ago, Steve ‘the Woz’ Wozniak, the visionary co-founder of Apple was quite enthusiastic about an app that takes panoramic images without any interference from your part. The appcreated by Cycloramic uses iPhone’s vibration feature to rotate an iPhone placed vertically on a level surface while shooting an image. The rotation function in the app is optimized for iPhone 5, although the previous versions work with the app, albeit on a perfectly level smooth surface.

Just watch the video, worth a thousand ‘sentences’:

Conclusion

So, those were the apps and gadgets that you can use to get 360 panoramic pictures taken on your iPhone.

Whether or Not to Purchase: Razer Blade Gaming Laptop

Worldwide gaming systems provider, Razer has come up with the new edition of its popular gaming laptop, Razer Blade. The laptop is thin and extremely powerful. The technical specifications are as follows:

Processor 3rd Gen Intel Core i7 (2.2GHz-3.2 GHz)
RAM 8 GB dual-channel DDR3 (1600 MHz)
Storage 500 GB 7200 rpm SATA & 64 GB SATA III Solid State Drive for faster data transfer
Display 17.3 inch Full HD 1920x1080 px resolution
Graphics Intel GMA HD (mobile mode) and NVidia GeForce GTX 660 M with 2 GB GDDR5 video RAM
Operating System Windows 8 64 bit or Windows 7 HP 64 bit
Dimensions Width 42.7 cm
Height 27.7 cm
Thickness 2.24 cm
Weight 2.99 kg
Other features Razer Switchblade UI
Anti-ghosting keyboard
HD Webcam (2MP)
Digital 7.1 surround sound support (through HDMI)
Three USB 3.0 ports
Kensington lock
Bluetooth 4.0
Gigabit Ethernet port

 

These hardware specs make Razer Blade one of the most feature-packed gaming laptops in the industry today. However, when it comes to pricing, where does Razer Blade stand?

The Pricing

 

In the US market, Razer Blade now retails for 2499.99 dollars. That is a whopping amount of money, of course. With some really cool ultrabooks and tablets that come with amazing fast hardware at less than half the price, is it really justified to ask for such high price?

We looked through the prices of some of the popular gaming laptops in the market today. Here they are:

Alienware M17x: $1699.99
Toshiba Quosmio X870: $1400
MSI GT70: $2000
Asus G75VW: $1399.99
Falcon Northwest DRX: $3061
Origin Eon17-S: $1590

As you can see, except for the Falcon Northwest DRX, all others are fall much below Razer Blade. In terms of technical specifications, you cannot go wrong with any of these laptops.

The Features

 

The design of this new edition of Razer Blade is commendable. The specialty of the laptop is a multi-touch LCD panel beside the keyboard, in place of a regular laptop track pad. This LCD panel uses Razer Switchblade user interface that provides you with buttons giving important information about the game you are playing.

Razer blade LCD screen

 

With this LCD track pad, gamers can now enjoy browsing and social media connections while the game is being played on the main screen.

The default OS is Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit, while you have the option to upgrade to Windows 8. The laptop comes with a number of apps prebuilt, including Facebook, Gmail, YouTube, Twitter, etc., and some game-specific apps.

The Performance

 

There is no question about lag on this Razer product. One of the major requirements of all gaming laptops is the presence of a fast processor that compensates for a slower graphics card or a higher end graphics card compensating for a lower end processor. In Razer Blade, both the processor and the graphics card are on the higher end of the spectrum.

Also, with RAM of 8 gigs and dedicated graphics memory of 2 GB, it is not an overstatement to say the performance is stellar.

Razer itself has shown us graphs of the laptops’s performance over a given ‘baseline’; the baseline probably is Razer’s first version of the Blade. According to Razer, Blade performs 2 times faster on Diablo 3, 1.7 times faster in Battlefield 3, and it gives a 3D Mark Vantage score of 1.8 times the given baseline.

Data transfer rates on Razer Blade will be much faster, thanks to the presence of 3 USB 3.0 ports on the side.

However, the one thing they could improve on was the battery life. It is expected to give around 3 hours of backup. A larger battery would be against Razer’s design strategy for a ‘thin’ gaming laptop. Also, I don’t believe gamers would be compelled to work the laptop on battery. One thing to note is your processor will work at its lower clock rate while working on battery.

Intel TurboBoost technology that increases the speed of the processor in real time while demanding applications are running turns processor slower to 2.8 GHz in Blade’s case, while the laptop is on battery. This is a technique to save power. However, on a gaming laptop, this will decrease the speed.

Conclusion

 

Based on hardware features, Razer Blade is at the high end of gaming laptops in the market today. Now to the important question: Is it worth to buy this laptop? You can purchase this one if you have the budget, and it will be a very good purchase indeed.

Razer Blade’s secondary display is going to help you a lot in serious gaming. This is one of the reasons why we believe this laptop is worth the money you pay for it.