Explainers

Here’s all you need to know about HDR

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The screen is the most important part of your smartphone, and serves as both display and interface. Over the past decade or so, we’ve been inundated with selling points like Retina Display, 720p, 1080p, 1440p, and even 4K. The latest buzzword for screens is high dynamic range or HDR, and the latest flagship phones tout it as a must-have spec.

But what is HDR in the first place?

More colors, more brightness

Put simply, HDR lets your display exhibit a far wider range of colors. How? First, whites are whiter, and blacks are blacker. The screen does this by being much brighter than what you’re normally used to, to the tune of 1,000 nits (a unit used for display brightness). By comparison, your old flagship phone probably topped out at around 500 nits. An HDR display can also illuminate or darken specific areas of the screen, whereas a non-HDR display commonly lights the entire screen evenly.

Second is wide color gamut, or WCG. This feature increases both the color palette (the number of colors available and the bit depth (or the number of shades of those colors). Your old phone could display nearly 17 million colors. By contrast, an HDR display can show over a billion, which is much closer to what you can see in real life. When working in tandem, these two processes enable the screen to show a range of colors that are more akin to real life. This is why people who have seen an HDR display liken it to looking out a window.

But there lies the problem. The most difficult issue with conveying what HDR is exactly is that if you don’t actually have access to an HDR-capable display, it’s impossible to show the difference. Conversely, if you have an HDR display and a non-HDR display side by side, the improvements are instantly evident. This technology represents a generational leap, much like the jump from black-and-white to color, or standard definition to high definition.

A feature by any other name

You’ve probably heard the abbreviation “HDR” before as a vaunted feature for smartphones even before it was used for displays. Another source of confusion is that HDR also applies to another selling point for phones: the HDR feature of a camera. In camera HDR, the camera takes many exposures of the same scene and combines them, thereby showing all of the subtle steps in highlights and shadows.

The principle between HDR displays and photography remains roughly the same, with the end result being an image that has higher contrast and more colors. Crushed blacks and blown-out whites are also eliminated as a result. This is where the phrase “high dynamic range” comes in, representing the difference between the darkest parts of an image with the lightest.

Which gadgets have HDR?

All of this year’s important flagship phones have HDR-enabled displays, including the LG G6 and the Sony Xperia XZ Premium. However, these phones appear to be using different standards for what constitutes HDR — the LG G6 uses both the open HDR10 standard and proprietary Dolby Vision, and Sony’s 4K phone appears to be using its own definition of HDR.

Hopefully, HDR specifications normalize in subsequent generations of phones. You wouldn’t want to get a phone with HDR to find out that your HDR content won’t even display properly on it. Thankfully, at this year’s Mobile World Congress, the Ultra HD Alliance announced Mobile HDR Premium, which is an HDR standard specifically developed for smartphones, tablets, and laptops. The Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+, two of the best phones of 2017, were the first pair to adhere to this certification.

Here are the specifics of Mobile HDR Premium for a wide variety of portable devices:

Device Resolution Dynamic Range Color Space Bit Depth
Smartphones (3- to 7-inch screens) 60 pixels/degree .0005-540 nits 90% of P3 Color gamut 10
Tablets (7- to 12.9-inch screens) 60 pixels/degree .0005-540 nits 90% of P3 Color gamut 10
Laptops (9.5- to 18-inch screens) 60 pixels/degree .0005-540 nits or 0.1-600 nits 90% of P3 Color gamut 10

Why do you need HDR?

If you’re after the top-end phones, you’ll find it increasingly difficult to avoid HDR. The benefits that a more accurate display brings is most useful if you’ll be doing image work on your phone, like quickly editing photos on VSCO before sharing it to the ether. But its advantages will also be immediately noticeable if you consume content on your phone (like most people do). More and more media providers are putting out HDR content —YouTube, for one, has had HDR support since last year, and both Netflix and Amazon Video have it as well.

And with diminishing returns in terms of resolution on a five- to six-inch screen (do you really need 4K on a screen as big as your palm?), HDR is one display buzzword that is instantly apparent. Plus, unlike a 4K screen that eats batteries for breakfast, HDR on your phone can actually extend your phone’s longevity; the dynamic and selective adjustment of brightness, depending on what’s shown, should increase your screen-on time by a significant amount.

SEE ALSO: What exactly is Fast Charging? And how does it work?

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Explainers

Explaining smartphone display refresh rates

Are they really any different from PC displays?

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Smartphones, little by little, are turning into mini-PCs with the features that come with it. From browsing on social media to playing video games, technology is slowly adopting a more “on-the-go” lifestyle. Recently, smartphones have acquired another feature that your own desktop or laptop already has.

Some of the recently released premium and gaming smartphones now come with displays having their own dedicated refresh rate. Refresh rates aren’t new, but to see it on a compact device has a lot of people wondering. How different or similar is it to a PC’s refresh rate? And is it actually something good to have?

A crash course on refresh rates

A display’s refresh rate, basically is the number of times your display updates every second. Your screen usually takes a few seconds to just a second to load new images, depending on that rate. For example, a 60Hz refresh rate means that in one second, any image on your display is refreshed 60 times. Your eyes wouldn’t catch it fast enough, but that’s how your display works.

For most PC displays, the default is at 60Hz with companies releasing displays that range up to 240Hz. You mostly see this in displays fit for gaming purposes, since gamers prefer the higher refresh rate for improved performance. If you’re someone who mostly likes to watch movies, it really doesn’t matter how high the refresh rate is.

Note that this is entirely different from frame rates, in that these show how many images are produced within a second. Although, having a high refresh rate allows you to perform a lot better because it is optimized for higher frame rates. That’s why you see some gamers complain about playing on a 60Hz display.

Transitioning to a smartphone near you

Eventually, the concept of amping up a refresh rate will reach the world of smartphones. In fact, the OnePlus 7 Pro was actually the first mainstream smartphone to have a display with a 90Hz refresh rate. Most smartphones, even budget ones, have displays built with a 60Hz refresh rate. Something about it just makes you scroll through your phone without feeling too dizzy, unless you scroll too fast.

Premium smartphones mostly incorporate either a 90Hz or 120Hz refresh rate for a smoother UI experience. With higher refresh rates, scrolling through your phone feels a lot smoother without risking an eye sore. Of course, these smartphones do cost significantly more than your average, everyday smartphone.

Apart from premium smartphones, gaming smartphones have also incorporated higher than 60Hz refresh rates. Phones like the Razer Phone 2 and the ASUS ROG Phone 2 both come with a 120Hz refresh rate to suit mobile gamers, especially FPS (first-person shooter) gamers. With these higher refresh rates, mobile gamers see clearer images with less motion blur involved.

Do you really need all the hertz?

That begs the question: what do you need a high refresh rate screen for? When you use a PC, 60Hz is already good for most tasks and games. Trying to go for higher refresh rates usually means that you’re doing a lot more than the ordinary. Tasks such as heavy-duty data analytics or hardcore gaming are optimal for higher refresh rates.

The same logic works for smartphone displays, except on a smaller screen size. A lot of what you can do, you’re able to do so on 60Hz displays. If you’re just using your phone to browse social media, watch Netflix on the daily, and play games casually, you don’t need anything higher. Although, it is a premium to have if you want buttery smooth software.

If you play games competitively, you would prefer higher refresh rates just like in gaming monitors. Higher refresh rates allow you to perform at an optimal level when going for higher frame rates. We’re talking close to no image tearing or motion blur when you play PUBG Mobile or Call of Duty. While you can perform well at the default 60Hz, going for a 90Hz or 120Hz ideally makes the experience better.

Some final thoughts

Smartphone display refresh rates have always been a part of the technology. These displays were built in a way that everyone can benefit from them. It’s only fairly recently that smartphone companies came up with a way to make the experience a lot smoother. Hence, smartphones started incorporating higher refresh rates.

It almost feels like having that high refresh rate is a premium, given only select smartphones have it. But it’s a premium that you don’t really need unless you have a good reason to. Apart from the cost of experiencing it, it really depends on what you plan to do with your smartphone.

At the end of the day, it’s better to ask yourself if it’s a feature worth getting. If it’s something you feel you can’t live without, by all means, right?

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Automotive

Stranger Things 3: What exactly is an ignition cable?

Possessed Billy knew what he was doing

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By now, you’ve probably seen the third and newest season of Stranger Things on Netflix. If you still haven’t, it goes without saying that there are spoilers ahead and you should stay away from this article.

Seeing a pop culture reference such as Stranger Things together with the seemingly unrelated world of automotive in one writeup such as this could be strange (pun intended) for some. We really don’t mind and thought it would be a fun and unique way to talk about the show and learn a few things from it, as well.

So we ask the question: What exactly is an ignition cable?

The ignition cable is part of a vehicle’s ignition system. In simplest terms, it’s a mechanism that starts the engine. By generating a high voltage from the car’s battery to the spark plugs in its engine, it causes them to ignite the engine’s combustion chambers and get it up and running.

And in order to transfer that voltage from the source to the engine, you’ll need an ignition cable as it’s like a subway system that acts as pathways for the voltage to pass through. So if the ignition cable is not present, there’s no way to start the car.

Back to Stranger Things, Billy (although already possessed by the Mind Flayer) obviously still had his knowledge on cars so he took away the ignition cable trapping our favorite gang at Starcourt Mall’s parking lot.

Just to further stress the importance of an ignition cable and the whole ignition system for that matter, we’d like to visit other possibilities and ask, “What if Billy didn’t take it away?”

Well, the plan was for Eleven and her group to go to Bauman’s secret place and stay safe while Joyce, Hopper, and the rest try to close the portal and render the Mind Flayer powerless. If their ignition cable was intact, they’d be a lot safer away from the Mind Flayer although we wouldn’t be able to see that amazing fireworks scene inside the mall.

Through this, we see the importance of that one small part under the hood of the car. In real life, it really pays to make sure that everything is in good working condition and that one faulty cable could mean trouble for you if remained unaddressed — unless there’s a car on display inside a mall somewhere that you can take spare parts from!

SEE ALSO: Netflix launches AR Trailer with Stranger Things 3

 

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Explainers

A phone’s water protection plan: IP ratings explained

It doesn’t give you the right to dunk it in water, though

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Illustration by MJ Jucutan

If you plan to bring your phone to a beach trip with your friends, you normally bring a pouch with you. The main function of that pouch is to protect your phone from contact with any liquid while you enjoy the waves. Of course, it doesn’t fully guarantee that water won’t seep through it — especially when a big wave crashes on you and opens the pouch. But, it does give a sense of safety and security for your beloved smartphone.

That’s the whole concept behind an IP rating that’s given to most smartphones today. Nowadays, you hear a lot about these smartphones being advertised with IP68 ratings. But, what does an IP68 rating actually mean? Is it worth something to consider when buying a new smartphone?

What is an IP rating?

IP ratings are not new in the tech world. In fact, a lot of the electrical appliances and technologies you have at home come with it. An IP rating, or ingress protection rating basically tells you the level of protection any electrical device has against solid and liquid objects. It acts as a security measure to determine what objects the device can handle without malfunctioning.

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) gives out these ratings to manufacturers as a safety measure for production. It consists of two numbers that describe its protection against a vast number of objects, even human touch. The first number denotes a device’s protection against common solid objects and dust. Meanwhile, the second number denotes a device’s protection against liquids, even steam-jet liquids. The higher the number, the more protection it gets!

IP ratings are not just present in most recent smartphones. Things like electrical sockets, cameras, even phone cases come with IP ratings, as well. 

The reason it exists

Manufacturers and consumers see an IP rating quite differently. Those two numbers ultimately stand for how well your device can stand against, well anything. For manufacturers, an IP rating basically gives them a standard to follow when producing more devices. Before shipping their latest smartphones, they subject their devices to numerous tests to validate their IP ratings.

Also, it gives a more concrete way of stating that their devices are resistant to such objects. When you come across smartphones that claim to be water resistant, oftentimes you tend to ask just how resistant it is. With manufacturers, the IP rating gives a more definitive measure to that claim. For example, a smartphone with an IP68 rating is heavily protected against dust, and you can submerge it in waters deeper than a meter — perfect for beach trips.

Las Cabanas Beach Resort, Maramegmeg Beach, El Nido

For consumers, the IP rating just provides a peace of mind when buying a new smartphone. It’s basically placed there to tell you that your phone can still be used even if you subject it to too much dust or water that’s too deep. You see this in most YouTube videos or channels that basically bend, scratch, and dunk phones in buckets of water. In the end, you won’t have to worry about destroying your phone that much when you go on that beach trip without a pouch.

Some manufacturers simply don’t need the rating

However, there are manufacturers that simply found the rating unnecessary or simply just a marketing tool. Companies like OnePlus even did an entire ad that showed off their new flagship devices, the OnePlus 7 and OnePlus 7 Pro without an IP rating. The whole issue sparked debates on whether or not IP ratings do make sense, or companies could simply do without them.

OnePlus argues that one reason their new smartphones don’t have an IP rating is because of the cost to get one. Even simply requesting for a phone for consideration costs a lot on the manufacturing side, which ultimately bumps up the phone’s price. Pete Lau, one of the co-founders of the company estimated the cost for getting an IP rating is at US$ 30. Of course, it is entirely up to the consumer’s view of its value to the overall product.

The other reason is because of the coverage of the device’s warranty, particularly towards water damage. OnePlus claims that even if smartphones have IP ratings that show how resistant they are to water, water damage isn’t fully covered by its warranty. This also furthers their argument on why they wouldn’t want to spend on getting one in the first place. An IP rating is not a legitimate reason for people to have their phones fixed for free after dunking them in buckets of water.

To them, it does not make sense to simply attach an IP rating onto a phone even as a marketing tool. It gives off the wrong impression that the device is waterproof when the rating basically leans towards phones being water resistant.

Do we really need to know the IP rating? 

The IEC created IP ratings for everyone’s protection — from manufacturers to consumers. The whole purpose of having an IP rating is to provide a level of protection for anything electrical, smartphones included. It ensures the safety of everyone, but it’s not a way to bail anyone out when they dunk their phones in water.

While some may argue that it helps to know what your device’s IP rating is for better care, others just see it as a marketing ploy. It only seeks to sell a device perceived to be waterproof according to a standard. However, IP ratings were not meant to waterproof your phone by any means. It’s there to tell you that your phone can handle water, just possibly not too much.

At the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves whether we truly see the value in having these IP ratings. Whether or not your preferred device has an IP rating, just remember: it’s not a reason for you to exploit your phone.

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