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Handhelds Hardware

Palm Ships With 12-bit Screen, Says 16-Bit On Box 326

Launch was among the many readers to point out that "Palm recently announced that they made a mistake in their product description of the m130... it doesn't have the 16-bit screen they advertised. Rather then admit the mistake, Palm is using every ounce of their spinning power to mislead its less tech-savy customers into believing that the palm m130 can display 58,621 'color combinations' rather then the 'more than 65,000 colors' it had previously stated; only a 11% difference. This tricky language is meant to shade the fact that a 12-bit screen can only display 4,096 colors... that's a 93% difference." Have they not learned from the mistakes of history? On the other hand, the screen resolution is 160x160 pixels.
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Palm Ships With 12-bit Screen, Says 16-Bit On Box

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  • Bah! (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 22, 2002 @08:33AM (#4117789)
    It's disgusting to see the marketing spinners at work again... but what's even more disusting is that it will work. Watch and see - most people are too busy to care about the difference between 'colours' and 'colour combinations', and without a strong counter-spin from a competitor I am certain they will get away with this one.
  • 12 bit? (Score:3, Informative)

    by RawCode ( 464152 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @08:34AM (#4117795)
    This [] should explain that. From Wired:

    The m130 actually supports 4,096 colors typical of a 12-bit screen. But by using blending techniques, the company can display 58,621 "color combinations -- approximately 11 percent fewer color combinations than we had originally believed" on the m130 handheld, said Palm spokeswoman Marlene Somsak.
  • by Launch ( 66938 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @08:38AM (#4117815)
    Apparently this debate has been going on a long time... Palm info center has a good article [] about it... And the PIC forum [] where the debate first broke.
  • Better linkage.. (Score:3, Informative)

    by SteveX ( 5640 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @08:43AM (#4117833) Homepage
    It's a shame that Slashdot linked to an article about the Jornada's problem that didn't mention HP's awesome response: Offering a full refund to anyone who bought one. Palm is coming nowhere close to this.

    - Steve
  • Re:Better linkage.. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Queuetue ( 156269 ) <queuetue@gmail.cRASPom minus berry> on Thursday August 22, 2002 @08:47AM (#4117842) Homepage
    Read the article - It does mention it.

    According to AlexanderOgilvy, H-P's public relations firm for the Jornada handheld devices, an upgrade is simply not possible. (Jornada 420 owners will recall that last year H-P released a software upgrade to the device's display driver to increase resolution.) AlexanderOgilvy also confirmed that H-P would refund the full purchase price of any dissatisfied Jornada 540 series Pocket PC buyer.
  • Re:Death to PDAs! (Score:3, Informative)

    by aluminumcube ( 542280 ) <> on Thursday August 22, 2002 @09:08AM (#4117933)
    There are plenty of reasons to want a Palm over a 'Smart' cell phone-

    Screen Size
    I have an Erricson 68i, and it's cool, but the tiny screen isn't something I really want to read email on. Of course, people say 'Well, it's just for quick mobile messages' but the people sending me email don't know that.

    Lots of Applications
    Ever browse through the list of applications out there for Palms? People have developed applications for almost any need, from graphing calculators on par with TI-85s to databases that help Landing Signal Officers on aircraft carriers grade landings.

    Better Text Input
    I am not a Japanese schoolgirl, so I can't type 80wpm with my thumbs on a cell phone...

    Better Sync with my Computer (OS X)
    Most of the 'Smart' cell phones only offer Windows sync software that works with Outlook.

    I think the only product that really gets the CellPhone/PDA hybrid right is the Treo, but I refuse to pay/live with Handspring's very plasticky build quality that feels like a toy.

  • Re:That's ok... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 22, 2002 @09:18AM (#4117982)
    HAM worked in horizontal bands - turning the mointor 90 degrees (warning: monitors actually have to be specially desgined to allow this for safety and also earth-magnetic-field reasons - so don't do it for a long period with an ordinary CRT monitor. Fine with LCD ones, though) meant you could keep the number of colours, and put the HAM-color-fringes on the less-intrusive vertical axis (human perception usually has a horizontal bias, you see...)

    OF course, later Amigas had HAM8, giving 262144 out of 16777216 colours - when a 256 colour VGA card for the PC was something of a luxury for most...
  • Re:160x160 (Score:2, Informative)

    by crosbie ( 446285 ) <> on Thursday August 22, 2002 @09:27AM (#4118020) Homepage

    "display 58,621 'color combinations'"

    Colour combinations?

    This is the same as the number of different arrangements of 4,096 symbols in a sequence of 25,600 (160x160).

    If the number of different combinations of 2 symbols (binary) in a sequence of n (bits) is 2^n, then the Palm can display 4096^25600 different colour combinations (ignoring symmetry).

    That's.... erm...

    2 ^( 25600 x log2(4096) )

    which is: 2^307200

    Cor! Wot a lot of colour combos! (and quite a few of them are probably copyrighted, obscene, etc.)
  • by AftanGustur ( 7715 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @10:00AM (#4118235) Homepage

    From wired:
    But by using blending techniques, the company can display 58,621 "color combinations

    This is exactly how Palm wants people to perceive the Knowledge Library article. I.e. that the m130 can *display* 58,621 color combinations. This is simply not true.

    Now have a look at Palm's Knowledge Libarary article:
    Palm is updating its statements of color capability, because it has since learned that the combination of color technologies it employed deliver about 58,621 color combinations, an approximate 11 percent difference.

    Note now they use the word *deliver* instead of *display*. The m130 can only *display* 4096 colors at a time, but by updating those colors realy fast, it can create the *illusion* of 58,621 colors. The colors are 'delivered' to the user's mind, by tricking his brain into blending different colors.

  • by roarl ( 137495 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @10:02AM (#4118246)
    ok, graphics geeks... factor 58,621. You get 31 x 31 x 61. Looks like 5-bits, 5-bits, and 6-bits, blended. I'm wondering how they came up with that number of colors! Any ideas?

    By dithering (mixing) 4 pixels in a 2x2 pattern, 16 colors can be mixed into (16-1)*4+1 = 31 colors. By dithering 2x1 pixels, 16 colors can be mixed into (16-1)*2+1 = 15 colors. So, by using a 2x2 dither pattern for green, and a 2x1 dither pattern for red and blue, 31x31x61 colors can be produced.

    I do believe this is the correct explanation, but it seems so contrived that I suspect some boss ordered his engineer to invent a reason to come up with a number close to 65536. In a program, it would be much easier to do a 2x2 dither pattern for all three components, yielding 226981 colors.

    For interested readers, a transition from one color to another using a 2x2 dither pattern can be as follows.

    00 10 10 11 11
    00 00 01 01 11

    As you see, two colors turns into (2-1)*4+1 color patterns.

  • Re:MS Wins (Score:2, Informative)

    by Troed ( 102527 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @10:03AM (#4118258) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft? Are you nuts? ;)

    Sony Ericsson P800 []

    Symbian []

    Tech people have been drooling over this one for a long time .. forget carrying two devices.

  • by roarl ( 137495 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @10:13AM (#4118326)
    Ooops, I posted that one a little too fast.
    (16-1)*4+1 = 61
    (16-1)*2+1 = 31
    (2-1)*4+1 = 5

    But you already figured that out, didn't you.

  • by Theovon ( 109752 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @10:24AM (#4118417)
    This "Framerate control" is called "Temporal Modulation" in some circles. It works very well with LCD displays because they have such a long decay period (change the pixel color, and it takes a while to really change on the display). If the refresh rate is, say, twice the response of the LCD display, then you can double your RGB values by doing two-frame temporal modulation. That would yield 32k colors. If you were to do four-frame temporal modulation, that would give you 64k colors.

    One thing I don't know is how different shades are done on an LCD in the first place. It may be some high-rate temporal modulation in the first place, although I doubt that. One thing I know is that LCD panels have a sinusoidal gamma curve, and this is because brightness levels come from the angle of rotation of the crystals. 90 degrees gives you black, 0 degrees is white. If you were to rotate the crystal by linear angle, it would not be a sinusoidal color response.

    Of course, add on top of that the fact that even a linear scale in light emission (luminance) is not a linear scale to the human eye (luma). These are why LCD displays are notorious at having poor color response, and the manufacturers don't seem to be smart enough to compensate for it, even though the math is butt easy to people like our esteemed friend Dr. Charles Poynton.

    Oh, and Temporal Modulation is not a linear interpolation. Why is left as an exercise for the reader. :)
  • by crapulent ( 598941 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @10:32AM (#4118491)
    It seems to me that this issue (color depth) is most problematic when you're dealing with a gradient of a single hue -- i.e. "how many shades of pink do I have?" So here's how we evaluate their claim. Find another PDA or LCD display device that does indeed have 16 bits of color. Create some PNG files, each with a different gradient: black to grey, black to red, black to green, etc. View this same image side by side on the Palm's screen and an LCD of simiar technology that has a full 16 bits. If you can see a big difference in the "banding" due to lack of unique colors, then truely 12 bits are not almost equivalent to 16. You could easily simulate this if you wanted to (using Gimp, Photoshop, etc) but that misses the point.

    And BTW, to the poster the claimed that since there's only 25600 pixels on the screen that this is not an issue: Get a clue! The color depth has nothing to do with how many pixels you want to display. It's about how many shades you have available, and how faithfully you can represent an image. With 12 bits of color, you only have 16 levels of pure grey. If you had a grayscale image with a lot of contrast, you'd probably see banding because there's not enough available levels to represent the image. This has nothing to do with the total number of pixels on the screen!
  • Re:160x160 (Score:3, Informative)

    by topham ( 32406 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @11:27AM (#4118956) Homepage
    If it were simply 4096 from a palette you'd be right, but it isn't.

    It is 4096 colour DEPTH. Thats it.

    Basicly, that means your stuck with 4 bits of red, 4 bits of green, 4 bits of blue. So, 16 shades of red, blue green.

    With a palette based method it could atleast be 4,096 from 16 million, or some-such. it isn't.

    I'd be pissed if I had bought one of these.

  • Leaving the party... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Andy Dodd ( 701 ) <atd7.cornell@edu> on Thursday August 22, 2002 @11:53AM (#4119208) Homepage
    Didn't Palm announce a while ago their intentions to phase out their hardware business and simply license PalmOS?

    (Which blows away WinCE hands-down, period.)

    MS will never win because WinCE devices have the same pitfalls that kept the Newton in the niche - They're too big. Palms are smaller. Period. In the PDA market, smaller size and better battery life will go a LONG way to making up for a lack of snazzy "features" like color screens (battery hog), 64M RAM (as if the color screen weren't killing your battery already), and a 200+ MHz processor (User: Hey, my palm lasted for a month on a pair of AAAs, why won't this POS last more than a day or so between charges???)

    Yes, Palm's market share has gone down, but probably most of their marketshare loss has gone to Handspring and Sony (Also to Kyocera and Samsung with their smartphone products)... Oh wait, they're paying Palm for the OS anyway. Not that much of a loss for them.

    The i705 is a sucky idea, except for the unlimited use factor. The new trend is combining full voice phone capabilities into the device (Kyocera Smartphone 6035 and the upcoming 7135, Samsung i300, Handspring Treos)
  • by Andy Dodd ( 701 ) <atd7.cornell@edu> on Thursday August 22, 2002 @11:56AM (#4119237) Homepage
    It's EASY to get PalmOS 3.5/4.0/4.1 for free, *even downloading from Palm's own site*
  • by Theovon ( 109752 ) on Thursday August 22, 2002 @12:44PM (#4119626)
    It's really quite simple.

    Say you have two 4-bit gray pixels next to each other, and you want to know how many possible grays you could get with them in combination.

    Obviously, you could make them the same shade, which would give you 16 values. You could also make them differ by one, so you have X next to X+1, giving you intermediate shades. You'd think that would give you 32 possible combinations, but in the case of X==15, X+1==16 which is invalid, so you end up with only 31 representable shades. (Making two adjacent pixels differ by two shades is useless because putting shade 7 next to shade 9 is basically the same as putting two 8's next to each other.)

    But one of them is 61, you say. How do they get that? Also simple. In this case, you use a 2x2 block of pixels. You can get X, X, X, X, or you can get X, X, X, X+1, or X, X, X+1, X+1, or X, X+1, X+1, X+1 as possible combinations. However, you because of the case where X==15 makes X+1 invalid, you don't get 16+16+16+16 but rather 16+15+15+15 which is 61.

    The reader can easily generalize this to color. What they probably did was dither pairs of adjacent pixels for red and green and groups of four for blue, because the human eye has less fovial resolution for blue, or maybe they do groups of four for green because the eye has greater sensitivity to more shades of green.

    Thus, we have 31*31*61 colors or 58621.

    This, therefore, is a simple ordered dithering technique. The fact that this is transparent to us geeks/mathematicians is of no consequence to either the marketing suits or most people using the thing.

    In case you were wondering how many colors you could get using real 16-bit color and the same 2x1 /2x2 ordered dithering technique, we can work it out here.

    Let's assume we're using 565 color which gives 32 shades of red and blue and 64 shades of green. If we did 2x1 dithering on red and blue and 2x2 dithering on green, we'd get this:

    Red: 32+31 = 63
    Blue: 32+31 = 63
    Green: 64+63+63+63 = 253

    63*63*253 = 1004157

    If we use Palm marketing speek, that gives us 19.9375 bit color.

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas