Samsung’s Galaxy Note III has a truly gorgeous screen, boasting one of the brightest screens available at 660 cd/m2 with extremely high contrast to match. Strangely, Samsung has opted to set the default DPI to a screen space wasting 480 (388 PPI) – wasting the huge amount of available screen space (though still an impressive HD 1920×1080 – the same pixel resolution as a 50 inch living room HDTV!). With a rooted Android device though, nearly anything can be customized and the screen DPI / resolution is no exception.
The difference a lower DPI makes is truly amazing, especially when coupled with a more versatile home screen launcher such as Nova – well worth the small amount of time and effort it takes:
|TouchWiz at 480DPI||Nova at 380DPI|
A rooted device is necessary in order to change the DPI, as it requires changing a system configuration file and so cannot be modified by the regular user account. Kingo Android Root is the easiest method if your phone is a supported model running Android 4.3 and you have access to a Windows PC (a complete run down of rooting options is beyond the scope of this article).
Configuration File Editor
The DPI setting for a device is contained in the config file /system/build.prop as “ro.sf.lcd_density=480” (the lower the DPI, the higher the resolution). While this file can be edited in any text editor or by a build.prop specific editor, the safest and easiest method by far is to use a single purpose app such as Texdroider DPI so as to eliminate the chance of editing the wrong property or file.
Optional: Alternate Launcher
While TouchWiz is a decent launcher with many features, it unfortunately doesn’t scale for different DPIs – the home screen will be squeezed up into the top middle of the screen, as well as the apps in the app drawer, the dialer, etc. It is possible to specify the DPI for individual apps so TouchWiz can be accommodated (for instance, by using the Xposed framework), but having more home screen space is one of the major attractions for increasing DPI. Given these considerations, it’s simpler to install and use a more adaptable launcher.
While there are many launchers on the market, the simplest one to transition to from TouchWiz is definitely Nova. Nova is free, easy to use and configure, has a small footprint, and is compatible with the S Pen and other Samsung apps; there is also has a paid version which offers more features and of course supports the developers.
Update (April 27, 2014): The Nova Launcher developer has abandoned the app to concentrate on home life (he’s recently become a father). While Nova is still a stellar choice of launcher at this time, it will no longer receive bugfixes or updates as new versions of Android roll out. We now recommend that Note III users install the Apex Launcher instead.
After installing Texdroider DPI, start the application and give it root permissions. The app will pop up a screen with a text entry area of the new DPI, the current DPI (480 by default) and the DPI after reboot. What resolution works best is a matter of personal taste; 380 is recommended for a first trial run. Click “Apply” and then “Reboot” for the changes to take effect. It’s that simple.
To produce a layout similar to the example pictured at the beginning of the article with more rows and columns for widgets and apps:
- Click the hardware “Home” button; a dialog should appear asking which launcher to use. Select “Nova Launcher” and click “Always”.
- Click the hardware “Menu” button while on the Nova home screen and select “Nova Settings”->”Desktop”->”Desktop Grid”.
- Change “Rows” to 9 and “Columns” to 6, then click “OK”.
- Click the hardware “Home” button to return to the home screen.
You can now add and move widgets and shortcuts just as with TouchWiz.