Mobile phone display mega shootout: The full picture
Color rendition is quite important for image quality as it can make the difference between a good but unimpressive display and a real eye-popper. Notice that it's not all about the accuracy here - it's more about the phone producing colors that are pleasing to the eye.
The leader here is Nokia C6-01, which produces the best colors in our view. It finds the best balance between natural look and punch, just edging out the two Super AMOLEDs.
The N8 with its regular AMOLED shares nicks the bronze medal, right under the iPhone 4's nose. Both of those could use a little extra color saturation if they are to match the best.
Nokia N8 Apple iPhone 4
The Samsung S8530 Wave II, Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 and the HTC Desire HD come up next - their results aren't too bad, but they are nothing to write home about either. Of course it has more to do with the screen limitation than with decisions made by their designers.
The LG E900 Optimus 7 finishes last here, which comes to show what happens when you disregard those limitations and push the saturation to the maximum. Colors are so over-saturated that there's even loss of detail at some occasions.
There's hardly much to explain here - the wider the viewing angles the less you need to hold the display directly facing you in order to enjoy its brilliance.
The first place here is a three-way tie between the IPS LCD of the iPhone 4 and the two Super AMOLEDs produced by Samsung.
Nokia C6-01 comes up next and in real-life scenarios you probably won't notice the difference between it and the leader. The same holds true for the Nokia N8, which comes up just behind its sibling.
The Super Clear LCD of the Wave II only manages sixth place, losing color way below its competitors we mentioned above.
And while it might not sound much for a brand new technology it's still way better than the regular LCDs, which are once again lagging behind.
More pixels mean sharper images and more space for content on the screen. Depending on your eyesight and the distance between your eyes and your phone increasing the resolution becomes pointless (i.e. you cannot actually see the difference) but having too many pixels is never an issue.
The undisputed champion here is the iPhone 4 with its 960 x 640 pixels screen. It leads the second best (Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10) by just over 33% and boasts an incredible pixel density of 326 ppi.
There's a huge crowd in third place with five of the contestants sporting WVGA resolution (800 x 480 pixels). We still find WVGA good enough for almost all purposes, even though it has just 62.5% of the resolution of the leader.
The only two units to actually lose here are the Symbian^3-capped Nokia C6-01 and Nokia N8. The so-called nHD (360 x 640 pixels) might be good enough so that it's not bothering, but it's not as impressively sharp as we would have liked. At just over a third (37.5%) of the Retina resolution it just cannot come near to the print-like look that the iPhone 4 screen has.
Update 30 Nov: Okay we saw there is a storm brewing in the comments section so we decided to step up and clear this out.
The two Samsung Super AMOLED screens are in fact using the PenTile subpixel matrix, which uses one green and one double-sized blue or red subpixel for each pixel. This means that even though the I9000 Galaxy S and the S8500 Wave have the same number of pixels as their WVGA opponents, they only have 2/3 of their subpixel count. It's actually a trick very similar to the Bayer filters found in the vast majority of the digital cameras currently on the market.
We took a few extremely close-ups, demonstrating what this is all about.
You can easily see that the Samsung S8530 Wave II renders very fine detail better and thus has some sharpness advantage over the Galaxy S. This is mostly pronounced with images that are predominantly blue or red. However keep in mind that the image you are seeing is magnified about 25 times depending on your monitor resolution and size.
In real life the difference is quite minor and only visible after careful observation of two handsets placed side by side. We would advise against basing your final decision on it, except in cases of a perfect tie.