Mobile phone display mega shootout: The full picture

GSMArena team, 29 November 2010.
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IPS LCD/Retina display (Apple iPhone 4)

Apple want to make you believe that the iPhone 4ís Retina display is a new technology altogether, but the truth is itís not much more than an LCD with some tweaks. The good news is those tweaks actually work and the performance boost is well worth it.

It all starts with the nearly non-reflective surface. Indeed, the iPhone 4 is our sunlight legibility champion: the outdoor image quality virtually impossible to distinguish from the one inside.

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The screen doesn't loose any of its brilliance when taken outside

The level of reflection (or the lack thereof in this case) does have an effect on the indoor performance too. While the actual contrast of the iPhone 4 just canít be far greater than that of some other LCDs, its perceived contrast (which is what matters really) looks much more acceptable. The difference isnít noticeable when you use the handset in complete darkness, but in all other cases the iPhone 4ís blacks are deeper than any other LCDs.

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The screen looks much better than other LCDs even indoors

What we are saying is itís not so much that the Retina has vastly superior potential, itís just that Apple are using the LCD capabilities to the fullest. Unfortunately, those capabilities are severely limited compared to AMOLED.

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The contrast levels are good, just not AMOLED good

There are no such limitations with the viewing angles however and they are simply out of this world with the iPhone 4. The IPS technology makes sure there is hardly an angle wide enough to make the Retina lose its brilliance . Neither contrast lowers nor colors get washed out even when looking from the very side of the device (it's that good!). Itís almost as if youíre looking at printed paper.

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Viewing angles are as wide as they get

Finally, the Retina screen earns some extra points for its fingerprint resistant surface and ambient light sensor. Of course the iPhone 4 will eventually get greasy with use but it still takes twice the time compared to most competitors. And it is the only device that gives you a choice between manual and automatic brightness control and a way to control the automatic mode.

So all in all, the Retina display is the pinnacle of LCD evolution Ė it wrings every bit of potential out of this technology. And it certainly is your only option if you are looking for the highest possible resolution.

Super Clear LCD (Samsung S8530 Wave II)

Manufacturers will gladly have you believe the main point of Super LCD is to vastly improve regular LCD. In fact, Super LCD screens are a much-hyped Plan B. Super LCD is a fix for the AMOLED shortage that caused makers to reorganize their supply and production.

HTC was forced to switch from AMOLED to S-LCD for some of its Android smartphones like the Desire and the Nexus One. Even Samsung had no choice but replace the Super AMOLED flagship of their own Bada smartphone platform with a device with an S-LCD-based screen. Now, they call it Super Clear LCD, but we guess thatís mostly marketing talk.

To be honest, we were a bit disappointed with the Samsung S8530 Wave II display. Its contrast is a bit better than common LCD but still behind the AMOLED competition.

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Contrast is improved but not drastically

The brightness levels on the other hand are excellent and, combined with the low screen reflexivity, make the device excellent to use outdoors. Indeed, the sunlight legibility is probably the most significant improvement that S-LCD has brought. Super LCD screens are nearly on par with the best examples on the market.

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Sunlight legibility is great

Viewing angles have also been widened, though - again - the upgrade isnít that great. Color rendering isnít quite precise either, with a distinct bluish cast.

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Viewing angles are larger than those of conventional LCD screens, but still not perfect

So as usual, the truth lies somewhere in between. In short, S-LCD is a notable step up from regular LCD, but still far from the top of the food chain.

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