HTC Sensation vs. Galaxy S II vs. Optimus 2X: Head to head

GSMArena team, 16 June 2011.
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Display test: S-LCD vs. sAMOLED+ vs. IPS LCD

The HTC Sensation has a qHD S-LCD screen. The "q" stands for quarter: the 540 x 960 touchscreen has half the pixels of a FullHD display in each direction. As far as the aspect ratio goes, qHD screens are ideal for watching HD content. And qHD hits the sweet spot between too few pixels and too many (720p would be beyond the resolution capability of the human eye on a 4-5-inch screen).

S-LCD is a boost to the old LCD technology in terms of viewing angles. It also promises better colors and higher contrast than most competing LCD technologies.

But enough about what it promises to do, let's look at what it does.

For this test, we'll use two of the best screens in the business for comparison. The Retina display on the Apple iPhone 4 is an 3.5" LCD with 640 x 960 pixel resolution, while the SuperAMOLED Plus on the Samsung Galaxy S II is a 4.3" WVGA (480 x 800) screen.

Smaller diagonal and higher res make the Retina display the clear winner in terms of sharpness. The pixel density however is very close to the limits of the human eye, so you don't always see the difference between it and other displays. The viewing angles are great thanks to the IPS technology.

The lower resolution and ample size of the SuperAMOLED give it the lowest PPI of the three but, with deep blacks and excellent viewing angles, it's a great screen all things considered.

Our close-up shots give a good idea of the relative sizes of the pixels for each of the screens. The Sensation has about 35% more pixels than the Galaxy S II for roughly the same screen area (slight difference in aspect ratios means they don't exactly match). The iPhone 4 packs about 7% more pixels than the Sensation, but they cover a noticeably smaller area.

Still, the Sensation's qHD screen has practically the same number of pixels per inch as a 3.7" WVGA screen. This gives the Sensation enviable sharpness by all modern standards.

HTC Sensation Head To Head
Close-up shot of the HTC Sensation, Apple iPhone 4 and Samsung Galaxy S II screens

Viewing angles are not perfect though, despite the S-LCD technology. IPS performs much better, with only slight color and contrast shifts when viewed at an angle. The S-LCD on the Sensation on the other hand experiences noticeable loss of contrast along with some color distortion.

AMOLED screens don’t rely on light polarization, so SuperAMOLED Plus has no viewing-angle related issues.

HTC Sensation Head To Head HTC Sensation Head To Head HTC Sensation Head To Head HTC Sensation Head To Head
The displays of the three phones viewed at an angle

So, the screen on the Sensation has its advantages and its drawbacks. It's down to the two basic characteristics of displays - brightness and contrast.

The Sensation's screen is nearly twice as bright as the screen on the Incredible S.

Actually, it's about the same as the iPhone with the backlighting set at 100%. The paler darks however take their toll on contrast ratio.

It's exactly the contrast that stands no comparison to the best in business. Competing LCD screens like on the Optimus Black, the Xperia Arc and the iPhone 4 are obviously superior.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
LG Optimus Black P970 0.27 332 1228 0.65 749 1161
LG Optimus 2X 0.23 228 982 0.35 347 1001
Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc 0.03 34 1078 0.33 394 1207
Samsung I9000 Galaxy S 0 263 0 395
Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II 0 231 0 362
HTC Incredible S 0.18 162 908 0.31 275 880
Apple iPhone 4 0.14 189 1341 0.39 483 1242
HTC Sensation 0.21 173 809 0.61 438 720
Motorola Atrix 4G 0.48 314 652 0.60 598 991

You can learn more about the test here.

The screen of the HTC Sensation is not bad compared to most LCD units on the market. In some respects though (viewing angles mostly), it's a step behind competing top of the line models. It does offer better resolution than the majority of droids on the market, which should be enough for some to overlook its downsides.

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