Apple want to make you believe that the iPhone 4’s Retina display is a new technology altogether, but the truth is it’s 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.
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 can’t be far greater than that of some other LCDs, its perceived contrast (which is what matters really) looks much more acceptable. The difference isn’t noticeable when you use the handset in complete darkness, but in all other cases the iPhone 4’s blacks are deeper than any other LCDs.
What we are saying is it’s not so much that the Retina has vastly superior potential, it’s just that Apple are using the LCD capabilities to the fullest. Unfortunately, those capabilities are severely limited compared to AMOLED.
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!). It’s almost as if you’re looking at printed paper.
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 – 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.
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 that’s 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.
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.
Viewing angles have also been widened, though - again - the upgrade isn’t that great. Color rendering isn’t quite precise either, with a distinct bluish cast.
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.