Shoot-out: Retina Display vs. Super LCD vs. Super AMOLED

SLCD-Retina-SAMOLED

I had some time over the long weekend to swing by the Bell store and compare the Super LCD screen on the HTC Desire to the iPhone 4′s retina display and the Super AMOLED screen on the Samsung Galaxy S Vibrant I9000 (nope, it’s not the Vibrant y’all have in the U.S., but it’s the same screen). We had seen the I9000 take on the Desire before the switch to SLCD, but it’s worth taking a look now that HTC has fully made the switch. Take a look at the video and judge for yourself, but it’s pretty clear that though the HTC Desire gives the iPhone 4 a run for its money, the Retina display still has the lead thanks in no small part to the higher resolution and pixel density. Super AMOLED was sadly left in the dust.

The HTC Desire’s Super LCD screen clocks in at 3.7″ and a 480 x 800 display. HTC had swapped to the technology from AMOLED earlier this summer, citing easier production and better power management while maintaining quality, but also claimed that there were improved viewing angles. The Galaxy S I9000 rocks a  larger 4″ display, but has the same 480 x 800 resolution as the Desire. Super AMOLED has been a feather in Samsung’s cap for awhile, boasting a 180 degree viewing angle, better performance in direct sunlight than its predecessor technology, and providing excellent colour range and saturation. Finally, the iPhone 4′s Retina display is 3.5″ across the diagonal, and has a stunning 960 x 640 resolution. The Retina screen’s resolution is by far the most impressive feat, given the screen’s size. The sheer density produces an incredible sharpness that is just hard to beat… for now.

I didn’t get a chance to test the screens outdoors unfortunately, but hopefully this video will give you a good idea of how each of these smartphone displays compare.

  • Tom Thorne

    LoL

    • ling

      I’m not sure if there is much point to this review. On paper clearly the Iphone 4 wins in term of sharpness and resolution. But the video camera would not have been able to capture the differences since its resolution would be lower than the screens on the phone. And did you consider any software difference between the browser on the two android phones and Iphone? I’ve looked a the Iphone closely and reading text on a browser is like reading a on a paper. That’s of course make sense since it is over 300 ppi, more than standard low res laser printing output. I own the Vibrant and it clearly does not look even close to the Iphone, but I suspect the anti-aliasing isn’t done right on Android cause it cannot be that much worse. To really judge how good the screen are, one needs to go and look at them in person.

    • Foxmeister

      Given that the Samsung has a larger screen both the Desire and the iPhone, and a lower resolution than the iPhone, I can’t say that I’m too surprised that it appears a little more pixelated than the other two.

      I’d be more interested to hear about the contrast levels which should be way superior on the S-AMOLED Galaxy.

      FWIW I have an AMOLED Desire and I’m very happy with the screen, even though it has a pentile subpixel arrangement, primarily due to the deep blacks, and vibrant colours.

  • Adam

    Try using a tripod. Sheesh.

  • Rafael Roque

    I don’t mind comparing screen technologies; what I do mind is Intomobile missinforming their readers…

    Point and case: There is no such thing as a Retina screen technology; Apple uses screen technology IPS LCD. Apple named it Retina display because of the resolution to size ratio of the screen. In fact, the so call Retina display could only be possible because Apple doubled the 320×480 resolution of previous iPhones while keeping the same screen size(3.5″).

  • WrlsFanatic

    Glad somebody did this, but I’d like to get some other opinions. My thoughts:

    1) Still can’t stand that the iPhone is stuck at 3.5″… the screen IS the input device, and higher pixel density doesn’t mean icons are easier to click, it just means I can read them easier when they’re too small to click. But that’s just me Apple-hating. :)

    2) The Super AMOLED seems brighter for sure, and I think the outdoors comparison is key here. Sharper is not a defining characteristic. My phone isn’t a picture frame, it’s a productivity device, and outside many phones are NOT productive because I can’t see what’s on them. I know that LCDs are better than AMOLEDs, but from my experiences they lag the outside usability of Super AMOLEDs.

    3) While your write-up doesn’t mention display angles, the video shows it twice (at about 1:00 and 2:10). You keep talking about “sharpness”, but based on what I see in the video, the Galaxy S (which keeps switching positions, by the way) is clearly the brightest and easiest to see from an angle. Maybe not as SHARP, but sharpness at an angle has never been the issue, it’s always been how bright the image is at an angle. I would really like to see all three phones from an acute angle; I obviously think the Super AMOLED will crush the other two.

  • Informed User

    The reviewer is an idiot. I have all three phones and the Captivate kills the Desire AND the iPhone 4. Get your eyes checked and find another topic to write about other than technology because you’re clearly not qualified to be in this field.

    • WrlsFanatic

      But the sharpness… THE SHARPNESS!!!

    • iPhone guy

      Why do people get on these blogs and pretend to know everything. You DO NOT have all three phones. Why would you? Get YOUR eyes checked and you would be able to see that the iPhone 4 does have the sharper picture of them all, even though its the smallest.

  • appleisforfags

    apple ass kissing fanboys are not allowed to make reviews…
    i tested both of the phones and the iphone is sharper but the super amoled is much brighter
    if u have the iphone close to the face u can see that is very sharp but if u hold the phone normaly u can see that the samsung looks better(not by far)
    P.S. iphone guy please stop licking steves jobs asshole
    P.S.2 have a nice day

  • Csakid

    Did you know that you can turn the brightness up on an iPhone? It’s quite easy to do.
    Settings > Brightness > Adjust to your viewing pleasure.

  • Apple Rots!

    Yes! I totally agree with this review! My HD-ready LCD TV is so much clearer and better than my neighbour’s LED Full-HD TV!

    • Alex

      OLED and LED are not the same things, man! You’d better read before you write.

  • invi

    http://www.phonearena.com/news/Smartphone-Displays—AMOLED-vs-LCD_id13824/page/3

    Therefore, to draw the line in the sand in the Super AMOLED vs IPS-LCD battle, we have to note that both are outstanding representatives of two technologies – one very mature and one fledgling. If you had to choose only by screen type, here is how the odds are stacked. Provided that you read a lot of e-books, browse the general internet (which consists mostly of pages with white background), or review a lot of office documents on your smartphone – you will probably go with IPS-LCD, capable of the amazing resolution of the Retina Display, which makes text crisp and legible.

    If you are using your smartphone heavily for viewing photos and video, you can’t find anything better than the high-contrast Super AMOLED, due to the bright, oversaturated colors, which many people like.

  • invi

    http://www.phonearena.com/news/Smartphone-Displays—AMOLED-vs-LCD_id13824/page/3

    Therefore, to draw the line in the sand in the Super AMOLED vs IPS-LCD battle, we have to note that both are outstanding representatives of two technologies – one very mature and one fledgling. If you had to choose only by screen type, here is how the odds are stacked. Provided that you read a lot of e-books, browse the general internet (which consists mostly of pages with white background), or review a lot of office documents on your smartphone – you will probably go with IPS-LCD, capable of the amazing resolution of the Retina Display, which makes text crisp and legible.

    If you are using your smartphone heavily for viewing photos and video, you can’t find anything better than the high-contrast Super AMOLED, due to the bright, oversaturated colors, which many people like.

  • Jack

    You can’t do this kind of review by video – your videocamera cannot resolve the differences in resolution between the screens.

    • Yada

      yea, and a more controlled experiment would  be nice too. attention to detail goes a long way. it was fun though.

  • Hallari

    Retina display is not as good as super amoled. When i bought my smartphone i could check it in the shop. HTC Desire’s screen looked way better than Iphone4′s /it was in may/.

  • Anonymous

    AMOLED wins, period.

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