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Super AMOLED Vs Retina Vs OLED Vs LCD Vs IPS: What’s the Difference?

Eric McBride
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There’s no denying that there are LOTS of different Android phones on the market, and what there also happens to be lots of are different types of displays. I don’t know about you guys, but I think it can get pretty confusing hearing about Super AMOLED, Retina, OLED, LCD, and IPS displays, so I thought I would do my best to explain some of the key differences between all of the different types of displays you can find on smartphones.

LCD

LCD displays start with a backlight that’s always on, and require light in order to create black, white, and colors. High end LCD’s have the reputation for creating the most accurate colors and “grays”, but are often calibrated (on purpose) to produce weaker red, blue, and purple colors to keep power consumption down. LCD screens also age slower, and can easily withstand thousands of hours of use.

OLED

This particular type of screen requires no light in order to produce black, but only needs it to produce white and colors. Because of this, it can be considered as a battery saving display. OLED displays are often brighter, but can often suffer from oversaturated green colors. They also age a lot faster than LCDs, with red and blue colors deteriorating faster than green. That might not sound like a big deal, but it can cause the color balance to suffer over time. OLEDs are also more expensive to make, which has caused many manufacturers (HTC for example) to switch from AMOLED to LCD displays.

Super AMOLED

Don’t let the title “Super” fool you. This is simply Samsung’s proprietary name and approach to making OLED displays. In other words, Super AMOLED=Samsung OLED. Super AMOLED, Super AMOLED Plus, and HD Super AMOLED only really have one major difference: sub pixels.

Screen pixels are generally made up of red, green, and blue sub pixels that combine to create other color combinations. For example, Samsung’S Super AMOLED uses Samsung’s PenTile layout, and the same pattern of red, green, blue, and green sub-pixels, which typically has fewer sub pixels than the layout used in LCD displays. The larger sub pixels are effective in letting in more light, which lead to brighter and smoother images, which is seen on the Galaxy S2, Samsung Droid Charge, and the Samsung Infuse 4G. Super AMOLED HD is simply the same PenTile Super AMOLED display, but with a higher resolution of 1280 x 720. These screens are featured in the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy Note, and the new Samsung Galaxy S3.

IPS and Retina

IPS , which stands for “in plane switching, is actually a premium LCD technology that’s known for having a wide viewing angle and clear picture. You can find this display in the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. The “Retina Display” that Apple uses is based on IPS technology, and if you’ve ever seen an iPhone in action, I’m sure you can attest to how great the screen is. The Transformer Prime features an IPS display, and I can personally attest to how great the colors are. The newly announced Transformer Infinity will feature a "Super IPS" display 1920 x 1200.

And the best display is?

So which type of display is best? There’s no real answer for that, as it will most likely boil down to personal preference. I personally prefer IPS and Super AMOLED displays, but that certainly doesn’t mean that any one display is better than the other. They all have their strengths and their weaknesses, with some having more textured and brighter colors, while others produce colors differently to reduce battery consumption.

So next time you’re browsing around the shop looking at different phones, try to see if you can spot the differences in the displays. Keep in mind that this article was only to provide a brief overview of the key differences of the displays, as there are obviously other technical factors that come into play with their individual construction.  With some you might see nothing, but for others you might notice a considerable difference. The infographic that we made back in early May (below) tells you which types of displays are featured in 7 popular Android phones, and could help to provide a bit of an overview of which phones carry which displays.

Comments

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  • PatPion Jun 4, 2012 Link

    Hi Eric!!

    First of all, I really like the revamp to the website, it looks great!
    Secondly, I think this article will help a lot of people out there who don't really understand the different screen technologies out there. Well done, thanks!

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  • Eric McBride Jun 4, 2012 Link

    Glad you like the site and the article Theunis! And I really hope the article helps someone. I tried my best not to make it overly technical.

    And the rest of the site will also get a face lift very soon! There are still a few small bugs and kinks to sort out, but we're getting there!

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  • PatPion Jun 4, 2012 Link

    Yeah, I think that was a wise choice.

    I'm really looking forward to getting my hands on that S3! I've been invited by Samsung South Africa to attend the Galaxy S3 launch event in Johannesburg, so can't wait!

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  • Eric McBride Jun 4, 2012 Link

    WOW! Congrats man! Which date will it launch there?

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  • PatPion Jun 4, 2012 Link

    It's actually already been on sale from our biggest carrier since the 29th, but the 'official' launch is June 7th, after which marketing will probably begin in earnest, and it should be available from most carriers then.

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  • Atlas Jun 5, 2012 Link

    I've always found it funnily strange how many websites compare mobile screens by checking how good it looks when looked at from an angle. But when you think logically, no one looks at their phones like that, I mean it's not a computer display or tv. The ones with worse angle radius (or whatever the technical term is) actually have an advantage, it's that they are much more comfortable to look at this way when it's really dark.

    I do it almost daily, when going to sleep or checking the time when still sleeping.

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have Lg tone but it cuts out