Saturday, November 27, 2010

Buying a high end touch screen phone? The display is an important consideration - IPS Retina v. Super AMOLED v. S-LCD

I still remember when which phone to buy was dependent on how many phone numbers it could store. Later on Nokia made its name with an easy to understand user interface. When the smartphones started to appear, processor's speed and amount of memory was important (because these things were painfully slow), and later, how much internal storage they had.

It is now more than seven years since I purchased my first smartphone, a Smart Amazing Phone manufactured by HTC. This was followed by a series of Sony Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung smartphones. Today when selecting among the elite in touchscreen smartphones only one thing matters. The screen.

Why? With the top offerings from Apple, HTC and Samsung all offering 1000MHz processors backed up by at least 512MB of RAM, 16 or more GB's of internal storage, high speed wireless internet connectivity via 3G and WiFi, decent cameras and pretty much everything you can put into these hand held computers (which can also be used a mobile phones) they are all fast enough and more than capable to do the required job. There is a point where better becomes pointless, and I feel that the top end touchscreen phones are at that point. In the end, there is only so much you can do on a 3.5 inch  to 4.3 inch or so screen.

If the screen is not important you, or you can't tell the difference from one to another, then one of the mid-level touchscreen smartphones would suffice. But if you are willing to spend Php30K or more on a mobile phone, I suggest you consider display quality seriously.

Apple iPhone 4: Retina Display

The apparent leader of the pack, the Apple iPhone 4G has a 3.5", 640 x 960 resolution IPS Retina TFT LCD screen. The iPhone 4 Retina display is actually made by LG and used a technology called in-plane switching (IPS). The iPhone 4 has many improvements over its predecessor, the iPhone 3GS, but I think most would agree that the jump to a 640 x 960 resolution display from the former 320 x 480 display is the single biggest improvement.

Before the Retina display of the iPhone 4, the undisputed leader was Samsung's AMOLED screen, which in different phones comes in at sizes ranging from 3.3 to 4 inches and with a resolution of 480 x 800 pixels.

Samsung I9000 Galaxy S: Super AMOLED Display

Which of the two screens is better has been subject of much debate: 

Engadget gave the Retina display the nod, by a hair, GSMArena called it a draw, and OLED-display seems to say that the Super AMOLED technology is superior.

HTC Desire HD: S-LCD Display

The third player in the field are the SLCD screens. This one is an accidental entry into this fight. Due to the shortage of AMOLED screens, HTC made the jump to S-LCD screens with the same 480 x 800 pixel resolution. Engadget has a comparison here: Spot the difference: HTC Desire's SLCD versus AMOLED. From this comparison, Super AMOLED has the clear advantage of being more power efficient. 

Which one is the best? Best take a look for yourself and decide. For this kind of money, you should really compare the actual units themselves.

December 1, 2010 Update - We have an update to this article here: Mobile phone display mega shootout

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