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Each cell phone manufacturer has their own idea of what the best smartphone is, and they appropriately fit their devices with what they feel are the best components available. There are a handful of different processor, camera, and storage technologies at their disposal, and every OEM has a different idea of what the “sweet spot” display size is. Regardless, a vast majority of smartphones are beginning to look the same; little is left to differentiate one phone from another. But as smartphones get larger and buttons disappear, one technology constantly finds itself in the limelight: display technology.

Every company has their own weapon of choice. More recently, HTC made the switch to Super LCD displays, Motorola has an affinity for TFT, LG is prepping to harness the power (or lack thereof) of their own NOVA display, Samsung is notorious for their popping AMOLED technology and Apple claims to take the cake with their IPS Retina Display (LED-backlit TFT) tech. As these things go, no display technology is perfect – there are advantages and disadvantages with each type.

I've spent many hours of hands-on time with just about every mobile display type out there, and it's easy to spot the difference if you know what you're looking for. For instance, if you pay close attention to Motorola's more recent displays, they've changed the subpixel layout to a PenTile Matrix pattern with an extra white subpixel. This makes the display much brighter, and it has an edge in recreating whiter parts of pictures, like the shimmer in a picture of a lake. That said, the different subpixel layout makes it noticeably easier to see spot pixelation, especially on saturated colors.

Displays as seen on some of HTC's most recent phones like the Sensation 4G are of the Super LCD type. In short, Super LCD displays are a great middle-of-the-road technology. It typically has great color reproduction, whiter whites and touts less power consumption than competing technologies. The picture above is of the HTC HD7S (right) with a Super LCD and the HD7 (left) with a regular LCD display; it's pretty easy to see the difference in contrast over plain ol' LCD.

Samsung's Super AMOLED Plus displays have easily garnered the greatest attention of 2011, and rightly so. AMOLED displays are known for their second to none contrast, pitch blacks and wide viewing angles. Much like the TFT displays used in Motorola's devices, the Super AMOLED is of the PenTile subpixel layout, though graininess has been less noticeable (it's definitely still there) in my use. Thankfully, Samsung moved away from this and returned to the standard RGB layout in the Super AMOLED Plus display, as seen in the Galaxy S II. This change resulted in more subpixels, thus a brighter and clearer display.

Although the contrast of the Retina Display isn't quite as drastic as Super AMOLED displays, the colors literally pop and the display is extremely bright. In my use, I've had the least trouble with seeing the iPhone 4 display in direct sunlight. Currently, Apple touts the highest resolution and the highest ppi (pixels per inch) of any mobile display. Even among the qHD displays now, the Retina Display still has a higher ppi and resolution. That's soon to change, but this display has been around for well over a year now, so that just goes to show how far ahead the Retina Display was when it was introduced.

Lastly we have LG's NOVA display, which is still a bit of a mystery as we have yet to have any actual hands-on time with it. But just based on the things I've heard from colleagues, LG isn't pulling their punches with NOVA. LG is claiming that this is the brightest mobile display with 700 nits. The NOVA will supposedly debut on the Optimus Black, so keep your eyes peeled for this one, just don't stare directly into it without sunglasses on.

There are many factors that come into play when these manufacturers make their displays, like color reproduction, contrast ratio, resolution, viewing angles, brightness and more, Having the best across-the-board display is impossibly hard to do and narrowing it down to a single favorite display is equally difficult – I need the added brightness for viewing the display in direct sunlight and I'm a huge advocate for high contrast. I will add that Samsung has done a tremendous job at matching the blacks in the display with the black in the bezel to make the boundaries of the display disappear in the face of the phone, which might explain why I've recently become a sucker for Super AMOLED Plus displays.

If it came down to a battle of the displays, which technology would you choose? Pick your favorite in the poll below and let us know why you think it's the best in the comments.

Image via Pocket-lint


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103 Reactions to this post

"What is your favorite mobile display technology?"


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Bret Reodique For me Samsung creates the best mobile display ever, but thats not the only that counts . The overall mobile features also.
Jursey blaqpunk Omollo ...RIMS liquid display...
Austin Hawthorne super amoled plus
Robin Mather I think the super AMOLED display edges out the others, very brilliant display.
Nelson Pagan all black amoled display on the Nokia e7 can't wait till the n9 com out with its all back display super.sexy
Eric Quach TI 84 display.... ya noobs
Malik Ammad RETINA; hands-down...!
GladisnFidel Jose SUPER AMOLED + Easily!!!
David Long I like the android skin but I love iPhone 4
Reese Woodson Super LCD
Kylan Humpherys Super amoled
Ashley Vaughan Retina ftw!
Soheb Qureshi I VOTED AND JUST SAW RATINA ONLY GOT 20% POSTS,, LOLX AT IPHONE USERS :D
Muneer KhanVict Super AMOLED Plus orr Super AMOLED HD
Nawf Side SUPER HD AMOLED+™
Sammy Feliciano Gotta love copy/paste, right Cory?
Stefan Daniel Retina and nova from lg and super amoled plus from samsung
Adam Gonzalez Super amoled+ i find that retina and qhd are about the same
Sergio Nayar Read my link above to read about real life burn in problems with amoled screens, even on recent versions.
Sergio Nayar http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=937667&goto=newpost
Marcus Neyor SAMOLED+ hands down
Jose Sut Amoled is better
Eric Kroh If Samsung had good hardware components in their phones...they would win..but they DON'T..so LG is a better option
Sergio Nayar (my post got wiped!) AMOLEDS might look awesome, but they tend to degrade with use with a side effect just like screen burn-in... So I rather use LCD qHD like the one on my Atrix.
Brandon Ricker Super amoled plus or hd at a qhd ppi on a 4 inch screen lol doesn't exist, yet
Cyr Parlapiano Cant wait for amoled hd fuck retina
John Guevara super amoled idk what that is but sounds nice xD
Glenn Rubio Urrea This question is kind of a no-brainer. Even fans of Apple's Retina know Super AMOLED+ is superior. Not to take anything away from Retina as it is beautiful in its own right. But yeah Samsung knocks it out the park here.
Taylor Rentschler iPhone 4's retina display!!!
Achraf Chikhi Super AMOLED PLUS >>>>>>>>>> Retina Display
Jeremey Perkins Super AMOLED+ all the way
Krishna Kumar Super amoled
Afi Ahmed Galaxy tab
Theo Sarcastic Garrett Super amoled + hands down.
Alex Arana Super Amoled
Jimmy Pop retina
Sergio Nayar I like SuperAmoleds, but I still find myself using them with caution (avoid high brightness and static whites) due to degradation (burn-in). But ever since I tried the qHD LCD on my Atrix, I haven't looked back to AMOLED screens. I can leave my LCD on for hours (GPS) without remorse or fear of buring in the screen!!!
Mohnim Mazhar Retina display
Andy Huggins Super amoled
Alex Brown qHD ftw because you can actually see the screen in direct sunl
Nutthawut Bunsong Gotta go to Super Amoled +
Samuel Claudio None, who cares
Hani Ghanma I heard AMOLED has burn-in issues, is this still true with new phones like the galaxy S2?
Kong Yang Super AMOLED Plus > everything else.
Ignacio Gonzalez Say what you want about Samsung, but there is no denying they make an absolutely stunningly gorgeous display: Super AMOLED+...can't wait for AMOLED HD! (:
Cory Kay A Super Active-Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode Plus screen is my favorite.
Rafa J. Torres Anyone who knows about this technology knows the Super Amoled plus its the best all the way
Ryan Nunes SAMOLED!!!
Flako Ramirez Super Amoled Plus.
Mathew Kennedy Original Gameboy display. Gotta love black and green
Jubayer Dex Ahmed monochrome display, 84 x 48:P
Justin Michael Duncan any super amoled screen is awesome
Pernell Moore Is this a trick question? It's gotta be SAMOLED+
Ayman Nawaiseh Nvidia 1080p screen resoulution
Zachary Gearwar The best smartphone screen would have to be a resolution of 720p minimum with Super AMOLED Plus and IPS technology combined!
Garrett Vincent Super amoled. I wanna dump samsuck for htc or motorola so so much but its hard when their display is literally the best on the market. Iphone display looks washedout by comparison.
Alaa Ajweh Super AMOLED!
Vic Espinoza Super amoled +. Samsung "note" for example.....
Mark Fisher Jr. Iphone has a good display.
Marti Ruiz i would love hd supoeramoled plus display but , on galaxy note but now im loving super amoled
YJ Lim I miss my startac and old nokia displays. You could see the screen anywhere...
Eko Budi Prasetio QHD Display is enough
Ernest Marvin Esteban retina=IPS display made by LG...
Ernest Marvin Esteban super amoled + and nova display...
Aizaz Haider bravia engine and Super Amoled Plus
David McNeill Super Amoled+ wins and by a considerable distance, its the most cutting edge of all screen technology, even at slightly lower resolution it still utterly destroys the competition.. 2nd place. Nokias Clear Black Amoled and 3rd place goes to Apples Retina. HTC need to up their game significantly, even with qHd their screens are dull and uninspiring.
Aditya Parmeshwaran SUPER AMOLED PLUS!!
Jason Vargas I'm not a Phandroid or whatever they're called but I've had an iPhone 4 and a Galaxy S 4G and without a Doubt the SAMOLED screens are way better. The Retina display is higher in resolution but its not like the SAMOLED is all pixilated. Its still VERY clear but with richer colors and deeper blacks
Montsch Acosta I dunno if its just me but SGS2's display has a greenish Tint in it which I hate..
Rudy DeHoyos Retina display ftw!
Jorge Hugo Galindo Hands down Super AMOLED+. Those of you who say retina display is better you need to look again.
Byktor Urvaes I don't really care about the screen, if the phone proform well and it have good bill quality, to me is the way to go
Montsch Acosta LG Optimus 2x's SAMOLED... way BETTER than retina...
Alex Pierro Any type of display that can produce vivid colors and sharp images
Srinu Smart HTC VIGOR 1280x720 HD Display
J Alberto Garcia Flores My phone has the best display than any other phone, the Super AMOLED/ SUPER AMOLED PLUS. definitely Samsung beats every phone
Suryo Lee Super Amoled Plus
Rian Kapadia Super amoled plus
Jamil Oquendo The display on the first gameboy ever made.
Jason Vargas SAMOLED+. Until Super AMOLED HD comes to the states. But I am curious what kind of Display will be on the iphone 5
Daniel Rubino Retina on the iPhone
Ethan Hallesy Not one person said pentile...
Juan Garcia I do hope people realize that "Retina" is not a display technology, but a given moniker to the 960x640 resolution. The technology behind the retina display is IPS. My personal favorite is Samsung's AMOLED displays, unfortunately thats about all I like from Samsung.
Dharvesh Khan Super amoled+
Mahir Zaman SUPED AMOLED!!!!!!
Frank Valle Super AMOLED + :D
Saad Khan Undoubtedly Super AMOLED plus!!!
Huey Liggins Retina. I don't have any of the new phones but after looking around and seeing what friends have nothing can stand up to retina display. There are a few out there that do look amazing though.
Julius Sepeda Side by side comparison w/ retina & samoled, hands down winner is samoled. Even the apple guy up there admits it.
Matthew Alexander Super AMOLED plus!




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