Display

We wrote about how we suspected that SGS4 would go to a 5-inch 1080p SAMOLED display just after CES. Turns out that was spot on, as the SGS4 includes a 5-inch 1080p Full HD SAMOLED panel, the latest in Samsung's AMOLED roadmap. Samsung's naming stays true, and there's no Plus tacked on at the end, so we get another non-RGB stripe subpixel geometry with SGS4. The last few Samsung AMOLED variants we've seen have had different subpixel grids, and the one on the SGS4 is possibly the most interesting to date. There's still a bias toward more green subpixels than blue or red, this isn't an RGB stripe at all, but instead of the previous RG,BG layout we see this offset pattern with green on one line, then blue and red on another line. Interestingly enough the blue subpixel appears to be a square, and red and green appear to be circles, with the difference in area possibly offsetting the luminous efficiency of each material. Whatever the reason (Samsung has never been official or forthcoming any of these subpixel patterns each time they've changed them) it's present on the SGS4. 


At this size however I have to admit that I find the pursuit of the subpixel geometry more of an educational one than something which affects users. While I could occasionally see it on the SGS3, I definitely do not see it on SGS4. The subpixels are now small enough that whatever the pattern, it all looks like a homogenous light-emitting surface, which was the goal after all. I could bring up the visual acuity discussion again but just trust me that it's small enough to not be visible even with actually perfect (not legally perfect, which is different) vision. 

So resolution is great and up to par with all the other LCD-bearing flagships this year, lack of RGB stripe notwithstanding. There's that remaining question about brightness, contrast, outdoor visibility, and of course calibration and the saturation issue that has persisted with AMOLED from generation to generation. 

On the brightness front, the SGS4 includes dynamic contrast functions that cannot be disabled and change as a function of what is being displayed. There's an "auto adjust screen tone" checkbox under display but don't let that fool you, that doesn't disable dynamic contrast, just white point. Under screen mode are the mDNIe toggles we've seen on countless other previous Samsung Android phones with AMOLED panels, only here we notice something interesting. There have always been four toggles as long as this option has existed, only what's different is now, one of them is named "Professional photo." Reviews of other regional variants of the SGS4 have included the same button but marked "Adobe RGB." Oddly enough it seems that the North American versions at least have this renamed for some reason, but undoubtedly the function is the same. Many speculated that this is now a toggle for some full CMS (Color Management System) which "fixes" the inherent color space issues with AMOLED and oversaturation that occurs when looking at sRGB content on such devices. Unfortunately, I can confirm that my initial suspicions that this is just a continuation of the mDNIe (lite) settings from previous generation is in fact correct. I reverse engineered what I could of these settings from both kernel messages while changing the toggles, and looking at the kernel sources. Turns out that 'Professional photo' mode is actually the 'Natural' mode renamed from previous versions. 

So the question was whether the color space or white point actually does change with this mode enabled. I ran the SGS4 through our display tests in each of the modes and think the full color space plot tells the story. The sanest of them all really ends up being the strangely-named 'Movie' mode. Professional photo gives the big gamut with a white point closer to 'Movie,' which is to say around 7000K, but it doesn't fundamentally change the still-present oversaturation or color management issue that exists in Android with these wide gamut displays. Most users admittedly don't care however and just see "bright" colors. Theres' an Auto mode as well which the device ships with that basically has a matrix of mDNIe settings for targeted applications (for example the Gallery, Browser, Video playback) and so forth get settings, which you can see in the kernel.

CalMAN Display Comparison
Metric iPhone 5 iPhone 4S HTC One X SGS3 Samsung Galaxy Note 2 Google Nexus 4 HTC Droid DNA HTC One SGS4
Grayscale 200nits Avg dE2000 3.564 6.162 6.609 4.578 5.867 7.686 6.738 5.391 7.511
CCT Avg (K) 6925 7171 5944 6809 7109 8506 8108 8118 7020
Saturation Sweep Avg dE2000 3.591 8.787 5.066 5.460 7.986 8.517 5.856 3.365 7.823
GMB ColorChecker Avg dE2000 4.747 6.328 6.963 7.322 8.185 7.531 6.687 4.656 7.440

In the "Movie" mode things are better controlled than the Note 2 on the GMB color checker card test, which is the most important one for me. White point is also no longer the crazy 8000K that we saw before, 7000K is commendable for Samsung at this point. Keep in mind that maximum brightness changes in each mode as well as we effectively clamp things, I measured a maximum of 319 nits in Dynamic mode, 311 nits in Movie mode, and 255 nits in Standard, for example.

 

Running the display at maximum brightness for too long will also get you into an overheating or thermal protection mode as well, which we've seen on countless other AMOLED variants. Most of the time I suspect users will run on Auto brightness however which keeps brightness down to a much lower level to save battery and prevent that from becoming a problem. 


 

 


Because "Movie" was the closest to sRGB of all the modes, I selected it for the actual results that I'll present in the table. Admittedly this mode does tighten things up a bit, but it still isn't perfect and I'd still like to see Samsung do something to reign this in at some point. 

 

Camera and Video Analysis Final Words
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  • danbob999 - Thursday, April 25, 2013 - link

    Glasses are fashion accessories. You don't choose a specific model because it is more powerful or will give you better vision. You choose a model because it looks good. Reply
  • UpSpin - Thursday, April 25, 2013 - link

    I need glasses. And I choose the model which not only gives me better vision, but perfect vision. You can choose between glass or plastic, with adaptive dimming in sunlight, a flexibel titan frame, or a huge bold hipster frame, with large or small glasses, with color enhancements, polarisators, AR coatings, ...
    If I had perfect eyesight, I wouldn't choose any model at all, so I only buy it because I need it, not because it's a fashion accessory, but this doesn't mean that the glasses I buy must look ugly as hell. I choose the model which fits to my person.
    The same with watches. I had a watch, because I had no mobile phone but wanted to know the time. Of course did I choose the watch which had the functions I wanted at a reasonable price and which looked the best for me. We're not talking about Rolex, or whatever, but the useful traditional watches (in my case Casio).
    The same with smartphones. And here again do we also not talk about Vertu, etc. but a competive priced high end smartphone, which, even with all those features, can and should still look good, especially if it costs +$600.
    Reply
  • danbob999 - Thursday, April 25, 2013 - link

    You are talking about the lenses. With any model of glasses you can get lenses which will give you perfect vision.
    The glasses themselves are fashion accessories.
    Unlike your glasses and your watch, a smartphone isn't a fashion accessory. You wouldn't pick a phone just because it looks good. Specs are the most important things to consider. At least that's what I expect on a tech site. If I wanted to know which phone looked the best I woul be reading fashion magazines instead.
    Reply
  • UpSpin - Thursday, April 25, 2013 - link

    I think you try too hard to justify that design isn't important for you. I'm not a native english speaker, so I assumed that the meaning of glasses is the whole lenses+frame (dictionary confirmed this), just as the meaning of smartphone is the whole thing, not just the electronics or the casing. Now you reduced it to glasses frame, fine, but this makes absolutely no sense, because you always have to buy and use both and the frame can't be freely choosen either. Some frames only support glass, some require plastic lenses. Some frames only work for thin lenses some people with bad eyesight and thick lenses have to use other frames. You pick what both suits your needs and looks good on you. The same with a watch, the same with a car, the same with a smartphone the same with everything you spend money for. Both design and specs go hand in hand.
    Or would you like a 1kg heavy, 10cm thick smartphone if you don't care about design? What's design and what's specs for you?
    Again: At such a high price point it should look and feel great, too, thus design is important, too. Sure, if the specs are crap, then the best design is worth nothing. But the HTC One specs aren't crap, they are on par with the S4. And it's a fact that the S4 looks like the S3, and both look like all the other cheaper Samsung smartphones, and all of them have a highly glossy finish which looks, for me, very cheap. So the specs are great, but it just doesn't look like it.
    Reply
  • danbob999 - Thursday, April 25, 2013 - link

    Most glasses can be paired with any type of lenses. I am sure you understood my point. Going back to phones, I do care about design. I care about size and weight. I care about the resistance of the phone (if I drop it). I care about the placement of the buttons. I prefer hard buttons than capacitive ones. All these are part of the design. I just don't care how it looks, and even less how it "feels". I knew schoolgirls cared about the look of their phones but I didn't imagine so many people cared about it on a tech site. It's beyond me. Did you also choose your home phone or your TV based on their look? Did you really tell yourself that you can't buy that $2000 TV because it looks like a black rectangle which looks as cheap as that $500 TV next to it? At least home phones and TVs constantly in sight, and not hidden in your pocket most of the time. Reply
  • TedKord - Thursday, May 02, 2013 - link

    Lenses are custom ground and fitted into the frames you choose. You can literally get most any lenses in any frames (except if your vision is so bad it requires super thick lenses, then you may have limitations on what frames you can pick)

    I've gone through this with my daughter, who has 20/200 vision. I've been lucky so far - while the rest of me is falling apart, my eyesight is still 20/18.
    Reply
  • mrochester - Friday, April 26, 2013 - link

    Personally I don't see why as a consumer I can't have both functionality AND looks. Apple and HTC show that you can have both, so I don't see why I would settle for an S4 when I already have an iPhone 5. Reply
  • danbob999 - Monday, April 29, 2013 - link

    The iPhone 5 doesn't have the functionality of the S4. It's more to the level of the S3, 6 months late to get that shiny metal box.
    The One is a good phone but it does make some compromises in order to fit metal. These compromises are SD card, battery capacity and replaceability, overall phone size, included sensors, and even a little CPU speed. The S4 even supports more LTE bands (T-mobile's version supports 6 different ones)
    Reply
  • TedKord - Thursday, May 02, 2013 - link

    It depends on which you value more. I'll take functionality/versatility over aesthetics any day, so I chose the S3 over the 4s/5. I would choose the S4 over the 5/One simply because it still has expandable storage and swappable battery, and Samsung releases source/updates much better than HTC. (I've got my S3 in a Seidio Active Extended case, so you can't even tell it's got a plastic back. Plus, I can get an aluminum back for my S3 for $10 off Amazon, if the plastic bothered me - but I prefer to keep the stronger signal) Reply
  • TedKord - Thursday, May 02, 2013 - link

    But many people DO choose a smartphone based solely on looks, or what others own. Probably not the folks in forums like this, but they're a small minority. The general public is sold on shiny and pretty. Reply

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