Display

Of course one of the most compelling features of the Charge is the 4.3” Super AMOLED Plus display. We’ve talked about Super AMOLED before - for a quick refresher, SAMOLED is simply an AMOLED panel with the display, digitizer, and top glass bonded using optical adhesive. Every time light encounters an air-glass interface, a certain amount of light is reflected, usually around 4%. That adds up fast when you consider that each contributes to glare, less light making it out, and additional thickness, with each incurring a transmission loss and back reflection. Optically bond the entire thing together, and the stack behaves like one continual piece of glass instead of three separate pieces. That’s the “Super” in Super AMOLED.

  
Left: Samsung Galaxy S with RG-BG PenTile subpixel layout (Super AMOLED), Right: Droid Charge with RGB stripe subpixel layout (Super AMOLED Plus)

The next part is Plus. Both Super AMOLED and the original AMOLED use a PenTile subpixel rendering layout. Instead of 3 subpixels per pixel (RGB), AMOLED uses sets of 2 subpixels per pixel (RG-BG) to create the perception of the same effective resolution of an RGB stripe. The result is better informational efficiency - fewer subpixels to convey the perception of the same image. RG-BG PenTile is great in practice for things with organic structure, and not good for one pixel thick graphics, lines, or UI elements. Unfortunately, that includes text. Note that RGBW PenTile for LCD displays actually renders text brilliantly, but that’s a discussion for the Droid X2 review. 

  
Left: 100% zoom of Super AMOLED, Right: 100% zoom of Super AMOLED Plus (note that the color banding is aliasing from the camera sensor sampling)

As a result, Samsung has moved on from PenTile and introduced Super AMOLED Plus which brings all the benefits of an AMOLED display (blacks that are completely off, power savings on black, effectively infinite contrast, e.t.c.) with a full 3 subpixel per pixel RGB stripe that renders text and one pixel thick UI elements without any loss of resolution. 

Subpixel layouts aren’t of course all there are to talk about with Super AMOLED Plus. One of the things original AMOLED was often criticized for having was saturated colors, and rendering white with a definite blue cast. Moreover, one of my chief complaints has been that it used to seem like white point wasn’t stable across the brightness scale on older panels. We’re going to do display brightness reporting a bit differently from now on. Instead of just measuring at the maximum brightness, we will measure white point, white, and black at 100%, 75%, 50%, 25%, and 0% brightness on the device and report those, so we can track how linear the scale is, and white point. Inside the graph we will still report maximum brightness data. 

The display brightness scale on the Charge is nice and linear, almost perfectly so. Unfortunately it appears that Super AMOLED Plus still retains a slightly blueish cast as evidenced by color temperature above and around 8500K. Contrast still is as impressive as we’re used to seeing for AMOLED though, with essentially no reading on blacks due to the pixels being essentially off. 

Display Brightness

Display Brightness

The Charge’s display is exactly the same as what’s being used in the Galaxy S 2 - both are 4.3” WVGA 800x480 SAMOLED+. I feel like 4.3” is as big as one really should go with WVGA, and having seen qHD screens that are the same size, I find myself wishing that Samsung somehow had been able to make a qHD SAMOLED+ display. Alas, one can’t have one’s cake and eat it too, at least not yet. 

Viewing angles on the Charge’s SAMOLED+ display are also stellar, there’s virtually no color distortion as you move to extreme angles horizontally or vertically. It simply falls off to zero as you exceed some critical angle at the most extreme of angles, and that’s a good thing. 

That said, I do have a problem with SAMOLED+ right now, one that I didn’t notice ever with any other SAMOLED or AMOLED display. The problem is especially severe in my climate, where at the time of this writing it’s literally 110 F (43 C) outside - overheating. 

I’ve carried the Charge around for some time now, and noticed that when I spend lots of time outside using it in the sun, or leave it on my dashboard for navigation, the device will overheat and restrict maximum brightness to a little over half. As a result, display brightness is restricted right when you need it the most. If you let things get out of hand more, the Charge will disable battery charging to prevent the battery from exceeding safe operating temperatures in addition to keeping the display brightness low. 

I’ve had phones on my dashboard, in my pocket, and outdoors in the 110+ F climate here all the time, and never have I experienced this much overheating. I stood outside with the Charge and an IR thermometer and saw this behavior take place when the front glass hit 105 F consistently, which seems a bit low for restricting things, although inside it’s probably substantially warmer. I suspect I’ll see the same SAMOLED+ overheat brightness restrictions kick in with the Galaxy S 2 as well. If you’re in a cool climate, you essentially can ignore this, or if you’re in a warm climate but not going to use the device for Google navigation on your dashboard, this isn’t a huge concern either. However, in climates like mine, it’s a day to day annoyance if you’re outside with the phone in hand for any amount of time. I’m not even an outdoors person (by any stretch of the imagination), and even then I’ve seen the Charge do this little overheat dance a few times already. 

Software: Android 2.2.1 and TouchWiz A Droid with LTE: Samsung's LTE Baseband, VIA Telecom for 1x/EVDO
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  • tuhinz - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    The screenshots for the old and new builds are mixed up. Reply
  • Brian Klug - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    I'm going to clean things up, but I ended up taking a bunch of screenshots before the update, and then after, and figured I'd just show everything.

    -Brian
    Reply
  • Brian Klug - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    Oops I see what you mean now - D'oh, fixed.

    -Brian
    Reply
  • shaolin95 - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    You should be adding a comment about vsync and benchmarks like Neocore. Most phones will be fps capped like the Galaxy S ones to 55fps or so.
    Regards
    Reply
  • tayb - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    Come on. This is just getting absolutely ridiculous. Android 2.3 has been out since DECEMBER. That's 7 months ago. Why are we still getting phones with an OS that was replaced more than half a year ago. Reply
  • dagamer34 - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    To wrap this review up, if you want decent LTE battery life on your handset, wait for integrated GSM/CDMA/LTE chipsets. Reply
  • vision33r - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    Impatient Android users would never wait since they change phones every 6 months. Reply
  • PeteH - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    Do we know the timeframe on low-power integrated or LTE only chipsets? The limited battery life of these LTE devices in exchange for speed is a compromise I'm unwilling to make. Reply
  • EnerJi - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    Supposedly Qualcomm has said that their next-generation integrated chipset will ship in volume towards the end of the year. Usually, phones that take advantage of said chipset will lag by several months.

    However, the timing is close enough to the supposed launch of the iPhone 5 (or iPhone 4S) that there's a whisper of a chance it could launch on the next iPhone... Apple has proven a willingness to pay a large up-front sum to accelerate a supplier component launch and / or lock up supply of a component that puts them ahead of the competition, and this would be a huge differentiator if they could pull it off.
    Reply
  • Brian Klug - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    Absolutely, MSM8960 with Krait and integrated LTE should be very interesting to compare with this current architecture. Hopefully battery life is much improved.

    -Brian
    Reply

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