Display Analysis

Before getting into our typical display analysis, I wanted to address a question that I'm sure some people have. A quick examination of a Tab S2 8.0's subpixel arrangement confirms that the smaller model uses a PenTile subpixel arrangement, and there's significant artifacting on the edges of icons and text, with the issue being very pronounced with thin weighted fonts. This is a big disappointment for users who prefer small tablets, and I would almost hesitate to recommend the smaller model for that reason alone because of how prevalent the issue is.

While the smaller model of the Tab S2 uses diamond PenTile, the Tab S2 9.7" does use an RGB-like subpixel arrangement, and it's essentially the same as the one used on the original Tab S 10.5. In practice there aren't really any artifacts as a result of the subpixels not being lined up exactly like a conventional LCD display, and it looks every bit as sharp as the iPad Air 2 which is exactly what I had hoped for.

To test the various attributes of the Tab S2 9.7's display I've run it through out standard display workflow. All measurements are done with an X-Rite i1Pro 2 spectrophotometer, and in the case of LCD devices the contrast measurements are done with an i1Display Pro colorimeter. SpectraCal's CalMAN 5 software is used for measuring and collecting data, and for generating graphs that are relatively easy to understand.

Display - Max Brightness

The Average Picture Level (APL) of an image can be thought of as a percentage expressing the luminance relative to a 100% white display. Since AMOLED displays target a given power consumption but can save power by turning off black pixels they can push a higher maximum brightness when the display's APL is low. Above you can see how the maximum brightness of white scales with average picture level. Real world use cases tend to be somewhere around 80% APL, and while there are always exceptions, this trend has continued with Google's new guidelines for designing Material Design applications. What's important about this chart is it shows that in most scenarios the Tab S2 9.7 actually isn't any dimmer than a tablet like the iPad Air 2, and much brighter than the original Tab S.

As for contrast, there's no point in displaying a chart, as Samsung's AMOLED displays can simply shut off pixels and achieve infinite contrast and true blacks. There's really nothing that comes close on any LCD-based tablet, and the true blacks of AMOLED displays simply become even more stunning as you scale up from a phone to a tablet, and again from a tablet to a television.

Display - White Point

Display - Grayscale Accuracy

Samsung's AMOLED calibration has improved tremedously in recent years, and the Tab S2 9.7 is no exception. The greyscale has a very high level of accuracy, with very low errors across the board. When you move past 70% white there is a degree of green tinting to whites and greys that appears, and this is noticeable during general use. I did find it to be somewhat bothersome, but I think this is mostly due to the fact that I test and use many different devices regularly. If the Tab S2 9.7 was my only tablet I would be perfectly happy with the level of calibration, and I would get used to the good but not perfect calibration when shades approach 100% white.

Display - Saturation Accuracy

Saturation accuracy on the Tab S2 9.7 is phenomenal. It's better than every other tablet except for the Microsoft Surface 3, and at this point you would really be hard pressed to see errors in the rendering of pure primary and secondary colors. Most of the errors seem to be at the very extreme 100% saturations, and in daily use I never felt like the appearance of colors was off in any way.

Display - GMB Accuracy

In the Gretag-Macbeth ColorChecker test we again see a very high level of color accuracy on the Tab S2 9.7. The biggest contribution to errors are actually the grey shades that are tested, along with some slight errors in red and blue based color mixtures. To criticize these results would honestly be pedantry, as unless your tablet workflow involves editing videos and photos with absolutely no visible color errors the Tab S2 9.7 provides a more than sufficient level of accuracy.

There's really not much else to say about the Tab S2 9.7's display. Samsung has really done a great job with calibrating the displays on recent AMOLED devices, and the Tab S2 9.7 offers a display that is just as good as any other tablet. One could argue that the true blacks actually put the Tab S2 9.7 ahead of the competition, and I would be inclined to agree. My only complaint is that the iPad Air 2 with its AR coating tends to be a bit more usable outside and in other scenarios where there are heavy reflections. There's really no way to conclude which tablet offers the absolute best display, but I think it would be correct to say that in most cases the Tab S2 9.7's display is as good, if not better than any other tablet on the market.

System Performance Cont'd: GPU and NAND Camera and WiFi


View All Comments

  • WorldWithoutMadness - Thursday, October 15, 2015 - link

    Pardon, is it typo on intro and design table, 'Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8.4" ', is it really S2 or Samsung went wonky with this tablet line? Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Thursday, October 15, 2015 - link

    That was indeed a typo. Thanks! Reply
  • donnieevans - Saturday, November 14, 2015 - link

    I have a Samsung Galaxy Note Pro and this is the best table I've ever had! It's 32GB, can open multiple apps at the same time. The display is also amazing! Found at: http://www.consumerrunner.com/top-10-best-tablets/ Reply
  • GodHatesFAQs - Thursday, October 15, 2015 - link

    I bought a Tab S 8.0 earlier in the month, but had to return it over PenTile pixel arrangement which caused everything to look fuzzy and was not sharp at all. Display just didn't have the wow factor of last year's model. I think around 400ppi on RGB or 600ppi on RGBG PenTile is the real limit (at least for my eyes) for a display to be really sharp.

    I really hope Apple moves to 3072x2034 (3x rather than 2x) with iPad Air 3 with locally dimmed backlight like the iPhone 6s/Plus. It won't be as deep black as AMOLED displays, but I'm not willing to sacrifice sharpness for deep blacks.
  • Solandri - Thursday, October 15, 2015 - link

    The whole point of pentile RGBG is that you don't need 600 ppi RGBG to equal 400 ppi RGB. The green resolution for that pentile display would be 600 ppi, while the red and blue would be 300 ppi.

    Your eyes are sharpest in green, with blue being really bad, and red only slightly better. Pentile attempts to match that (or put another way, RGB has way more R and B subpixels than it needs. Just look at the images on this site where the R, G, and B channels have been reduced to 1/3 and 1/4 their original resolution. The image with the reduced blue channel is nearly indistinguishable from the original. The one with the reduced red channel is barely distinguishable. While the one with the reduced green channel is absolutely terrible.


    In other words, if the individual pixels are smaller than the resolving limit of your eye (about 0.5 arc-minutes), then 400 ppi RGB can be replicated with 400 ppi RGBG pentile. If you don't believe me, consider that every color video format uses this trick to reduce bandwidth by reducing blue and usually red resolution. You've already been looking at the equivalent of pentile images on TV your entire life.
  • krumme - Thursday, October 15, 2015 - link

    Look at samsung galaxy s2 rgb next to a s3 pentile and its pretty obvious the s3 is far far sharper subjectively.
    As for the tab s2 beeing unsharp its damn nonsense to me and i regard myself as very sensitive and prefer higher than 1080p on a 5 display. I dont know how close the person above uses the tab s2 but for my part its very much like my note 3 and it means the tab s2 looks sharper to me.
    Now the s2 is damn light. Only a bit more than a s6plus lol so you use it more like a smartphone but never is it closer than 40cm for my usage. Its a 8 inch.
  • Wwhat - Tuesday, October 20, 2015 - link

    NTSC was a very bad example of a color format, and you switched cause and consequence around, they had too little bandwidth, so they used desperate tricks to cram color into it, that's not an ideal situation.

    The same thing is still done but now to save cost and chip/PCB bandwidth, but that doesn't mean it's equal to the real thing.
    Plus they go for the average person, which means that there can be a large number of people for whom it DOES make a difference.

    Hell, when they introduced MP3 they also said that 128Kbit (and joint stereo) was the same as CD quality 'basically' (sometimes they even claimed the same for half that bitrate). But such things are based on theoretical papers and on the average person and on 'good enough for now' thinking, and don't represent a perfect world.

    The difference between a person with very sharp eyesight and the average person can be astounding, some people have twice or even four times better eyesight than average. There are notable incidents in that with famous astronomers and jet fighter pilots demonstrating the difference in a pronounced manner. And it's a pure coincidence if you are such a person, but they do exist. But at the same time there are many people who truly could not tell the difference of course, but there is no reason to start denying each other's existence. Nor is there a reason to feel superior/inferior since we all have strengths and weaknesses in various areas.
  • thedons1983 - Saturday, October 17, 2015 - link

    I'm sorry, but there is something wrong with your eyes... The one thing that these tablets have going for them, is the incredible screen. If you can't appreciate the quality of it, then there is something wrong with your sight. Reply
  • theduckofdeath - Sunday, October 18, 2015 - link

    Full time Apple trolls on the internet?! What a shocker! Reply
  • lurker22 - Thursday, October 15, 2015 - link

    Issue with android tablets, will they get software updates in a year or two Reply

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