November 26, 2014

Are all Samsung Galaxy S screens created equally?

There is no doubting that the best screens on an Android phone right now belong to the Samsung Galaxy S line. Anyone who has heard Samsung talk about their screens, it’s almost like a mantra for them to talk about how the blacks are blacker, the colors are brighter, and it offers one of the best overall viewing experiences in direct sunlight. I have been fortunate enough to spend some quality time with all four Galaxy S devices, most recently the Epic 4G. To be honest, something about the experience felt a little off. Something about the icons, the way straight lines were drawn, or the way simple gradients showed up on the display was not the same as the other three Galaxy S phones. This lead me to ask this big question, and start up some serious research.

Are all Galaxy S screens created equally?

We already know that all Galaxy S phones aren’t created equally. The Epic 4G is clearly their flagship device, with it’s front facing camera and access to Sprint’s WiMax network. So what’s with this screen that’s bothering me so much? I hoped it was just a defective unit until I was able to look at others and compare them. All Galaxy S phones have this ailment, but what is it? What causes the Epic4G to display just slightly differently from it’s brothers and sisters? The answer was unfortunately simple. It seems that the Epic 4G has a slightly lower Dot Pitch from the Captivate, Fascinate, and Vibrant. This slight change is just enough for you to see a variant when comparing the screens, and caused someone like me to notice it immediately, but only because I had experienced all four devices. I suppose this means that this issue would never bother the average consumer, but it remains undeniable that the Epic 4G has a lower quality screen than the other three devices.

What is Dot Pitch, anyway? Most color screens have a red, green, and blue pixel aligned in a triad, and millions of these triads are all crammed together to make the screen. Dot Pitch is a specification that measure these triads, and the distance between them. It’s generally accepted that one of the most critical factors in image quality on a screen is the Dot Pitch of the monitor you are looking at. This same principal applies here in the mobile world as well, since we’re using the same technology. Upon a detailed evaluation of the four Samsung phones, I was able to see that the Captivate, Vibrant, and Fascinate all have the following:

Display-Color:Depth: 24 bit/pixel (16777216 scales)
Display;Diagonal: 4 ” (100.8 millimetres)
Display;Resolution: 480 x 800 (384000 pixels)
Viewable+Display+Size: 2.04 ” x 3.4 ” (51.86 x 86.44 millimetres)
Pixel-density_(dot-pitch): 235.1 pixel/inch (0.10804 millimetre/pixel)

However, the Epic 4G specs look like this:

Display:Color:Depth: 24 bit/pixel (16777216 scales)
Display;Diagonal: 4 ” (101 millimetres)
Display;Resolution: 480 x 800 (384000 pixels)
Viewable:Display+Size: 2.05 ” x 3.41 ” (51.96 x 86.61 millimetres)
Pixel:density_(dot_pitch): 234.6 pixel/inch (0.10826 millimetre/pixel)

As you can see, the Epic has a slightly larger screen, but the same number of pixels, which in turn causes a lower Dot Pitch, which will cause defined images like app icons to appear more pixelated. Additionally, any drawn straight lines, particularly white lines, will appear almost dotted instead of solid.

As I said before, this is mostly unnoticeable. Someone with 20/20 or better vision can see the pixels pretty clearly, but this does nothing to affect the rich color and daylight benefits of this device. Browsing the web and watching movies did not feel any different then on any of the other Samsung phones. The phone is still one of the best on the market, but it does show you that not all Galaxy S screens are, in fact, created equally.



  • Jamie

    You haven’t attempted to account for experimental error. What was your method? Your technique must have had a resolution of at least 0.1mm (1e-4m) to make those conclusions.

  • cece

    I really doubt that this little difference in size alone would cause noticeable difference in “visible pitch”. Just moving your eyes 1 cm closer to your phone would cause more difference (well, I did not do the exact math, but I must not be too wrong).

    Though I believe there might be some other differences in the screens…
    A macro- photo of each screen showing the same icons would help. If it is visible with the eyes only, it should show on a picture.

    I do own a Galaxy S (i9000). I could not compare to other galaxy models, but I can say I was really annoyed by the visible patterns of pixels in icons, solid bright colors, and visually dotted 1-pixel lines.

  • Le Data

    There’s an article here explaining how the screen of the Galaxy S (EU model) uses a trick with color subpixels, that is only visible to the trained eye.
    http://www.lesnumeriques.com/retina-vs-amoled-iphone-4-vs-galaxy-s-p966_9400_93.html
    Sorry that’s in French, but the pictures are explicit enough.

    The trick is that it does not use 3 color subpixels for each pixel.
    There is always a Green subpixel, but Red and Blue subpixels are “shared” with their Green neighboors.
    The first Samsung Galaxy dit not use that trick and had a “cleaner” screen, so it’s possible that not every Galaxy S variations in the US have the same screen, indeed.

    • cece

      I think all (S)AMOLED screens, (also Nexus One,…) do use this pattern. Really noticeable, whatever Samsung claims….

  • Jonathan

    I call bullshit on this. Are you seriously suggesting that a difference of 0.5 pixels per inch is leading to this purported degradation in display quality? We’re talking about a difference of 220 nanometers per pixel if those specifications are accurate. Have you been bitten by a radioactive spider recently? Because that’s the only way I would believe your claims to be able to tell these two dot pitches apart. I highly doubt I would be able to see a difference with my unaided eyes, all else being equal, and I would also be extremely skeptical of anyone else making this kind of claim. If a difference in quality does indeed exist, there are probably any number of much more plausible explanations. This “explanation” is so ridiculously outlandish that it’s laughable.

    • Russell Holly

      I am far from being alone in the sensation that the screen on the Epic 4G did not display things exactly the same way as the other phones. I never claimed to be able to look at these phones and say “you know, the dot pitch looks funny on this one – TO THE LAB!” but I did notice that there was SOMETHING different, and my research lead me to this conclusion. Yes, it is certainly possible that my conclusion was incomplete, as has been pointed out in other comments, but this line of thought started with a conversation regarding the screen quality of the Epic 4G versus the other Galaxy S phones with my colleagues.

      • Jonathan

        I’m not making a judgment about your perception of substantial differences in quality between the two screens. I haven’t compared the screens, so I can’t say anything personally about that component of your argument, although I do note that the perceived difference has not been systematically investigated. Your process of investigating causes for a potential difference is, however, fatally flawed. You failed to rule out more plausible explanations, and you provided no evidence linking your posited cause and effect. Just because there is a difference in dot pitch does not mean that it is the cause for the perceived difference in quality. Correlation does not equal causation.

      • Kyle

        No one is disagreeing with your claim that something is different about the Epic 4G’s screen when compared to the other Galaxy S screens. Most of us probably haven’t even seen both phones in person to make the claim one way or another. But what the spec sheets indicate is only a 0.2% increase in the size of each pixel. This is much, much, MUCH too small for any human to visually tell a difference. In addition, the spec sheets may very well just be rounded differently and the screens may actually be identical (in size, at least).

        This article is so embarrassing that you really should consider deleting it entirely to save face. While there may very well be a difference between the two screens, the dot pitch has absolutely NOTHING to do with it.

        “Most color screens have a red, green, and blue pixel aligned in a triad[…]”

        No, that only applies to computer CRT monitors. LCD screens never have a triad pattern. LCD screens still have something called a dot pitch, but it is defined differently than the image that you copy/pasted from Wikipedia. I don’t mean to be insulting, but anyone with even the slightest knowledge about LCD screens would have known this.

        “As you can see, the Epic has a slightly larger screen, but the same number of pixels, which in turn causes a lower Dot Pitch, […]”

        Again wrong, that would result in a larger dot pitch. Pixel density would decrease, but dot pitch would increase (as these two measurements are inversely related).

    • http://twitter.com/gamercore Chris Chavez

      I agree. The differences would NOT be noticeable with differences being so minuscule.

      The problem really is just with the placement of the pixels on SAMOLED/AMOLED. I’ve noticed the lines being dotted the second I picked one up (on both the Vibrant and the Epic, even the Nexus One). The pixel placement actually degrades quality and creates a “checkerboard effect” over everything although only some people will notice this.

      Most people are so amazed with the brighter colors to notice or even care about anything else. But I always have and it just comes down to if you prefer brighter colors and blacker blacks, or a clearer picture with normal colors and whiter whites.

      One of the reasons I prefer my Evo’s screen over the Epic’s.

      • Russell Holly

        This is an overly generalized statement that ignores the point I was making, which is that of the four Galaxy S phones the Epic 4G is DIFFERENT. Making the statement that it’s just because it’s SAMOLED/AMOLED does not make any sense at all.

    • Mark

      Ditto. BS.

  • Matt

    The author simply poses a question, provides a possible explanation, and states his conclusion based on very brief research.  True, some of the information is not entirely accurate. The author is merely saying that to him, the screens on the various devices are not the same and he’s trying to find a reason why.  If nothing else the article can inspire discussion on the topic.  Suggesting that an author completely remove an article of this nature just because there are technical inaccuracies to “save face” is ridiculous.  At most, an update could be appended to correct the mistakes. Despite what some people think, journalists are not perfect – they learn from their mistakes just like you and I.

  • Jason

    There is no way anyone can see that little of a difference. The reason the screens on the Galaxy S have a pixelated look, is because they are PenTile matrix based screens. Each pixel actually only contains 2 colors. Every pixel contains green because the human eye is most sensitive to green, and then alternating red and blue. So essentially, the screen resolution is 800 x 480 in green, and only 400 x 240 in red and blue.

    This article is clearly written by an idiot.

    • Russell Holly

      You may have noted, by reading the article, that this idiot was referring specifically to the difference you find when you place all four Galaxy S phones side by side. Have you dont this? Have any of you done this? No, I am willing to wager that you have not. If you place all four devices side-by-side, anyone who is not blind will see that there is a noticeable difference between the Epic and the other Galaxy S devices. If you had bothered to completely read y article instead of follow suit with the people in the comments field that actually know what they are talking about, you would find that while the conclusion as to WHY these are different may be flawed, the fact that they ARE different is irrefutable via visual evidence. Thanks for playing along.

  • http://www.androidspin.com Cameron Wright

    I must stand up and say that there is clearly a difference in the appearance of the Epic screen to the other Galaxy S phones in the states (all three carriers that I’ve seen). The problem is, once you notice the pixels, it’s over, period.
    After I noticed that I could see each individual pixel my love affair ended. Every time that I looked at the screen all I could see was the pixelation, it became distracting.

    How many of those who have commented have actually had the opportunity to hold all 4 of the Galaxy S models back to back, or have used them all for extended periods of time? I’m willing to bet at most, 1 of you. Just because you think you know doesn’t mean that you do. After nearly two weeks of using the Epic, Russell has a very good understanding of what he is trying to explain. Maybe he did not state the issue in the technically accurate way, I am certain that if it is in fact written incorrectly – he will make it right. But the comments like “This article is clearly written by an idiot.” just serve to make you look like the idiot. What qualifications do you have to prove that you are qualified to deem anyone an idiot? Especially when you have clearly went and boiled down the wikipedia entry to make yourself sound like you knew more. If you can actually offer information and are clearly the superior person, where do you write? I’d really like to read it. I’m always looking for expert commentary.

  • http://www.androidspin.com Cameron Wright

    I must stand up and say that there is clearly a difference in the appearance of the Epic screen to the other Galaxy S phones in the states (all three carriers that I’ve seen). The problem is, once you notice the pixels, it’s over, period.
    After I noticed that I could see each individual pixel my love affair ended. Every time that I looked at the screen all I could see was the pixelation, it became distracting.

    How many of those who have commented have actually had the opportunity to hold all 4 of the Galaxy S models back to back, or have used them all for extended periods of time? I’m willing to bet at most, 1 of you. Just because you think you know doesn’t mean that you do. After nearly two weeks of using the Epic, Russell has a very good understanding of what he is trying to explain. Maybe he did not state the issue in the technically accurate way, I am certain that if it is in fact written incorrectly – he will make it right. But the comments like “This article is clearly written by an idiot.” just serve to make you look like the idiot. What qualifications do you have to prove that you are qualified to deem anyone an idiot? Especially when you have clearly gone and boiled down the wikipedia entry to make yourself sound like you knew more. If you can actually offer information and are clearly the superior person, where do you write? I’d really like to read it. I’m always looking for expert commentary.

    • http://twitter.com/gamercore Chris Chavez

      And I, like Cameron saw the “checkerboard effect” and couldn’t handle it.

      Most people get so distracted by the over saturated colors of SAMOLED that they figure they can see every pixel because the display is so bright.

      Over saturated, maybe. But the SAMOLED display actually has these “dotted” straight lines and checkerboards over everything. Most people assume its the pixels but not so.

      You wont see this effect on any type of LCD display which is why I have always preferred SLCD over SAMOLED. Simply because of the picture clarity.

      Its like having a CRT tv with the color turned up to the max or a high def tv with the colors at a normal level.

      I’ll take high def please.

      • Mark

        BS

  • Eric

    I’ve had review galaxy s phones, captivate, vibrant, and epic, and there’s definitely a difference. I’m not a fan of samoled at all, since I prefer the more natural look of traditional lcd, and one of the first things I noticed about the galaxy phones, other than the over saturated color, was the pixelation you could see in them.

  • tob

    If you’re right, I’ll mention you to the IG Nobel.

    http://improbable.com/ig/ig-pastwinners.html

  • Mark

    That’s BS