The display of the Galaxy Note 3 is PenTile, but does it matter anymore?

by: Bogdan PetrovanSeptember 19, 2013

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 vs Samsung Galaxy S4-2 AA

The Galaxy Note 3 is one of the most exciting devices of the season, thanks to its great design and hardware, but also to its expansive 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display. Whenever it comes to Samsung phones though, there’s one question that people regularly ask: is the display PenTile or RGB?

We explained the difference between the PenTile and RGB subpixel arrangements many times, so we won’t rehash it here. If you’re interested in an in-depth explanation, check out our Note 2 vs Galaxy S3 display comparison.

The Galaxy Note 2 featured an RGB display, while for the Galaxy S4, Samsung opted for a PenTile arrangement with diamond-shaped subpixels. There was a bit of confusion about the display of the new Galaxy Note 3, but Samsung cleared it when it confirmed to AppDated that the Note features the same display technology as the Galaxy S4.

PenTile RGBG matrix on the Galaxy S4 (source: Samsung via DisplayMate Technologies)

PenTile matrix on the Galaxy S4. Notice the larger, diamond-shaped red and blue pixels

Early generations of PenTile displays suffered from a certain jaggedness that some users observed around fine graphic elements such as text and icons. Experts panned the display of the Galaxy S3 for this reason.

Notice the jaggedness around the text on the PenTile Galaxy S3

Notice the jagged halo around the text on the PenTile Galaxy S3

But as resolutions and pixel densities advanced, it became close to impossible for most users to discern the difference between an RGB and a PenTile matrix. These close-up shots of the displays of the Note 3, Galaxy S4, and the Note 2 illustrate this point very well.

Notice how there’s no blurriness around the text on the Galaxy Note 3 or Galaxy S4.

Galaxy Note 3 text closeup. Click to enlarge

Galaxy Note 3 text closeup. Click to enlarge

Galaxy Note 2 text closeup. Click to enlarge

Galaxy Note 2 text closeup. Click to enlarge

Galaxy S4 text closeup. Click to enlarge

Galaxy S4 text closeup. Click to enlarge

Galaxy Note 3 photo closeup. Click to enlarge

Galaxy Note 3 photo closeup. Click to enlarge

Galaxy Note 3 closeup. Click to enlarge

Galaxy Note 3 closeup. Click to enlarge

The conclusion is visible to the naked eye: at Full HD or higher resolutions, the difference between PenTile and RGB only matters from a technical perspective, for things like display lifespan, power consumption, and production costs. When it comes to the actual user experience though, the difference becomes unnoticeable.

Now Watch: Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Review

  • Mohd Danial

    Apple’s retina display is ageing

    • Tim COok

      Apple itself is aging.

    • Piyush

      But how can a display can be ageing its 320p , sorry i had to ask.Unless you can tell difference.

      • Mohd Danial

        Samsung’s 1080p pentile display is far superior then iphone’s retina display, iphone’s retina display its actually samsung’s own old amoled screen with minor modifications.

        • Piyush

          you are wrong dude apple uses lcd screen.

          • MasterMuffin

            How does your comment have 2 dislikes o.O

          • D’Ander McSullivan

            Maybe because he’s wrong?

          • Balraj

            He is right

          • D’Ander McSullivan

            No, he is not. Samsung doesn’t make Apple’s retina displays, but processors (and I’m not sure if they still do).

          • Balraj

            I was referring to piyush comment

          • das

            samsung actually make most of apples ” retina ” displays ,from the macbooks to the ipads to the ipods and iphones ,LG and sharp also make a fair share depending on the model and region

          • MasterMuffin

            So you think that Apple doesn’t use LCD, but actually they use modified old AMOLED screen? Wut?

          • Balraj

            Because he spoke about Apple
            Many here down vote ppl if they spk good about Apple lol

          • Raaj

            Sometimes.. whenever i see the word “Apple” in a tech blog.. hand automatically goes to the “dislike” section.. It doesn’t even matter if the comment is actually lambasting Apple..

            only “apple” stands out n nothing else.. n then there is a “dislike” or “down vote” and until someone points out what an incredible idiot I have been.. the smile remains glued to my face :D

          • MasterMuffin

            I admit I do the same sometimes :)

          • YoungHermit

            Some Apple Fanboys don’t even know what LCD displays are…

        • jumbo3220

          lolz ..Apple use a IPS LCD manufactured by LG.. not samsung went full retarded there. never go full retarded.

          • das

            while he went full retard ,LG isnt the only one to make the screens ,most are actually made by samsungs IPS/PLS panels ,dont assume LG is the only company they use

          • lolwat

            Full retard. Not full retarded. Pretty lame calling others a retard in a retarded manner.

      • Mohd Danial

        320p is like youtube vid at its worst.

        • Piyush

          its 320ppi(pixel per inch) , not 360p.

          • John

            iPhone’s pixel density is 326 ppi.

        • Yama

          ohh gosh….when some 50 yr old wana come into the conversation without knowing what it is about and wha to talk about….

          • MohJ

            Mohd Danial you just went full retard…

      • lil bit

        Here we go again. Its too easy to tell the difference between 320 and 440 ppi, how can you not see it?

        Some people just like to keep churning on how we dont need more than this and that and bla bla. You dont need more than a Lada communist car also, now tell me you cant tell the difference between lets say a Mazda 3 and a Lada?

    • Balraj

      So what
      Apple thinks retina display is fine.So be it
      What would you do with ultra hd tablet lol
      Hurt your eyes?…
      I read on web that Apple a7 clocked at 1.3ghz dual core processor is in par with snapdragon 800
      Also 5s gpu is fastest right now beating adreno 330
      Now that’s called competition
      Not adding more n more pixels to display….
      I might get down voted but face the fact.I always like competition..

      • viaimages

        i’m sorry, i don’t get your point. when you can put android on an ios device, then you can compare speed between the two, but as the apple os is, of course iphone will be faster than android. you talking about 2 very different OS’, one that is constantly multi-tasking and other running apps kinda like FIFO, first in first out

        • Balraj

          Lol are you trying to say quad-core processor is needed to multi task
          I have seen many apps which restart itself including browser.. in multitasking…
          It’s just oem race n marketing gimmick that you need quad-core n eightcore procesor n dont worry
          Display in android world will go ultra hd next year
          Poor eyes…

          • viaimages

            uhh Sir.. “Android” is a multi-tasking Operating System, whether it is on a 1x, 2x, 4x, 8x, or whatever core system

          • das

            funny how my older galaxy s4 with touchwizz has less UI lag than IOS7 on a brand spanking new iphone 5s with ” 64 bit processor “

      • joser116

        Place the 800 in the same iPhone and now you can compare. P.S. Snapdragon 800 is usually in phones that have Full HD 1080p screens, which makes it harder to achieve a high frame rate. I believe Apple’s screen is not even 720p.

        • Balraj

          I was referring to performance
          Hardware n software tightly integrated…even Google failed at it with nexus n Motorola
          But I still have hope
          N in android world, it’s all about high hardware..quad-core,eightcore,1080p,ultra hd display
          How many times an ios has been reported for bug?Google latest tablet had problems…software bug
          Oem using android don’t concentrate much on performance n satisfaction
          Android is great but not put to best use..
          Next year 3ghz quadcore processor lol lol n Qualcommitself makes videos stating most apps use maximum of two cores
          Idk where android world is heading to
          Nyways that’s my thought..

          • joser116

            I know you were

          • Balraj

            It beats..a7 gpu beats adreno 330 n even iPad gpu
            Just Google n see? A7 gpu is power vr series 6
            As I said,I still have faith in android n Google.just that spec war is useless…

          • das

            perhaps its because people PREFER a larger display than just ” optimised performance by having smaller displays ” ?
            the note series and iphone is an entirely different market ,performance is not the issue here ,its personal requirements ,to me a small phone with a small low res screen with lot of power is like having a nokia 3310 with a 2013 processor ,its too small to make any use of it

          • Sean Karpa

            Most of Google’s phones don’t get updates all at once.

    • questgraves

      Does anyone even know what “retina display” means? Back ages ago like a couple years, they determined that the human retina cannot see individual pixelation when holding the device at normal operating distance.Apple, loving buzzwords, coined the new display as the .Retina Display. Back then it was 2xx ppi on an iPhone. People still go on and on about it even though Apple uses much higher ppi today as do most high end phones. By that measure, nearly every phone should be called “retina display+” only Apple owns the term. which is fine because like I said before with pixels on the Note 3 being under 1archminute you cannot see them without doing what this article did and zoom in to show the differences.

  • Séverin Rubio

    yes, you rock !
    Thanks for this interesting test!

  • I don’t know how you can’t see a difference. For me Note 2 text image in the article is a lot sharper than N3 and S4, and there is visible different color blur on the newer devices. Not to mention that white on S4 is terrible, and PenTile displays have more greener whites.

    • MCrapp
      Terrible Display!You’re Terrible Troll!

      • I’m talking about the images in the article not the display itself which I never saw in person -_- Read my comment again.

    • These pics were taken on the show floor under variable lighting, so they shouldn’t be used to gauge white levels or tones.

    • get a magnifying glass and you will see the difference.

      • Blowntoaster

        and we use our devices with magnifying glasses every day because we can’t see anything on our 300 + PPI screens…

    • Abdel Aziz Farhi

      You’re sure ?.. Note 3’s screen seems to have more realistic colors and crispier look then the Note 2’s screen. the white is better as well.

    • lil bit

      What? Note 2 has a terrible display, that was part of the reason why i didnt keep my Note 2 very long, it was so pixelated and had so bad whites, 1 degree tilt would change the white from cold to warm, with yellowish or blue tones, but never WHITE regardless of viewing angle. Galaxy S4 is a very huge improvement in the display area, and i think Note 3 is also, even if it is Pentile it still has far more subpixels than Note 2.

  • Piyush

    For those who use htc one maybe they wont like pentile.

    • Mohd Danial


    • MasterMuffin

      If you told any user (that didn’t know that S4’s screen isn’t pentile and AMOLED) that S4’s screen is IPS display, they would say how sharp and amazing the screen is. But if they know that it’s pentile & AMOLED, they would suddenly start seeing pixels and how horrible the colors are :) There’s really no visible difference if you don’t compare the same photos side-by-side on the screens of the devices

      • Piyush

        BUT note 3 has 5.7inch screen.

        • Blowntoaster


  • satsmine2k4

    Pentile Matrix still matters: It’s not about pixelation but the color reproduction is very inaccurate…
    If given a choice between a Note 3 with Pentile and IPS LCD i would pick the IPS variant… but i still want the NOTE 3

    • Bone

      Color reproduction is related to AMOLED itself and the GS4 is a great improvement, Movie Mode is almost perfect beating out the HTC One for example, and closing on the iPhone 5. The Note III using the S4 pen-tile variant is good news both for purists and fans of 2 days heavy usage.

      • satsmine2k4

        Agree the display on the S4 is marked improvement over … say the S3… I have one in hand now and it has serious brightness concerns… Max brightness of S4 = 288, HTC one = 460, LG G2 = 438, ip5 = 538 and Min brightness of S4 = 10, one = 14, LG G2 =8 and ip5= 5. (all in nits)…
        So the s4 looses on all counts, which means direct sunlight visiblity is a huge issue…

        • Quryous

          Excessive brightness also has the downside of washing out colors and, especially, details in light areas.

          I find that Samsung’s Note 2 is a nice compromise, easy to read and comfortable to the eyes, and I NEVER turn brightness all the way up. Don’t need to.

          I fully expect the same on my upcoming Note 3.


        • Abdel Aziz Farhi

          Maybe. But basing on my everyday usage, my SG4’s brightness is perfect for every possible environement i’ve been to. Why wasting more energy on something i don’t really need. i never used full brightness capacity anyways since i always keep auto brightness ON.

        • Blowntoaster

          I’ve handled several S4’s and the brightness is not an issue . It can hold it’s own agains an Iphone 5, which according to a lot of sites has better sunlight legibility than most phones. unless you stand under a spotlight in the brightest hour of the day, you’ll still be able to see everything on the screen clearly. the Screen is more than bright and crisp enough. numbers mean nothing in real life mate. go try one for yourself.

  • the problem with S3 was a fragile easily broken thing, and i needed to change display it costs like new one.
    As for Amoled it’s better picture than LCD for sure, but uses the charge very quickly.
    So give back Motorolla RAZR!

  • dandroid13

    It matters only to the whiners…

  • RaptorOO7

    I do get why some people hate pentile displays, but honestly given the size, resolution and overall specs of this beast I could give a hoot about it. I just want mine now, not in 3 weeks.

    • yawhRIGHT

      I’m sure SAMSUNG is pleased to here that provided that you actually follow through and buy it when it come out :D

    • Barrett Jasper

      just ordered mine today. It should be here in a couple days. I loved my note 2 but updated to the HTC One because of its blaster. HTC One audio with beats hardware is nice but the Galaxy Note 3 is a total beast without Beats Audio but I don’t care about the audio so much. The larger screen and the snapdragon 800 paired up with a micro SD card slot is going to make one hell of a device to have. I cannot wait. :-)

  • RaptorOO7

    Face it CrApple doesn’t innovate much of anything, all of the tech that goes into their mobile devices are engineering, mfg and supplied by other companies like Sharp, LG, Samsung, Broadcom, etc. Apple doesn’t do squat.

  • cheapASSsammy

    note 3:

    -fake 1080 screen (the s4 looks a tad better than note 3 becuase of the extra ppi)
    -25% less bright than the s4 (gsmarena reported this)
    -fake leather
    -crappier s-pen compared to the one from the note 2 due to it being smaller
    -no improvements in s-pen hardware like more pressure sensitivity
    -only 100mah enlargement in battery
    -touchwiz bloated as ever
    -same camera with no OIS
    -speakers as MEH
    -no exynos standardize dispite all that bs that said at ces 2013- what a joke

    the good
    -3 gig of ram—- don’t know if the US version will have the faster 933mhz or the slower 800 mhz

    – 32 gig of storage plus micro sd

    I think sammy went cheap on us

    • Blowntoaster

      whine whine whine. it’s a better all round device, and you know it.

      lighter, thinner, easier to hold. faster, better screen overall. Better exterior feels that is less prone to greasiness/fingerprints. better s pen features. faster memory.

      Yes, the Note 2 will probably get a lot of those S Pen features in the 4.3 update somewhere in Q4,

      it’s one of the best Android devices of 2013 and it hasn’t even been officially launched yet. just as the Note 2 was one of the best Android devices of 2012…

    • David

      So many wrong facts…

    • Jay P

      Are you kidding? The Note3 has a 600+ nit brightness.. approx 40% brighter than the S4 – do your homework!

  • Valter Nascimento

    But does it have gorilla glass 3? I don’t see the spec anywhere

    • Brian Shieh

      Should…the s4 had it

  • Alex Zhao

    Hope note3 can drive s4 price down, so I can get one

  • questgraves

    Look doesn’t matter anymore. The note 3 is not PenTile, but not RGB either. at the size of the pixels being under 1 arcminute you cannot tell with your eyes. period. this example blows up the size by so much to show the difference but you would never know it otherwise

    • jbo5112

      If I cannot see it, then why did the jagged vertical lines in my black text start driving me crazy? I could also sometimes see the angled pattern that is visible in some of the pictures. The 1 arcminute is for 20/20 vision, which is average (possibly below average if you account for glasses). I’ve seen figures as low as 0.4 arcminute for someone with good vision.

  • questgraves

    I do appreciate this article if I didn’t make that clear. Thank you AA for the text comparisons. It doesn’t matter in real world application but without a good investigation, we tech heads would have nothing to read and debate ;)

  • Powerhawk5000

    You can still see a diamond pattern effect from the pentile layout on these screens, and a true RGB stripe panel like the ones Sony, LG, HTC, Apple, and some others use still offers better clarity on small text and graphic elements.

  • Ronny

    the “FULL HD” declaration is flase and missleading, as the display is NO BETTER then the 720p on the NOTE2, since you are missing half of the red and half of the blue subpixels! that means that only green can be FULL HD. someone shuld sue samsung for false advertising.
    FULL HD means 2MP x 3 subpixles, (total of 6MP)
    the display has 2MP of green but only 1MP of blue/red. total of only 4MP,
    meaning the avarage is 1.3MP

    • das

      wrong u no nothng retard

  • Daniel Ryslink

    Pentile matrix display always produces inferior image. Ramping up the resolution helps to mask the defects, but does not eliminate them.

    Play a game like God of Blades, there are levels that are drawn exclusively with red shades on black, you will see the grainy, dithered shades everywhere.

    Human eye perceives red, blue and green colors separately with different receptors. Pentile display display these three images with different resolutions – green in full, blue in half resolution, red in half.

    RGB stripe display displays all the three color channels in full resolution. It’s a huge difference in terms of quality, and the result is blurry image and dithered color transitions.