Samsung Galaxy Note vs. Galaxy Note 2 Display Comparison

by: Mike AndriciSeptember 6, 2012

samsung galaxy-note-2-display
Now that the dust has finally settled over the announcement of the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, we noticed that a very important detail has escaped most analysis regarding the display on the second generation phablet. As a consequence, I’m now here to right my wrongs and further discuss the differences between the display of the original Galaxy Note and that of the Galaxy Note 2. If you’re interested in an overall comparison, check out our Samsung Galaxy Note 2 vs Galaxy Note (original) article.

Back a few days ago at IFA 2012, when Samsung announced their Galaxy Note 2 and its 5.5 inch Super AMOLED HD display, most people (myself included) assumed that this is a PenTile display. This assumption was backed by the fact that Samsung has officially stated several months ago that the PenTile subpixel arrangement significantly improves the lifetime of the display (so we were guessing that they’ll keep using the technology they were protecting), as well by the fact that Samsung usually markets its non-PenTile displays as Super AMOLED Plus. Fortunately for all — except other display manufacturers of course — the display used by Samsung on the Galaxy Note 2 turns out not to be PenTile after all.

Instead, Samsung has opted for an RGB matrix, although the arrangement of the subpixels is certainly unique. This really changes the way we should think of the Note 2 display. But first, here’s a close-up image to prove it:

Initially, many fans have complained about the fact the Galaxy Note 2 shows a lower PPI (Pixel Per Inch) than the original Galaxy Note. This was due to the fact that, at 5.3 inches in diagonal, the PenTile display on the original Note was using a resolution of 800 x 1280, thus reaching a PPI of 285. The Note 2 has a 5.55 inch screen (0.25 extra across the diagonal) and a 720 x 1280 resolution (so that’s 80×1280 less actual pixels), meaning that the display has a PPI that rests slightly below 265.

But since the display on the Note 2 is actually not PenTile, but uses a uniquely arranged RGB matrix, what could have previously been viewed as a downgrade is, in fact, a significant upgrade.

While some argue that the differences between a PenTile display and one based on a RGB matrix are not significant, Samsung sure has received a lot of criticism on this aspect from some areas of the Android community. Those that have been criticizing the PenTile arrangement in past displays won’t have absolutely anything to complain about when it comes to the Galaxy Note 2 display.

Now there’s a small observation I’d like to make about the PPI value for the Galaxy Note 2 display: many observers have calculated the PPI ratio of the Note Two’s display using 5.5 inches as the surface value, but the extra 0.05 inches should also be counted for an exact value. So that’s why you’ll see that many websites say that the PPI is 267, instead of 265. The difference is not observable though, so I’m probably just nitpicking right now!

And then there’s yet another aspect that has been rarely discussed about the difference between the display on the original Galaxy Note and that of its successor, on that has everything to do with the aspect ratio. This was first brought in by one of our readers, by the name of Michael Ma. I’m going to quote him directly, as I’ve done the math and it checks out:

The Galaxy Note 2 screen is significantly better for 720p videos. Because of the 80 extra pixels on the original note, 720p video would only use about 4.77″ of the 5.3″ screen, with 80 pixels of black top and bottom. However, when you play 720p video on the Galaxy Note 2, you would use the entire 5.55″ screen with no black bars top and bottom. So, for 720p video only, you are gaining 0.78 inches diagonally. It is a pretty huge improvement for video watching.

I admit it! I was one to think that Samsung made no real improvements to the display of the Note 2 when compared against the original. But I was pleasantly surprised to find out, this is not the case. It sure seemed strange for Samsung not to push on the fact that they are the absolute leaders in the SAMOLED scene, a position that it has earned by investing heaps of money in its R&D process.

What do you guys make of it? Do these new bits of info solve any eventual worries that you might have had regarding the display on the Galaxy Note 2? Let us know in the comment section below!

  • YAY!
    Im actually glad its better than the Note 1.
    Now Im fully convinced on the Note 2! Gonna get it!

  • All smartphone and tablet displays should be 16:9.

  • must…have…this….giant….phone….

  • Sam

    At 5.5 inches they can legally call it a Phablet. Any smaller or bigger will fall back into its rightful category. I gotta have this sweet phablet!

  • Chris Millhorn

    I want this phone NOW!!!!! Everything about it gets better & better!! AT&T can’t get this phone fast enough! Thank You Sammy!
    Apple can go screw!
    BTW, Thanks Mike for a great article!

  • Sidney Ross

    I watch videos on my note all of the time. When I hit the full screen button there are no black lines. I see video on the full screen and the white bezel.


      Exactly what I was thinking Sidney. I never watch videos leaving the black bars either on my Galaxy Note or on my LCD TV. I always adjust the picture to get the maximum viewable screen size, so I dont see the arguement of the bars to me just seems like a way to make the new screen seem less of a let down. – KID ANDROID

      • Visic

        All your doing is streching the picture into a 16:10 aspect ratio, and introducing distortion as a result.

  • Shasy

    It’s good to know that Samsung has come up with an improved display. But I still didn’t get the actual ppi on the Note 2, how much would it be? With the improved RGB display? If you had to give the exact ppi, would it cross the 300 mark?

    • Mihai Andrici

      The exact PPI value for the display on the Note 2 is 264.61!

  • HappyDude

    In my opinion 16:10 is best for reading and even for writing. Of course, in the world we live in entertainment is far more important than reading and writing :-/

  • Zebelious

    In my opinion 16:10 is best for reading and even for writing. Of course, in the world we live entertainment is far more important than reading and writing :-/

    • jerrymcafee

      I agree! 16×10 is more tablet-like; more web content fills the screen and the extra width spreads out the keyboard nicely. I wish Sammy had retained the 1280×800 resolution from the Note to the Note II, but I can live with 1280×720 for all the other perks it brings to the party. (And lets see how Apple can keep the Note II off the market by saying it stole from the iPhone! Give me a break, PLEEEEZ!!)

  • Ozzy

    I see why Sammy didn’t say anything about the new display. After all they are still trying to sell the galaxy 3 with the pentile display

  • mo2921

    It is so nice to read something wrote about the new Note 2 by someone that know’s what they are talking about. I was one of the first to think it was going to be a let down because of Rez on the screen going down from 1280X800 to 1280X720 but after reading this I am now happy knowing that the new Note 2 is not going to let anyone down and that it will without question fast become one of the best phones around

  • Fly Navy

    This was a great review – not just regurgitating known facts.

    I’m switching from an iPhone to the Note 2. I’m always looking on the Note for and your site has been very helpful.


    • I completely agree.. finally some review that doesn’t compare the curves of screen sizes..
      good job!

  • Hey

    I have the Samsung Galaxy Note but after reading this review, it made me smile, really!. I am thinking of upgrading to Note 2, but I hope that they have fixed the Black clipping issue that the Samsung Galaxy Note was suffering from. That was really bad, since one of my main reasons I bought the Galaxy Note was because I wanted to watch Youtube videos and movies on it.

    Thanks for this review, can’t wait till October arrives! Hurry up Samsung, release this Galaxy Note II as fast as possible. :-D :-D

  • Mint

    It seems that both you and Michael Ma rather suck at math. 720p on a 16:10 display is only going to lose 2.7% on the diagonal, so it’d be 5.16″ on the Galaxy Note. Granted, 5.5″ still has a 14% larger area than that, so it’s noticeable.

    • Mark Pashmfouroush

      the point is that 1280×800 is 16:10 whereas 1280×720 is 16:9, note 2 has standardised tv aspect ratio for videos, i am writing this on a 16:10 tablet at 1280×800 after watching a 16:9 movie.

  • xbexbox

    this article answered all my questions i was thinking of not getting it since the display resolution was.lower than the original note but now i see what samsung did :D they actually upgraded it by adding w.e says on the article lol im gettong it for t-mobile there are rumors that its coming with a quadcore processor is this true ???????

  • shayne

    Thanks for the article, great info….Now, bring the bad boy out already !! To my iphone; I love ya, but ya gotta go !

  • Even at the home screen, note 2 display better than note 1. Or only when you look video?

    • Visic

      That would depend on how the new pixel layout effects it.

  • orcopet

    I am surprised that the galaxy note 2 is not fitted with a RETINA display, for a screen of this size.

    • Conal

      Screen size has nothing to do with Retina Display, Retina display is when Apple squeese so many pixels per inch into their products, that the human eye can not see any pixels.

      • Not true. Screen size has everything to do with their term “retina display”. The retina display has two factors, screen size and distance from your eyes. Really, the thing that doesn’t matter is PPI.
        If you have a 50×50 PPI display, it is also a retina display…if you hold it far enough away that you cannot see the pixels.
        If you hold the iphone closer to your face than than apple thinks you should, you will see the pixels and hence the iPhone is no longer a retina display.
        Since I don’t know the facts…or hard numbers, let me pull this out of my arse.
        If apple says at 10″ from your face and you have a 3.5 inch display with a PPI of 350, then it’s a retina display. You, AT 10″ cannot see pixels. If you move it to 9″ from your face, you would need a higher PPI to make it a retina dispaly (so you couldn’t see the pixels). If you have a larger screen, say 5.5 inches, then you would hold the phone 15″ from your face. At 15″ from your face and 5.5 inch screen, and 280 PPI, you don’t see pixels, then it is a “retina display”.

  • jinn

    Good products speaks for itself when you use it. The N9 was a prime example. Thanks for clearing up the only question left in my mind (is the display RGB or Pentile). I am definately getting this baby after reading this article. ;)

  • Bidyut Chatterjee

    Excellent technical review abut the screen resolution !! I too having an impression that Note-2 has degraded screen. Your analysis made me happy and now I can think to switch over to Note-2 from my original Galaxy Note.
    These days without Galaxy Note to me is no life !!
    It’s a kind of a limb in my body………

  • Ishibs

    Thanks buddy for this great review on dispaly. This was the area that needed clarity. YOu are the man.

  • Lopezinsky

    This to me is a game changer, I was really let down on the idea that the display would decrease in ppi and STILL maintain the pentile screen (which is unbearable when editing pictures as it over-saturates them and ruins color accuracy, leading me to ditch the Samsung Galaxy Note 1 for the HTC Evo 4g lte). But upon hearing the news on a pocketnow video review of the Note 2 and reading this article and others I’m tempted to get this beast when it comes. Unless of course something better at the same size comes along, say by HTC.

  • S2 Commander

    Yes, excellent article that directly answered and eliminated my biggest concern about the Galaxy Note 2.

    Thank you!

  • kooseman

    How is the screen resolution on the Note when looking at facebook photos
    etc…compared to the iphone. I hope not pixelated, that could be a
    deal breaker for me. I tried an S2 last year and the photos didn’t look anywhere near as sharp as on the iphone.

  • kak

    I can’t wait, i’m with sprint and was so dissapointed when the galaxy note did not come to my carrier, but with it being very likley that the Note 2 is coming. i cant stop talking about it.

  • rub.l

    PenTile=better lifetime of the display (Note 1/Samsung explanation).
    Nobody cares about durability ? SGN2-$800/year, then SGN3 ??

    • Daniel_Wikholm

      Sacrificing image quality to make the screen last beyond the point where the entire device has become obsolete anyway wouldn’t really make much sense.

  • Bidyut Chatterjee

    I prefeed to read your study on pixel density of Galaxy Note-2 once again to clarify about degradation of screen in Note-2. Your observation is fantastic and commendable…..
    Keep writing such technical Know-How for people.
    Thanking you….

  • rishit chopra

    So… Should i switch to note 2 from note 1????

  • Rinat Tarzumanov

    I m open same image in JUstPictures app…
    on NOTE1 photo lock more sharpen…. on note2 have small blure…
    I hope that this is due to cusom filmmware i use on note1…
    PS. NOte2 screen is good, but do not seem to use the actual/Native resolution for some applications(google crome, JustPictures)

  • captain smoothe

    yes thank u brother i was racking the shit out of my brain weather to get the first galaxy note and now im definitely getting the note 2 your right i dont want no stinking black top and bottom bars so again thanks for clearing that up

  • Tarun Verma

    I’m a bit confused. In an amoled screen, when blacks are shown, the pixels turn off. But, when I went in a completely dark room and had a fully black picture on my Note 2, the display seemed to be lit up. :/ Any thoughts?