Samsung Galaxy S3 and iPhone 5 displays compared again, Apple’s panel narrowly wins

by: AdrianOctober 16, 2012

You’re always going to have people accusing you of not being objective when you pit an Android device against one of Apple’s iPhones, but can anyone challenge science? We don’t know about that, although we would definitely like to, seeing as a sciency test performed by Cnet has the iPhone 5 coming out on top in a screen comparison with our beloved Samsung Galaxy S3.

At a first shallow glance, one might think that S3’s 4.8-inch Super AMOLED panel with 1280 x 720 pixels resolution is superior to iPhone 5’s petite 4-incher with 1136 x 640 pix res. However, it seems that the “enemy” wins the brightness and color accuracy contests, while our go-to super-phone only has the contrast ratio as an ace up its sleeve.

The numbers

Cnet’s nifty little table below sums up the average measurements took from three samples of both phones, with the brightness sliders set successively to half and full and the ambient light sensor turned off.

I’m not going to bore you with all the scientific details about the methodology used in the comparison, but what you have to know is that the tests were performed with state-of-the-art highly reliable equipment.

In theory, there should have been no room for human error or subjectivity during these measurements, though I’m sure voices of conspiracy theorists will arise anyway.

What do the numbers mean

As you can easily notice from the comparison chart, there are a few sections where the gap between the two phones’ numbers is mind-boggling large. The iPhone 5’s display can get almost four times as bright as the Galaxy S3, which should make a major difference in bright lighting conditions such as under direct sunlight.

It’s a clear 1-0 for iPhone 5’s screen so far, but the S3’s display is capable of knocking down its opponent too in the contrast ratio battle. 11,253:1 vs 1,134:1 is the result of this fight, which means that in dark environments the Android “king” is capable of much “punchier” images (about ten times punchier as a matter of fact).

So it’s a tie again, 1-1, which means that it all comes down to the color reproduction, accuracy and temperature. Here, things are much tighter, but the Galaxy S3 loses in the end mostly due to the “distorted color gamut” we’ve talked about a few times in the past.

You might remember that we told you the S3 sometimes produces images that are simply greener than they should be (and not in an eco-friendly kind of way), and Cnet’s test unfortunately confirms that. Both panels are minus-red and plus blue, but, as you can see from the below image of the two color gamuts, the iPhone’s colors are simply more natural.

In a correct color gamut, the colored circles should appear as close to the squares as possible.
(Credit: David Katzmaier/CalMan 4 )

The S3 has slightly warmer colors, which helps the screen get back on its feet, but ultimately if you prefer natural-looking images the iPhone 5 is the device with the better display. Then again, there might be people among you that prefer oversaturated colors, and if that’s the case the S3 is still your go-to phone.

Wrap up

I’m still not sure if you can contest science, but what we can do is say that real life phone usage has nothing to do with it. You can’t decide if a device is better for you just by looking at some numbers, and you definitely can’t decide when the numbers are so close. Not to mention that this is not the first display comparison we’ve seen between the S3 and iPhone 5, with a previous one saying a whole different thing. Or that it’s not all about the screens. Are you with me?



  • dwafw

    Why is it that there’s always comparison with the S3 but not with the newer Note 2 which has a superior screen?

    • azsxdc

      Maybe the people conducting the tests didn’t have the Note 2 in hand. Also, iPhone vs SIII is a more relevant comparison because of their size and people are more likely to be comparing these two.

    • Guest

      Or compare it to the htc one x, which has a better display than the S3…

    • Guest

      Or compare it to the htc one X which has a better screen than the S3…

  • THEY ARE BOTH THE SAME!!!! first it was iphone retina then samoled then iphone retina again then next samoled!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Seriously,why does no one compare the iPhone 5’s display against the One X rather than the S3? The One X clearly has the best display among the current gen Android phones.

    • Ray

      Wrong. The Super AMOLED screen on the S3 is better.

      • Cycad007

        How is Faris wrong? Most reviews (PC Mag, PhoneArena, MobileTechReview) have consistently stated that the One X has a *SUPERIOR* display than the Galaxy S3. Not only that…but the One X’s display won’t degrade over time like the S3’s! Do some research BEFORE talking!

  • mggiphone

    I do not think the screen comparison is valid.

    The human eye does not follow the “official” rules for color saturation or accuracy and all things are subjective.

    I have a 4s and the screen is very small. In normal use I have to keep the 3.5″ screen closer to my face that I would a 4.8″ and that has nothing to do with how bright the screen is. It’s just hard to read when the font small. So if I keep the SamsungGS3 at the same distance from my face as the iphone5 I will have a GIANT screen. The perceived screen size needs to be evaluated based on the distance from eyes. Same thing as when you get closer to the TV so that you see it bigger.

    The tests that are needed are for the normal viewing distance and it needs to include screen resolution, contract, distortion and color reproduction. This can be the same tests as for digital cameras and lenses.

    Even though my 4s has great 326 ppi the GS3 has 306 so the difference is not that big, and certainly not that perceptible to the human eye. Pentile or not.

    4s=640×960 GS3=720×1280 … so that would mean I have an extra 320×80 area available to display stuff. … should that extra space be factored in the evaluation ? …

    They can do as many reviews as they want, but at the end of the day the GS3 display is more “usefull” than the iphone5.

  • ffoenix

    I just got an iPhone 5 to replace my SIII and yes, the display is excellent.

    • Ray

      So you downgraded from a Ferrari Enzo to a Toyota Camry? Smart choice Einstein.

      • Know why a Ferrari cost more “Einstein”? It’s made out of better materials. SIII is primarily plastic and a lot more fragile than iPhone 5. The iPhone 5 is diamond cut, made out of aluminum/glass, and has camera made out of sapphire crystal. All that vs a big plastic phone that’s fragile and has a weaker screen. Clearly SIII is the Ferrari in your comparison, lol

        • Ray

          You sound like a princess valley girl from Los Angeles talking about the Diamond Cut, Sapphire Ctystal crap. Man up. No one cares about the materials. Let’s leave that to the ladies.

    • Michael Muyunda


  • Daniel

    traded my s3+$100 for an iPhone 5 last night. soooooooooooooooo disappointed. I even thought it was a fake iPhone. lol. Now waiting for Note 2 coming out in Canada. >.<

  • Timmy

    More tests we should have to determine if you should get a GS3 or iPhone 5 because we need real world testing, not scientific gibberish.

    1) Ease of case installation
    2) Slide to unlock speed

    3) Left hand vs. right hand functionality
    4) Time it takes the phone to reach dangerous temperature levels and shuts itself off
    5) Clarity of stock startup screen
    6) Vibration strength

    Some other valuable research might include.
    * Color choice (blue, black, white, brown, pink, etc) and what it says about you as a person* Change in perceived social status
    * How do the presidential candidates think having one phone impacts the country

    I’m still on the fence about which phone to get. Maybe after I know if it’s faster to unlock the GS3 I might choose it but if it’s easier to get my case on the iPhone, I may have to go with it….this is so hard!!!!

  • olbp

    There is another, very important way, of judging which is better:

    If you are young enough that you really want to put your nose on the screen to inspect for visible pixels, I can see people would say that the tiny pixels are wonderful.

    However, when it comes to being large enough comfortable enough to really be useful for work, the larger dimensions of the screen itself would rule.

    That is why I and some many of my friends have the GNote, and will be shortly updating to the GNote 2. The GNote 2 screen is so much better than those tiny little pixie screens it isn’t funny.

  • Maz

    Why the HELL every new cellphone is compared with iPhone 5? You dont compare every new phone with galaxy S3… The reason is that iPhone is the BENCHMARK BOSS !!