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

October 16, 2012
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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?