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What is Google's Super Actua display? Is it a marketing gimmick?

Google has a new name for the Pixel 8 family's displays, but what does it mean?
By
December 5, 2023
google pixel 8 pro vs pixel 8 display
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

The Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro mark a number of firsts for Google, and the Actua and Super Actua displays sit at the top of the stack. Unlike prior Pixel releases, Google has gone beyond just using industry-standard terms like OLED to describe its displays. As eye-catching as “Actua” might seem, however, it’s not very descriptive if you’re trying to compare it against rival smartphone displays. So in this article, let’s delve into the technical specs behind the Pixel 8 series’ Actua and Super Actua displays and what it means for you.

What is a Super Actua display?

google pixel 8 display in hand
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Google’s Super Actua branding refers to the Pixel 8 Pro’s ability to ramp up its display to very high brightness levels without sacrificing color vividness or clarity. The base Pixel 8’s Actua display shares these traits too, but notably offers a lower resolution and reduced peak brightness. Put simply, these displays offer outstanding outdoor visibility under direct sunlight.

Manufacturers of flagship smartphones seek panels that can deliver high resolutions, refresh rates, and brightness levels. However, marketing these specifications via billboards or short TV commercials can be challenging. For proof of this fact, look no further than Apple’s Retina Display branding, which debuted alongside the iPhone 4 all the way back in 2010. The company knew that it needed a way to market its display as better than the competition and the term Retina achieved that goal perfectly.

The Pixel 8 Pro’s Super Actua display is Google’s attempt at following the same strategy. Its closest analogue would be Apple’s Super Retina XDR display, which you’ll find in the iPhone 15 Pro. Likewise, Samsung uses the Dynamic AMOLED 2X branding on its flagship phones like the Galaxy S23 Ultra.

Super Actua vs Dynamic AMOLED vs Retina XDR: What’s the difference?

google pixel 8 vs iphone 15 display hero
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

The Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro feature some of the best displays we’ve ever seen on any smartphone, Google-made or otherwise. Here’s a quick look at how these displays compare against the competition, with an emphasis on the flagship Pixel 8 Pro’s Super Actua display.

  • The Pixel 8 Pro’s Super Actua display can reach an impressive peak brightness of 2,400 nits. In HDR content, it can achieve 1,600 nits. That’s technically higher than the 1,750 and 2,000 nits that Samsung and Apple claimed for their respective flagship smartphones in 2023.
  • The Pixel 8 Pro packs LTPO display technology, which means it can ramp down its refresh rate from 120Hz to 1Hz. This can lend itself to battery savings while viewing static content.
  • The Pixel 8 Pro’s 2992 x 1344 display resolution is on par with that of the iPhone 15 Pro Max and Galaxy S23 Ultra.
  • Independent testing has revealed that the Pixel 8 Pro’s display is significantly more efficient than prior generations and competitors at the same brightness levels. This efficiency stems from the use of newer OLED materials.

All in all, the Super Actua display either matches or exceeds the cutting-edge displays we’ve come to expect from Samsung and Apple flagship smartphones. That said, we can expect the Galaxy S24 series to swing the crown back in Samsung’s favor. We’ve already seen the OnePlus 12 claim a ridiculous peak brightness figure of 4,500 nits, far beyond even the Super Actua display.

Super Actua display: Is it just a marketing gimmick?

google pixel 8 pro flat display
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Google’s Super Actua display thankfully isn’t just a marketing gimmick. The company has put in some effort to source cutting-edge panels from Samsung Display. Likewise, the presence of LTPO technology and top-end brightness figures make it a clear upgrade over prior generations and less expensive smartphones.

Having said that, I don’t believe anyone should buy the Pixel 8 Pro over another flagship because of its Super Actua display alone. As long as you’re shopping at the same price point, rival smartphone displays will also offer features like a Quad HD resolution and 120Hz refresh rates. Not to mention, future smartphones will narrow the brightness gap and perhaps even overtake the Pixel 8 Pro.

One could argue that the Super Actua display’s energy efficiency cements it as a winner vs. the iPhone 15 Pro and Galaxy S23 Ultra. However, those savings are somewhat negated when you factor in the Pixel 8’s Tensor G3 chip, which can sip more power under load. As with most other specs then, we’ll have to wait and see if Google can one-up the competition once again next year.