Display Comparison: Apple iPhone 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S III vs HTC One X vs Nokia Lumia 900
Initial impressions make a whole lot of difference, especially when a handset is being showcased alongside some other comparable models at a store window or shelf. Gazing from a distance away, it’s usually the handset’s design that captures the attention of people first and foremost, but upon closer inspection, the next thing to reel them in is none other than the kind of display they’re packing along for the ride. New to the scene, Apple’s latest incarnation of the iPhone is being dissected top to bottom from critics all around, but for this comparison article, we’re going to see how its newer 4-inch Retina Display stacks up against some of its other highly esteemed rivals.
For this comparison, we’re going to be pitting it against the 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED display of the Samsung Galaxy S III, 4.7-inch 720p Super-LCD 2 display on the HTC One X, and the 4.3-inch ClearBlack AMOLED display that’s being flaunted by the Nokia Lumia 900. Needless to say, this is one stacked group already, so it’ll be interesting to see how they fall fare against one another – to hopefully proclaim the best one out of the bunch! In order to make that final call, we’re going to go beyond the hardware specs and see how they perform in real world situations, since you know, that’s exactly what matters most.
Brightness and Contrast:
There’s nothing better to attract people than having a bright display, right? Well, as we manually set all four smartphones to their highest brightness setting, it becomes clear that the iPhone 5’s newer IPS-LCD screen jumps at us the most with having the highest brightness output. Having the advantage in this category, we’re able to visibly make out everything on the iPhone 5’s display when using it outdoors – even when the sun is beating directly down on us. Coming in at a close second place, the Super-LCD 2 panel in use by the HTC One X continues to show its worth, since it’s an LCD panel at heart, which continues to shows its worth in outdoor conditions as well. And finally, the Samsung Galaxy S III and Nokia Lumia 900 land on the same level in terms of outdoor visibility, as their respective HD Super AMOLED and ClearBlack AMOLED panels aren’t as effective in allowing us to properly see them outside. At the same time, the drop in contrast while tilting them slightly causes reflections that interfere with their usability.
Quickly looking over the specs sheet, one would assume that the two Android smartphones donning 720p resolution in this comparison would have the win, but again, that’s simply on paper and doesn’t account for pixel density. However, if we do take that into consideration, then it would be the iPhone 5 taking charge with its pixel density of 326 ppi. However, before we concretely say that it’s the unanimous winner in the details department, our eyes need to confirm the obvious.
Loading up our web site on all four smartphones and looking at them from a zoomed out view, it’s undeniable that the 640 x 1136 resolution of the iPhone 5’s display exhibits the sharpest details of the bunch. In fact, the text on-screen have sharp edges that help strengthen its crisp visuals to make them easily visible to the eye. Meanwhile, the HTC One X’s 4.7-inch 720p display also coughs up some exciting visuals as well – though, it’s a tad bit softer looking around the edges, partly due to its lower pixel density of 312 ppi. Galloping into third place, it’s the 720 x 1280 resolution of the Samsung Galaxy S III’s 4.8-inch display. Even though it’s sporting the same resolution as HTC’s flagship, Samsung’s baby employs the less favorable PenTile Matrix arrangement, which is noticeably duller looking with its details. Regardless of that, its deficiency doesn’t adversely affect the look of its details while looking at its display from a normal distance away. And finally, the Nokia Lumia 900 fails to impress in this department with its 4.3-inch WVGA (480 x 800) display, as its far away 217 ppi pixel density drastically separates it from the competition – resulting in jagged looking visuals that lack any sharpness to them.
2. modyt (Posts: 22; Member since: 23 Aug 2012)
Apple fan, Mr. John V.?
"...which undoubtedly carries along the higher wow factor amongst normal Joes."
40. greyhulk (Posts: 82; Member since: 30 Jun 2010)
Why is the reviewer automatically an "Apple fan" every time the conclusion comes out in favor of the iPhone? Are they supposed to rule against the iPhone just so they don't appear biased, or would you rather have an accurate conclusion?
I have owned a lot of Smartphones over the last few years and I currently have an iPhone 5, Lumia 900, and Galaxy S III. Owning all three devices, I find it hard to fault John's conclusions.
47. chaoticrazor (Posts: 2347; Member since: 28 Aug 2012)
so you conveniently have 3 of the 4 devices....wow that was lucky
i bet in fact you only have the iphone and like most ifans you claim to have the other phones to try make your comment more valid
the iphone is always seen as the winner even when it clearly isnt.. example for you iphone 4 vs nokia 808 camera comparison. it was clear the 808 was miles ahead yet the reviewer wouldn't admit it instead said bs that the iphone was on the same level...............
hardly any reviewers will admit when the iphone looses. if they cant turn it into a win for the iphone they say its a draw and always throw the iphone a bone
85. greyhulk (Posts: 82; Member since: 30 Jun 2010)
Luck and convenience have nothing to do with it. I own all three devices because I wanted to own all three devices and I purchased them. It's not that hard to wrap your head around. Not everything is an iPhone conspiracy.
I actually used to have a One X, as well, but I sent it back because I couldn't stand the broken multitasking, but it did have a great screen.
91. Bernoulli (Posts: 1335; Member since: 01 Sep 2012)
Not just that man, why compare the Nokia lumia 900, that phone came out last year, compare it to the lumia 920 to make it fair, it's just like if I were to compare the lumia 900 to an iPhone 4, sorry I like the lumia I just don't think comparing a year ago technology with todays technology is fair
99. chaoticrazor (Posts: 2347; Member since: 28 Aug 2012)
exactly why the lumia 900 was involved is beyond me, the 920 though im guessing would beat the iphone hands down so maybe thats a reason why
plus no phones from sony, LG, Motorola involved either.........basically all this article seems focused on is making the iphone look good
79. modyt (Posts: 22; Member since: 23 Aug 2012)
I find it hard to believe that you own all three devices and still can't find the difference between the screen size and clarity. And I never said that they should rule out the iPhone. I'm just surprised they can find faults with every other device other than the iPhone.
86. greyhulk (Posts: 82; Member since: 30 Jun 2010)
I never said that I don't find the difference between the screens, nor did John V. Point of fact, they are all great screens in different ways.
I also never claimed the iPhone was a perfect device. It's not. It's one of the reason I own all three. I often find myself switching between them. My only point was that I thought this was a fair comparison of the screen technologies.
The problem here is that people respond to these articles like angry children. When they don't get their way (i.e. the results they want to hear), they lash out like a child having a temper tantrum. I'm actually capable of being objective, of seeing the advantages and disadvantages to each platform and technology.
90. appleDOESNT.com (Posts: 374; Member since: 19 Nov 2011)
"One person might find a smaller display to be more likable than a larger one, or in another instance, they might side with natural color tones over ones that are more saturated"
He starts the conclusion by leading it's readers down the path of iPhone 5 dominance, the article has a lot of iP5 drivel. This is supposed to be a unbiased website. phonearena frequently is biOSed towards apple and is why many lash out. Android fans do not frequent appleinsider or 9-5mac for obvious reasons but when we come here and read the same bias as those websites, it ticks a ton of us off
109. shuaibhere (Posts: 685; Member since: 07 Jul 2012)
And just now i copied that part of article to point out his apple fanboysm.... U did it already...well pointed out.....
and here is something that shows how he hates samsung....
When lcd scores the point he says iphone is best but when it comes to amoled he says amoled does well....
93. oister85 (Posts: 378; Member since: 27 Apr 2012)
I know what you are saying man, people need to chill. I don't care what the reviewer says, he might be right. At the end of the story I still love my Samsung galaxy s3. All of those phones are nice so don't let the reviewer make your choice
46. Daniel.95 (Posts: 41; Member since: 20 Sep 2012)
1.One X - GS III
52. Commentator (Posts: 2083; Member since: 16 Aug 2011)
What really irritates me (or grinds my gears) is the fact that PPI has become its own category over the last couple years. This review implies that the iPhone's display is more "detailed" because of its higher pixel density, but that's simply not true. A 720p screen, by virtue of its sheer advantage in number of pixels, will always be able the display more details than the iPhones display, simply because it can. Similarly, while a 2x2 pixel screen with a diagonal of 0.000000001 inches would technically have a higher PPI count, it wouldn't be able to show as many details as one of higher density.
56. Commentator (Posts: 2083; Member since: 16 Aug 2011)
Oh, I can't edit my post after 240 seconds now? Oh, I'm SO SORRY!
What I was going to post as an afterthought was that the angle you apparently tested the viewing angles at is where the One X is at its "worst" (worst in parentheses because it still performs very well there.) The One X screen briefly washes out little bit around the 45 degree angle mark, but anything past that retains the same color quality as if you were looking straight on. I can use my Evo's screen when looking at 89.9999 degrees. I don't know if the iPhone or SGSIII can say that.
80. glentomas123 (Posts: 68; Member since: 01 Jun 2011)
Well said. This has always been my contention. High PPI and no screen real estate means nothing. This is a comparison of apples and oranges as it relates to a 4" and 4.7"+ screens. Also, I don't even know why you would attempt to compare a 4.3 at WVGA with these others. ??? Strange article.
105. firefly (Posts: 2; Member since: 07 Oct 2012)
Let me start by saying I don't like Apple. The only product I have ever owned that they made is the iPad 3 because of its screen resolution.
Now to my point. PPI is important for several reasons. First, compare a 52" LCD TV at 1080P 42.36 PPI and a 24" LCD TV at 1080P 91.79 PPI. When viewed from the same distance, text will look clearer on the 24" than on the 52" because the space between pixels relies on your eyes/brain's ability to fill in the gaps. Smaller gaps = clearer image when viewed from the same distance. The other thing to consider is the optimal viewing distance of the two same resolution screens. The 52" screen should be viewed at 5.8' while the 24" should be viewed at 2.7'. Now that we have looked at the over exaggerated, now lets look at the phones. Lets pretend that all the phones were the same resolution just for the sake of this argument and so that we can use the same viewing distance calculator (which is actually based on 1080p resolutions and THX and SMPTE published standards). Viewing distance for a 4" screen is recommended at 4.8" while max SMPTE recommended distance is 6". On a 4.7" screen, recommended is 6" while max SMPTE is 7.2". Finally on the 4.8" screen, recommended is 6" while max SMPTE is 8.4". Now I don't know about any of you, but I very rarely have my phone that close to my face. If you are holding your phone at lets say 12" away from your face, you can assume that all of them will look very similar and you probably wouldn't even notice the 20 PPI difference. The higher overall resolution screen will display more detail, but at the same time it may not look as clear as the same image on the compressed screen with higher PPI.
Now if you really want to complain about the iPhone 5 how about the fact that they are behind the 8 ball because it just came out with 4G, while others have had it for quite some time now. They also still refuse to give people the ability to add memory to the device because they want to rape you on the price of the larger storage models. The only other advantage to upgrading to the 5 vs one of the older iPhones is the 1.2MP forward facing camera... oh boy. Oh did I forget to mention all your old Apple chargers are now worthless as are your cases and docks? That was definitely my personal favorite. Please buy a new proprietary connector cable because we knew we could bleed you stupid iPhone loving idiots out of more money some how.
68. PhoneArenaUser (Posts: 4579; Member since: 05 Aug 2011)
Lumia 920 has more PPI than HTC One X
72. Commentator (Posts: 2083; Member since: 16 Aug 2011)
Yes it does, and HTC's new phablet (The HTC Droid Incredible One Nexus Five... or whatever...) will have a 1080p screen, which, despite many people's reservations due to battery life, I'm in favor of.
78. modyt (Posts: 22; Member since: 23 Aug 2012)
Does no one else in this world consider the screen size? Does it even matter that the iPhone is at least 20% smaller that the actual GS3? I'm sure most of the "geeks" also like the larger screen like the "normal Joes". Just because Apple has the exclusivity factor in the components they manufacture doesn't reduce the quality of the other devices. And let's not forget, most of the components are China-made.
89. belovedson (Posts: 821; Member since: 30 Nov 2010)
absolutely useless review mr john. people prefer the bigger sized screen bottom line.
and i believe if the other manufacturers spent the time and energy to gathering as much ppi as possible they would have gone with a smaller screen and the comparison would be even more useless. but why would they, they already know people want a bigger screen size.
the 4 inches provided by apple is accepted by the apple crowd but not preferred by the majority. neutral opinionated apple users prefer a bigger sized screw but GROW to be content with the tiny screen eventually.
anyways the difference between the technologies and ppi for the different types of screens is tiny and most people really can't tell the difference. people still think lcds make better picture than plasma.... same type of argument.
eventually apple will have to up the size of the screen again or risk losing a bigger chunk of customers to android. if android can figure out how to make a better os for tablets it would help tremendously
120. larvin72 (Posts: 4; Member since: 13 Oct 2012)
I used to think that writers and editors of sites like these are pretty much unbiased and objective in their approach and delivery when reviewing products TO GIVE THE PUBLIC AN UNBIASED OBJECTIVE VIEW SO THAT THEY MAY BE HELPED IN THEIR DECISIONS WHEN CHOOSING AMONGST SIMILARLY GOOD PRODUCTS. This review was made October 5, 2012, barely a month after the iphone 5 was released. Mr. John V reviewed the best that Apple has to offer against the second best of Samsung (Obviously the best Samsung display is with the Note 2), the third best of Nokia (Nokia's best is with the 920) and the best of HTC. No wonder a lot of people disagree with the conclusions because THE REVIEW WAS FAR FROM FAIR. I hope the editors of this site would remain unbiased and objective so that people would continue to read your works.
4. MeoCao (unregistered)
"One person might find a smaller display to be more likable than a larger one"
I disagree, people prefer small screens because they want to use the phone with 1 hand, but when it comes to viewing bigger screen is better.
And with bigger screen people tend to hold the phone further from the eyes so in real life iPhone 5 higher pixel density makes no difference, many people say that they can tell the difference even between GS3 and One X screen sharpness when One X has much better pixel density for that reason.
About color reproduction it depends on personal preference and people don't care about how realistic it is. In fact most people prefer strong colors.
So I think the order should be:
1. One X
3. iPhone 5
4 Lumia 900.
7. AliNSiddiqui (Posts: 255; Member since: 19 Sep 2012)
See.. you have different priorites... so your order will be different from the other people...
9. Retro-touch (Posts: 236; Member since: 24 Oct 2011)
Completely agree I love Super AMOLED screens and also the One X screen cause of their punchy colors they make everything look gorgeous whereas a screen that's realistic is mehh!! Realistic colors is a personal preference not the standard IMO as I've noticed people overwhelmingly prefer anything but reality
38. ZEUS.the.thunder.god (unregistered)
agree. i am sorry to say but this whole article sounds like typical iphonearena marketing. means why you compare ip5 with Lumia 900 why not wait for the Lumia 920... also with its tiny lil girly display, ip5 is no match against S3 or One X. lets wait for Apple to introduce a 4.5 inches display in 2015 and then compare it with a Sammy flagship. oh wait i guess by then Samsung and others would be using some Alien tech. and Apple would be busy prepairing law suits as they were the first to invent a bigger display.
61. r41nier (Posts: 59; Member since: 13 Oct 2011)
I care how realistic it is. So far, only the original Motorola Droid and the new iPhone 5 are the only color accurate smarphones i know.
69. StringCheese01 (Posts: 59; Member since: 27 Jan 2012)
Why are they STILL comparing the Lumia 900 to current phones when the 920 is out? 900, ya done, finished, over, peace!
107. E.N. (Posts: 2217; Member since: 25 Jan 2009)
All I know is that the GSIII's screen is saturated as hell. Hated the screen, the colors are so fake.
I think it should be
1. iPhone 5 and One X
4. Lumia 900 (never used though)
Unless you're going for pure size, there is no way that the SIII should be placed above the One X/ iPhone 5, no way no how.
"And with bigger screen people tend to hold the phone further from the eyes so in real life iPhone 5 higher pixel density makes no difference"
- bullsh*t. My friends don't hold their SIIIs farther than those who own iPhones.
5. TROLL (banned) (Posts: 4851; Member since: 13 Apr 2012)
Back after another vacation by PhoneArena. "Thanks". To be honest missingt he SONY and LG phone, and all of them are really nice!
15. Hafiz (Posts: 78; Member since: 20 Dec 2011)
especialy sony. No one takes them seriously :(
22. No_Nonsense (Posts: 826; Member since: 17 Aug 2012)
The person in your avatar endorses Nokia. Maybe you should use James Bond as your avatar?
33. eisenbricher (Posts: 961; Member since: 09 Aug 2012)
Then you should drop your username first.
36. No_Nonsense (Posts: 826; Member since: 17 Aug 2012)
And would you take the pain to tell me why?
11. LumiaLover (Posts: 160; Member since: 27 Sep 2012)
"Sadly, the only pleasant things we can honestly say about the Nokia Lumia 900’s 4.3-inch ClearBlack Display, is its iridescent color reproduction and wide viewing angles – much like what we find with Samsung’s flagship. However, it fails to impress for the simple reason that its resolution is far outdated, outdated to the point that it’s now regarded as being something employed by mid-range devices nowadays. Still, it’s a decent looking display, but don’t expect it to grab the top spot any time soon."
Let's see this test ran again when the Lumia 920 is launched. Why did you even include the 900 if you openly confess in your conclusion that the display is outdated?
If the ip5 display is still better than the Lumia 920, then fair enough, but don't bash a phone that you knew had an outdated display before the test had even started.
18. Hemlocke (unregistered)
The 900 is the best screen for a WP device, so some representation was needed. Of course, the iPhone 4 had a nicer screen, so outdated doesn't really apply.
As for the people making excuses for Samsung, just stop. You S-Sheep would eat garbage if the wrapper said "Samsung." Three generations of Galaxy S, and three generations of sub-par screens. Just increasing the size and resolution is weak. If you want to be the best, stop using junk screens and junk materials for your phones.
28. chaoticrazor (Posts: 2347; Member since: 28 Aug 2012)
lmao so now apple trolls are recycling what people say about them and aiming it at samsung users. so basically just like apple you dont come up with your own idea's you use other peoples then change it alittle to make it look your own
37. SleepingOz (Posts: 2374; Member since: 22 Oct 2011)
Ok, now i see what you were talking about..
108. jroc74 (Posts: 3625; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)
Actually....I like Amoled screens better than LCD's now.
Minus Pentile....everything else just favors Amoled for my uses. Outdoor use. Even tho the writer said the iPhone 5 was the best for outdoor viewing, I find it kinda strange when viewing angles effect outdoor viewing. Most ppl dont take viewing angles into effect when talking about outdoor viewing.
Watching movies on an Amoled screen is just better due to the blacks and contrast. And I just prefer the oversaturated colors over accurate colors now.
Samsung screens arent really sub par, it just depends on what cons you can live with. And how you use your phone.
110. Berzerk000 (Posts: 3509; Member since: 26 Jun 2011)
Sub-par screens? The display on my GS2 is gorgeous. I mean, really, Samsung may not have the best build quality, or have the best software overlay, but their screens are amazing. Did you really have to go and say such a ridiculous thing, on something as subjective as displays?
122. jroc74 (Posts: 3625; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)
Exactly...subjective being the key word.
I was a huge LCD fan until I actually seen an Amoled screen in person. I switched sides.
44. smartandcool3 (Posts: 11; Member since: 17 Sep 2012)
One's again a pathetic review in favor of "iCRAP5".
And who cares about "iCRAP5" other than "iDIOTS"???
Smart person will always buy the best samsung and nokia phones.
27. TROLL (banned) (Posts: 4851; Member since: 13 Apr 2012)
No its not, i believe all 4 ov them are, also if they had Sony and Lg
19. Lifengineer (Posts: 37; Member since: 15 Dec 2011)
Comparing all these phone with Lumia 900!!! It's 4.3" with 480x800!!!
For sure it's gonna be the worst!
John V. excuse me but you're not that smart! Wait for 920 and then compare!
20. Mobile-X-Pert (Posts: 565; Member since: 20 Dec 2010)
As far as I know the Lumia 900 has the best sunlight legibility and less screen reflectance.
21. babyk (Posts: 192; Member since: 03 Nov 2011)
ONE X is definitely the winner here and any other super lcd 2 Phones made by HTC Phone arena please dont screw this up...
23. AppleConspiracy (Posts: 627; Member since: 18 Oct 2011)
Lumia 900 screen probably uses the same Samsung's panel found in Galaxy SII, so it's outdated (and limited due to WP7 specs) and the test is not fair. By those standards, it's probably the best screen out there, surpassing even the SII screen thanks to the Nokia's own ClearBlack technology.
31. Aeires (unregistered)
I was hoping to see the Note II in this comparison. It's close enough to release date to include it.
59. AppleConspiracy (Posts: 627; Member since: 18 Oct 2011)
Yes, it would be most useful and significant. It's the first HD AMOLED that doesn't utilize PenTile matrix.
24. Jimstar (Posts: 259; Member since: 24 Oct 2011)
I'm sorry but this is a pretty poorly written article. I mean for example, how the iphone5's color reproduction be better then the OneX's by a "longshot" if they both have a "hint" of oversaturation? If you use the same word to describe the oversaturation for both devices then how can one be so much better than the other?
51. No_Nonsense (Posts: 826; Member since: 17 Aug 2012)
And like others have mentioned: LG devices and the Note 2.
29. maryaaadil (Posts: 146; Member since: 07 Apr 2012)
You should have used note 2 cause its better than s3 n d latest from sammy's....
N nice job John V ;-)