Display Comparison: Apple iPhone 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S III vs HTC One X vs Nokia Lumia 900

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: 30; Member since: Aug 23, 2012

Apple fan, Mr. John V.? "...which undoubtedly carries along the higher wow factor amongst normal Joes."

40. greyhulk

Posts: 184; Member since: Jun 30, 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: Aug 28, 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: 184; Member since: Jun 30, 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.

71. zibbyzib2000

Posts: 221; Member since: Nov 18, 2010

Thank You!!!

79. modyt

Posts: 30; Member since: Aug 23, 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: 184; Member since: Jun 30, 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.

94. oister85 unregistered

Wow well say

90. appleDOESNT.com

Posts: 456; Member since: Nov 19, 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: 1986; Member since: Jul 07, 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 unregistered

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: 89; Member since: Sep 20, 2012

PPI: 1.iPhone 2.One X 3.GS III 4.Lumia Resolution: 1.One X - GS III 3.iPhone 4.Lumia Display Type: 1.Lumia 2.One X 3.iPhone 4.GS III in Total: 1.One X 2.Lumia 3.iPhone 4.GS III

52. Commentator

Posts: 3723; Member since: Aug 16, 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: 3723; Member since: Aug 16, 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: 70; Member since: Jun 01, 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: Oct 07, 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.

62. DP777

Posts: 15; Member since: Sep 25, 2012

Nokia Lumia 920 will bit them all!

68. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 2011

Lumia 920 has more PPI than HTC One X

72. Commentator

Posts: 3723; Member since: Aug 16, 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: 30; Member since: Aug 23, 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: 1061; Member since: Nov 30, 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: 6; Member since: Oct 13, 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 2. GS3 3. iPhone 5 4 Lumia 900.

7. AliNSiddiqui

Posts: 382; Member since: Sep 19, 2012

See.. you have different priorites... so your order will be different from the other people...

9. Retro-touch unregistered

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: 71; Member since: Oct 13, 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: 64; Member since: Jan 27, 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: 2610; Member since: Jan 25, 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 3. GS3 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.


Posts: 4851; Member since: Apr 13, 2012

Back after another vacation by PhoneArena. "Thanks". To be honest missingt he SONY and LG phone, and all of them are really nice!

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at https://www.parsintl.com/phonearena or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit https://www.parsintl.com/ for samples and additional information.