Display battle: NOVA Display vs Super AMOLED vs Retina Display vs ClearBlack AMOLED

Display battle: NOVA Display vs Super AMOLED vs Retina Display vs ClearBlack AMOLED
We here at PhoneArena are suckers for bright shiny screens, as we spend most of our waking hours staring at them, so naturally when we got a prototype unit of the LG Optimus Black with the newfangled NOVA Display technology, we ought to stage a fight with the current cream of the crop in the mobile display technologies.

First, a bit of tech specs background. From left to right we had the iPhone 4, with its 3.5" IPS-LCD with stunning 640x960 pixels of resolution. IPS stands for In-Plane-Switching, and is currently the best high-end value for money proposition for mobile displays, at least until Samsung's PLS (Plane-to-Line-Switching) screens flood the market.

IPS-LCD is characterized with elevated brightness (the iPhone 4 shines with more than 500 nits), better contrast, wider viewing angles, and way lower power consumption than the conventional LCD displays.

The iPhone 4's IPS-LCD display is made by LG, but the company is obviously not done improving the technology, as it saved the best for itself, and planted the brightest mobile display out there in the thin and light LG Optimus Black. The 4" IPS-LCD in the Optimus Black has 480x800 pixels, and the company claims it clocks in at 700 nits, which is an astonishing feat for a mobile display. LG calls it the NOVA Display, and claims the increased brightness is not affecting battery life, but rather the screen is actually more power-efficient than its IPS-LCD predecessors.

The screen on the LG Optimus Black is supposedly drawing 0 watts when showing black, like what the AMOLED displays do, and 0.7 watts when showing an entirely white page. The iPhone 4's Retina Display munches on 0.42 watts in both cases, but considering most websites and ebooks have white backgrounds, the battery consumption from the NOVA display should in reality be on par with the Retina Display, so no worries.

Interestinglyenough, the black areas of the test picture we used, looked as muchilluminated by an LCD backlight on the LG Optimus Black, as they didon the iPhone 4, so we don't know what to make of LG's claim that thepixels draw no power when displaying black – for that they have tobe completely turned off. Regardless, that's what a leaked comparison table showed, back when the Optimus Black was stillcodenamed the LG B.


Zero watt draw when showing black was a specialty reserved for AMOLED-based screens, like the third handset on the left we had, the Nokia E7. In their case, the pixel is completely off, that is why the screen is showing black as it's intended to be, not grayish like on the LCD technology, where the backlight is constantly on. Nokia E7's 4" display is called ClearBlack AMOLED, and has a polarizing filter sitting on top of it that blocks light, making it more visible in direct sunlight.

The final handset on the far right we had was the Samsung Galaxy S, which carries the so-called Super AMOLED technology, which is characterized with 20% more brightness, and the same amount less battery consumption than regular AMOLED, not to mention its whole package is thinner. The Super AMOLED on the Samsung Galaxy S also has a special anti-reflectance coating, that makes the phone's screen visible in direct sunlight as much as those on the IPS-LCD handsets, although it clocks in at "only" 300 nits of brightness.

All in all, it was the superior brightness of the IPS-LCD technology on the iPhone 4 and the LG Optimus Black versus the almost infinite contrast levels, wider viewing angles, saturated colors, and pitch black pixels of the AMOLED displays on the Nokia E7 and the Samsung Galaxy S.

As the pictures below clearly show, all the theoretical specs are confirmed when we place the phones side by side. The NOVA Display on the LG Optimus Black is arguably the brightest of the four, a tad brighter even than the iPhone 4's Retina Display, but with about the same performance as far as viewing angles go - the colors and brightness degraded when we passed a certain degree mark.

The ClearBlack AMOLED, and the Super AMOLED on the Nokia E7 and the Samsung Galaxy S clearly had no problem with wide viewing angles, keeping the colors punchy, and the brightness almost unchanged from 10 to 170 degrees. Bear in mind that the Nokia E7 was always on automatic display adjustment, which couldn't be turned off, so in the dark its display toned down the brightness quite a bit - it is actually as bright as the Super AMOLED, but this was only visible outside.


The outdoor pictures came to show how the anti-reflectance coating is at least as important, if not more, for better sunlight visibility than the high brightness. That is why the Samsung Galaxy S, with its superior anti-reflectance coating, and the Nokia E7, with its polarizing filter that blocks light, didn't fare much worse outside, compared to the way brighter iPhone 4 and LG Optimus Black.



As we mentioned, the Optimus Black we had was a non-final unit, and probably didn't have all the coatings like anti-reflectance and oleophobic applied yet, considering how easy it was to smudge the screen, so in its retail version the reflectance might be even lower, and then it might easily grab the outdoor visibility crown. Even in its non-final form, when looked at directly, the NOVA display appears brighter than the other technologies, although in reality it won't scorch your eyebrows with some groundbreaking difference.

For an in-depth comparison of the current mobile display technologies in terms of brightness, contrast, color saturation, viewing angles and resolution, you can read our comprehensive article here.

Which screen technology is most to your liking? Tell us in the comments below!

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56 Comments

56. district11

Posts: 126; Member since: Apr 17, 2011

I like super amoled :)

55. Mini_Pritchy_18

Posts: 4; Member since: Feb 07, 2011

I've tried out the Samsung galaxy s and i can tell you it is lush, i love everything about it, I'm not sure about outdoors and I'm not saying it is better but you will definatly be satisfied

54. joey18

Posts: 697; Member since: Jul 20, 2010

You guys are stupid retina display is make kasastan bora produtions

52. ikkuh unregistered

I think it isnt fair to compare small screen's (3,5") with big ones (4") besides that i still like the amoled's better because of the high contrast ratio and the vivid colours. Samsung still makes the best screens.

51. IOS5 unregistered

Clear black display the worst! I played with E7 in store two things I liked in this phone - call quilaty and speakers with noise cancellation - qwtary keyboard Other than that the screen has to many pixels too dark nothing special on CBD compere to Retina, Super Amoled and Nova cuz CBD has the lowest resolution 640x360 in 4" screen too bad.

50. fb_dragon76

Posts: 19; Member since: Dec 08, 2010

i love a great screen but a so so screen wont keep me from downloading and sending porn either so im good. what kills me is that they make screen protectors that blocks angles so you can enjoy your porn in peace w/o the hypocritical eyes glaring at you from an angle.

49. R@R#M@N unregistered

where is S.E arc ?? Bravia Engine most better than displays

48. d12south unregistered

Sorry guys , defiantly Nokia E7 wins! Just look how it performs under light.

47. h unregistered

Super AMOLED Plus & Super AMOLED

46. Questions. unregistered

Read people READ before posting. The Nokia's automatic light sencore can't be turned off. That is why it looks darker in dark. Better for eyes that way you know? With full contrast would be way brighter. SO READ BEFORE POSTING.

45. M27 unregistered

Lol, all 4 displays are from 2 korean companys. LG & Samsung. IPS in iPhone is from LG and Amolend in N8 is from Samsung, so all 4 best displays are from LG & Samsung

43. Dr sasidhar reddy unregistered

ALWAYS RETINA DISPLAY """ROCKS""...

40. Jasper unregistered

Samsung has the edge in producing these screens, but nokia does impresses somewhat...

39. stani unregistered

for me super amoled is the best!

38. john10001 unregistered

I think that the Nokia and Samsung have better displays especially when outdoors as they don't have as much glare and reflection. I don't think Nokia has managed to produce a better display though than the one on its 5800.

37. Galen20K

Posts: 587; Member since: Dec 26, 2008

Wow Nova is really impressive!! Definitely the brightest although Super AMOLED is richer in colors still all look amazing in my opinion.

34. Herkus Mantas unregistered

So, I must go for Samsung Galaxy S or for Nokia E7 display. I more outdoor user, like play with phone in bright daylight, summer time in London Parks. Yes I like LG Black display but if no anti-reflectance coating then not for me. iPhone 4 display nice but also without anti-reflectance coating not for me. THANKS Phone Arena for nice displays comparison.

35. calamazoo unregistered

they all have anti-reflectance coating, except the Optimus Black, which was a prototype t6he guy said and will have it in the final version. Just that the Galaxy S has a very low reflectance, so, despite that the Retina display and the NOVA display are so bright, outdoors they are only slightly better than the Galaxy S and the ClearBlack AMOLED...

33. hacknet unregistered

Where is the Q-HD Display for the Atrix??? Should be in this list with the top devices. fail.

32. T DAWGv12

Posts: 13; Member since: Dec 09, 2009

Based on the pictures here, Super amoled plus on galaxy s wins here, nokia would have to seen or have the auto adjust turned off though to be fair. Any company still working with yesterdays mobile display technology's are behind the curve which for apple in particular is the name of the game anyhow.

31. cedd unregistered

clearblack of nokia is the best from what i see

28. vishal400 unregistered

comparing lg and iphone display with e7 and galaxy is like comparing LCD TV vs LED TV. HA HA. LED wins

26. vishal400 unregistered

clear black dispaly shows original colours. And i don't consider iphone display,, its too old technology of display. E7 ans galaxy are winners here.

22. ahmedra2ol

Posts: 27; Member since: Mar 01, 2011

LG Optimus Black is the best here after it (iphone= samsung) then come nokia at last because it is so dark :( thump up if you agree

30. clevername

Posts: 1436; Member since: Jul 11, 2008

Nova seemed great but as far as ips goes brightness won't win me over. Retina is plenty bright and has a higher resolution. The resolution is what wins me over here and it's barely mentioned. Pixel density makes for sharper images not color or brightness(although they can play a part). Retina's density is far superior and gives hd videos and graphics a much more organic and fluid feel than super amoled (I only say super amoled because it's they only other display I have experience on). Viewing angles aren't a big thing to me because I look straight at my phone. I don't know who doesn't. As far as blacks go the retina display can get pretty black. No super amoled black but very friction close. By no measure would I say dark grey. But samoled does have better blacks. Overall like I said for me it's all about resolution. PPI to be more exact.

21. CTAPbIi unregistered

thx a lot for this review, I was really battling looking for comparison between IPS LCD and Super AMOLED. It will be nice to see updated version of this review when SGS2 will be available though. Just my 2 cents - Sammy's screen looks oversaturated for me, it's like difference in colors on TVs: LCD vs plasma.

19. youranidiot unregistered

Not one of you bitch faggots have proper grammer and composition. If your going to talk shit too and about eachother, do it correctly.

27. Owlet

Posts: 450; Member since: Feb 21, 2011

GrammAr, not grammEr. You're or you are, not your. In your context, to, not too. Each other, not eachother. DO IT CORRECTLY.

44. zuno gyakusatsu

Posts: 257; Member since: Mar 16, 2010

Try expanding your vocabulary.

16. luis_lopez_351

Posts: 951; Member since: Nov 18, 2010

phone arena always ask us for what do we think not what do we think is right -__- stop spamming phonearena!! with ur idiotic debates u make phonearena look bad thumbs down all comment well the negative ones to show they dont matter feel free to thumb me down itsa complement :)

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