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.

Interestingly enough, the black areas of the test picture we used, looked as much illuminated by an LCD backlight on the LG Optimus Black, as they did on the iPhone 4, so we don't know what to make of LG's claim that the pixels draw no power when displaying black – for that they have to be completely turned off. Regardless, that's what a leaked comparison table showed, back when the Optimus Black was still codenamed 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

1. yuya unregistered

ClearBlack Amoled>NOVA>Super AMOLED>Retina Display

4. mike unregistered

you must be definitely blind cuz the ClearBlack Amoled looks awful and over saturated

41. jgcaap

Posts: 42; Member since: Feb 22, 2011

i think he ment the other way around. retina Display first then super amoled then nova then clear black :)

2. djmo unregistered

@PhoneArena is it possible that you compare the 'Reality Display'

3. calamazoo unregistered

REality display is Super LCD made by Sony, which is similar to lg's offerings, but sony actually just bumps up the contrast and brightness while watching videos or pics, pretty much a marketing hype

5. pecemaloto

Posts: 23; Member since: Dec 17, 2010

brightness- LG,APPLE,SAMSUNG,NOKIA contrast- NOKIA,SAMSUNG,LG,APPLE colors- NOKIA,SAMSUNG,APPLE,LG density-APPLE,SAMSUNG,LG,NOKIA angles- who cares bout that?? size- NOKIA LG SAMSUNG, APPLE sunlight- APPLE LG,NOKIA,SAMSUNG JUDGMENT- -ALL EXCELLENT FOR PORN WATCHING... CHOICE IS URS...

23. ahmedra2ol

Posts: 27; Member since: Mar 01, 2011

you are the best i like your eye :D:DD

6. SPcamert

Posts: 56; Member since: Feb 06, 2010

I prefer the Samsung Galaxy S for the color saturation and the brightness. The two LCD's don't really impress me. At least not in these photos.

7. Owlet

Posts: 450; Member since: Feb 21, 2011

Of course, Apple's Retina Display is better! And if it's not as good at something as other displays, just take it outside, or change the angle, or something... Good job, PA!

8. a unregistered

For me : Samsung Galaxy S is better .

24. Pol unregistered

Agree. The real life is in outdoors and often with direct sunlight. Samsung has the best contrast in this situation. The most readable numbers in the gray shades is for the Galaxy. Period.

9. mycrownvic02 unregistered

You mean lgs retina display? Apple can take no claim to that, as they didnt even make the screen. The nova screen would be my choice. The sammys super amoled is also nice though.

10. Owlet

Posts: 450; Member since: Feb 21, 2011

When Steve introduced iPhone last summer, I didn't hear anything about LG, when he kept saying what a breakthrough piece of technology his iPhone had for a screen. So, yes, Apple can. BTW, my comment was sarcastic, I think you didn't get it.

18. Lucas777

Posts: 2137; Member since: Jan 06, 2011

you guys r stupid... apple developed the retina display technology, made probably a few copies, but dont have the means to PRODUCE a bunch. So they have lg, who has a bunch of screen thingies, implement their technology and manufacture their screens for them...

20. rick james unregistered

you guys are all dumb....retina is made by samsung...

29. oddmanout

Posts: 443; Member since: May 22, 2009

You guys make me laugh :D

42. jgcaap

Posts: 42; Member since: Feb 22, 2011

wasnt retina display made by LG?

53. ikkuh unregistered

One thing is for sure: Apple can't make anything on its own. The technology is way out of his league. Even ios is Linux under the hood. The only thing apple is good at is ripping of peoples money. Buying any Apple product is really really stupid.

25. BaiGanyo

Posts: 308; Member since: Feb 07, 2011

I'm sure it was LG, just because of their experience in screen technology. The invented capacative touchscreen tech so it makes more sense. It wasn't apple, thats for sure. They are just a software company who tries to patch together whichever hardware will work with it.

11. mycrownvic02 unregistered

sarcasm on the interweb > me Sometimes hard to tell..

12. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

super amoled (and soon super duper amoled) for me. im a sucker for true black. i also would rather have the larger screen over the cramped screen with slightly better resolution.

13. DontHateOnS60

Posts: 872; Member since: Apr 20, 2009

It's between the E7 and Galaxy S. But with the E7's readability outdoors, it gets the nod.

14. Rob unregistered

I wanted to like the LG display, while the Nokia sparked some interest in me, and the iPhone's merits are well publicisized... but the Samsung display actually wound up winning me over.

15. snowgator

Posts: 3621; Member since: Jan 19, 2011

The Samsung still looks the best from these photos, and in real life it is just a plain show stopper. The LG really looks good, and I have no doubts will be great with a finished product. Never given Nokia it's due. What a spectacular screen. The iPhone is fourth, but really, even iPhone haters have to say fourth in this group is way ahead of most other screens.

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 :)

17. Owlet

Posts: 450; Member since: Feb 21, 2011

I didn't get what you think about different displays from your comment. Have you read any of the comments you thumbed down? Doesn't look like it. Your really make this website look bad. Keep your hands off the mouse, kiddo.

36. luis_lopez_351

Posts: 951; Member since: Nov 18, 2010

nah :) i just do that for attention ;)

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.

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