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Display brightness and outdoor visibility comparison: Samsung Galaxy S8 vs iPhone 7 vs LG G6 vs Google Pixel vs Sony Xperia XZs

Display brightness and outdoor visibility comparison: Samsung Galaxy S8 vs iPhone 7 vs LG G6 vs Google Pixel vs Sony Xperia XZs

It's summer in the Northern hemisphere, but you surely have noticed already: the temperatures have hit new record highs and the mood has quietly settled into that relaxed summer vibe.

Whether you are spending your spare time by a swimming pool, the beach or hiking the mountains, you are most likely accompanied by the one device that never leaves your pocket: your smartphone.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, which one is the brightest of them all?

Unfortunately, using a smartphone in the summer days can be a pain for one very simple reason: the sun shines so brightly that it's hard to see what's on the screen! You need to crank the display brightness all the way up, and even then you squint and stare to see that message or to take that picture. And you might just start to wonder: are there phones that are easier to see outdoors?

We took six popular flagship to this exact test: which one has the most legible screen outdoors? The six phones that we tested are right below, where you can see some key technical data about their displays.

PhoneScreen SizeScreen TechResolutionMax Brightness
Apple iPhone 7 Plus5.5"
16:9 ratio
LCD1080 x 1920 px672 nits
Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus6.2"
18.5:9 ratio
AMOLED1440 x 2960 px565 nits
Google Pixel5.0"
16:9 ratio
AMOLED1080 x 1920 px398 nits
Sony Xperia XZs5.2"
16:9 ratio
LCD1080 x 1920 px511 nits
LG G65.7"
18:9 ratio
LCD1440 x 2880 px506 nits
OnePlus 55.5"
16:9 ratio
AMOLED1080 x 1920 px435 nits

Let's get to the test...

The iPhone 7 Plus and Samsung Galaxy S8 are the two top dogs when you look at the charts: they are able to reach brightness levels above 550 nits. The higher this number, the easier it is to see what is on the screen of a phone. The Sony Xperia XZs ranks third, but it's a close third, and then we have the G6 at the fourth spot. The OnePlus 5 and Google Pixel get much lower peak brightness levels than the other four. However, it is not just about brightness: in real life, the reflectivity of the display also matters a lot. That is why we took these six phones out in the field in the summer heat and photographed them.

Here are the results of our investigation:

Disclaimer: We performed all tests outdoors under direct sunlight. This creates a challenge for every camera: a dynamic scene that cannot be captured realistically in a snap. That is why to get a realistic representation of screen legibility, we have used our real-life impressions to edit the images to get as close as possible to reality.

All images have been tweaked to get as close as possible to the actual legibility of a screen outdoors!

Scene 1: The Girl and the Castle

Original image

Original image

100% crops under direct sunlight

100% crops under direct sunlight

Some phones appear much brighter and it is much easier to see the picture on their screens. Notice something else interesting: colors appear different on all these phones. Some of the phones skew the colors, adding an extra punch and not keeping the color fidelity. We suppose there is some added processing going on with some phones, but what we will focus on here is visibility, not the colors per se.

Scene 2: A Donut

Original image

Original image

100% crops under direct sunlight

100% crops under direct sunlight

We can confidently say that the first three phones were relatively easy to see even under direct sunlight, while the rest were giving our eyes a hard time. There is certainly room for improvement in the bottom bracket.

Scene 3: PhoneArena-ception

Lastly, we used a screenshot of PhoneArena.com, as reading text is one thing that we commonly need to do on our smartphones. Here are the results that we got:

PhoneArena.com, 100% crop under direct sunlight

PhoneArena.com, 100% crop under direct sunlight

Again, we see three phones perform very good, and the other three - not so good.

And the winners are...

Disclaimer: All images above have been edited to reflect the real-life legibility of the display. The conclusions below are based on our real-life impressions from the devices.

Display brightness and outdoor visibility comparison: Samsung Galaxy S8 vs iPhone 7 vs LG G6 vs Google Pixel vs Sony Xperia XZs
Smartphone displays are becoming more balanced, but also brighter. Just last year, we performed the same test and we are seeing some welcome progress. Take a look at how last year's best phones performed on a similar test for some background.

This year, the Samsung Galaxy S8+ emerges as the clear winner. It not only has a more immersive display with least bezel of them all, but also one that is capable of getting extra bright. Apple has stepped down from its top spot from last year, and this year it ranks third-best with the iPhone 7 Plus. Sony has meanwhile sneaked in at number two with its bright and legible Sony Xperia XZs.

And then we have the other three. While on the Galaxy S8, the iPhone and the Xperia XZs, we could see what's on the screen without too much eye squinting and effort, the rest — the Google Pixel in particular — are much more troublesome when you take them for a walk outdoors. So if you are one who uses their phone a lot outdoors, we strongly suggest you take these results into consideration. Your eyes will thank you.

#1Samsung Galaxy S8+7
#2Sony Xperia XZs6.5
#3 Apple iPhone 7 Plus6.2
#4LG G65
#5OnePlus 54.5
#6Google Pixel2

  • Options

posted on 19 Jul 2017, 10:07

1. ahmuzencab (banned) (Posts: 192; Member since: 12 May 2017)

NEarly 700 knits... wow.

That pixel “score” though.

posted on 19 Jul 2017, 10:08

2. haruken (Posts: 126; Member since: 06 Nov 2013)

Samsung excellence yet again. Yet AGAIN.

posted on 19 Jul 2017, 10:42

15. danny_a2005 (Posts: 268; Member since: 06 Oct 2011)

This is so biased, samsung s8 looks cheap among the others, iPhone and Xperia looks awesome, but samsung, is meeeh. look at the actual pictue of the phone, eeew

posted on 19 Jul 2017, 11:04 1

21. Mr.Pussy (Posts: 137; Member since: 16 Feb 2017)

Those photos dont look too good on the S8 as in real life. I have both the S8 and the iPhone 7. The S8 looks great under bright sun light compared to iPhone.

posted on 19 Jul 2017, 20:49

73. srirachacha (Posts: 22; Member since: 06 Mar 2015)

Agreed, I have an S8+ as well. When the phone cranks up the brightness due to ambient light levels, the images look crystal clear and not washed out like this at all in person.

I understand that it's difficult to capture what you're seeing digitally and then portray them on another screen, but it's one of those things that you just have to see it in person to believe it.

posted on 26 Jul 2017, 23:08

104. bambamboogy02 (Posts: 655; Member since: 23 Jun 2012)

No Pixel XL? Why not? you used a S8+, iphone7+, but opted for the smaller pixel? makes no sense.

posted on 19 Jul 2017, 11:05 1

23. buccob (Posts: 2732; Member since: 19 Jun 2012)

This article felt particularly biased... I was expecting to see the iPhone of the Xperia first... The Galaxy has a bright screen but the colors are all washed out and lack contrast.

In my eyes it was the iPhone closely followed by the XZ and then the Samsung

posted on 19 Jul 2017, 11:10

24. bucky (Posts: 3132; Member since: 30 Sep 2009)

I know overall the galaxy s8 screen is more vibrant and higher pixel count but I agree with you here. It looked very washed out.

posted on 19 Jul 2017, 11:17 1

28. pixel_ftw (Posts: 25; Member since: 19 Jun 2017)

XZs and iPhone are the winners in this competition. Pixel and One plus screens are just sad. I didn't have the chance to check the S8 but if this is how it looks under the sun - bright but lifeless - than S8 screen may not be as great as some reviewer said. In fact i recently saw technobuffalo's s8 video where they claimed under bright light s8 get unnaturally hot ( more hotter than other phone ).

Despite all the jokes about iPhone's LCD display, iPhone still has excellent display, that's a fact.

posted on 19 Jul 2017, 11:53 1

35. ebilcake (Posts: 957; Member since: 16 Jul 2016)

Actually in bright light they jack up the brightness, colour and contrast to help with visibility.

In terms of image quality it's not great but when in bright sunlight it's more important to clearly be able to see the screen than pick out fine details.

posted on 19 Jul 2017, 11:26

31. ncallan (Posts: 41; Member since: 15 Mar 2013)

There is a disclaimer written at least a couple times saying that the images had been edited. Seemingly quite poorly as the s8 seems to bear zero resemblance to real life. I have an s8 whilst my wife has an iPhone. both are very good outdoors but the s8 in particular is incredible in direct light. It seems to use a combination of huge brightness and contrast boosting to give really punchy images outdoors. Phonarena editing seems to make it look very washed out.

posted on 19 Jul 2017, 13:00

44. adi90 (Posts: 513; Member since: 21 Dec 2015)

It is hard to believe amoled display of pixel performing so bad in outdoor visibility.
pixel owners care to share their opinion?

posted on 19 Jul 2017, 14:52 1

56. trojan_horse (Posts: 4928; Member since: 06 May 2016)

I think the editing done by the writer didn't go well with the Pixel's display.

posted on 04 Aug 2017, 08:07

105. Soundjudgment (Posts: 124; Member since: 10 Oct 2016)

This is all going to become mute when the iPhone8 gets released with OLED.

posted on 19 Jul 2017, 10:11

3. limona (Posts: 33; Member since: 19 May 2017)

Nice comparison!

posted on 19 Jul 2017, 10:13

4. Zack_2014 (Posts: 515; Member since: 25 Mar 2014)

The amount of power that AMOLED draws at 700 nits means the phone will die under 2 hours very easily.

posted on 19 Jul 2017, 14:25

53. Macready (Posts: 1493; Member since: 08 Dec 2014)

Not even close. I get easily past 5 SOT at max brightness still.

posted on 20 Jul 2017, 05:41

89. Zack_2014 (Posts: 515; Member since: 25 Mar 2014)

5 Hours SOT at Max brightness? You smoking weed or something?
It barely gets through 5 hours on normal brightness forget full.

posted on 19 Jul 2017, 10:17

5. TerryD (Posts: 118; Member since: 09 May 2017)

One of the misconceptions with the brightness on the S7 was that the screen brightness got a pretty low score. If brightness was set to manual and then ramped up to max it was nowhere as bright as when it was left on automatic. is this still the case with the S8?

posted on 19 Jul 2017, 10:20 1

6. Zack_2014 (Posts: 515; Member since: 25 Mar 2014)

Yes it is the same.
Manual it gets to the score in the chart.
In auto it gets to 700+ Nits

posted on 19 Jul 2017, 15:06

58. TerryD (Posts: 118; Member since: 09 May 2017)

Cheers Zack.

My S7 Edge is great in direct sunlight when set to auto. Hammers the battery though.

posted on 19 Jul 2017, 10:22

7. hansip87 (Posts: 112; Member since: 10 Nov 2015)

For my eyes, the iPhone and the Sony is definitely better than s8. The s8 looks like losing some contrast when pushing the brightness. The Sony is a bit blueish though, maybe iPhone is better.

posted on 19 Jul 2017, 10:25

8. maple_mak (Posts: 904; Member since: 18 Dec 2013)

Why not Xperia XZ Premium, but XZs?
And why U11 become XZs...???

posted on 19 Jul 2017, 10:26 1

9. DBoss (Posts: 61; Member since: 18 Feb 2017)

My personal experience with galaxies:
In outdoor conditions, the whole screen is like it has been white washed and the colors are far from perfect. while iphones keep the original color by itself and makes the screen bright. i kinda prefer iphones.

posted on 19 Jul 2017, 11:19 1

29. maherk (Posts: 4845; Member since: 10 Feb 2012)

That's because you have the screen mode on Adaptive mode, it makes dark colors look lighter under sunlight to help show the content on the screen.

posted on 19 Jul 2017, 10:28

10. shield (Posts: 527; Member since: 12 Sep 2015)

Not bad lg, Sony is better and iPhone no Samsung.

posted on 19 Jul 2017, 10:31

11. gigicoaste (Posts: 157; Member since: 21 Feb 2016)

from your images I would pick Sony, better visibility than Iphone and more vivid than S8. S8looks a bit washed.

posted on 19 Jul 2017, 10:36

12. phichart (Posts: 312; Member since: 03 May 2014)

Excuse me! Can you please click on auto Display on Galaxies? your test are s**t

posted on 19 Jul 2017, 11:31

32. Victor.H (Posts: 785; Member since: 27 May 2011)

All tests are done with screens set to automatic brightness (at peak performance). All the benchmark scores in the first table are the maximum results achievable under lab conditions.

posted on 19 Jul 2017, 16:37

64. Macready (Posts: 1493; Member since: 08 Dec 2014)

" under lab conditions" means in the dark and/or 100% white? Because the peak brightness is much higher under direct sunlight and with mixed content.

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