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.

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

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

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:

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.

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



1. ahmuzencab

Posts: 192; Member since: May 12, 2017

NEarly 700 knits... wow. That pixel “score” though.

2. haruken

Posts: 306; Member since: Nov 06, 2013

Samsung excellence yet again. Yet AGAIN.

15. danny_a2005

Posts: 358; Member since: Oct 06, 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

21. Mr.Pussy

Posts: 348; Member since: Feb 16, 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.

73. srirachacha

Posts: 23; Member since: Mar 06, 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.

104. bambamboogy02

Posts: 837; Member since: Jun 23, 2012

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

23. buccob

Posts: 2963; Member since: Jun 19, 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

24. bucky

Posts: 3778; Member since: Sep 30, 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.

28. pixel_ftw

Posts: 83; Member since: Jun 19, 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.

35. ebilcake

Posts: 1227; Member since: Jul 16, 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.

31. ncallan

Posts: 43; Member since: Mar 15, 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.

44. adi90

Posts: 554; Member since: Dec 21, 2015

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

56. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

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

105. Soundjudgment

Posts: 370; Member since: Oct 10, 2016

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

3. limona

Posts: 72; Member since: May 19, 2017

Nice comparison!

4. Zack_2014

Posts: 677; Member since: Mar 25, 2014

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

53. Macready

Posts: 1817; Member since: Dec 08, 2014

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

89. Zack_2014

Posts: 677; Member since: Mar 25, 2014

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

5. TerryD

Posts: 545; Member since: May 09, 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?

6. Zack_2014

Posts: 677; Member since: Mar 25, 2014

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

58. TerryD

Posts: 545; Member since: May 09, 2017

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

7. hansip87

Posts: 226; Member since: Nov 10, 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.

8. maple_mak

Posts: 953; Member since: Dec 18, 2013

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

9. DBoss

Posts: 102; Member since: Feb 18, 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.

29. maherk

Posts: 6774; Member since: Feb 10, 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.

10. shield

Posts: 834; Member since: Sep 12, 2015

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

11. gigicoaste

Posts: 448; Member since: Feb 21, 2016

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

12. phichart

Posts: 335; Member since: May 03, 2014

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

32. Victor.H

Posts: 1056; Member since: May 27, 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.

64. Macready

Posts: 1817; Member since: Dec 08, 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.

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

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