Samsung Galaxy Note and Galaxy Nexus sport HD Super AMOLED - is the PenTile matrix bad for you?

Samsung Galaxy Note and Galaxy Nexus sport HD Super AMOLED - is the PenTile matrix bad for you?
The first generation Super AMOLED displays, as found on the Samsung Galaxy S, used a then new matrix arrangement called PenTile, which allowed for high resolutions on the tricky to manufacture OLED displays. For various reasons it degraded visibility in certain conditions, compared to the traditional RGB matrix. 

Since then many smaprthones, and even tablets, started using the PenTile matrix, in both AMOLED and LCD screens. Now that we are holding the first HD Super AMOLED display on a prototype Samsung Galaxy Note, we decided to check if things are advancing with the PenTile pattern on the new HD displays.

To PenTile or not to PenTile – where's my resolution?

Samsung's seed investment Nouvoyance, the company behind the PenTile matrix used in the HD screens of the Samsung Galaxy Note and Galaxy Nexus, informs us that the PenTile matrix technology complies with the accepted VESA standard for display resolution. 

While the PenTile creators say the technology is just different from the stripes we are used to look at with RGB matrices, but its subpixels are a third wider, thus increasing aperture, some argue about the "missing subpixel" paradigm. Others even go as far as cutting the default horizontal and vertical numbers by a third, and then calculating the density from a subpixel standpoint.

Nouvoyance says that the difference in pixel arrangement is clearly visible only when you look closer while displaying small details on saturated red for the RGBG PenTile in AMOLED displays, and when showing them on saturated green for the RGBW PenTile in LCDs, like the one on Motorola's qHD Droids. 

Moreover, the Android UI used some elements that exacerbated the PenTile pattern visibility, such as pixel-wide UI elements, and some fonts on saturated primary colors, where the matrix arrangement could make things appear fuzzy. The ATRIX, for example, used to have this solid green battery icon that showed RGBW PenTile pattern visibility when looked at from very close, so Motorola changed it with one of the software updates. With the new Roboto font in Android Ice Cream Sandwich, built from scratch for high-res displays, this should be even less of an issue.

The premise of the PenTile creators is that their invention is not inferior to the traditional RGB, but actually a different way to arrange a display matrix, where you lose some definition diagonally, visible at lower pixel densities, but gain brightness, ease-to-manufacture, contrast and power efficiency. For higher pixel densities you stand to gain from PenTile, they argue, and, since this novel arrangement is slowly creeping into both LCD and AMOLED screens of various high-end smartphones, starting with Samsung and Motorola, we'd better check if these claims hold water.

We test

The corporate Kool-Aid is neverending, that is why we were eager to explore the new HD Super AMOLED using PenTile against the Super AMOLED Plus with a traditional RGB matrix on the Samsung Galaxy S II. We threw in another new phone with huge display, but lousy WVGA resolution for its 4.7" size, the HTC Titan, and added the pixel density king to beat, Apple's iPhone 4, for good measure.

To save you the suspense we want to state clearly that at no point while using the 800x1280 pixels 5.3" screen on the Galaxy Note could we see any jaggies or the pattern of the pixels arrangement - even on individual letters at full zoom at the closest possible distance to our eyes we couldn't discern anything, let alone in normal use. Cold colors making white appear blueish ever since the Super AMOLED on the first Galaxy S - yes, that exists even in the new HD Super AMOLED , but details were the clearest we've seen on any AMOLED to date. 

This is somewhat visible in the pictures we took of the screens, but in reality the HD Super AMOLED screen fares even better. If you look at the zoomed in 100% crops of pics made from the same distance, the letter borders have deeper jaggies on the Samsung Galaxy S II, as opposed to the ones from the Galaxy Note display, which are closer to the smoothness of the iPhone 4's screen. 

If we follow the “cut a third” logic, then the Galaxy Note density should go down to about 190ppi from the official 285, and thus fare worse than the 217ppi on the Galaxy S II, which is not the case. Again, this is zoomed to a level that you will never encounter on the phones themselves. 

Of course, the best way to compare an HD screen with PenTile is to pit it against another HD one with traditional RGB matrix, but for now we are working with what we have.

We also ran the red test, and indeed the RGBG PenTile display on the Galaxy Note looks as if a fish net texture has been cast over, compared to the traditional RGB stripe matrix on the Samsung Galaxy S II, which shows lines. That, however, is not visible to the naked eye on the Galaxy Note, even if you stretch the picture at maximum in the Gallery.


To wrap it up we'd say that the fears about PenTile appear hugely overblown when it comes to the new HD Super AMOLED technology, which delivers higher pixel density. The folks from Nouvoyance seem to be open about the advantages and disadvantages of their  matrix arrangement, and never said flaws don't exist in certain conditions. Moreover, it seems that PenTile is here to stay, and Samsung is even prepping an RGBW LCD screen with 1600x2560 pixels resolution, resulting in 300ppi at 10.1-inch size.

In any case, if we nitpickers couldn't find anything troubling with the screen on our prototype Galaxy Note, then the average user shouldn't even care what matrix their smartphone or tablet display uses to bring them those entertaining YouTube clips of cats falling off TVs. 

additional info: OLED-A & PenTileBlog

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1. Eingild

Posts: 203; Member since: Apr 19, 2011

Nice article. People talk like having Pentile Matrix is a a bad thing. They haven't realize that they're just exaggerating claims, this and that. Bahh! Just enjoy the handset you prefer and live like a normal human being. +1 for the article.

15. Synack

Posts: 688; Member since: Jul 05, 2011

Yes the Galaxy Nexus will indeed be a damn good screen. Now if it were just in my hands RIGHT NOW.

21. willardcw4

Posts: 170; Member since: Oct 01, 2011

+1.... ATT Plox =D

24. nak1017

Posts: 328; Member since: Jan 08, 2010

AGREED! I wish this article was up before the other "freak out" articles got posted...

25. roldefol

Posts: 4744; Member since: Jan 28, 2011

Yeah, what's PA's deal? "Is PenTile on the Nexus a dealbreaker?!" "Why PenTile on the Nexus is not a dealbreaker!" They're of two minds...


Posts: 22; Member since: Aug 07, 2011

Does not convince me.. I still feel SuperAmoled *Plus* gives the best Visuals for 3D Games and Movie / Slingbox HD T.V... I Love My Droid Charge's Screen..

44. andro.

Posts: 1999; Member since: Sep 16, 2011

pentile or not your right 720p on that size screen is unparalleled in the industry and with super amoled there's nothing not to enjoy!

51. ph00ny

Posts: 2025; Member since: May 26, 2011

Pentile is a bad thing on lower res screens and it's very noticeable. Obviously now that we're hitting much higher resolutions, it's starting become a non-issue

2. chuckyoo

Posts: 34; Member since: Oct 18, 2011

Great article. I wonder since the screen in galaxy note is HD, if the phone can still handle that much with the dual core on battery. I want the galaxy note and people say it is too big, but I want a phoblet, kill two birds with one stone.

3. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

thank you. tired of fear mongerers worrying about the pentile arrangement. If you look at the last set of pictures, the pentile Note took a better looking screenshot than the PPI king, iphone. At such resolutions you will have to use a magnifying glass and strain your eyes to tell the difference.

34. ayephoner

Posts: 858; Member since: Jun 09, 2009

i think the note looks great. im really pumped to see a galaxy nexus in person.

4. HTCiscool

Posts: 449; Member since: Jul 16, 2011

Do you want fries with that?

5. arcq12

Posts: 733; Member since: Oct 13, 2011

in real world, pentile doesnt make sense. it's not in existence..

8. arcq12

Posts: 733; Member since: Oct 13, 2011

thumb down all you want but what I'm saying is true.. no one can differentiate those displays with their bare eyes unless you use a magnifying glass of some sort. both displays are sick whether it's pentile or not..

20. roldefol

Posts: 4744; Member since: Jan 28, 2011

The point is not that PenTile has no disadvantages, it's that those disadvantages disappear when the resolution jumps from 800x480 to 1280x800.

6. SuperAndroidEvo

Posts: 4888; Member since: Apr 15, 2011

Yes I am very excited about HD displays. To me the Samsung Galaxy Nexus looks like a real great phone. The 720p HD Super AMOLED screen seems to be a great choice. Also & to be honest who in their right mind will use a magnifying glass on their mobile phone anyway? The 4.6" 720p HD Super AMOLED screen IS beautiful. Can't wait to see this phone in action!

7. WirelessCon

Posts: 311; Member since: May 11, 2010

How about comparing 720p video? How much to the other displays degrade the image?

9. terabyteRouser

Posts: 457; Member since: Oct 18, 2011

Great article!

10. terabyteRouser

Posts: 457; Member since: Oct 18, 2011

The iPhone 4 is beautiful.

13. kshell1

Posts: 1143; Member since: Oct 05, 2011

its also a broken phone waiting to happen. reference to the f'n glass chassis

22. roldefol

Posts: 4744; Member since: Jan 28, 2011

The screen is beautiful, yes. But its days at the top are numbered.

39. larryvand

Posts: 12; Member since: Oct 21, 2011

Too small. I can't read it. I currently have an iPhone4 and honest to God, I can't read it without my glasses. And when I use my glasses it gives me a headache. Apple needs to increase the screen size. The Galaxy nexus with a 4.65" and 1280x800 res is the one I'll get. I had it with Apple and the iPhone telling me what I can and can not have. They freaking need a bigger screen. Period.

11. PimpStrong

Posts: 310; Member since: Jul 25, 2011

I personally do not like the skinny 16:9 ratio of the Sensation screen which means I won't like how the Nexus' screen will be equally skinny. Thumb me down if u want but I'll take SAMOLED PLUS in 16:10 over this HD.

17. Leodrade

Posts: 87; Member since: Aug 26, 2011

16:9 is the best aspect ratio to watch movies but if you don't like it then you should look into the Galaxy Note that is 16:10

32. PimpStrong

Posts: 310; Member since: Jul 25, 2011

I'm good I have the GS2

23. roldefol

Posts: 4744; Member since: Jan 28, 2011

Also 8% of the screen will be for the menu buttons, so the useable space will be a 4.4" 15:9 screen.

33. PimpStrong

Posts: 310; Member since: Jul 25, 2011

So that makes it skinny AND shorter?

36. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

not true. those buttons dissapear in context to what your doing on screen. watch the video, when your watching a video on the phone, the buttons dissapear and it becomes a giant screen. Im pretty sure individual apps will get control over that feature.

38. roldefol

Posts: 4744; Member since: Jan 28, 2011

We don't know yet how various apps will control the menu buttons. I'm going to assume the buttons may black out during certain apps but the bar area will only disappear during full screen video.

48. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

they said during the keynote that a developer could blank out one, 2 or all of the buttons at his will. They are completely contextual to whats going on with the phone.

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