Screen comparison: Galaxy Note 3 vs iPhone 5s and other flagships

Screen comparison: Galaxy Note 3 vs iPhone 5s and other flagships
There are many epic rivalries within the wireless industry: Apple vs Samsung, iOS vs Android, Angry Birds vs Fruit Ninja... OK, that last one may not be that epic, but you get the idea. Actually, another very interesting rivalry we can think of right now is LCD vs AMOLED.

Having been relying on and perfecting it, Samsung is easily the biggest proponent of AMOLED screen technology, and we can certainly understand the Korean manufacturer for sticking with it. Although it does have a number of disadvantages, it cannot be denied that AMOLED is eye-catchy. With its lush and vibrant colors, as well as striking contrast levels, thanks to the perfect black color, AMOLED screens look quite impressive when viewing colorful photos or video. However, this is where we have to acknowledge the fact that as fancy as they look, AMOLED displays are still suffering from a lack of brightness and exhibit color imbalances that make them look weird at times. Not that you can't get used to it, but once you compare an AMOLED screen to a quality LCD one, the cons of Samsung's technology of choice become quite apparent.

As luck would have it, we've witnessed the launch of a number of hot smartphones recently, such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and Apple iPhone 5s, which happen to be the benchmark devices for both screen technologies – AMOLED and LCD. That's a great occasion for an in-depth screen comparison that we wouldn't miss for the world! What's more, we're going to add a bunch of other sizzling-hot handsets, such as the HTC One, LG G2, and Galaxy S4 to make things even more intriguing!

Please note that there might be some visible artifacts in the images of the displays, due to the fact that we've captured those with a camera. Those artifacts shouldn't be considered when evaluating the screens!

Brightness and visibility

Although Samsung is constantly working to improve its AMOLED screens, one of the issues that are yet to be solved is the relatively weak brightness output. The Galaxy Note 3, for example, maxes out at about 310 nits when displaying perfect white, and a bit more when displaying a mix of colors. Still, that's a lot less than the iPhone 5s' 530+ nits. Needless to say, it'll be harder to view the Note 3 in broad daylight, compared to the IPS LCD screen of the iPhone 5s, or those of the HTC One and LG G2. Still, we have to point out that Samsung has made progress with the screen of the Note 3, which is considerably easier to view than that of the Galaxy S4 when outdoors.

Another interesting aspect of these screens, when it comes brightness, is how dim they can get. After all, you'd need your display's brightness to get really low if you want to view it in the dark. In that respect, the the Note 3 and iPhone 5s are ahead of the others with their minimum brightness of 5 nits, with the the G2 being a close third with its 8 nits. Check out the following chart to see how each handset stacks up against the others in terms of brightness.

Color reproduction

It's safe to say that getting the colors right is the trickiest part for display manufacturers nowadays. Size, brightness and resolution are no longer a problem, but boy does that blue always get on top of all the other colors? It's still a rarity to find a well calibrated display with no compromises, so it'll be interesting to see if there are any improvements in that respect with this latest generation of AMOLED and LCD technologies.

Starting off with the Galaxy Note 3, we don't necessarily find any substantial difference between its Super AMOLED panel and the one utilized by the Galaxy S4. Both look horrendously imbalanced when set to their default 'Standard' mode, with the Note 3 treating us to image quality that's even farther from the reference values. In Standard mode, the Note 3's color temperature is about 8100 K (kelvin), which means that it has too much blue, and not enough red. Average color error (Delta E) when measuring a greyscale stands at 6.34, which is higher than the 'caution' mark of 5. Overall, if you're looking for a true-to-life color reproduction, you should stay away from the Note 3's Standard screen mode. The 'Professional Photo' mode is a different story. Switching to this mode will substantially lower the color temperature to about 7000 K, which is much closer to the reference point of 6500 K. Colors generally have a decent balance this way, though there is still a bit too much green in there, causing everything to appear slightly greenish. This issue becomes blatantly evident if you put the iPhone 5s' IPS LCD panel right next to the Note 3. In short, white appears... much more white on the iPhone 5s' display. Actually this observation will remain valid if you compare any of the AMOLED screens to any of the LCD screens taking part in this comparison.

So, taking a look at the figures we've gotten after measuring the IPS panel of the iPhone 5s, things actually don't seem perfect there as well. Average color temperature hovers around 7300 K, due to a slightly dominant blue and an insufficient red. Greyscale Delta E (color error) is much lower than that of the Note 3, though, at around 3.75. Overall, color tones are much more realistic on the iPhone's display, while at the same time they, too, appear nicely saturated and vivid.

The HTC One's IPS LCD display continues to be a solid performer overall, though not as superb as the iPhone 5s. With a color temperature of 7600 K and a Delta E of 4.36, it presents us with a high image quality, though it definitely gravitates towards the colder side. The LG G2 is even worse in that respect, as its color temperature nears 8000 K.


The HTC One is still the owner of the densest screen with its 468 ppi (pixels per inch). Thanks to its 1080 x 1920 resolution, as well as the 4.7” diagonal, it manages to display the finest of details in a seamless and pixelization-free manner. However, the difference between it and the other handsets with 1080p screens isn't really that big in terms of clarity. Due to its large, 5.7” diagonal, the Note 3's pixel density has fallen below 400 ppi, reaching the still wonderful 386 ppi. In case you're wondering, everything looks perfectly fine on this display. You really have to look extremely carefully and closely in order to notice some slight jaggedness in the extremely small text. Of course, everything is superb with the other 1080p screens.

When it comes to the iPhone 5s, it's still rocking the good old 640 x 1136 resolution, and while that's not high enough to deserve the 'HD' label, the 4” 'Retina Display' is dense enough to guarantee a comfortable and seamless viewing. If you look closely, you may start to notice individual pixels here and there, but overall, things are still very crisp and clear.

Viewing angles

While viewing angles are not as important as the other aspects that we've already examined, it's still interesting to see how the devices' screens are holding up in this respect. It's actually all a matter of preference between color accuracy and luminance, as all the LCD screens tend to get significantly dimmer when viewed at an angle, while the Super AMOLED displays of the Galaxy Note 3 and S4 doesn't lose their brightness so much. However, the AMOLED panels' colors exhibit some noticeable degradation in terms of balance, with the displays starting to look quite bluish even at smaller angles. Such kind of color balance degradation isn't observed with the IPS LCD displays... not to such a great extent, that is.

If we have to pick our favorites from the LCD crowd, we'd say that the iPhone 5s is doing the best overall job. All AMOLEDs seem to perform similarly in this category – it's remarkable how their manage to retain their brightness output even at extreme angles!


AMOLED screens have made some visible progress this year. Without a doubt, the panels of the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 3 are substantially better than what the Galaxy S III offered last year. When it comes to LCDs, we can't really say that there's been that much of a progress. Easily the best IPS LCD screen in 2012 was that of the iPhone 5, and it doesn't seem like Apple has introduced any improvements to the technology since then. It's still a great screen - probably the best there is with regards to color accuracy and overall quality, though we'd have loved it if we were treated to something even better with the iPhone 5s.

The rivalry between AMOLED and LCD is sure to continue. For now, Samsung is still struggling to keep its displays within the realm of normal colors, but it seems to be getting better and better at that. It also has some work to do when it comes to brightness output. On the other hand, the LCD camp seems to be having a bit of a rest this year, but hopefully things will get moving once again on the screen front when the next generation flagships start entering the scene.



1. good2great

Posts: 1042; Member since: Feb 22, 2012

lol... this is great very informative

6. HansGoneInsane unregistered

A lot of people here on PA won't like the test results! Loving my 5S a lot! A happy iPhone customer

26. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

This article is completely wrong since the Note 3 can achieve 660nits of brightness. The Note 3 simply has the best display on the market hands down.

29. HansGoneInsane unregistered

Maybe the Software then doesn't make use of all of its potential?

30. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Read comment #24.

31. HansGoneInsane unregistered


33. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Yes. Please use a Note 3 in person and then come back saying it isn't the best screen. Bet you can't.

155. rizevnarastek

Posts: 349; Member since: Sep 06, 2012

HTC One has the best resolution (PPI) and the best viewing angles. Notice how it's the only device that doesn't change colors when viewed from the side... Easily ahead of the iPhone 5S.

65. Pedro0x

Posts: 271; Member since: Oct 19, 2012

No it is not. The best calibrated screen belongs to iphone 5c. But Note III really has the best AMOLED screen and with movie mode it is next best screen out there.

83. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

What are you smoking? Note 3 takes the cake on everything. DisplayMate backs up this claim with actual science and reasoning behind it. You should read about it, as it's the new leader in screen technology.

118. DAddYE

Posts: 48; Member since: Oct 04, 2013

What about the fidelity of color reproduction? Why any Sammy user complain about the fact their screen is totally unreadable under the sun? I owned a Noted 2 used for like 3 days then I trashed it, just ridiculous CHEAP plastic c'mon!

120. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Note II and the Note 3 has different displays first of all. Note 3 on Movie setting produces true to color reproduction. Do some research before you blatantly bash on something you don't know about.

144. rd_nest

Posts: 1656; Member since: Jun 06, 2010

You never trashed it. I can guarantee you that. And if you actually did, you are just plain stupid. Note 3 screen is the best in the effin' world. Learn to read before you open your filthy mouth:

166. Long1

Posts: 399; Member since: May 18, 2013

iPhoneArena didn't even mention that Samsung makes THE BEST LCD DISPLAYS , also. Apple know that, though. Even the ''resolutionary" "retina" iPad was made by Samsung. iPhoneArena must know why Samsung use AMOLED but not LCD if LCD is much cheaper and "better". lol.


Posts: 456; Member since: Nov 19, 2011

my goodness ray, you are so obvious, you write articles to show off your love for iPone. lol, so pathetic, go work for cultofmac or something, this is a general news site not a apple fanboy site

60. tedkord

Posts: 17358; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

We take anything written by Ray S. with a grain of salt. He's one of the faithful. The day after the results of a blind comparison in which the 5s lost out to the GS4 and Lumia 1020, it was Ray to the rescue with an article about the 5s camera being better. So naturally after DisplayMate released it's review of the Note 3 screen in which it was shown to be possibly the best screen on a phone today (with actual scientific testing, not subjective pablum), Ray rode in on his space grey horse and saved the day. He should really write for BGR.

66. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

And as always, +1 to you sir.

75. tedkord

Posts: 17358; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Does Michael H. still write here. I haven't seen him lately, but he was about the closest to unbiased here.

78. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Michael is my favorite author on the site. The rest... Well, I don't have to finish the sentence. I guess he's busy with life because he hasn't been publishing articles like he used to.

85. jdoee100

Posts: 334; Member since: Jun 04, 2013

That's funny, I find Michael H. as bias as this author.

96. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Said no one ever...

122. jdoee100

Posts: 334; Member since: Jun 04, 2013

I did. He was the guy who said Moto X is a top-shelf device, and likes to criticize Samsung devices in most of his writings. Ray has bias for iphones, and Michael H. has bias for Nexus and Moto devices(google,).

81. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Wish I could have edited my comment. He just published an article about the iPad Mini 2 and his thoughts about the term 'Retina.'

161. MobileKicker

Posts: 212; Member since: Sep 19, 2013

-1 to you little smurf

110. twens

Posts: 1177; Member since: Feb 25, 2012

I am leaving this site. Never will i click on this site again. Display mate clearly said with scientific evidence to back it up that the note 3 has the best display on a mobile device. why is PA so set on hating samsung and making their phones look so bad next to the iphone? I just don't get it anymore? Dont you appreciate technology anymore or is it that samsung is not an American company so what ever they do is trush?

114. Dorothy69

Posts: 498; Member since: May 21, 2013

That's really not a fair thing to say about them, they apparently are 200% pro-Apple and the iPhone and those iPhones are 100% Made In China with 100% Chinese parts assembled by 100% Chinese people. If anything, Apple is not an American company. Oh how I long for old America the beautiful.

164. Muayyad

Posts: 240; Member since: Oct 05, 2012

Gotta love sammy fans, they say science and reasoning but pictures are evident and they don't accept them. Suh!

130. Lampriya

Posts: 245; Member since: Oct 05, 2013

People here are mostly iPhone haters. If u say good thing about the iPhone, they will call you a troll. so just ignore those pathetic haters.

145. joey_sfb

Posts: 6794; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

The truth hurts! Deal with it brainwashed Apple fans.

158. aydell2123

Posts: 16; Member since: Aug 28, 2013

Because iphone has madee zero changes!! Still same old iphone..its boring and doesnt deserve any respect!! Still rocking a 4" 640p screen with a horrible battery! ! Troll

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

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