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.



176. checkmate23

Posts: 1; Member since: Jun 26, 2014

I'm writing this on my note 3. I hate to be the one to break the bad news but this article is actually right.well in the article it saids amoled suffers from output brightness which is indeed a huge problem. Basically it's when your phone dims low by it self and than the brightness comes back to full brightness. Nobody has found a fix for this problem. Some think it might be the software and some think it's the hardware. Some think it's suppose to do it so you don't burn out the display and some think it's so the phone doesn't overheat so it dims low automatically which is honestly annoying. The amoled display does have the brightest colors and is true 1080p and makes the iPhone display look like crap.everyone has try turning off Knox and notes to fix the issue but it cannot be fix because it built into the kernel. I am not sure if the HTC has this problem but I'm guessing it might because of this article. I don't think the lcd in the iPhone ever dims and even if the iphone does get hot I don't think the brightness will ever dim on you .I'm going to sell my note 3 because of this issue because I hate when the phone keeps dimming low and feels like someone controlling it and it not me.

175. Oscar999

Posts: 1; Member since: Mar 02, 2014

You guys are way off with the Note 3's nit level - with auto brightness on in sun light it's over 600 nits. That's on a parr with the very brightest and way over iPhone levels. check out other reviewers with the right equipment. you're either blind or very bias lol. i think you just go by old ambled convention. I like Apple, nothing against the phones, but your readings are nonsense.

173. aydell2123

Posts: 16; Member since: Aug 28, 2013

Wow. This has to be the most pathetic attempt to make iPhone 5s look like it's still #1..unfortunately like everyone else commenting from my note 3. . I strongly disagree with you PA.. Note 3 wins every category.. Yall should be ashamed of yourselves! !

172. garret1976

Posts: 9; Member since: Oct 27, 2013

this review went wrong. Samsung outdoor visibility is very good because of low refelection and because Samsung use a trick to crank up auto brightness in very bright light. Too bad they didn't know that.

171. TerryCrowley

Posts: 194; Member since: Jul 31, 2011

Sometimes, you can tell an article was written by Ray S. His stupidity shines brighter than the iPhones retina display.

170. becazican

Posts: 52; Member since: Nov 09, 2011

you cant take this site seriously as they are in bed with apple. I have nothing against apple, I own ipad and I mac, but I tested all but the lg phone, sorry note 3 has the best display, really this site has lost any faith one could have on reviews of phones

167. fsi22

Posts: 3; Member since: Oct 16, 2013

This is the best article I've read on colour reproduction.For those who understand accurate colour reproduction this is just confirmation of the fact that while Samsung has made massive strides forward with oled tech.It is still way behind lcd.

165. Zakriya

Posts: 11; Member since: Aug 05, 2013

There Should Have Been a SONY Phone in the mix instead of sgs4 then Screen comparison would have been nice.

169. fsi22

Posts: 3; Member since: Oct 16, 2013

SONY Xperia Z has decent colour but terrible contrast.It is unfortunately a trait of tft lcd technology.

162. merophosis

Posts: 1; Member since: Oct 14, 2013

More thorough testing on the Note.. auto-brightness level @ 660 cd/m2.. Much different than this..not so good test. Google Note 3 display gizmodo

153. aanar

Posts: 3; Member since: Oct 12, 2013

Download Paid ANdriod Apps for Free:

152. theo14461 unregistered

Uhm, I personally owned the LG GS2, the HTC ONE, GS4, and currently own the Note 3. GS2, awesome, HORRIBLE battery, GS4, dim display, Note 3, PERFECT.

151. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Color Reproduction? I have a better test. Show the screen of the Galaxy Note 3 and the iPhone 5S to anyone and just ask which one they like best. They will all say the Note looks better. The colors are brighter and more eye-catching

150. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Are you guys serious? Unlike with LCD's, Samsung includes a setting where you can change he dynamics of the display. If you "prefer" better color matching, then you simply change the display setting. Most people don't and likely don't even care. AMOLED screens don't produce natural whites, because they don't have while LED's. As far as brightness? How bright do you need it? With LCD's, you are forced to crank up the brightness because since LCD's use a bulb, the light refracts off the light shining on it which makes the phone look less bright. AMOLED in my usage are much more viewable in the light of any kind because there are no bulbs. I keep my screen at 50% all the time even in the sun. LCD's are battery drainers. Again, lets go back to the colors. I do agree in the Galaxy devices, the colors are over-saturated to the point they don't look real. But its easy to fix. Actually its not even broke. Look at your pics above with the Note next to the iPhone. The colors on the iPhone, yes look more natural, but they also look dull. Comparing that to looking at life like items with my natural eyes, they don't look that dull. You would have to be going blind to see colors that are dull to be looking good. I made adjustments to my display. In fact the Galaxy Note 3 has a built-in tool for calibration so you can make the colors as natural as you like. I did it and it looked as dull as the iPhone, I like my colors to stand out. In the dark, AMOLED screens are better due to blacks being natural as LCD's can't produce natural black because of the bulb. In fact, based on reading tech articles from companies that make screen, they have all identified LED screens being better than LCD's in almost everything with exception of being natural looking in color. A simple adjustment to contrast would fix this. What I love is even tho the colors jump out at you, they aren't fuzzy. They are clear and clean like an LCD. I compared my screen on the GN3 with my wife's GS4. Even tho they have the same LCD, the Note looks better because this time it isn't a Pentile display. Even using the same wallpaper she said mine look much brighter and more detailed. I said it was bec it was a slightly different type of display. Brightness/Visibility. Yes the iPhone screen is brighter...DUH! It uses a bulb. Bulbs are brighter than LED lights. However, Bulbs aren't better. Forget about the typical drawbacks like light bouncing off the light coming from the screen. Forget about battery life, because pretty colors is more important. The advantage of the other phones is they have bigger screens. I found that after using 2 models of the iPhone my eyes would be so tired bec of the high resolution in such a small footprint. My wife who has never worn glasses after using 2 iPod Touches now needs them. In direct sunlight thanks to my screen being bigger, it actually makes it easier to read. I simply increase the brightness from 50% to about 70% and its good for me.

168. fsi22

Posts: 3; Member since: Oct 16, 2013

Oled screens might produce deeper blacks but they also crush which is very bad,Shadows and detail are completely lost.

149. samsuper

Posts: 33; Member since: Apr 18, 2013

Display mate .com telling a different story. Iphonearena doing really bad.

148. KingDingaLing

Posts: 324; Member since: Oct 11, 2013

I'd go to your local providers store, grab the 2 phones, and see for yourself. I did and left with the Note 3. Easy decision for me. Long time iPhone user too. To me there was no comparison. But hey, see for yourself.

147. gizmobic

Posts: 2; Member since: Sep 18, 2013

Sony Xperia Edge with 8GB of RAM ?? is it possible?? Read more-- gizmobic dot com

141. E34V8

Posts: 111; Member since: Dec 16, 2011

Sub HD display with 330 ppi gets 9 on resolution ! HTC One with it's 1080p display an 470 ppi gets only 10 (1 more) . iPhoneArena strikes again. Hey, we have seen the tiny 5s screen, it's not on par with the HTC One, G2, or Note 3. And the viewing angles on 5s are not that great. Greetings from BG!

140. HTC_One_M7_Owner

Posts: 1; Member since: Oct 10, 2013

I really want to know how the 5S beat the HTC One in color reproduction? Many reviews have said the SLCD3 in the One was insainely good at color reproduction due to its insaine 468ppi.

138. Carlosfrancoz

Posts: 19; Member since: Oct 10, 2013

on who specialize on screen reviews said Samsung Galaxy Note 3 has Brightness 628 cd/m2 on automatic brightness and Iphone 5 (same display that use Iphone 5S) has Brightness 556 cd/m2... here your rank would be ok because GN3 only has a better brightness compared to iPhone5 using "automatic brightness" BUT in your score for Viewing angles I desagree! Galaxy Note 3 has a decrease of 22% while iPhone 5 has 60% of brightness decrease!!!! why do you score both the same??? If you put Viewing Angle 8 for GN3 then you have to set 5 for the iPhone 5!!! damn...

137. estreito

Posts: 15; Member since: May 11, 2012

This doesn't add up... Sammobile's article states this about brightness: "The biggest improvement, however, is brightness. The Note 3 can achieve up to 400 nits of brightness in most conditions, on par with the best LCDs out there. Moreover, outdoors, the Note 3 can deliver a whopping 660 nits of brightness, 40 percent more than the Galaxy S4 and around 10 percent more than the iPhone 5s. The screen is less reflective, which helps outdoor visibility as well." Over here they state that gn3 outputs 300 nits opposed to 660 nits?

135. ahmadb4040

Posts: 7; Member since: Oct 10, 2013

dissapoint on you iphonearena shameeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee on you note 3 ftw .....

134. Trex95

Posts: 2397; Member since: Mar 03, 2013

SGS4 has better screen than Note 3 due to the higher pixels density and smaller screen size. I saw a review in YouTube about Note 3 screen made by XDA developer, he mentioned that screen on Note 3 isn't that great and SGS4 has better screen.

159. aydell2123

Posts: 16; Member since: Aug 28, 2013

Its got a lil higher ppi due to a .7" smaller ole lady has one..but make no mistake..I got my note 3..and its better in every way..low light..brightness..and color

132. xfire99

Posts: 1207; Member since: Mar 14, 2012

How can 640 x 1136 resolution score a 9? More like 7, since there are others with higher resolutions then IP5. Its about RESOLUTION and not how good display is. Highest resolution Smart phones: 1920 x 1080 = 10 1280 x 768 = 9 1280 x 720 = 8 1136 x 640 = 7 So I dont know how IP5S can get a 9 on resolution ranks?

131. surhans

Posts: 4; Member since: Oct 09, 2013

where is the sony "Triluminos screen", how could u forgot this, huh PA

129. R-vjn

Posts: 301; Member since: Jan 07, 2013

Gosh, finnally I can say that PA is spot on to something. The display on the Iphone 5s is just amazing, though its way smaller and lacks the resoultion, the calibration they do is just amazing. I would say even better than the HTC One and LG G2 while looking them side to side. AMOLED'S have always beeen too saturated for my taste, so thats out of the question. Also guys, please not that, I've never bought an iphone and I guess I'll never buy one because of my own reasons. (not because i hate them, but its just not my type of OS).

128. ntsiotinos

Posts: 17; Member since: Nov 18, 2011

What about battery life? I've heard that LCD's tend to go through batteries faster. I know that this will be a difficult test to do, given the varying screen sizes. The other advantage of AMOLED is that it can show information on just a portion of the screen without using up power for the whole screen (like the Moto X). I'm also surprised at the rating for brightness, as the Galaxy Note 3 has been widely praised for its low reflection and high brightness (see Lastly what about durability - I know that most people only use their phone for two years - but a lot of people pass their phones on to other members of their families.

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

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