Screen comparison: Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5s vs One (M8) vs Note 3 vs Nexus 5 vs G2

Screen comparison: Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5s vs One (M8) vs Note 3 vs Nexus 5 vs G2
It's a sweet little tradition of ours to closely examine the screens of top-shelf handsets. Handsets like the Galaxy S5, for example! And by "closely examine", we mean we take that phone to our lab, do some scientific measurements, and then compare it to the other top offerings in the field.

So, being a fresh representative of Samsung's flagship smartphone line, the Galaxy S5 is, naturally, equipped with Samsung's favorite display technology - Super AMOLED. It's a somewhat controversial display tech that captivates users with its contrasty and punchy visuals, but fails to achieve the level of color accuracy exhibited by the quality LCD screens out there. More often than not, the choice smartphone users have to make is just that - will they take the striking, yet unrealistic colors of the AMOLED, or will they stick with a more natural, ordinarily-looking LCD.

As a quick teaser before we dive in, we'd mention that with the GS5, Samsung's AMOLED display is moving yet another step forward. However, as you'll see in the following lines, there's still quite a bit of room for improvement for the company's display technology. Yes, outdoor visibility is now pretty decent, but overall color balance still leaves a lot to be desired. If you simply put a quality LCD next to the GS5's screen and play a video, you'll instantly notice the predominant greenish hue in the GS5 that make things seem a bit weird (mostly visible when you have a reference right in front of you).

Brightness and visibility

The Samsung Galaxy S5 has an improved screen brightness handling - it can now easily reach over 440 nits when the sun is shining brightly above you, allowing for outdoor visibility that is just fine. The differences between the GS5's display and most LCDs in this area are now almost negligible, with only some rare examples, such as the iPhone 5s and its brightness of 500+ nits, being able to separate themselves in the lead. In the image to the right, you can get an idea of how the smartphones we've tested rank in the brightness department. As you can see, the iPhone 5s shines slightly brighter than the rest in the pack, followed by the Nexus 5 and One (M8).

On the other hand, the Samsung Galaxy S5 is a winner when it comes to minimum brightness - you know, the kind of thing you'd greatly appreciate while viewing your handset in the dark. The GS5 is superb in that, as it can go to as low as 2 nits. The iPhone 5s is close behind with its 5 nits minimum brightness, followed by the G2 and its 8 nits.


Nowadays, most high-end smartphones come with 1080 x 1920 resolution, guaranteeing incredibly high density and clarity. Due to that, all handsets tested in this display comparison offer a more or less spectacular pixel density. The iPhone 5s, with its 640 x 1136 pixel resolution, is slightly behind the pack, but due to its smaller screen size, things still look extremely clean.

An interesting specific of the AMOLED displays installed on the Galaxy S5 and Note 3 is that they are using a different, diamond PenTile pixel arrangement. This used to introduce some graininess in the image, compared to a standard RGB matrix, but with resolutions of about 1080p and up, this nasty side effect is now next to invisible. Check out the following picture for a close-up shot on the different pixel arrangements of the participating handsets!

Color reproduction

Inaccurate color reproduction has long been an issue for AMOLED screens. Here's the thing: AMOLED screens, especially those used by Samsung, produce extra-saturated, contrasty, and punchy colors that happen to be very alluring for consumers. However, what's often missed is that those colors are also quite off. For example, green and blue are usually too strong, while secondary colors, like yellow, often appear greenish. That is not the case with IPS LCD screens. So, why should we care if Samsung's screens are inaccurate, when they actually look so eye-catchy? Well, this type of issue certainly isn't going to annoy some users that much, but in our opinion, it's relatively important, because it has a substantial impact on the look of all content on your phone. For example, if you're watching a video, people usually do not appear with a natural tone to their skin, but rather, they start looking like carrots - with an orange look, due to the overly-boosted color tones. Besides, everything has a bluish/greenish tint on it, because of the disbalance of colors. Another reason why you want the colors of your screens to be as close as those specified in the sRGB colorspace (that's what we mean by saying 'an accurate screen'), is that most content out there is created with this colorspace in mind, meaning that if you want content to look as intended, you need to have a screen that's as close as possible to the reference sRGB values.

The Galaxy S5's display isn't such a screen. Yeah, Samsung lets you choose between a number of screen presets, but each of them is more or less far from the target. The Standard mode provides that striking punchy effect, however, its color temperature is very high, suggesting an overall bluish look (color temperature of 8100 K). The Professional Photo mode will get you closest to an accurate and pleasing look with the GS5. With it enabled, color temperature drops to about 7200 K (6500 K being the reference point), while colors are no longer super-saturated (although they are still quite vivid). Sadly, the display keeps its greenish tint, which, as you can guess, isn't something to be happy about. The so-called Cinema mode dials things down just a bit more, making colors look calmer and a bit more ordinary, however, red gets too dim in this mode, rendering the screen somewhat lifeless and dull-looking. Even in this mode, Delta E (color error) is still quite high, at about 7 for grayscale and 5 for RGBCMY measurements, meaning that colors are still far from reality.

When it comes to overall color balance and accuracy, the iPhone 5s and Nexus 5 have the best screens around, with the iPhone 5s having a slightly better balance between primary and secondary colors, and the Nexus 5 exhibiting a more accurate color temperature. All other handsets participating in this comparison are far behind these two in this department.

Viewing angles

Seemingly not as important as the other aspects that we examine in a screen, viewing angles are still an important factor for the user experience with a smartphone. It's simply annoying when things get washed out at the slightest tilt of your phone! Well, that's one area where AMOLED screens, such as the one on the Galaxy S5, are traditionally strong. The thing about them is that they keep their brightness and contrast to a large extent, which is not the case with LCDs, which get very dim and uncontrasty even at angles smaller than 45 degrees. On the other hand, colors in AMOLED screens typically get more degraded when viewed at an angle, but that's not such a big deal, having in mind that you actually have a perfectly viewable screen, even when viewing them at more extreme angles.

The superior viewing angles of the AMOLED screens of the Galaxy S5 and Galaxy Note 3 can be seen in the following image.


At the end of the day, we can conclude that while Samsung's Super AMOLED screens have come a long way since their debut, there's still much to ask for. If you simply love their extra-vivid and punchy nature - that's perfectly OK - no one can deny that they really look fancy and impressive. They also have the notable advantage of being able to display perfect black, which enables their attractive, contrasty look. On the other hand, though, the LCD tech's ability to replicate colors exactly as they are in reality is a whole other type of achievement, and one that should not be underestimated. It's the same with comparing a photograph that has some kind of an effect applied to it, versus a photo in its natural state. The effect will sometimes look cool, but not always, and definitely not when it's overdone.

So, when the Galaxy S5 came out, there was quite a bit of discussion about its screen and how much better it is than its previous generations. Sure, it's gotten better, but the improvement over the Note 3 isn't really that big. Most importantly, outdoor visibility is no longer such an issue, but yeah, the typical AMOLED problems continue to exist, namely the omnipresent oversaturation, out-of-control green, and lacking red. Hopefully, Samsung's going to keep enhancing AMOLED further and further, but until then, we just can't see it as a truly mature screen technology.

Meanwhile, the IPS LCD screens of the iPhone 5s and Nexus 5 are continue to be two of the very best displays to ever grace a phone.



1. Anshulonweb

Posts: 468; Member since: Feb 07, 2014

still waiting for xperia z2 review and comparison...

50. hung2900

Posts: 966; Member since: Mar 02, 2012

Sorry to post here. Again, I have to ask PhoneArena. In your video review comparing Note 3 vs One Max: Note 3 has better outdoor visibility. One Max screen = One M7 = One M8 S4 is much brighter than Note 3 => Theorically the outdoor visibility of S4 is much better than One M8 Please, don't base on the on-paper brightness to judge the sunlight visibility please. Show us the picture. Another thing is judging the color quality and still use the dynamic mode? where is the cinema mode?

53. Ashoaib

Posts: 3298; Member since: Nov 15, 2013

I have seen S5 today, unfortunately it was yet to showcased and was without a bettery :( but one thing was noticeable, its design and build quality... it feels way more solid in hand then S4 and having a perfect grip.. material is kinda rubber.. the design is not that ugly as it looks in photos, its totally opposite... its a beautiful phone though not same as m8... dots doesnt look like bandages at all

58. AppleHateBoy unregistered

Dear PA readers. Stop saying that the S5 display is the best display to ever grace a smartphone. Color accuracy doesn't matter to YOU!!! Got it?! It doesn't matter to YOU... It matters to me and a lot of people. I know because I have seen AMOLED displays. Yes the blacks look f**king awesome... But it comes at the cost of color accuracy and burn-in. Yes. Burn in occurs and people notice it. Not everyone is half blind. So stop making long paragraphs trying to say AMOLED is better because it's NOT. Both LCD and AMOLED have their pros and cons. Neither is OVERALL better than the other. So shut your f**king mouth.

63. Aploine

Posts: 445; Member since: Oct 24, 2013

Everybody here is free to express their opinions. But you are free to do what you suggest.

67. hung2900

Posts: 966; Member since: Mar 02, 2012

What the f*ck? Did I say anything like you mentioned? Did I say S5 is the best display? Do you have problem with your basic logical thinking? What I said is 100% based on EXACTLY what PhoneArena mentioned in their reviews before.

85. AppleHateBoy unregistered

It wasn't targeted at you. I am sorry. There were a lot more of these "S5 is the best. F**k LCD." comments the last time I was here. Reading them really pissed me off. They are mostly gone now. We still have a little bit of fanboyism with comment 77. Comment 27 is just outlandish.

71. darkkjedii

Posts: 31328; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Dude why are you so pissed about this? Why not simply enjoy your device, who cares man? People like/dislike what they want, go check your BP dude, it's gotta be 190/120

84. Krjal

Posts: 431; Member since: Dec 19, 2013

While I agree with your points you seem inordinately angry. Regarding colour accuracy, if the cinema colour profile is chosen on the S5 its screen has as realistic colour reproduction as any other smart phone screen so far. Display Mate have an in depth article on the S5's display as the do with most flagship phones these days. I can't really comment on the burn in as I haven't seen it on my devices yet. I did notice it on a Lumia 1020 (which has a very nice amoled screen) in a store but display models are mistreated badly so I don't think it was the fault of the screen.

91. tedkord

Posts: 17417; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

According to Displaymate, the S5 has the best color accuracy of any phone they've ever tested. This is as measured with specialized testing equipment designed to measure these things with scientific precision, run by a man with a Ph.D in physics and decades of experience. So if color accuracy matters to you, right now the S5 is your best choice.

93. AppleHateBoy unregistered

Ever heard of burn in?? The display will lose it's brightness and color accuracy over time because the blue OLEDs will burn out and the amount of light they emit will reduce over time which will affect brighyness, color accuracy and white balance.

100. Teja171 unregistered

Did that useless moron PapaSmurf flag you ? I just hate that stupid username of his. He is better called SuckerSmurf.

64. torr310

Posts: 1679; Member since: Oct 27, 2011

No matter which phone you choose to like, I believe LCD screen is the way to go.

2. ArtSim98

Posts: 3535; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

M8 is the best of these. But Z2 beats it!

27. The-Sailor-Man

Posts: 1095; Member since: Mar 25, 2014

Do not let to be fooled by this article. They tested here only the Default Mode of S5 for color accuracy. S5 has natural color mode that Display Mate called it "The most natural colors we have ever seen" Besides here they missed to mention the low-reflection if S5 display , that makes it THE BEST OUTDOOR DISPLAY EVER(Display Mate) Other think they didn't mention here is that S5 gives 680 brightnes nits on the direct sunlight. S5 has THE BEST DISPLAY EVER(yet) The pathetic bashing of the great S5 will not stop here , but it will not fool the ppl.

33. papss unregistered

Wait so you have to mess with settings to get the results that the others just have? Isn't that what sammybots are laughing at the m8 with its need to do camera tweaks?

38. CoastCity

Posts: 257; Member since: Mar 07, 2014

Is it such mess to change screen color mode, from default to professional photo or cinema?

40. papss unregistered

You missed the point.. Sammybots complain that a camera is no good if you can't just shoot but its okay to have to tweak the settings on the Ss device is alright.. It works both ways

45. CoastCity

Posts: 257; Member since: Mar 07, 2014

Ok but it's a screen comparison, so comment #27

86. StraightEdgeNexus

Posts: 3689; Member since: Feb 14, 2014

lol papss i'm realising you were right always.

90. Saamic

Posts: 119; Member since: Feb 20, 2012

No you missed his point that argued against yours. To have the GS5 display more natural colors one only has to change a single option in the settings menu once. Simple, easy, and permanent. To have the M8 capture quality pictures, you have to consistently change the settings of the camera depending on the environment you are in. Complex, difficult (based on average consumer skill), and temporary (varying from shot to shot).

44. shuaibhere

Posts: 1986; Member since: Jul 07, 2012

Is is more about choice....people but amoled screens because they want punchy , vivid it is the default mode....but if you want true to life you can have that to(more accurate than any other mobile displays out there).... And s5 has brightest display , and it can go down to 2 nits if you want....and couple it with low get the best display out there in mobile phones.... Cant ask for more....

48. papss unregistered

But then you have to look at the s3 front.. I mean s4.. Darn it. I mean s5

51. shuaibhere

Posts: 1986; Member since: Jul 07, 2012

Why don't you look at all the high end lumias from 900....they too look same...

61. papss unregistered

How many lumias versus galaxy s something's were made in that same time? Let me answer that...maybe three times as many variant's

74. shuaibhere

Posts: 1986; Member since: Jul 07, 2012

It doesn't matter...because your are not gonna buy all the phones at same time...

46. shuaibhere

Posts: 1986; Member since: Jul 07, 2012

It is more about choice....people love amoled screens because they want punchy , vivid it is the default mode....but if you want true to life you can have that to(more accurate than any other mobile displays out there).... And s5 has brightest display , and it can go down to 2 nits if you want....and couple it with low get the best display out there in mobile phones.... Cant ask for more....

49. MR-H-

Posts: 116; Member since: Apr 10, 2014

It's an option at least it has unlike others which comes what they give, and you take.

88. Cicero

Posts: 1137; Member since: Jan 22, 2014

And if I am pleased to see some pictures or moovies or games I can choose my own way. Cam you with lcd screen?

82. Adithya7184 unregistered

this review is done by Ray.S thats the reason iCrap is on top. biased review

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

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