Android Central

Samsung's Galaxy Note 2 ushers in the post-PenTile era

In the past, most SuperAMOLED smartphone screens have used a "PenTile" matrix pattern for the subpixels that make up each dot on the display. This pattern of tiny LEDs in an RGBG (red, green, blue, green) layout can improve battery life compared to regular RGB, but may also be prone to discolored whites and jagged edges in text and other UI elements. The difference isn't always pronounced -- the Galaxy S3, for example, has one of the better-looking PenTile displays we've tested. However, in the past it's been a compromise you've had to deal with if you want a Samsung phone with a bright, high-contrast SuperAMOLED screen.

The Galaxy Note 2 is a bit different. Samsung's latest 5.5-inch monster phone makes a clean break from the PenTile past, introducing in an HD SuperAMOLED display with a more traditional RGB subpixel arrangement (the kind used in most LCD displays). That results in more subpixels making up each individual pixel, and in a more regular pattern. And that means there's less discoloration and sharper lines on-screen.

Interestingly, the Note 2's RGB subpixel arrangement isn't quite a standard RGB stripe -- it's got a red and green subpixel stacked on top of each other, with a larger (but darker) blue subpixel to the left. There's been some speculation that this setup allows for extra longevity, as blue AMOLEDs tend to burn out more quickly than other colors -- and so a larger, darker blue subpixel would last longer. We've yet to see any official confirmation of this theory, but at the very least, the larger blue subpixel doesn't seem to adversely affect color balance on the Note 2.

We've included an example of two icons above to show some of the differences. On the Galaxy S3 there are noticeably fewer subpixels making up the image, and some noticeable greenish-blue discoloration. The RGB-toting Note 2 produces a much sharper, more natural image. For a more detailed view, click the image above for an expanded view.

Needless to say our time with the Galaxy Note 2 has us excited for the future of AMOLED displays. If you find yourself anywhere near a Note 2 in-store demo unit anytime soon, you'll definitely want to check it out for yourself.

More: SLCD, SAMOLED, PenTile, RGB - Does it matter?


Reader comments

Quick screen comparison: Galaxy Note 2 versus Galaxy S3


One more reason to get the Note II. One negative thing about the Samsung Galaxy that made me resisting from getting it is the blue'ish screen. It drives me crazy.

you must have had a defective device because my galaxy s 3 has perfect colors. the note 2 is nothing but a larger gs3.

Yeah, N2 is just big S3. Except for the quad core processor (in NA). And the S-pen. And the massive battery. And the bigger screen. And the different (non-Pentile) screen. Pretty much the same though.

Let's get REAL! Unusable? Really? How is that? What did you do a couple years ago when all screens were less quality then the S3? If you are going to be so dramatic you might as well grab your tampon our of your purse and a glass of wine!

+1 on that... it is the main reason my wife has an HTC Evo LTE... she was set to get the S3 but when we saw them side-by-side, the bluish screen was the deal killer...

I went and looked at a white S3 last week in prep for getting the Note2. After seeing the phone's inability to produce white, I almost disregarded the Note2. The HTC EVO LTE and even my OG EVO looks better than the S3. I'm so thankful for articles like this!

Countdown to Nov 15 (hopefully the maximum wait time): 43 days.

Something to note to you and everyone else here. All screens for SAMOLED can look different with different tints. It can be blue, orange or yellowish.

I don't even really notice mine at all. For some reason it shows up more in a photograph.

Should have included an HTC One X icon as well to show what a normal RGB display looks like. While I agree this is better than the normal pentile it still isn't as good as their own super amoled + which hopefully they can get out to 720p+ screens sometime.

It's better then a 'normal pentile' because it isn't pentile at all. It has 3 subpixels per pixel, the arrangement might not be three lines next to each other and the blue may be slightly bigger but it is still has all three subpixels.
Some could probably even argue that this is a better layout then standard as the colors are closer together, you don't have a Green in the middle of a Red and Blue, the are all next to each other.
I think the only reason they didn't tac a + on is because they didn't want to draw any attention away from the S3.

IDK about anyone else but I use my phone at a typical 12-18 inches and my S3 screen looks great. Side by side with a Sprint EVO LTE (HTC One X) I can't tell any difference at that distance. I'm all for new/better technologies but I can't understand why anyone would let this be a deciding factor unless EVERYTHING else is equal which is not the case with a HTC One X vs Samsung S3 which the S3 has many clear advantages.

I found the EVO LTE screen to be warmer or S3's screen cooler, however you would like to call it. I prefer the EVO LTE screen.

I'm not saying the EVO LTE screen is not better and if One X had a removable battery, wireless charging, MicroSD support (EVO LTE does), wireless All-cast to name a few I would consider it although I must say the S3 form factor is absolutely perfect!

Totally agree! The doubled amount of RAM, full on-device storage capacity available for apps, removable battery & (at least to me) forecasted ubiquity of the GS3 all played into my decision to purchase this device over the HTC LTeVO.

The subpixel arrangement did not come into my decision-making process once - particularly after holding both devices in my hands in-store in a manner consistent with my actual usage of the device.

Well I prefer the S3 in general and its removable battery and storage but when I held the One X and The GS3 beside each other I was very disappointed to see how the One X screen was much nicer. It put me off getting the S3 unfortunatly, for it would always niggle at me knowing there was a better display out there on a similar phone. I may go for the HTC One X+ but I'll wait to see what the reviews are like on its battery life.

I agree with you 100%. The screen on the S3 is fine, and offers the user a beautiful display.

It bothers some people more than others... both are great phones but I like the Evo LTE screen better myself... hoping that Sprint gets the Evo LTE+ or the rumored 5" version called the Nexus 5 ...

I guess my eyes must be bad because I quite like the screen on my S3. Admittedly, I'm using it wrong because I don't put it under a microscope and count subpixles, but I guess ignorance is bliss.

My problem was I looked at a white S3. If I had looked at a grey one, I probably wouldn't have noticed the dull white of the display. It was a beautiful phone, the screen wouldn't stop me from purchasing it.

I've had my hands on the Note II here in Hong Kong 2 days ago and compared it to my S3. I was surprised to find it not that much bigger feeling in my hands. Then again, I see a ton of Note 1s around Hong Kong so I must just be use to the size.

Screen-wise, apart from it being bigger obviously, I didn't notice a difference. I think the S3 screen is wonderful. Just not as good as the HTC One X's that's all. But I didn't buy the S3 for the screen alone.

Sorry sir, but I tried finding the pixels of the Play icon on my One X and there was none to be seen. Though I must say I'm impressed that you could notice that difference WITH YOUR EYES.

It's crazy I'm looking at my Galaxy S TWO playstore icon right now and can't seem to find any pixels...hmmm

It's because you guy shave bad eyes. I can see the PenTile shitness easily. I first encountered PenTile with my Nexus One and hadn't heard about it before. I just read 800x480 screen, cool, just like my Touch Pro 2 and that has a good screen (for the time). I opened up my new N1 and saw the boot screen and was slightly disappointed but then thought that maybe it's just a low res boot logo. Nope, the whole screen sucked due to PenTile.

Pixel talk. I think this really only matters to the people here on this site. The average consumer probably will not be able to tell any significant difference between the two. I mean think about it, a survey showed that some did not even know what 4G was until just recently. Nuts.

I have the Samsung Infuse, and while it has a + screen, it has a 'low' resolution of 800x480 on a 4.5" screen.
My eyes are good but I have a hard time seeing any pixels unless I get a small raindrop on the screen. I'm sure the S3 is better then what I have and the Note is probably better yet, but each increase in 'better' is incremental at this point.

The Note 2 looks cool, between the 1.6 GHz Cortex-A9 Quad-core and the 5.5" screen I assume it's a sweet little gaming powerhouse. MY only complaint is at that size I'm not sure it would be that easy to carry around with me. Plus how is the batter life on the Note 2?

Displays of today are beyond pixel talk, that is reserved for geekery. What makes the notes display impressive is the massive 5.5 inches. The sgs3 screen is beautiful all by itself. Carry on geeks!

Counting Pixels are we. Well I'm very happy with my GS3 and like one user said I hold it away from my face so I can see the entire screen, instead of holding it under a microscope. I mean wow who would even notice this with the naked eye. All the folks with Microscopic eyes raise your hands.

It is articles like these that make me begin figuring out how to get the next latest and greatest. I have an S3, which is by far the best Android phone I have owned to date, so we'll see. However, my wife does have an upgrade coming soon...maybe she'll want my S3...

Will it ever be enough?

(Ecclesiastes 5:10) A mere lover of silver will not be satisfied with silver, neither any lover of wealth with income. This too is vanity.

(Luke 12:15) Then he said to them: “Keep YOUR eyes open and guard against every sort of covetousness, because even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses.”

These magnified icons above go beyond the vision of an average human eye. Unless everyone will eventually have bionic vision, isn't this a moot point? If someone can't verbally describe to me how they saw something on their screen that I didn't see on my (so called inferior)screen from the average focus of the human eye, then is it worth paying for??

Whether it is worth it is a valid question. You often don't know that you want something until you experience it. I really wasn't concerned about pixels on my 480x320 G1, but I could never return after getting the 800x480 G2x. Now can't go bact to 800x400 after getting my 1280x720 GNEX and I'm perfectly satisfied with it - until I try the G3, One X or Note 2 in person. Small imperfections do not catch our attention until we experience a product that doesn't have them - but after that it's hard to settle with less. So even though you might not be able to see the pixels on your current screen, you will be able to tell that it's inferior after trying a much better screen.

A perfect analogy is from the time of CRTs where people didn't know they wanted a high refresh rate until they experienced it. Personally I could not stand looking at a 60Hz refresh rate after experiencing 85Hz or higher. Everybody thought I was nuts when I would change the refresh rate on their PCs when they couldn't tell the difference. After a few days the same people would not be able to revert.

For most business related things you won't be able to tell much difference. However if you are a gamer which a lot of users are you will see a tremendous difference. You can't pixel per pixel, but as a whole the screen looks a lot more crisp. Games look much prettier when their objects don't have as many jagged edges.

When comparing the two smartphones the GS3's 306 PPI to the Note2's 267 PPI keep in mind that the 40 Pixels Per square Inch difference is spread out over a much larger screen(5.5" in comparison to 4.8").

Smh... why are so many people not understanding that if the display looks this clear up close then it ultimately looks better from a normal distance. That is the point of showing you these pictures. They're explaining the difference in technology with these displays.

This isn't pixel counting. The Note II clearly has a better white-ness to the play store icon.

Is it enough to be noticeable on a day to day basis if you are not side by side comparing (or using a microscope)? I don't know, but I do see a superior screen on the Note II.

Pixel counting is when you get excited about a 1080p screen on a 5 inch phone.

Better white, according to the camera that collected that snapshot. Interestingly, holding up my S3 to my laptop screen (a dell LED illuminated screen) the icon on my phone isn't nearly as green as the icon in the picture. If I call up the image itself on my phone and hold it to compare, the two screens render them pretty much the same way. Eyes don't lie, but digital imaging sensors do.

Guys, I am tired from a long day of work and a perpetually lazy person but had to join in. I am sick of people with inferior eyesight or in sheer denial of the facts stating that you don't use your phone under a microscope. From the very first time I picked up a Samsung Fascinate, I immediately noticed and was turned off by the lego-like text. I thought to myself, why is everyone raving about this screen, it looks like shi....t. I am a stickler for a beautiful screen (clarity and brightness) and the Galaxy S3 does indeed have a very beautiful screen. However, when I look at the screen, I immediately see the screen door effect caused by the pentile configuration. I don't need a microscope as it is very evident and bothersome to me.
Is it a deal breaker? No, as the screen certainly has its advantages such as vibrant colors, contrast, and viewing angles over other powerhouse phones. I chose the EVO LTE because of the better screen, kickstand, and camera button as well as build quality and historically reliable GPS. If I was stuck with the Samsung, I would be just as happy but in this case I had a choice. Moral is, because you don't see it or it doesn't bother you doesn't mean that others can't see it or is not bothered.
I loved my original Note and the one thing that I did want to see improve more than anything like the lag was the pentile screen. The initial Note 2 reviews seemed to overlook the screen overhaul but I have been ecstatic for the last few weeks after doing some research and finding that the pentile has in fact been abandoned. I can't wait for Sprint to get this phone as I will purchase on day one. If Sprint did not carry it, my order would have already been in for the international version or had it in hand lol.....

I don't know if the blueish screen is a deal killer for me. But it does drive me crazy coming from the HTC Evo. Some ppl might like the blue tone, but not me. And no I don't look at a defective phone. The blue tone are on both Galaxy S2 and S3 and I've examined them both.

Now I don't understand why ppl say that the screen of Note 2 and S3 are the same. What's the point of this article then? Please enlighten.

The image is pretty misleading. Looking at my S3's google play icon in front of that image on my color corrected monitor, the S3 screen is perfectly corrected white compared to that blue thing.

Is the screen readable in direct sunlight? My issue with s3 is that I can't is it when the sun is shining bright.

We all need to realize that the real problem with the s3 screen was not that it's pentile really, but the screen was not calibrated like it should have been. That is probably the reason a lot of people are having different experiences. I believe alex has one of the first models right when it came out so the calibration is probably worse than newer models. Just a thought.

I had the OneX, my brother had his S3. He envied my screen, I envied the smoothness and multitasking of his S3, as well as some TWiz features and above all, the battery life. So we exchanged. I do miss the screen of the OneX but everything in the S3 is better. Now he wants his S3 back. The OneX always lags and runs out of juice with less than 4hrs screen-on time browsing, and less than 2hrs gaming. LOL. What's the use of that screen if you can't even use it more than 4 hours? Hahahaha. Now, I'm going to sell this and get the Note2. That battery is the ultimate deciding factor for me!