Multimedia test: Super AMOLED vs. AMOLED vs. LCD

We've had a ton of touchscreen technology thrown at us in the past year -- hell, in the past several months. We've gone from LCD (liquid crystal display) to OLED (organic light-emitting diode) to AMOLED (active matrix OLED) to the brand-new Super AMOLED, which we saw debuted at Mobile World Congress in February.

Each has its merits. OLED and AMOLED have been notoriously not great outdoors, as well as hard to come by of late, leading to handset shortages. LCD is tried and true and more readily available, but can it stand up to the new Super AMOLED, which promises even better battery life and less reflectivity outdoors?

After the break, we perform an unscientific test: Find the best light show this side of Pink Floyd, plop it on the Evo 4G, Nexus One, Droid X and Samsung Captivate, and see what we can see.

OK, so like we said. This is pretty unscientific. But here's the methodology:

  • Like we said, we wanted the best light show since Pink Floyd. And for that we turned to Nine Inch Nails' Lights in the Sky tour, which also happened to be professionally recorded in high definition. Find out more about that here.
  • For file size sake, we used the version of "The Gift" rendered to iPod specs. (The full 3.5GB, 720p resolution file played just fine on the Samsung Captivate, but the Nexus One balked at it, and we didn't want to process the video any more than we had to.) What you see is the raw file.
  • Plopped the video onto the Droid X, Nexus One, Captivate and Evo 4G, and played with the default video software.
  • Synced the videos as best we could. Not our fault if you go into convulsions.

And now, the test. Find my "conclusions" below.

YouTube Link

Can't speak for everybody, but I'm on board with Super AMOLED. I know, I know. I've said before that I'm growing a little tired of all the screen technologies, and that I can live with LCD just as easily as I could AMOLED. And that's still true. But, dammit, the contrast with Super AMOLED is beautiful. Look at the reds, especially.

So is there really a winner? I dunno. Maybe. And certainly trying to judge a screen based on a video (especially since it got a tad fuzzy around the edges) isn't the best way to go about things. You'll want to see these for yourself.

Super AMOLED's pretty damn good. Not that I wouldn't buy the Evo 4G or Droid X because they don't have Super AMOLED. On the contrary, they're great phones. But if you're looking for another reason to check out the Galaxy S line of phones, I believe you've got one in Super AMOLED.

Phil Nickinson
  • Samsung looks best hands down. Better blacks and colors from looking at the picture the other phones look washed out and blacks look gray.
  • @ Android Central AMOLED and OLED screens are one and the same... Active Matrix just describes the method of controlling the OLED pixels. Nearly all OLED panels are AMOLED. Thus AMOLED didnt come after OLED as you imply.
  • EVO not bad at all
  • Yeah I was expecting the Evo to be torn down.
    Good to see it isn't TOO varied. But yeah, I do like that Super Amoled. Also, the Evo looks better than the Droid X sometimes... and other times (for a longer time) the Droid X looks better. Might be just the video quality of Phil's video.
    Probably better to see in person though.
  • I just tried this video on my Desire and the blacks looked just like the Samsung's. Quite odd.
  • I have the Nexus One and I have been watching videos left and right about the Captivate the last couple of weeks and I too thought that there wasn't much difference between Nexus One/Incredible/Desire AMOLED and Samsungs Super AMOLED, but I got the Captivate yesterday and have been testing them side by side and the Super AMOLED makes a giant difference especially when outside.
  • Well clearly the Galaxy S looks best. The Droid X looks better than the EVO and the poor Nexus One looks completely washed out.
  • Whats up with the N1? It really doesn't look any better than the LCD's...maybe worse. It always seemed liked the N1 had issues surrounding it. I'd love to see an Incredible compared just to see if its any better.
  • While watching a video of a display might not be perfect, it is EQUAL, which should give fair results. The Samsung is clearly the winner, and not surprisingly so. If you consider that the difference between it and most other display technologies is that it removes the layer of air between the display and the glass, it makes sense that it should (and apparently does) get rid of most of the fading effect that light has on the display. Truly impressive, and I'm glad to see someone put those out. To be fair, this seems to be the perfect comparison for the Super AMOLED to shine... I'd like to see them in a closed room with only minimal light. It might make them all look more similar, I'd bet. I love the EVO, but I'm waiting for the Epic for this exact reason.
  • I have the N1 and just got the Captivate yesterday and I was running "tests" all night and I had the chance to run them side by side (along with my fiance's iPhone 3Gs) and it is really amazing how much of a difference the Super AMOLED screen makes. I have a friend at work and at break we compaired my Captivate and his Droid X and that was an even bigger difference this screen is the best I have seen.
  • Excellent comparison video. I'm gonna have that damn song in my head all day! BTW, I was going to wait for the Galaxy S on Verizon but I really get turned off by the iPhone wanna be look that the phone has. I just ordered a Droid X (it will replace my poor phone quality Incredible and my Moto Droid).
  • (it will replace my poor phone quality Incredible and my Moto Droid !)
    Wow I think you are a liar is obvious that you don't have D Incredible and obvious too you don't know what are you talking about it! look like you are the iphone fan from the Best buy video (evo vs iphone)
  • Thank you Ace Ventura for your detective work. Wow, you are so right! I don't have a D Incredible, I have two of them (one is my wife's). She is on her second because the call quality was so bad on the first. My Moto Droid has better call quality than the D Inc (in my opinion). No iPhone in our house, my brother has one though (the family is considering disowning him). Thanks for the fun, RP
  • LOL I like that!
  • LOL cut him some slack he is just mad that his DInc only had the title for a couple weeks.
  • Im so jealous of the captivate's screen. My friend got one yesterday and i was playing with my droid, my brother with his evo, and my friend with his captivate and his screen just blows ours oout of the water. I didnt even want to put mine near his cause it just made me feel bad lol
  • And capturing video on his capptivate is friggin gorgeous. i wish the fascinate didnt look so lame
  • super amoled is obviously better than others, but it is not that a deal breaker to me, it's true, i can live with lcd, of coz super amoled is a plus, but i can live with that.
  • No Dinc love Smh
  • My Galaxy S is the best ! ;)
  • I am defintley impressed. Don't know that its a reason to jump from the X. Would have liked to see the Dinc. N1 doesn't compare.
  • The N1 and Incredible both have AMOLED screens. I suspect they are the same screen so the test on the display for the N1 will be the same as it would for the Incredible.
  • Next is to compare 720p out via hdmi out on these. Oh wait, nevermind.
  • that feature is hardly useful when I can simply stream video from the galaxy s no wires needed. It can also stream 1080p and not limited just to videos like the evo for example.
  • Well that was a "fanboy" remark if I have ever seen one. You do know the Galaxy S line does 1080p with DLNA which means no wires, right?
  • To be fair, HDMI cable > DLNA unless you carry around DLNA capable equipment everywhere you go. Very few hotels have a blu-ray player or a connected TV :p Although both are a gimmick at best.
  • Probably going to be taking my 5 day old Evo back before the 30 day return at Sprint to get an Epic now.
  • Not sure if this will help, but I've also been an iPhone user since day 1, but I decided to return my iPhone 4 yesterday and get the Captivate. All I can say is, I couldn't be happier with my decision. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the iPhone is a bad phone, but between the amazing 4" screen, the customization, speech to text for almost everything, super fast, and I could go on and on. I can honestly say this is finally a great alternative on AT&T if you don't want an iPhone. Hope this helps, that is if you haven't made up your mind already
  • Damn... I'm soooo confused... I've wanted the EVO from day one... I've been an iPhoner since the original but have been planning on switching to Android... I definitely plan on switching to Sprint because it'll save me $40+ a month so it's the EVO or wait for the Epic... I'm not a fan of physical keyboards but LOVE that screen and I know the Hummingbird processor blows everything else away... CHOICES, CHOICES! What to do? I really have loved the EVO since it was announced and I've spent hours playing with it... I love the Galaxy S Line ups SAMOLED screen and processor but think Sammy's phones look and feel kind of cheap... SUGGESTIONS PLEASE?!?! lol
  • I felt the same way about Sammy, but the Captivate is a sturdy well built phone (it is very light tho and I would prefer that it had the weight of say the N1) They really did a great job with this phone and I can't wait until it gets Froyo. One other thing that I haven't seen mentioned all that much is just how responsive the SAMOLED screen is. It is by far the most responsive phone I have ever tried. I do have to say that I feel pretty awkward tho from being on the Nexus One for the past few months and now joining the ranks of "when the hell is Froyo coming out?" This phone is going to fly once it has Froyo. The Galaxy S and Droid X line is def leading the next gen Android devices and in a couple months we will think that a 1 Ghz hummingbird is old news just like we all are starting to think of the Snapdragon.
  • Hmm, order of best. Captivate, Droid, Evo, then the Nexus. Kinda sad to see my evo down that low but still, its nice as long as there isn't anything nearby for me to compare with :)
  • Sooo, when can I has superAmoled TV?
  • I love the info on android central, but i wish they didn't assume everyone was a super tech junky.. On several articles that could be very informative I get lost due to the lack of very specific details... In this article I understand what the different screen technologies are, but could not find anywhere in this article which phones had which screens in the video.. So what could have been a very interesting article then turned into a research project just to get the simple details.. Keep up good work AC, but please remember us casual readers.
  • Good point, though I did say in the video which is which: Evo 4G: LCD Nexus One: AMOLED Droid X: LCD Samsung Captivate: Super AMOLED
  • Thanks Phil!
    I wouldn't notice as I watched the video with the sound off, lol.
  • I have to admit, the Samsung one does look incredible. I'm happy enough with my Nexus One for now. But when I am in the market for a new phone, I will definitely be looking at the screens and comparisons.
  • a more colorful video would be nice
  • I found one
  • Please do it again under the sun.
    Well... one of the most important things to me is how it looks in a car while using the GPS features. Most windshields are tinted a little, but i still would like to see the "under the sun" results.
  • Great video choice! Glad to see there are still some NIN fans out there
  • I got the T-Mobile Samsung Vibrant, and can testify that the Super AMOLED screen really performs - the blacks are really black. The responsiveness is astounding. No LCD technology currently can compete with this, even if it had 1000 pixels per inch, the LCD's contrast, viewing angles, and colors would be subpar. Samsung Delivers!
  • Super AMOLED is by far more contrasty than all other types of displays. I hope Phil's next test is color accuracy and text :) Because I'm holding a Captivate and a Droid X in my hands, and I can tell you this without a shadow of a doubt: The LCD panel on the Droid X (and my office iPhone 4) completely obliterate the Samsung screen when it comes to clarity, and text legibility (read sharpness). So there is a choice you have to make. Do you want clean easier to read text, or higher contrast. I'd say the other thing to note, is that AMOLED screens are a little better in the dark since there is no washing out due to the backlighting. If you're wondering what causes this technically, look at the article on regarding pentile displays and how they function.
  • B. Higher contrast I have no problems reading text or even noticed a lack of clarity on my Vibrant. I prefer a higher contrast for Movies and Gaming...Avatar looks suhweeet - almost theater like!! So, do you want super duper high resolution text with awesome legibility and clarity, or a superior display for movies and games?
  • Go get your eyes checked if you have problems reading the text on the Galaxy S. Just because your phone isn't SUPER AMOLED doesn't mean you need to stroke your ePeen. People like you never quit.
  • Fanboy comment much? He's not mindlessly bashing the Galaxy S; he's just saying that while the S has greater contrast, the Droid X has greater text clarity. That's just a feature of the screen technology. It doesn't mean that the text on the Galaxy S is unreadable any more than it means that movies are impossible to watch on the Droid X. There IS a trade-off, although most people won't care about the slightly better text readability on the LCD screen compared to the AMOLED.
  • my nexus one has the better amoled screens that shipped early with the phone. the later ones (after they ran out of the first ones) were not as bright.
    seem this vid is using the weaker screens in the nexus1
  • I agree, I've got 1 of the first desire's which are supposed to share the same tech as the n1 and the screen on mine is far superior to the nexus screen in the video.
  • Iphone 4 has the best display on the market! android displays -----*FAIL*-----
  • I rather have an inferior display than an inferior OS
  • Careful there with that inferior OS stuff. Keep in mind that the iOS 4 is more mature, solid, smoother and is easier to use than Android. While Android packs in a lot of features that Apple users don't really care about until Apple does it, they don't always work as expected. The attention to detail and polish of iOS 4 still makes it very much a leader and is considered the best. Seems Android's targer audience is geeks and developers and not the end user.
  • To be perfectly honest I compared a HTC Desire and an Iphone 4 side by side the other day and truly the desire's screen seemed better to me and thats only an amoled screen, which I must admit I found pretty odd after all the hype about the apple screen. I guess stats don't always tell the whole story.
  • Clearly, you've not actually compared the i4 to one of the "big screen" Android phones. The extra screen size and larger fonts more than make up for the iPhone's supposed high res advantage. Sharp characters that I have to hold 3 inches from my eye to read, because they're so tiny, aren't a plus.
  • Nice. More and more my new EVO is feeling outdated. I'd like to see the same test done in complete darkness, flourescent lighting, and then outdoors in the daylight. Also, if you can add iphone4, iphone 3g and the palm pre for kicks, all playing sync'd video, that would be awesome.
  • I may have to check out an AT&T store to see how the S-AMOLED compares to the LCD in terms of pixel level performance. I personally can't stand the trellis look that the Incredible has when you view it close up, and the white balance was ugly on the demo unit I saw. I am sticking with LCDs until OLED is a good up-close replacement. I could care less about brightness, and if the LCD level of sunlight performance isn't pushed I am happy with that too, all I want is a nice smooth picture to look at instead of seeing all those gangly green pixels sticking out at me.
  • i saw the Captivate at Radio Shack the other day and watched part of Avatar on it. that was the best looking screen ive ever seen on a phone. Epic ships with the super ameoled.
  • Should compare these to an iPhone 4 as well. :)
  • I love how all the iSheep feel the need to come into our home and stoke there ePeen's. Fact is your hear because your tired of: not having any option's, receiving apps based on Steve Handjob's discretion, dropping call's, holding your phone the wrong way. The list goes on. Either join us or spend eternity choking on the scrotum of Steve Job's.
  • No complaints about my Droid X screen, very clean and sharp. Much better than my old iPhone 3Gs. Is the Galaxy better?
    Sure, but the phone is pretty ugly other than that and has an inferior camera. Each has strengths and weaknesses, pick what matters to you.
  • iPhone 4??? Please, I don't want to have to use a magnifying glass to see that tiny overyhyped screen and the PowerPuff girl OS. This is the big boys play room.
  • why don't we start a poll?
  • Do we really need a poll? I think it's pretty obvious what device has the best screen.
  • Did you watch the videos outdoors, too? (No, I didn't bother watching.) If this was just indoors, then you kinda biased the test. More important, I don't really care. I'm not all that interested in routinely watching TV or video on such a tiny screen. For my needs, any of the technologies work fine indoors, and LCD is still best outdoors. Push comes to shove, there are far more important differences between these phones than the screen.
  • Like the Galaxy S and it's dominating GPU?
  • Just because you "dont really care" doesn't mean the rest of us don't.
  • I was on the market for a new phone and my first three choices where the Droid X, Incredible, and Evo. But that was before I saw the Captivate. First, the Super AMOLED screen is the truth, the other phones have great screens, but nothing like the Captivate (and other Galaxy S screens) Its like the other phones have a 720p HD display, which is still great, but the Captivate's screen look 1080p. Also the 1ghz hummingbird is lightning fast, the benchmarks prove this compare to the other phones. The funny thing is that the blockbuster app that the Droid X will be better for the Captivate actually with that screen. Also you can get if for around $100 on contract, nuff said.