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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.

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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?