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It's almost unfair how good Samsung's displays are

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 laptop mode
Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 laptop mode (Image credit: Android Central)

Samsung sent me a Galaxy Tab S6 to review. That's cool; I haven't had a good look at an Android tablet that wasn't a Chromebook in a long while, and I'm a sucker for the S Pen when I get a little chemistry in me and want to doodle. After about five minutes of looking at it, I realized something: Samsung displays are so good and so far ahead of every other brand that other companies might as well stop trying.

OK, so they shouldn't really stop trying because the competition is why Samsung displays are so good. But I'm totally not spending money on any gadget unless it has a great display and right now that means Samsung. And it has meant Samsung for a long time.

When it comes to small-factor displays, Samsung has always been great at making them.

Outside of televisions — I still miss my LG OLED that ended up with a piece of mahogany board wedged inside its screen — you'll find that any device where users and reviewers rave over how great the display is are all using Samsung to deliver that experience. A look at the Tab S6's 1600 x 2560 Super AMOLED display is the cherry on top and I don't think I've ever seen a screen this great. It's so good that I want to spend my own money on one, and I'm not a tablet guy.

I started looking at the electronics I have here that I think have amazing screens, and guess what? All use a Samsung OLED panel of some sort. The Pixelbook, the Pixel 3, the HP Chromebook X2, and of course a couple of Samsung Galaxy phones stand out, at least in part, because of their screens. Other products might have good displays that serve their purpose and do a fine job, but when it comes to screens that pop and grab my eyes, it's Samsung or nothing. There's a good reason, too.

Samsung realized years ago that it could manufacture a great OLED display for its own use and that eventually, the market would realize that a high-quality screen was something consumers wanted. A few other companies make small form-factor displays, too, notably LG and Sony. These companies have continued to get better and better at making displays every year, too. But so has Samsung. Samsung started out as being the best and until we see an evolutionary leap or Samsung stops trying, it will continue to be. Even Apple finally caved and uses a Samsung OLED panel in it's top-tier iPhone.

A lot of factors are involved when it comes to any product being good or great or even bad. But the screen is what we see and interact with every single time we use them and it has to be as close to perfect as it can be. Samsung's doing just that and probably will be doing it for a long time.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

42 Comments
  • I feel the same way, 60hz, 90hz or 120hz. Samsung is the absolute King Kong of displays. No contest, I don't know how or why but they are the undisputed best, hands down. For myself the display is the most premium feature on any phone, yikes!
  • You seem to have shocked yourself... It's no surprise Samsung's phone displays are top quality given their other interests. What I find surprising is that LG's phone displays are so mediocre given their position in the TV market. Samsung can't touch them.
  • LG phone displays surprise me as well. You'd think they would be amazing, but they seem to always end up being just "ok".
  • David - They don't have 120hz on AMOLED phone screens, yet, but it should not be that far off. They do have OLED TVs running at 120Hz, but that has not trickled down to our handsets. Interestingly, I found that the human eye physiologically can see up to 1000 FPS, and can accurately detect frame rates up to 150 FPS. So, higher refresh rates are not a waste, but they do use more power.
  • ROG Phone 2 has a 120hz amoled panel.
  • You can't actually buy a ROG phone 2 yet though, so they're technically correct.
  • Not sure how you can derive they are technically correct from the statement "They don't have"
  • I just wish the displays weren't curved and that they did a lot better with the software side of things. I'm a Google fanboy but the issues with the last 2 pixels have really rubbed me the wrong way and if this 4 is terrible, I'll be done with the Google brand and moving to Samsung
  • Samsung's software is better than stock Android these days. OneUI has better gestures, and far far better support for large screen phones than any other phone UI on the market (I'm including iOS here as well). OneUI is so good in tact, that many folks that used to install Nova Launcher now prefer to use OneUI on it's own (based on youtube reviews of the S10 and my own experience).
  • Look, Samsung is the leader no doubt. But when you spend $1,000 or more on their tablets, the major disappointment is the lack of software updates beyond 2 years..
  • My wife still has her 7 Edge, and yesterday she notified me that she is still getting updates... - probably just security updates - but that is okay.
    We'll see how much longer that keeps up...
  • Note the word 'Tablet'. Their phone updates are slow, but their tablet updates are basically non existent.
  • I wish all Android devices got 5 years of updates like iPhones do, especially now that the tech is slowing down to the point where a 5-year old flagship is still quite usable (I could get by just fine on a OnePlus One today if it had a fingerprint reader). But at least with Samsung phones you're starting with a feature set that's usually ahead of where Google will be 2 years from now, and way ahead of iPhones, so it's not like you have to throw your Samsung phone away when it stops getting updates. It will still take years for others to catch up.
  • Iphones might be getting 5 years of updates but they do the same thing every other OEM does and only push bits and pieces of updates to the older devices. Sure your 5-year-old iPhone will get an update but its a minor 'security' patch at best; but is it really? You won't be getting updates for your camera or battery life nor will you get new features because more often than not those are based on hardware or "because Apple said so". My wife had an iPhone 6 and while it received updates to the moment we traded it in (last year) the last few updates provided no value to her at all (she even asked what was in them because they shut down her phone for 30 minutes while updating which ticked her off). I said I couldn't tell her and suggested she google it. She found out the answer was "security" updates...she looked at me and said, "really, that's all?" Long story short, who cares if you get 5 years of updates if they are boring and don't provide anything. If you are using your phone for business so security is really important to you then you wouldn't be using a 5-year-old phone. And if you happen to do lots of stuff on unsecured networks, then do yourself a favor and stop that. There is no amount of security updates that can account for a user's stupidity.
  • They are great, but I don't know if I would say that goes back "for a long time". I still have my Note 3, and the display is... meh. The Note 8 (which I use at work) is not quite as good as a certain LCD I know.
    The S10 can brighter than that same LCD I'm referencing, but that's the only significant difference I can see. S10 vibrancy is about equal, color accuracy is a bit off, and the the images and text are not as sharp. And before you guys pick up rocks to throw at me for blasphemy, Jerry himself said he likes the sharpness of text on LCD screens. The S10 maximum brightness is 396 nits, unless you put it in automatic and force it into overdrive mode, which is good up to 820 nits. So, it is a king in the brightness department, but is that a good thing when it's an organic display with a limited lifespan?
  • Had that conversation at a local Best Buy store the other day; possibly choosing an expensive TV with a limited life span - ? - ?
  • Well, you should be fine with a TV, as it does not have to deal with being outdoors in direct light.
  • LG C8 oled... Purchased when the right sale came around earlier this year... Best purchase decision I've made in a long time... Absolutely amazing tv that has made literally everything I watch and every game I play a thousand times more enjoyable... don't hesitate, just get one!
  • Its subjective, but its appears the vast majority of users, display testing organizations, phone reviewers, and Apple itself, prefer Samsung OLEDs to even the best iPhone LCD. Also, can you provide a source for the claim that the s10 only goes to 396 nits unless you 'put the phone into overdrive'. In direct sunlight, I've checked my S10 numerous times (I had wanted it even brighter), but it has always put itself into 'overdrive' on it's own. Specifically: it was already at max in 'the orange zone' -- there was no possibility to slide the brightness any higher manually.
  • Most users don't care, and don't sit with two phones side by side. Displays aren't what's selling Apple devices. Ecosystem is, and the long support cycle - which is more important than ever with how much phones cost these days. I'm switching to T-Mobile and will be moving back to iPhone from Note 9. I couldn't care less what kind of display they have. Even the iPhone LCDs were good. I want back into the app and accessory ecosystem, and I'm tired of frequent upgrades. Android device support isn't good enough for me, and without Pro Mode for video a huge reason why I bought this phone has become irrelevant (I already own iPhone apps that can do this, but I liked having everything in the default camera app to avoid I stalling duplicative software for that stuff). I'm also buying an Apple Watch to make i don't bother switching in the foreseeable future.
  • Ok... lol... The point is that your new iPhone will also have a Samsung screen, so you'll still get a great display because Samsung.
  • But not only will he have the best display, he will have the best software support with updates.
  • And no forced Adware. Bixby home now has auto playing video Ads in the feed and they always show up on top of everything else. Screens are irrelevant. Samsung's software is dogshit and I'm over it
  • The 396 nits number comes from the review on GSMArena. When you disable auto brightness, Samsung phones artificially limit how bright the screen will go to prevent damage and preserve battery life. If you leave auto brightness on and go in direct sunlight, or "force it" by shining a light on the ambient light sensor, only then does the screen actually outperform other screens. For example, if you manually max out an iPhone, you get about 650 nits, which is significantly brighter than a maxed out Galaxy S10. Only by disabling manual brightness can you get the S10 to go brighter, and it will only do it in very bright conditions.
  • Yeah but your original comment said to get it to 820 nits you had to put it into automatic mode AND put it into overdrive. This is not the case. If it's in automatic mode, it will automatically put itself into overdrive if its bright enough. No user input required. If you're using manual mode, then yes, it will warn you if you manually put it into the highest brightness setting, but it will still let you do so. And as far as lifetime, it will depend on how often you use your phone in direct sunlight. It needs to be *really* bright for it to go into max brightness, so I don't see this is reducing lifetime to any noticeable degree. On the other hand, it makes for a better user experience for those times you're in a super bright outdoor environment and yet you can still clearly see things like navigation directions on your screen. On my older phones I remember always making sun blockers with my hand, struggling to see what was on the screen in bright conditions. I never think about this with the S10+. The screen is just always visible.
  • That actually wasn't my comment. You're wrong about manual mode. In manual mode, it will warn you AND it will only go to 396 nits. It will only go brighter than that if it's in automatic mode, and you shine a light on it or take it somewhere very bright. That IS user input. If you're just sitting on the couch and want the brightest screen possible, Samsung will not give it to you because they have limited the screen brightness in manual mode to about half of the true maximum brightness, because they don't want idiots leaving max brightness on all the time and then returning their phones in 6 months due to severe burn-in that would occur if you left it like that and played Candy Crush for 8 hours per day. I'm not saying that it's bad that Samsung limits their phones in this way, or that their screens aren't the best. I'm just saying that other manufacturer (like Apple) will let you crank the screens up even brighter than Samsung does. In direct sunlight, Samsung is the brightest. Indoors, that is not always the case, because of how Samsung has chosen to prevent damage to the screen and extend battery life for users who don't know any better.
  • You put it into overdrive mode by exposing it to light. You don't have to do anything but walk into the sunlight.
  • Jerry, how is it fair that Google decides what features exist on a new Android version and it comes out first on phones made by GOOGLE. Is that a level playing field?
  • That wouldn't be fair if it was true, but you just made it up. Ask someone with an essential phone about Google hoarding updates.
  • The operating system is made by Google, and they give access to their partners well ahead of launch so they can test it on all their devices, and make whatever tweaks they want. The Android 10 beta was available on dozens of devices from at least 10 different manufacturers. It's not Google's fault that Samsung makes so many changes that it takes them 6 months to bring new Android versions to their devices. Samsung phones run Android the same way Mac OS runs Unix. Yeah, it's under there somewhere, but if you've used FreeBSD and Mac OS you know that the Mac OS shell is different in just about every way.
  • Boy, what a coincidence! Here we are discussing Samsung screens, and my son and his fiance walk in the door and announce they both switched from Apple. He handed me his new Note 10+, while she had the S10e.
    I gotta say, the Note 10+ is the ultimate eye candy. From a looks department, I don't think you can get any better.
    And the cool thing is that they left Apple and went to Samsung because of... HTC. Seriously. He got tired of his iPhone being unable to compete with HTC flagships when we did photo shootouts and other comparisons, and since HTC was not available at his carrier, he went with Samsung which I think was a good choice for him. And since this article is about screens; we did a side by side comparison with the Note 10+ and the U12+, but there was not as much difference as you would expect.
    The LED case is super cool by the way, and it's great that they were able to put LED's in the case cover and keep it that thin.
  • An HTC was not beating the iPhone for photography, and especially for video. Even the Note 10 is a pretty lackluster camera phone co.pared to the Xs [Max] - particularly when consistency is taken into account. Low light is pretty decent on Samsung devices, though, due to the dual aperture and its penchant for over exposing (which is not as offensive in low light). But the FFCs are trash, though, with trash image processing and beauty adjustments you can never truly eliminate/deactivate. The two apps for everything gets annoying, and the phone has ads baked I to things like Bixby Home, Samsung Pay, GALAXY store, etc. Full screen ads, in some cases. I have to pin everything mildly important in Bixby home, otherwise Samsung displays ads at the top of the list... including video ads, now. They push this crap in app and service updates.
  • We own the iPhone 8 Plus, XS, and XS Max, along with the HTC U11 and U12 Plus. My son is a professional photographer. I do commercial photography, but I do get paid for it, so I guess you could call it professional... somewhat, lol. The U11 dominated the 8 Plus in still photography, and did not fare too badly compared to the XS, but I'd consider the XS Max to be superior to the U11. When it comes to the U12 Plus, though, we were underwhelmed by the XS and XS Max in comparison. The HTC has better color and less noise, and is far better in low light for still photos. For video, the iPhone XS Max again has more noise, and the stabilization is about equal. I think the problem is perception because everybody has been exposed to iPhone photos and video, and it's probably a safe bet that NO one in this comment section has ever touched a U12 in their life. I'll post links to a couple of side by side shots taken at the same time/same light in a second message because they sometimes get deleted. The photo of the giant dragonfly in low light was taken by the U11, the one of the Starbucks bottle and other random stuff taken in almost no light was with the U12 Plus. The dual aperture on the Samsung was a good idea, and there are times when I wish I had that. However, I don't want smoothing or beauty mode unless it can be turned OFF! Full size ads? Video ads? That sucks. What were they thinking?!
  • Lowlight dragonfly model (about 5 feet long) in the Rainforest Cafe:
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/FXA7LApsEFzefEdT7 Near no-light of random items
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/JamA5U1BeiS4Ezq6A
  • I call BS cause none of my low light pics look like that on my iPhone. Hell, my G7 takes better pics than both of the ones you claimed. Photoshop anyone?
  • I have the original photos and don't even own photoshop. I did the cropping with MS Paint (gag!). The one with the dragonfly is zoomed in to 100%, the one with the Starbucks bottle was taken in an almost dark room. The iPhone shot looks like the scene did to the eyes, so props for that. Since the iPhone has no pro mode, all I could do is turn the brightness up, but the control range was not enough. The U12+ has full pro mode where you can even set the color temperature in degrees Kelvin, and I used manual controls of ISO and shutter. I have the original photos, and what hurt the iPhone shot was inadequate shutter time which left it dark, and cranking up the ISO which made it grainy. I just found the originals, so here's the info. iPhone data: aperture f/2.2, shutter speed 1/15 sec, focal length 4 mm, ISO 2000.
    HTC data: aperture f/1.8, shutter speed 8 sec, focal length 4 mm, ISO 78.
  • HTC can't beat their way out of a wet paper bag. HTC doesn't have flagships. Those ships crashed and burned huh Maverick. The U11 & U12 are not flagship killers then and now.
    HTC needs Life Alert, cause they've fallen and can't get up.
  • I started paying attention to Samsung's display when they introduced the Super AMOLED plus on the Galaxy S2. Yes the colors were not as accurate as LCD per say but they were punchy AF for that Era. Fast forward to 2019 and LCD panels are barely in the conversations when it comes to phone displays. LG's phone display on the other hand continue to baffle me especially with how great their TV displays are. My LG G8 has one of the worst color accuracy even with true tone toggled. Hopefully the Galaxy Note series will still be around in 2022 for me to enjoy Samsung's display again, when I jump on the 5G Bandwagon. Oh, Samsung better not put a 1080p panel either on a Note device ever again, PERIOD 😡
  • At the smaller Note's size it doesn't bother me that much, and really it wouldn't bother me at all if it were true RGB 1080p. Samsung's PenTile fake 1080p does look just a bit fuzzy/blurry compared to LCDs above 5 inches, and these phones are way bigger than 5 inches.
  • I really wish I could see this amazing display like everybody else... I've had my s9+ for a long time now and it doesn't look any better to me than any other phone I see people using
  • That's because most other top-tier handset manufacturers are also using Samsung displays. Also, you're probably not seeing the full potential because Samsung limits the resolution to 1080p in software by default (which you can change, but nobody does).
  • Samsung do good Android tablets. Google may have given up on tablets and Android Central Podcast think tablets are dead, but I use mine every day cos it's marvellous.