Dr. Ray is at it again. Display guru and founder of DisplayMate, Dr. Raymond Soneira has turned his scientific instruments and display analytics to the world of smart phone displays and the Apple iPhone4 in particular. Turns out that Apple has much to celebrate, as its new "Retinal display" proved itself to go beyond the marketing hype winning the group’s Smartphone Display Technology Shoot-Out, and gaining the "Best Mobile Display Award" that will be published in the DisplayMate Best Video Hardware Guide.
Comments included: "The iPhone 4 finally has a display worthy of an iPhone… It’s an outstanding Super IPS LCD delivering top performance in many of our test categories — it has the brightest and sharpest display… performed better overall in our tests and therefore won this Smartphone Display Technology Shoot-Out."
The caveat to all this according to Soneira, "…Apple still needs to keep pushing hard because the competition in smartphone displays is closing in rapidly." Closing rapidly indeed—even though Apple won the top mobile award, it was not the top pick in any of the other categories including Best Mobile Picture Quality, Best New Display Technology, Best Portable Photo Viewer and Best Portable Video Player; these awards all went to other (non Apple) mobile devices, (See table.)
At first blush, it’s hard to see just how Apple won the top prize with so many other "Best" categories given out, some that sound like exactly the same thing… For example, what’s the real distinction between Best Mobile Display and Best Mobile Picture Quality? The comments do help to clear things up a bit (best overall, vs. accurate colors and intensity scales), but there weren’t many entries that didn’t win a prize.
A primary concern Soneira has with the Retinal display is "…a somewhat weak color gamut" Soneira said, calling the display’s sharpness setting too high and more of a "marketing feature" and "actually something of an overkill" that is primarily there for "App compatibility."
As in other shoot-outs, DisplayMate produced a Comparison Table of results with the rigor and objectivity of scientific measurement, and side-by-side comparisons (visual tests.) Results are also color coded (green, amber and red) with major category segments blocked off for easy reference.
Some of the results were not surprising. For instance, the best Viewing Angles came from the OLEDs (only a 28% decrease in screen brightness when measured at 30-degree off axis). The LCD models ranged from decreases of 64% (Droid) to 57% (iPhone4).
The Droid garnered very high marks (and the Best Mobile Picture Quality Award) in the Color and Intensities section; the Samsung Galaxy S (OLED) virtually tied with iPhone4 for best in Brightness and Contrast (and winning the Best New Display Technology award) but the OLEDs are power hungry by comparison. In overall power consumption, the prize went to iPhone4—and Soneira commented that this is probably one reason why the display didn’t do as well in the Colors and Intensities section. Soneira said, "These were most likely intentional tradeoffs made by Apple to increase screen brightness, power efficiency and battery run time."
As Soneira alludes to above, it’s not just picking the right technology, or hitting line items on a spec sheet that really matter. It’s making the right trade-offs to serve the greater market need. Ideally these trade-offs result in an outstanding visual experience. From these results DisplayMate shows the iPhone4 is in very good company, and that competition should serve to drive next generation consumer products to even greater heights.