On Aug. 28, DisplayMate, a company that holds itself out as the "industry standard for optimizing, calibrating, testing, evaluating and comparing all types of displays," posted its evaluation of the display on the Samsung (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF) Galaxy Note8.
DisplayMate gave it a grade of "A+," calling it "The best Performing Smartphone Display [sic] that we have ever tested."
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As I dug deeper into the results, I couldn't help but notice that the display on Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone 7 -- which came out a year ago and uses a more traditional liquid crystal display (LCD) rather than the more advanced organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display that the Note8 uses -- outperforms the one on the Note8 in several important ways.
Apple's critical edge
In terms of absolute color accuracy under the DCI-P3 color gamut, the iPhone 7's display -- per DisplayMate's testing -- totally crushes the Note8's, achieving an average color error of just 1.0 JNCD (DisplayMate defines JNCD as "Just Noticeable Color Difference") to the Note8's 3.4.
The color error value is a measure of how "off" from the true color value the display's representation of a color is (so lower is better). The iPhone 7 also has a superior gamma value of 2.21 (the ideal value, DisplayMate says, is 2.20) to the 2.46 of the Note8.
Worth noting is that the iPhone 7's display, under most conditions, appears to have a brighter display.
DisplayMate's testing shows that the Note8 can, with auto brightness enabled, achieve brightness of 1240 nits, which is much brighter than the 705 nits that the iPhone 7's display can.
However, with auto brightness turned off (in other words, when we look at brightness levels that can be sustained), the iPhone 7 achieves a peak brightness of 602 nits under all conditions, while the Note8 achieves a brightness level of 546 nits at the home screen, 490 nits at a 50% average picture level, 405 nits when the screen is entirely white, and 657 nits when only 1% of the display is white.
In other words, in most cases, the iPhone 7 has a brighter screen than the Note8 does.
Apple's LCD iPhones could lead Samsung's best this year
Apple's LCD-based iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s should deliver some display enhancements over the LCD-based iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. Apple is reportedly adding True Tone display technology to the phones (something Samsung's phone doesn't have), and I think the displays on the iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus will have even brighter displays than the ones found on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, respectively.
I even think there's a good chance that the 7s and 7s Plus will have Apple's ProMotion display technology, too, to make things dramatically smoother.
These enhancements could make the displays on the iPhone 7s and 7s Plus arguably superior to the displays on the S8 series and even Note8 series overall (though the OLED display of the Note8 would still have some advantages due to the nature of OLED displays).
What'll be interesting to see, then, is the kind of quality that Apple can deliver with the premium OLED iPhone's display. If Apple can deliver iPhone 7/7 Plus-like brightness levels across all representative scenarios, iPhone 7/7 Plus-like color accuracy (or better), and ProMotion technology all with OLED technology, then I have a strong feeling that the OLED iPhone will soon take the crown from the Note8 as having the best smartphone display that DisplayMate has ever tested.
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