Samsung is continually improving upon the quality of its smartphone displays, and the screens on the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge take things to new heights. In fact, according to extensive testing from DisplayMate, one of them has the best smartphone display yet.
The key element for a great smartphone has always been a truly innovative and top performing display, and the best leading edge smartphones have always flaunted their super high tech displays. It's the display performance that determines how good and how beautiful everything on the smartphone looks, including camera photos, and also how usable and how readable the screen remains in high ambient lighting. It's the crown jewel of the smartphone.
The new Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge are Samsung's latest flagship smartphones. The Galaxy S series and Galaxy Note series are the way Samsung shows off its latest and greatest OLED displays and display technology. They have been alternately releasing one of these models every six months, so there are two OLED generations per year. Each new generation has provided significant enhancements and improvements, so they leapfrog each other in display performance, resulting in a new Best Performing Display with each new smartphone generation. The Galaxy S6 continues this trend, with display performance that matches or exceeds the Galaxy Note 4, which we measured to be the Best Performing Smartphone Display in 2014 along with the Best Absolute Colour Accuracy. We'll examine all of this in detail below.
The new Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge are two different versions of the latest Samsung OLED display technology. Both have 5.1 inch high resolution Quad HD 2560x1440 pixel displays with 577 pixels per inch, roughly double the number of pixels on the Galaxy S5 or an HDTV. That's not only the highest pixel count but also the highest pixels per inch (ppi) on any smartphone display. The Galaxy S6 display is made on a traditional perfectly flat and hard screen – it's an enhanced version of the display on the Galaxy S5. The display on the Galaxy S6 Edge is similar, but its OLED display is made using a new flexible plastic substrate, so that it can bend around on both sides of the phone to provide two new curved display areas that can be viewed from both the front or the sides, and also when the phone is placed face down. The curved Edge screen provides an important User Interface enhancement for smartphones that we describe below.
Our detailed series of DisplayMate Lab tests that are listed below show that there are many significant display performance improvements in the new Galaxy S6 models, including higher resolution, higher absolute colour accuracy, better calibration, higher peak brightness, better screen visibility and readability in high ambient light, and higher display power efficiency, resulting in a number of new performance records for smartphone displays. We'll cover these issues and much more, with in-depth comprehensive display tests, measurements and analysis that you will find nowhere else.
Samsung provided DisplayMate Technologies with early pre-release production units of both the Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy S6 Edge so that we could perform our well known independent, objective and comprehensive scientific Lab tests with extensive measurements and analysis, explaining in-depth the display performance results for consumers, and also as a display technology guide for reviewers and journalists. This article will focus primarily on testing the Galaxy S6, but we have also included a section with some test results for the curved screen Galaxy S6 Edge.
The Display Shoot-Out
To examine the performance of the Galaxy S6 OLED Displays we ran our in-depth series of Mobile Display Technology Shoot-Out Lab tests and measurements in order to determine how the latest OLED displays have improved. We take display quality very seriously and provide in-depth objective analysis based on detailed laboratory tests and measurements and extensive viewing tests with both test patterns, test images and test photos. To see how far OLED and LCD mobile displays have progressed in just five years see our 2010 Smartphone Display Shoot-Out, and for a real history lesson see our original 2006 Smartphone Display Shoot-Out.
In this Results section we provide Highlights of the comprehensive DisplayMate Lab tests and measurements and extensive visual comparisons using test photos, test images, and test patterns that are covered in the advanced sections. The main Display Shoot-Out Comparison Table summarises the Galaxy S6 Lab measurements in the following categories: Screen Reflections, Brightness and Contrast, Colours and Intensities, Viewing Angles, OLED Spectra, Display Power. You can also skip these Highlights and go directly to the Galaxy S6 Edge Overview, and the Galaxy S6 Conclusions.
Systematically Improving OLED Displays
What is particularly significant and impressive is that Samsung has been systematically improving OLED display performance twice a year with each Galaxy generation since 2010. With the Galaxy S6 there are many significant improvements over the Galaxy S5 that we tested a year ago, but also over the Galaxy Note 4 that we tested 6 months ago. The most impressive improvements for the Galaxy S6 are in the pixels per inch and resolution, the Absolute Colour Accuracy, Peak Brightness, Contrast and screen readability in High Ambient Light, and in display Power Efficiency, which we discuss in turn below.
2.5K Quad HD 2560x1440 Display
The Galaxy S5 had a Full HD 1920x1080 pixel display with 2.1 Mega Pixels – state-of-the-art at that time. The Galaxy S6 provides a major resolution enhancement with a Quad HD 2560x1440 pixel display, the same as the 5.7 inch Galaxy Note 4 but now on a much smaller 5.1 inch screen size. That's currently the highest resolution for smartphones, with 3.7 Mega Pixels, almost double the number of pixels on an HDTV (and over 4 times the number of pixels on the iPhone 6). This provides lots of image detail – it can display four complete HD 1280x720 images at once. The display has Diamond Pixels (see below) and Sub-Pixel Rendering with 577 pixels per inch (ppi), the highest on any consumer display, providing significantly higher image sharpness than can be resolved with normal 20/20 Vision at the typical viewing distances of 10 inches or more for smartphones, so the display appears perfectly sharp.
There are some significant advantages in going higher than the visual acuity for 20/20 Vision at typical viewing distances. For smartphones they include a closer match to digital photo resolutions, the ability to display Full HD 1920x1080 images with an additional 1.6 Mega Pixels left over for displaying additional content at the same time, plus efficient and simple rescaling (with small integer ratios) of various HD and Quad screen resolution formats to improve speed processing efficiency and resulting picture quality.
In addition, if you really want (or need) to take advantage of the extra fine display sharpness and resolution above normal 20/20 Vision, you can. If you study and stare at the image on the screen, move it closer and move it around, you'll be able to make out considerably more fine image detail because you are building an integrated visual map of the image in your brain. So, when you are looking at an image with very finely detailed graphics and small text, most people with reasonably good vision will be able to make out and take advantage of the extra sharpness and image detail if they take the time to do so. See our 2014 Innovative Displays and Display Technology article for more details.
Multiple Screen Modes and Colour Management
Most smartphones and tablets only provide a single fixed factory display Colour Gamut and colour calibration, with no way for the user to alter it based on personal preferences, running applications, or Ambient Lighting levels. A very important capability provided by the OLED Galaxy S and Galaxy Note smartphones and the Galaxy Tab S tablets is the implementation of Colour Management that provides a number of Screen Modes, each with different Colour Gamuts and levels of user selectable colour saturation and display calibration based on user and application preferences. Colour Management with multiple and varying Colour Gamuts are a very useful and important state-of-the-art capability that all displays will need to provide in the future. The Galaxy models are the first to have this capability.
The Galaxy S6 has four user selectable Screen Modes: Adaptive Display, AMOLED Photo, AMOLED Cinema, and the Basic Screen Mode, which matches the Standard sRGB/Rec.709 Colour Gamut that is used for virtually all current consumer content. See this Figure for the Colour Gamuts of the different tested Screen Modes and the Colours and Intensities section for measurements and details. We discuss each of the tested Screen Modes next…
Adaptive Display Mode with a Wide Colour Gamut
The Adaptive Display screen mode provides real-time adaptive processing to dynamically adjust images and videos – for some applications it will vary the White Point, Colour Gamut, and Colour Saturation based on the image content and the colour of the surrounding ambient lighting measured by the Ambient Light Sensor (which measures colour in addition to brightness). The Adaptive Display mode also delivers significantly higher colour saturation, with 133 per cent of the Standard sRGB/Rec.709 Colour Gamut, among the highest that we have ever measured for smartphones and tablets. Some people like the extra saturated vibrant colours, plus it is useful for special applications, and particularly for viewing the display in medium to high levels of Ambient Light, because it offsets some of the reflected light glare that washes out the on-screen image colours.
Note that the Adaptive Display mode is the standard and default Screen Mode for the Galaxy S6 (and the Galaxy Note 4). Use Display Settings to switch to the three other available Screen Modes. Below we discuss the AMOLED Photo and Basic Screen Modes.
AMOLED Photo Mode with an Adobe RGB Colour Gamut
Most high-end digital cameras have an option to use the Adobe RGB Colour Gamut, which is 17 per cent larger than the Standard sRGB/Rec.709 Colour Gamut used in consumer cameras. The AMOLED Photo screen mode on the Galaxy S6 provides a very accurate calibration to the Adobe RGB standard, which is rarely available in consumers displays, and is very useful for high-end digital photography and other advanced imaging applications. The measured Absolute Colour Accuracy of the AMOLED Photo screen mode for the Galaxy S6 is 2.1 JNCD, which is impressively accurate like on the Galaxy Note 4. See this Figure for an explanation and visual definition of JNCD and the Colour Accuracy Plots showing the measured display Colour Errors. There are very few consumer displays that can accurately reproduce Adobe RGB, so this is a significant plus for serious photography enthusiasts. See the Colour Accuracy section and the Colour Accuracy Plots for measurements and details.
Basic Screen Mode with the Standard sRGB / Rec.709 Colour Gamut
The Basic screen mode provides a very accurate Colour and White Point calibration for the Standard sRGB/Rec.709 Colour Gamut that is used to produce virtually all current consumer content for digital cameras, HDTVs, the internet, and computers, including photos, videos, and movies. The Colour Gamut of the Basic screen mode is very accurate, with a nearly perfect 101 per cent of the Standard sRGB/Rec.709 Colour Gamut. Even better, the Absolute Colour Accuracy for the Basic screen mode is an impressive 1.6 JNCD, tied with the Galaxy Note 4 for the most colour accurate display that we have ever measured for a smartphone or tablet. It is visually indistinguishable from perfect, and very likely considerably better than your living room TV or any display that you own. See this Figure for an explanation and visual definition of JNCD and the Galaxy S6 Colour Accuracy Plots showing the measured display Colour Errors, our Absolute Colour Accuracy Comparison of the leading smartphones, and also this regarding Bogus Colour Accuracy Measurements.
Use the Basic screen mode for the best colour and image accuracy, which is especially important when viewing photos from family and friends (because you often know exactly what they actually should look like), for some TV shows, movies, and sporting events with image content and colours that you are familiar with, and also for viewing online merchandise, so you have a very good idea of exactly what colours you are buying and are less likely to return them. See the Colour Accuracy section and the Colour Accuracy Plots for measurements and details.
Screen Brightness and Performance in High Ambient Lighting
Mobile displays are often used under relatively bright ambient lighting, which washes out the image colours and contrast, reducing picture quality and making it harder to view or read the screen. To be usable in high ambient lighting a display needs a dual combination of high screen Brightness and low screen Reflectance – the Galaxy S6 has both. When the Brightness is set manually, the Galaxy S6 provides up to 432 cd/m2 (Luminance, which is a measure of Brightness sometimes called nits), comparable or higher than most LCD displays in this size class. Its Screen Reflectance is 4.6 per cent, close to the lowest that we have ever measured for a smartphone. Our Contrast Rating for High Ambient Light quantitatively measures screen visibility under bright Ambient Light – the higher the better. As a result of its high Brightness and low Reflectance, the Galaxy S6 has a Contrast Rating for High Ambient Light that ranges from 72 to 94, among the highest that we have ever measured.
More importantly, on the Galaxy S6 the Maximum Brightness can go much higher when Automatic Brightness is turned On, so that users can't permanently park the Manual Brightness slider to very high values, which would run down the battery quickly. High screen Brightness is only needed for High Ambient Light, so turning Automatic Brightness On will not only provide better high ambient light screen visibility but also longer battery running time.
When Automatic Brightness is turned On, the Galaxy S6 reaches an impressive 784 cd/m2 (nits) in High Ambient Light, where high Brightness is really needed – it is the brightest mobile display that we have ever tested. As a result of its high Brightness and low Reflectance, the Galaxy S6 has a Contrast Rating for High Ambient Light that ranges from 118 to170, also the highest that we have ever measured for any mobile display. See the Brightness and Contrast, the High Ambient Light and the Screen Reflections sections for measurements and details.
Super Dimming Mode
The Galaxy S6 also has a Super Dimming Mode that allows the Maximum Screen Brightness to be set all the way down to just 2 cd/m2 (nits) using the Brightness Slider. This is useful for working comfortably without eye strain or bothering others in very dark environments, or affecting the eye's dark adaptation, such as when using a telescope. The display still delivers full 24-bit colour and the picture quality remains excellent.
A high resolution screen shot (provided by Samsung) shows an interesting design and sub-pixel arrangement for the Galaxy S6, which Samsung calls Diamond Pixels. First of all, the Red, Green, and Blue sub-pixels have very different sizes – Blue is by far the largest because it has the lowest light emission efficiency, and Green is by far the smallest because it has the highest efficiency. The alternating Red and Blue sub-pixel arrangement leads to a 45 degree diagonal symmetry in the sub-pixel layout. This allows vertical, horizontal, and particularly diagonal line segments and vectors to be drawn with reduced aliasing and artefacts, which improves both text and graphics. In order to maximise the sub-pixel packing and achieve the highest possible pixels per inch (ppi), that leads to diamond rather than square or stripe shaped Red and Blue sub-pixels. But not for the Green sub-pixels, which are oval shaped because they are squeezed between two much larger and different sized Red and Blue sub-pixels. It's an interesting form of high-tech display art…
Display Power Efficiency
With each successive generation Samsung has been systematically improving the power efficiency of their OLED displays. We measured a 20 per cent improvement in display power efficiency between the Galaxy S5 and the Galaxy S6, which is especially impressive given that the Galaxy S6 has almost double the number of pixels and therefore much higher processing overhead. The Galaxy S6 also has an Ultra Power Saving Mode that lowers the Screen Brightness and also sets the background to Black, both of which significantly reduce display power and can double the running time on battery. See the Display Power section for measurements and details.
Viewing Angle Performance
While smartphones are primarily single viewer devices, the variation in display performance with viewing angle is still very important because single viewers frequently hold the display at a variety of viewing angles. The angle is often up to 30 degrees, more if it is resting on a table or desk. While LCDs typically experience a 55 per cent or greater decrease in Brightness at a 30 degree Viewing Angle, the OLED Galaxy S6 display shows a much smaller 27 per cent decrease in Brightness at 30 degrees. This also applies to multiple side-by-side viewers as well, and is a significant advantage of OLED displays. The Colour Shifts with Viewing Angle are also relatively small. See the Viewing Angles section for measurements and details.
The Galaxy S6 Basic screen mode provides very nice, pleasing and accurate colours, and picture quality. Although the Image Contrast is slightly too high (due to a slightly too steep Intensity Scale), the very challenging set of DisplayMate Test and Calibration Photos that we use to evaluate picture quality looked Beautiful, even to my experienced hyper-critical eyes. The Basic screen mode is recommended for indoor and low ambient light viewing of most standard consumer content for digital camera, HDTV, internet, and computer content, including photos, videos, and movies, and also for your online purchases. The Adaptive Display screen mode has significantly more vibrant and saturated colours. Some people like that. It is also recommended for viewing in medium to high levels of ambient lighting because it offsets some of the reflected light glare that washes out the images.
Galaxy S6 Edge Overview
Along with the Galaxy S6, Samsung is also introducing the Galaxy S6 Edge, which is almost identical to the Galaxy S6 except that it has a very innovative curved OLED display that extends and bends around to both the right and left side edges of the phone. The curved Galaxy S6 Edge provides two additional separately configurable display areas that can be viewed from both the front or the sides, or when the phone is placed face down.
The Galaxy S6 Edge is actually a flexible OLED display manufactured on a flexible plastic substrate rather than on a traditional perfectly flat and hard screen like almost all other OLED (and LCD) displays. This allows the display itself to bend, but it is then placed underneath a hard Gorilla Glass 4 cover for protection and to maintain its desired shape, which for the Galaxy S6 Edge is curved along the entire right and left side edges. It is similar to the curved OLED Galaxy Note Edge that we tested in 2014, however, the Galaxy S6 Edge is curved on both the right and left sides.
The curved Galaxy S6 Edge screen is activated only when the main display is off. It then provides a rotating carrousel of up to 5 screens that you can flip through with your finger to see the time, weather, colour-coded notifications like incoming and missed calls, messages and Emails, plus several active news feeds that continuously scroll along the Edge (the defaults include Twitter Trends, Yahoo Finance and Stocks, and Yahoo Sports). The curved Edge screen provides an important User Interface enhancement for smartphones. It's quite functional and useful, and even fun watching and cycling through the various Edge screens. The curved Galaxy S6 Edge screen is about 0.25 inches (0.70 cm) wide on each side, slightly narrower than the Edge screen on the larger Galaxy Note 4. There is a night clock that will dimly show the time all night long on the Edge screen (using very little power because only a small section of the OLED screen is active) so it's also a nice alarm clock as well.
Galaxy S6 Edge Conclusions
What is especially important and news worthy is that the performance of the OLED display on a flexible plastic substrate for the Galaxy S6 Edge (and Galaxy Note Edge) is now essentially the same as on a traditional flat and hard substrate for the Galaxy S6, even at 500+ pixels per inch and 2560x1440 resolution. The most significant point is that curved and flexible displays are definitely the wave of the future because they offer many important visual and functional advantages for both mobile displays and TVs as explained in our 2014 Innovative Displays and Display Technology article. Follow DisplayMate on Twitter to learn about our upcoming curved and flexible display technology coverage.
Galaxy S6 Conclusions: An Impressive Smartphone Display
The primary goal of this Display Technology Shoot-Out article series has always been to publicise and promote display excellence so that consumers, journalists and even manufacturers are aware of and appreciate the very best in displays and display technology.
We point out which manufactures and display technologies are leading and advancing the state-of-the-art for displays by performing comprehensive and objective scientific Lab tests and measurements together with in-depth analysis. We point out who is leading, who is behind, who is improving, and sometimes (unfortunately) who is back pedalling… all based solely on the extensive objective careful Lab measurements that we also publish, so that everyone can judge the data for themselves as well… See the Galaxy S6 Display Shoot-Out Comparison Table for all of the Lab measurements and testing details, and the Results Highlights section above for a more general overview with explanations.
OLED Display Evolution
What is particularly significant and impressive is that Samsung has been systematically improving OLED display performance with every new Galaxy generation since 2010, when we started tracking OLED displays. The first notable OLED smartphone, the Google Nexus One, came in decidedly last place in our 2010 Smartphone Display Shoot-Out. In a span of just five years OLED display technology is now challenging and even exceeding the performance of the best LCDs. The Galaxy S6 continues this trend of impressive systematic improvements of OLED displays and technology.
The Best Smartphone Display
The display on the Galaxy S6 has many significant enhancements over the Galaxy S5 that we tested a year ago. The most impressive are the increases in pixels per inch (from 432 to 577 ppi), higher pixel resolution (from 1920x1080 with 2.1 Mega Pixels up to 2560x1440 with 3.7 Mega Pixels), higher Absolute Colour Accuracy (27 per cent improvement), higher Peak Brightness (12 per cent improvement), higher screen readability and Contrast in High Ambient Light (10 per cent improvement), and higher display Power Efficiency (20 per cent improvement). The screen size remains the same at 5.1 inches.
The display on the Galaxy S6 matches and even exceeds the performance of Galaxy Note 4 that we measured in 2014 and rated it as the Best Performing Smartphone Display that we had ever tested (see the Comparison section below that includes the iPhone 6). This is a particularly significant enhancement because the Galaxy S6 display is considerably smaller so the display components needed to be scaled down by 20 per cent in area from the larger 5.7 inch Galaxy Note 4.
The Galaxy S6 delivers uniformly consistent all around Top Tier display performance: it is only the second smartphone display to ever get all Green (Very Good to Excellent) Ratings in all test and measurement categories (except for a single Yellow in the Brightness Variation with Average Picture Level) since we started the Display Technology Shoot-Out article Series in 2006, an impressive achievement for a display. The first display to achieve that was the Galaxy Note 4.
Based on our extensive Lab tests and measurements listed in the Table below, the Galaxy S6 matches or breaks new records in smartphone display performance for: Highest Screen Resolution, Highest Pixels Per Inch, Highest Absolute Colour Accuracy, Highest (Infinite) Contrast Ratio, Highest Peak Brightness, and Highest Contrast Rating and screen readability in Ambient Light.
The Galaxy S6 and Galaxy Note 4 are neck-and-neck record holders for display performance, effectively tied or alternating between first and second place in almost all categories except screen size for the much larger Galaxy Note 4, and the much higher pixels per inch for the Galaxy S6. What is especially impressive is that the overall display specs and performance of the Galaxy S6 have been maintained or improved after being scaled down by 20 per cent in area from Galaxy Note 4. The Galaxy S6 matches the Galaxy Note 4 in overall display excellence and record performance and joins it as the Best Performing smartphone Display that we have ever tested.
Galaxy S6 Edge and Flexible OLED Displays
The Galaxy S6 Edge is the third generation of flexible OLED displays produced by Samsung. It is essentially identical to the (regular) Galaxy S6 except for its curved screen. The curved Edge is an important User Interface enhancement for smartphones that we described above. It's quite functional and useful, and even fun watching and cycling through the various Edge screens. Flexible OLEDs are at the cutting edge and future of OLED technology. The first generation flexible OLED was in the Galaxy Round, with a slightly curved concave screen that significantly reduces screen reflections and improves image contrast. The second generation was in the Galaxy Note Edge with a single curved right side screen. The Galaxy S6 Edge is the third flexible generation – it's curved on both sides of the screen but is activated only when the main display is off. All of these OLED displays are flexible but are maintained permanently curved and rigid under Gorilla glass – that can and will change in the future, leading to truly flexible, bendable, and foldable OLED display screens.
Multiple Screen Modes and Colour Management
Most smartphones only provide a single fixed factory display Colour Calibration, with no way for the user to alter it based on personal preferences, running applications, or ambient lighting levels. Samsung has implemented Colour Management for their OLED smartphones and tablets allowing them to provide multiple user selectable Screen Modes with different Colour Gamuts and Colour Calibrations – other smartphones only provide a single fixed screen Colour Gamut and factory calibration. Colour Management with multiple and varying Colour Gamuts are a very useful state-of-the-art capability that all displays will need to provide in the future. The Galaxy models including the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge are the first to have this important capability – see the Next Generation of Mobile Displays section below.
The Most Accurate Colours
The Galaxy S6 Basic Screen Mode provides the most accurate on-screen image colours of any smartphone or tablet display that we have ever measured (effectively tied with the Galaxy Note 4). See the Galaxy S6 Colour Accuracy Results, our Absolute Colour Accuracy Comparison of the leading smartphones, and also this regarding Bogus Colour Accuracy Measurements. The measured Absolute Colour Error for the Galaxy S6 Basic Screen Mode is just 1.6 JNCD, tied with the Galaxy Note 4 as the most colour accurate display that we have ever measured for a smartphone or tablet, which is visually indistinguishable from perfect, and is very likely considerably better than your living room TV or any display that you own. Colour Accuracy is especially important when viewing photos from family and friends (because you often know exactly what they actually should look like), for some TV shows, movies, and sporting events with image content and colours that you are familiar with, and also for viewing online merchandise, so you have a very good idea of exactly what colours you are buying and are less likely to return them. Select the Basic Screen Mode using Display Settings – it is not the default screen mode for the Galaxy S6.
Adobe RGB AMOLED Photo Mode
Most high-end digital cameras have an option to use the Adobe RGB Colour Gamut, which is 17 per cent larger than the standard sRGB/Rec.709 Colour Gamut used in consumer cameras. The AMOLED Photo screen mode on the Galaxy S6 provides a very accurate 2.1 JNCD calibration to the Adobe RGB standard, which is rarely available in consumer displays. It is very useful for viewing high-end digital photos and other advanced imaging applications. This is a significant plus for serious photography enthusiasts. Select the AMOLED Photo screen mode using Display Settings – it is not the default screen mode for the Galaxy S6.
Adaptive Display Wide Colour Gamut
The Galaxy S6 OLED display's native Wide Colour Gamut in the Adaptive Display screen mode has significantly more vibrant and saturated colours, with 133 per cent of the Standard sRGB/Rec.709 Colour Gamut, among the highest that we have ever measured for smartphones and tablets. Some people like the extra saturated vibrant colours, plus it is useful for special applications and is recommended for viewing in medium to high levels of ambient light because it offsets some of the reflected light glare that washes out the on-screen image colours. Select the Adaptive Display screen mode using Display Settings – note that Adaptive Display is the factory default screen mode for the Galaxy S6.
The Highest Screen Brightness and Contrast in High Ambient Light
Mobile displays are often used under relatively bright ambient lighting, which washes out the image colours and contrast, reducing picture quality and making it harder to view or read the screen. To be usable in high ambient light a display needs a dual combination of high screen Brightness and low screen Reflectance – the Galaxy S6 has both. Its screen Reflectance is 4.6 per cent, close to the lowest that we have ever measured for a smartphone. When Automatic Brightness is turned On, the Galaxy S6 reaches an impressive maximum screen Brightness of 784 cd/m2 (nits) in high Ambient Light, where high screen Brightness is really needed – it is the Brightest mobile display that we have ever tested. As a result of its high Brightness and low Reflectance, the Galaxy S6 has a Contrast Rating for High Ambient Light that ranges from 118 to170, also the highest that we have ever measured for any mobile display.
Higher Display Power Efficiency
With each successive generation Samsung has been systematically improving the power efficiency of their OLED displays. We measured an impressive 20 per cent improvement in display power efficiency between the Galaxy S5 and the Galaxy S6.
While LCDs remain more power efficient for images with mostly full screen white content (like all text screens, for example), OLEDs are now more power efficient for mixed image content because they are emissive displays so their power varies with the Average Picture Level (average Brightness) of the image content. For OLEDs darker content uses less power and black uses none. For LCDs the display power is fixed and independent of image content – so an all black screen uses the same amount of power as an all white screen.
The Galaxy S6 is in fact 23 per cent more power efficient than the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus for mixed image content (that includes text together with photos, videos, and movies, for example) with a typical 50 per cent Average Picture Level, APL. OLEDs have been rapidly improving in their power efficiency. The balance point has now moved all the way up to 65 per cent APL: the OLED Galaxy S6 is more power efficient for all APLs from zero up through 65 per cent, and the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus LCDs are more efficient for APLs above 65 per cent. See the Display Power section for measurements and details.
Comparison with LCDs and the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus
LCDs and OLEDs are the two leading mobile display technologies. The technologies are significantly different and each one has its own inherent strengths – and both continue to evolve and improve independently.
We recently evaluated and rated the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus as the current Best Mobile LCD Displays, while the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy Note 4 are the current Best Mobile OLED Displays. All are impressive and excellent displays with great state-of-the-art display technology. However, OLED displays have been advancing at a relentless and fast pace with a constant series of systematic and strategic improvements, while LCDs have been coasting on their laurels for years. So although OLEDs started from behind in 2010 they have now pulled ahead on performance and innovation based on the Lab test and measurement results reported here. To get back in the game and become more competitive, LCDs will need to adopt Quantum Dots and Dynamic Colour Management.
The Galaxy S6 has more than double the resolution and more than 4 times the number of pixels as the iPhone 6. It also has significantly higher peak Brightness, significantly higher Contrast Ratio in both low and high Ambient Light, significantly higher Absolute Colour Accuracy, significantly better Viewing Angel performance, and has 4 selectable screen modes instead of a single fixed one on the iPhones.
You can directly compare the data and measurement results for all four of these displays in detail by using a Tabbed web browser with our comprehensive Lab measurements and analysis for each of the displays. For each Tab click on a Link below. The entries are mostly identical with only minor formatting differences, so it's easy to make detailed side-by-side comparisons by simply clicking through the Tabs.
Improvements for the Next Generations of Mobile Displays
The most important improvements for both OLED and LCD mobile displays will come from improving their image and picture quality and screen readability in ambient light, which washes out the screen images, resulting in reduced image contrast, colour saturation, and colour accuracy. The key will be in implementing Dynamic automatic real-time modification of the display's Colour Gamut and Intensity Scale based the measured current Ambient Light level in order to have them compensate for the reflected light glare and image wash out from ambient light as discussed in our 2014 Innovative Displays and Display Technology and SID Display Technology Shoot-Out articles. The displays, technologies, and manufacturers that succeed in implementing this new high ambient light display performance strategy will take the lead in the next generations of mobile displays.
Display Shoot-Out Comparison Table
Below we examine in-depth the OLED display on the Samsung Galaxy S6 based on objective Lab measurement data and criteria. For comparisons and additional background information see the Galaxy S5 Display Technology Shoot-Out, the Galaxy Note 4 Display Technology Shoot-Out, and the Absolute Colour Accuracy Display Technology Shoot-Out. For comparisons with the other leading smartphone, tablet and smart watch displays see our Mobile Display Technology Shoot-Out series.
Below is a partial excerpt of the table; you can see the full comparison at DisplayMate.
This article has been republished with permission from DisplayMate.com, where it can be read in its entirety.
About the Author
Dr. Raymond Soneira is President of DisplayMate Technologies Corporation of Amherst, New Hampshire, which produces display calibration, evaluation, and diagnostic products for consumers, technicians, and manufacturers. See www.displaymate.com.