HomeBlogREVIEWSmartphone screens defined: show sorts, resolutions and refresh charges

Smartphone screens defined: show sorts, resolutions and refresh charges

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Panel sorts

In recent times, smartphone shows have developed much more acronyms than ever earlier than with every totally different one that includes a distinct type of expertise. AMOLED, LCD, LED, IPS, TFT, PLS, LTPS, LTPO…the listing continues to develop. 

As if the totally different obtainable applied sciences weren’t sufficient, part and smartphone producers undertake an increasing number of glorified names like “Tremendous Retina XDR” and “Dynamic AMOLED”, which finish up growing the potential for confusion amongst customers. So let’s check out a few of these phrases utilized in smartphone specification sheets and decipher them.

There are numerous show sorts utilized in smartphones: LCD, OLED, AMOLED, Tremendous AMOLED, TFT, IPS and some others which might be much less often discovered on smartphones these days, like TFT-LCD. Probably the most often discovered on mid-to-high vary telephones now could be IPS-LCD. However what do these all imply?

Briefly, there are two sorts of applied sciences obtainable available in the market for smartphone shows: LCD and OLED. Every of them has a number of variations and generations, which provides rise to extra acronyms, much like televisions and their totally different ranges akin to LED, QLED, miniLED – that are all really variations of LCD expertise.

Flexible OLED panel demonstration
Versatile shows and microLED expertise are a few of the areas producers dive into / © Samsung Show

What’s an LCD show?

LCD means Liquid Crystal Show, and its title refers back to the array of liquid crystals illuminated by a backlight, and their ubiquity and comparatively low value make them a well-liked selection for smartphones and plenty of different gadgets.

LCDs additionally are likely to carry out fairly effectively in direct daylight, as all the show is illuminated from behind, however does undergo from probably much less correct color illustration than shows that do not require a backlight.

Inside smartphones, you will have each TFT and IPS shows. TFT stands for Skinny Movie Transistor, a sophisticated model of LCD that makes use of an energetic matrix (just like the AM in AMOLED). Lively matrix signifies that every pixel is hooked up to a transistor and capacitor individually.

The principle benefit of TFT is its comparatively low manufacturing value and elevated distinction when in comparison with conventional LCDs. The drawback of TFT LCDs is increased power calls for than another LCDs, much less spectacular viewing angles and color copy. It is for these causes, and falling prices of other choices, that TFTs aren’t generally utilized in smartphones anymore.

IPS shows

IPS expertise (In-Aircraft Switching) solves the issue that the primary technology of LCD shows expertise, which adopts the TN (Twisted Nematic) approach: the place color distortion happens while you view the show from the aspect – an impact that continues to crop up on cheaper smartphones and tablets.

In IPS panels, the liquid crystals are aligned to the show, leading to superior viewing angles – normally listed at 178º on TVs, which is one other attribute of IPS shows. One other attribute of IPS shows in relation to different LCD applied sciences is superior color copy, which explains using such panels in displays which might be meant for picture modifying jobs.

IPS features compared to VA panels
In smartphones, the benefit of getting IPS is the steadiness between value and color copy / © LG Show

PLS LCD shows

The PLS (Aircraft to Line Switching) normal makes use of an acronym that’s similar to that of IPS, and is it any surprise that its primary operation can be related in nature? The expertise, developed by Samsung Show, has the identical traits as IPS shows – good color copy and viewing angles, however a decrease distinction stage in comparison with OLED and LCD/VA shows.

In keeping with Samsung Show, PLS panels have a decrease manufacturing value, increased brightness charges, and even superior viewing angles when in comparison with their rival, LG Show’s IPS panels. Finally, whether or not a PLS or IPS panel is used, it boils right down to the selection of the part provider.

Is the show LED or LCD?

This can be a quite common query after “LED” TVs had been launched, with the quick reply merely being LCD. The expertise utilized in a LED show is liquid crystal, the distinction being LEDs producing the backlight. 

LEDs have the benefit of consuming little or no energy – which explains the emphasis given by advertising departments in highlighting the time period in TVs, however not a lot in the case of smartphones with their decreased show measurement. However, backlight operation makes it tough for LCD/LED shows to supply a stage of distinction that’s aggressive with OLED shows because the lighting management just isn’t carried out by every particular person pixel, however by areas on the show.

Close up on the Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro selfie camera
The Xiaomi Mi 10T Professional has probably the most superior LCD/LED screens of 2021 / © NextPit

Mini-LED: What modifications with this new expertise

One of many highlights from TV makers on the CES 2021 tradeshow, mini-LED expertise appeared far faraway from cellular gadgets till Apple introduced the 2021 iPad Professional. Because the title implies, the approach is predicated on the miniaturization of the LEDs that type the backlight of the display — which nonetheless makes use of an LCD panel.

Lowering the part means that you can embody extra LEDs within the show backlight, which ends up in better management over distinction ranges in numerous areas of the show. One other benefit highlighted by Apple for the brand new iPad is the next peak brightness — as much as 1,600 nits in HDR mode, versus 600 nits for the earlier technology, or as much as 1,200 nits for the OLED display on the iPhone 12.

Mini LED features on the iPad Pro 2021
Mini LED options on the iPad Professional 2021 / © Apple

Regardless of the advance when it comes to distinction (and probably brightness) over conventional LCD/LED shows, LCD/mini-LEDs nonetheless divide the display into brightness zones — over 2,500 within the case of the iPad and 2021 “QNED” TVs from LG — in comparison with dozens or lots of of zones in previous-generation FALD (full-array native dimming) shows, on which the LEDs are behind the LCD panel as an alternative of the sides.

Nonetheless, for even better distinction management, performed individually at every level on the display, it’s essential to go to panels outfitted with microLED applied sciences – nonetheless cost-prohibitive in 2021 – or OLED, which till just lately had been manufactured on a big scale solely in sizes for smartphones or televisions.

AMOLED shows

AMOLED stands for Lively Matrix Natural Gentle-Emitting Diode. Whereas this may increasingly sound sophisticated it really is not. We already encountered the energetic matrix in TFT LCD expertise, and OLED is just a time period for an additional thin-film show expertise.

OLED is an natural materials that, because the title implies, emits gentle when a present is handed by it. Versus LCD panels, that are back-lit, OLED shows are ‘all the time off’ until the person pixels are electrified.

Because of this OLED shows have a lot purer blacks and devour much less power when black or darker colors are displayed on-screen. Nonetheless, lighter-coloured themes on AMOLED screens use significantly extra energy than an LCD utilizing the identical theme. OLED screens are additionally costlier to provide than LCDs.

As a result of the black pixels are ‘off’ in an OLED show, the distinction ratios are additionally increased in comparison with LCD screens. AMOLED shows have a really quick refresh price too, however on the draw back aren’t fairly as seen in direct daylight as backlit LCDs. Display burn-in and diode degradation (as a result of they’re natural) are different components to think about.

On the constructive aspect, AMOLED screens will be made thinner than LCDs (as a result of they do not require a backlit layer) they usually will also be made versatile.

Display options on the Samsung Galaxy S9
Samsung’s Galaxy S vary at present makes use of Tremendous AMOLED shows. / © NextPit

What is the distinction between OLED, AMOLED and Tremendous AMOLED?

OLED stands for Natural Gentle Emitting Diode. An OLED show is comprised of skinny sheets of electroluminescent materials, the principle advantage of which is that they produce their very own gentle, and so do not require a backlight, reducing down on power necessities. OLED shows are extra generally known as AMOLED shows when used on smartphones or TVs.

As we have already coated, the AM a part of AMOLED stands for Lively Matrix, which is totally different from a Passive Matrix OLED (P-OLED), although these are much less widespread in smartphones.

Tremendous AMOLED is the title given by Samsung to its shows that used to solely be present in high-end fashions however have now trickled right down to extra modestly specced gadgets. Like IPS LCDs, Tremendous AMOLED improves upon the fundamental AMOLED premise by integrating the contact response layer into the show itself, somewhat than as an additional layer on high.

Because of this, Tremendous AMOLED shows deal with daylight higher than AMOLED shows and in addition require much less energy. Because the title implies, Tremendous AMOLED is just a greater model of AMOLED. It isn’t all simply advertising bluster both: Samsung’s shows are usually reviewed as a few of the greatest round.

The most recent evolution of the expertise has been christened “Dynamic AMOLED”. Samsung did not go into element about what the time period means, however highlighted that panels with such identification embody HDR10+ certification that helps a wider vary of distinction and hues, in addition to blue gentle discount for improved visible consolation.

In the identical vein, the time period “Fluid AMOLED” utilized by OnePlus on its most superior gadgets mainly highlights the excessive refresh charges employed, which ends up in extra fluid animations on the display.

Foldable and rollable shows

One other benefit of OLED shows is that this: by eliminating an illumination layer, the part can’t solely be thinner however can be extra versatile. This characteristic already sees motion in smartphones with bendable shows and can be employed in conceptual gadgets with a rollable show.

Huawei Mate XS semi folded on the edge of a table
Salvador Dalí can be proud / © NextPit

The expertise debuted with the obscure Royole FlexPai, outfitted with an OLED panel equipped by China’s BOE, and was then used within the Huawei Mate X (pictured above) and the Motorola Razr (2019), the place each additionally sport BOE’s panel – and the Galaxy Flip and Fold traces, utilizing the part equipped by Samsung Show.

Decision: What’s the distinction between HD, HD+, FullHD, 4K, and so on?

Decision describes the variety of particular person pixels (or factors) displayed on the display and is normally introduced for telephones by the variety of horizontal pixels — vertical when referring to TVs and displays. Extra pixels on the identical show permit for extra detailed pictures and clearer textual content.

To make it simpler to check totally different fashions, manufacturers normally undertake the identical naming scheme made common by the TV market with phrases like HD, FullHD and UltraHD. However with telephones adopting a variety of various display proportions, simply realizing that’s not sufficient to know the overall pixels displayed on the display.

Frequent cellphone resolutions

Advertising titleHorizontal pixelsVertical decisionDifferent used names
HD720p1280 (16:9)
1440 (18:9)
1520 (19:9)
1600 (20:9)
1680 (21:9)
720p, WXGA
Full HD1080p1920 (16:9)
2160 (18:9)
2280 (19:9)
2400 (20:9)
2520 (21:9)
FHD, 1080p
Quad HD1440p2560 (16:9)
2880 (18:9)
3040 (19:9)
3200 (20:9)
3360 (21:9)
QHD, 1440p
Extremely HD2160p3840 (16:9)
4320 (18:9)
4560 (19:9)
4800 (20:9)
5040 (21:9)
UHD, 4K, 2160p

However decision in itself just isn’t measure for picture readability, for that we have to think about the show measurement, ensuing within the pixel density by space measured by DPI/PPI (dots/factors per inch).

Retina, Tremendous Retina XDR: what are they?

Talking of pixel density, this was one in all Apple’s highlights again in 2010 through the launch of the iPhone 4. The corporate christened the LCD display (LED, TFT, and IPS) used within the smartphone as “Retina Show”, due to the excessive decision of the panel used (960 by 640 pixels again then) in its 3.5-inch show.

The title coined by Apple’s advertising division is utilized to screens which, in accordance with the corporate, the human eye is unable to discern the person pixels from a traditional viewing distance. Within the case of iPhones, the time period was utilized to shows with a pixel density that’s better than 300 ppi (dots per inch).

Since then, different producers have adopted swimsuit, adopting panels with more and more increased resolutions. Whereas the iPhone 12 mini gives 476 dpi, fashions like Sony Xperia 1 boast a whopping 643 dpi.

To distinguish itself, Apple launched the time period “Tremendous Retina”, which mainly defines the OLED screens used on the iPhone X onwards, or the excessive distinction charges and color accuracy that Galaxy S smartphone homeowners take pleasure in, and was even noticed in even some earlier Nokias.

Close up on the iPhone 11 Pro display
Apple highlights the excessive distinction and brightness charges of the OLED display within the iPhone 11 Professional / © NextPit

With the iPhone 11 Professional, one other time period was launched to the equation: “Tremendous Retina XDR”. Nonetheless utilizing an OLED panel (that’s equipped by Samsung Show or LG Show), the smartphone brings even increased specs when it comes to distinction – with a 2,000,000:1 ratio and brightness stage of 1,200 nits, which have been specifically optimized for displaying content material in HDR format.

As a type of comfort prize for iPhone XR and iPhone 11 consumers, who continued counting on LCD panels, Apple labeled the show used within the smartphones with a brand new time period, “Liquid Retina”. This was later utilized additionally to the iPad Professional and iPad Air fashions, with the title defining screens that boast a excessive vary and color accuracy, not less than primarily based on the corporate’s requirements.

Nits and brightness ranges

Nit, or candela per sq. meter within the worldwide system (cd/m²), is a unit of measurement of luminance, i.e. the depth of sunshine emitted. Within the case of smartphone screens and displays normally, such a worth defines simply how vivid the show is – the upper the worth, the extra intense the sunshine emitted by the display.

Refresh charges: what do 60Hz, 90Hz, and 120Hz imply?

Popularized in 2019 and 2020 by high-end and even some mid-range smartphones, the phrases “120 Hz”, “90 Hz” and others with the same measurement in Hertz signify the refresh price of the panel, be it LCD or OLED. The upper the worth, the extra frames per second are displayed on the display.

Samsung demonstration for the differences between 12 and 120 Hz displays
The upper the quantity, the smoother the animation is / © Samsung Electronics

The result’s smoother animations on the cellphone, each throughout common use and in video games, in comparison with screens which have a 60 Hz refresh price which stays the usual price available in the market in the case of shows.

Initially touted to be a “gimmick” in 2017, with the launch of the Razer Cellphone, the characteristic gained an increasing number of momentum in due time, even with a corresponding lower in battery life. With the intention to benefit from this characteristic, producers started to undertake screens with variable refresh charges, which will be adjusted in accordance with the content material displayed – which is 24 fps in most motion pictures, 30 or 60 fps in dwelling video recordings, and so forth.

The identical unit of measurement is used for the sampling price. Though related, the worth right here represents the variety of instances per second the display is ready to register touches. The upper the pattern price, the quicker the smartphone registers such touches, which ends up in a quicker response time. 


To additional muddy the alphabet soup that we have come throughout, additionally, you will run into different much less widespread phrases which might be typically highlighted in promotional supplies for smartphones.

TFT(Skinny Movie Transistor) – a kind of LCD show that adopts a skinny semiconductor layer deposited on the panel, which permits for energetic management of the color depth in every pixel, that includes the same idea as that of active-matrix (AM) utilized in AMOLED shows. It’s utilized in TN, IPS/PLS, VA/PVA/MVA panels, and so on.

LTPS (Low Temperature PolySilicon) – a variation of the TFT that gives increased resolutions and decrease energy consumption in comparison with conventional TFT screens, primarily based on a-Si (amorphous silicon) expertise.

IGZO (Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide) – a semiconductor materials utilized in TFT movies, which additionally permits increased resolutions and decrease energy consumption, and sees motion in various kinds of LCD screens (TN, IPS, VA) and OLED shows

LTPO (Low Temperature Polycrystaline Oxide) – a expertise developed by Apple that can be utilized in each OLED and LCD shows, because it combines LTPS and IGZO strategies. The consequence? Decrease energy consumption. It has been used within the Apple Watch 4 and the Galaxy S21 Extremely.

LTPO permits the show to regulate its refresh price, adapting dynamically to the content material proven. Scrolling pages can set off the quickest mode for a fluid viewing, whereas displaying a static picture permits the cellphone to make use of a decrease refresh price, saving the battery.

In 2022, flagship telephones began utilizing the so-called LTPO 2.0 tech, whose major benefit is with the ability to go right down to a 1 Hz refresh price, as an alternative of the ten Hz obtainable in first-generation LTPO panels. Present in telephones just like the OnePlus 10 Professional and the Galaxy S22 Extremely, LTPO 2.0 guarantees even additional power financial savings.

Shows of the longer term: microLED

Amongst televisions, the long-standing featured expertise has all the time been miniLED – which consists of accelerating the variety of lighting zones within the backlight whereas nonetheless utilizing an LCD panel. There are whispers going round that smartphones and smartwatches will probably be taking a look at incorporating microLED expertise of their gadgets quickly, with it being radically totally different from LCD/LED shows because it sports activities related picture traits to that of OLEDs.

A microLED show has one light-emitting diode for every subpixel of the display – normally a set of crimson, inexperienced, and blue diodes for every dot. Likelihood is it should use a type of inorganic materials akin to gallium nitride (GaN).

By adopting a self-emitting gentle expertise, microLED shows don’t require using a backlight, with every pixel being “turned off” individually. The result’s spectacular: your eyes see the identical stage of distinction as OLED shows, with out affected by the danger of picture retention or burn-in of natural diodes.

One other benefit of microLED expertise is the potential to show pictures with increased brightness ranges whereas benefitting from decrease energy consumption, combining the strengths of each OLED and LCD panels.

MicroLED television from Samsung
Price of expertise and miniaturization of diodes stay the principle challenges for microLED / © Samsung Electronics

However, using a number of diodes for every pixel poses a problem when it comes to part miniaturization. For instance, a Full HD decision has simply over two million pixels (1,920 x 1,080 dots), which requires 6 million microscopic LEDs utilizing a standard RGB (crimson, inexperienced, and blue) construction.

This is without doubt one of the causes that specify the adoption of such expertise up to now stays somewhat restricted in scope. You will notice them primarily in massive screens of 75 to 150 inches solely, which allow 4K decision (3,840 x 2,160 decision, which is shut to eight.3 million pixels or 24.8 million RGB subpixels). This can be a enormous variety of pixels to have a look at!

One other factor to be cautious of is the value – at 170 million Korean received (about US$150,330 after conversion), that’s actually some huge cash to cough up for a 110-inch show. 

Which is best: LCD/LED or AMOLED?

Every expertise has its personal benefits and drawbacks however lately, OLED screens have gained prominence, particularly with the adoption of the part in high-end flagship smartphones. It gained a fair better diploma of recognition after the launch of the iPhone X, which cemented the place of OLED panels within the premium section.

As beforehand said, OLED/AMOLED screens have the benefit of a diverse distinction stage, ensuing from particular person brightness management for the pixels. One other results of that is the extra sensible copy of black, in addition to low energy consumption when the display reveals off darkish pictures – which has additionally helped to popularize darkish modes on smartphones.

On the draw back, OLED screens have the next manufacturing value, in addition to a smaller variety of suppliers – dominated by South Korea’s Samsung Show and LG Show, with China’s BOE in third place and some different Chinese language producers filling up the remaining demand when in comparison with LCD panels.

Burn-in example on an OLED display
OLED shows can expertise burn-in if you’re not cautious / © NextPit

As well as, the natural diodes that give OLED screens their title can lose their capability to alter their properties over time, and this occurs when the identical picture is displayed for an extended time period. This drawback is called “burn-in”, tends to present itself when increased brightness settings are utilized for lengthy intervals of time.

Whereas that may be a very actual chance, it isn’t one thing that impacts most customers, who typically confuse burn-in with the same drawback – picture retention, which is non permanent and normally resolves itself after a couple of minutes.

Within the case of LCD shows, the principle benefit lies within the low manufacturing value, with dozens of gamers available in the market providing aggressive pricing and a excessive manufacturing quantity. Some manufacturers have taken benefit of this characteristic to prioritize sure options – akin to the next refresh price – as an alternative of adopting an OLED panel, such because the Xiaomi Mi 10T.

It’s also price remembering that, as with nearly all sorts of elements, there are AMOLED and LCD screens with totally different ranges of high quality and options, which will be mixed in varied methods to realize a sure worth level. This can be a prolonged dialogue, which has even been the topic of a heated debate between my colleagues, Ben and Rahul.

Close up on the Samsung Galaxy S21+ selfie camera
The premium section has turn into saturated with OLED shows, however there are exceptions / © NextPit

What about you? Do you will have a choice for a selected show kind? Did we miss any acronyms associated to shows? Go away your remark beneath.

This text was up to date in Could 2022, however beforehand printed feedback have been preserved.



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