Display Showdown Part III: Detailed Point-For-Point Comparison

This is Part III, the conclusion, of the Display Showdown: Nexus One vs. iPhone 3GS series, produced as a collaboration between DisplayBlog and DisplayMate Technologies. Let’s get on with the point-for-point comparison.

Display Resolution/Pixel Format: Nexus One

The Nexus One has a pixel format that is equivalent to a 3.7-inch LCD with a 800×480 pixel format. The iPhone 3GS is limited to just 480×320. [Nexus One (1) – iPhone 3GS (0)]

Color Depth: iPhone 3GS

The Nexus One has a limited 16-bit color depth for the Google Browser and Gallery. The iPhone 3GS makes use of 18-bit color depth and mimics 24-bit with dithering, leading to smoother and more accurate colors. [Nexus One (1) – iPhone 3GS (1)]

Image Scaling to Fit the Screen: iPhone 3GS

The Nexus One exhibited scaling artifacts, especially in the Google Gallery, while the iPhone 3GS didn’t. [Nexus One (1) – iPhone 3GS (2)]

Factory Calibration: iPhone 3GS

Color tracking and accuracy were poor for the Nexus One. The iPhone 3GS was very good. [Nexus One (1) – iPhone 3GS (3)]

Peak Brightness: iPhone 3GS

The Nexus One showed a peak brightness of 229 cd/m², relatively low for a mobile device. The iPhone 3GS’ peak brightness was 428 cd/m², an excellent result. [Nexus One(1) – iPhone 3GS (4)]

Black Level Brightness: Nexus One

Blacks were absolutely black on the Nexus One with a brightness of just 0.0035 cd/m². On the iPhone 3GS blacks were merely very dark gray and measurements showed a very high black level brightness of 3.1 cd/m². [Nexus One (2) – iPhone 3GS (4)]

Contrast Ratio for Low Ambient Light: Nexus One

The Nexus One’s contrast ratio of 65,415:1 was one of the highest measured. The iPhone 3GS did poorly at just 138:1. [Nexus One (3) – iPhone 3GS (4)]

Contrast Ratio for High Ambient Light: iPhone 3GS

The Nexus One did quite well in low light but in bright environments the contrast ratio decreased to just 15:1, a very low result. The iPhone 3GS beat it easily with a contrast ratio of 47:1. [Nexus One (3) – iPhone 3GS (5)]

Screen Reflectance: iPhone 3GS

Lower screen reflectance means the display is easier to see. The Nexus One had a 15.5% screen reflectance, which is relatively high. The iPhone 3GS had a screen reflectance of just 9.2%, a very good result. [Nexus One (3) – iPhone 3GS (6)]

Dynamic Color and Contrast: iPhone 3GS

The Nexus One made use of dynamically controlling color and contrast that led to a degradation in picture quality and accuracy. The iPhone 3GS did not use dynamic color and contrast resulting in colors that were more accurate. [Nexus One (3) – iPhone 3GS (7)]

Color Temperature: iPhone 3GS

The Nexus One had a color temperature of 8870° Kelvin that casted a blue tint. The iPhone 3GS’ 6977° Kelvin was much closer to D6500, the color of natural daylight. [Nexus One (3) – iPhone 3GS (8)]

White Point Chromaticity: iPhone 3GS

The white points for the Nexus One were a bit off u’=0.1871 v’=0.4508 while the iPhone 3GS had white points closer to standard at u’=0.1903 v’=0.4692. [Nexus One (3) – iPhone 3GS (9)]

Color Gamut: Neither

The Nexus One’s color gamut was much larger than the standard sRGB color gamut while the iPhone 3GS had a color gamut that was much smaller. [Nexus One (3) – iPhone 3GS (9)]

Color Saturation: Neither

Color was way over-saturated on the Nexus One and under-saturated on the iPhone 3GS. [Nexus One (3) – iPhone 3GS (9)]

Intensity Scale and Image Contrast: Neither

The Nexus One had an irregular intensity scale and contrast was too high while the iPhone 3GS had the opposite problem of contrast being too low and an intensity scale that was concave. The intensity scale should follow Gamma 2.2. [Nexus One (3) – iPhone 3GS (9)]

Gamma for Intensity Scale: iPhone 3GS

The iPhone 3GS beats out the Nexus One by a very small margin. The iPhone 3GS has a 1.90 intensity scale, which is too low. On the other hand the intensity scale on the Nexus One is very irregular and ranges from 1.82 – 2.55. Neither are good but the iPhone 3GS is less bad. [Nexus One (3) – iPhone 3GS (10)]

Brightness Decrease with 30° Viewing Angle: Nexus One

At a 30° viewing angle the Nexus One’s brightness decreased 28%, large for an OLED, but smaller than the whopping 63% decrease for the iPhone 3GS. [Nexus One (4) – iPhone 3GS (10)]

Black Level Increase with 30° Viewing Angle: Nexus One

The black level increase on the Nexus One is visually insignificant. The iPhone 3GS increased 19% leading to washed-out images. [Nexus One (5) – iPhone 3GS (10)]

Contrast Ratio with 30° Viewing Angle: Nexus One

The contrast ratio on the Nexus One is extremely high while the iPhone 3GS exhibited an extremely low 44:1.

Color Shift with 30° Viewing Angle: Nexus One

The Nexus One showed a color shift of Δ(u’v’)=0.0262, which is 7 times Just Noticeable Color Difference (JNCD). The iPhone 3G shifted more by Δ(u’v’)=0.0418, 10 times JNCD. [Nexus One (6) – iPhone 3GS (10)]

Power Consumption for Peak White: iPhone 3GS

Power consumption is certainly important. Though there would be little to no occasion whereby we would turn the display completely white, this test to a large degree shows how much power the two displays consume. The iPhone 3GS beat out the Nexus One by a very small margin: 0.81 watts vs. 0.91 watts. [Nexus One (6) – iPhone 3GS (11)]

Power Consumption for the Same Peak Luminance 229 cd/m°: iPhone 3GS

The iPhone 3GS consumed considerably less power at 0.44 watts compared to the Nexus One’s 0.91 watts. [Nexus One (6) – iPhone 3GS (12)]

Power Consumption for Black: Nexus One

The Nexus One’s OLED display consumes zero power then black, severely beating the iPhone 3GS’ 0.81 watt power consumption. [Nexus One (7) – iPhone 3GS (12)]

For a colorful table outlining all of these factors, hope on over to DisplayMate. The final tally is 7 for the Nexus One and 12 for the iPhone 3GS. Of course, this does not conclusively determine which display is better than the other. Users will put more importance on some results and less on others. For instance if you are very comfortable with high-tech gadgets and like to tinker you generally spend considerable time with your gadgets indoors and late at night. In this case the Nexus One, which performs much better in low-light environments would be the better choice. For soccer moms that are out and about when its sunny outside might be better off with an iPhone 3GS. So it really depends on what you want in a display.

Both the Nexus One and the iPhone 3GS have ample room for improvement. For the Nexus One the blue OLEDs can be driven less resulting in: a color temperature that is closer to standard, more accurate colors, less power consumption, longer battery life and a decrease in differential aging. By opening up color calibration capabilities on the Nexus One the much larger color gamut can be reigned in to match sRGB. By altering the Android UI to make use of more black colors power consumption can be further reduced leading to longer battery life.

The iPhone 3GS has opposite problems: colors are washed out due to the much smaller-than-standard color gamut. Blacks are not really black. Brightness, contrast and color shifts at angles are terrible. I think a RGB LED backlit IPS TFT LCD would be the way to go to correct some of these problems.

This concludes the Display Showdown: Nexus One vs. iPhone 3GS series. I want to thank Dr. Raymond Soneira for his excellent tests, measurements and analysis. And I hope you learned a thing or two about the Nexus One and iPhone 3GS displays. Thank you!