Is iPhone 4’s Retina Display the Best?

Submitted by lalit on July 16, 2010 - 10:30am.

Since Apple introduced iPhone 4 last month its new “Retina” display has been the main topic of many discussion around the web. Apple claims, “because the Retina display’s pixel density is so high, your eye is unable to distinguish individual pixels” – making text and graphics look crisp, smooth and continuous like on high quality printed paper. The new display fits four times more pixels (960 x 640) on the same 3.5-inch screen resulting in pixel density of 326 pixels per inch, which is unmatched in smartphone market.

However, many bloggers and executives of other smartphone makers have tried to refute Apple’s claim of superior display on the iPhone 4. For example, one Samsung executive said that Super AMOLED display is better than Retina display, and DisplayMate Technologies’ Dr Soneira wrote on his blog that human eye can differentiate 477 pixels per inch, which is higher that 326 pixels per inch on Retina display. But now that the iPhone is available, many websites have compared the new Retina display with other smartphones on the market as well as older Apple product like iPhone 3GS and iPad. And the results are interesting.

On Jonesblog, the author compared the iPhone 4 display with iPad and older iPhones, and did a detailed calculation for pixel density issue. He put all four displays under microscope (at 180μm) and came to the conclusion that not only are the iPhone 4’s pixels substantially smaller, but they also have very little distortion compared to the other displays. As for the pixel density he wrote, “A normal human eye should be able to discriminate two points 89 micrometers apart which would work out to about 287 pixels per inch.  Since the iPhone 4G display is comfortably higher than that measure at 326 pixels per inch, I’d find Apple’s claims stand up to what the human eye can perceive.”

PC Mag compared iPhone 4, Droid X, Droid Incredible and HTC EVO in terms of brightness, contrast, color depth, and color accuracy. In brightness iPhone came on top, Droid Incredible topped contrast because it has OLED display, iPhone won color depth battle and Droid X offered best color accuracy. PC Mag concluded, “The iPhone 4 has the most well-rounded display of our bunch. It offers a completely 24-bit color experience, the brightest screen, and great contrast (for an LCD).”

CNET went one step further and not only tested brightness, black level and contrast ratio, but also tested color tracking errors, 24-bit color, font legibility, RGBW smooth color ramp and real world display performance. CNET compared iPhone 4, HTC Evo 4G and Motorola Droid. They wrote,  “The iPhone 4 was the best performer of the three phones we tested. The iPhone 4 won in most of our scientific tests and also had the best performance overall in our real-world tests. As it stands now the iPhone 4's is the best smartphone screen on the market.”

And finally, Engadget compared Retina Display with Super AMOLED display on Samsung Galaxy S. They concluded, “Stick both at a normal distance away from the user, and it will likely come down to personal preference again.” However, “The Retina Display really whoops on the Super AMOLED on the pixel level. Definition still looks ridiculous on the iPhone 4, and Samsung simply can't match it there.”

Yes is the answer to our initial question – is iPhone 4’s Retina display the best? Overall, iPhone 4 offers the best combination of brightness, contrast, color accuracy and real world performance. And when it comes to resolution and pixel density there is not a single smartphone available that can match the iPhone 4’s Retina display. Anyone who hasn’t seen the Retina display should go and try the new iPhone 4 in Apple or AT&T stores, and see the difference specially while reading text on Retina display.