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iPhone 4 beats Google Nexus S and HTC HD7 in screen battle

What's brighter than the sun, whiter than the snow, and blacker than the heart of a pirate? It's not the screen of an iPhone 4, but it comes close.

We gave the screen on the iPhone 4 the gong over the Google Nexus S because of its retina-searing sharpness and clarity, and now the boffins in the CNET US lab have gone and backed us up with some proper science-y measurements.

Our amusingly accented cousins from across the pond strapped on their stars-and-stripes lab coats and subjected the iPhone 4, the Nexus S and the HTC HD7 to a battery of display tests.

First, they measured the screens' maximum brightness, the blackness of the blacks, and the contrast ratio using a chromameter. In this test, the iPhone 4 blew away its competition with its brightness, but the blackness on the Nexus S was as dark as the heart of a black hole with the lights turned off and one of those aeroplane sleepy masks on.

Once its lab rats' pupils recovered, CNET used test patterns to reveal jaggies, pixellation, jankiness and other image problems with names we didn't make up. The patterns included colour scales, gradients of colour, and fonts of various tones. The iPhone 4 impressed again, although it struggled to display the darkest colours. The Nexus S had problems displaying accurate greys and smooth gradients, but came out on top for displaying text without any blur.

But, as Marie Curie said, "A scientist in his laboratory is not a mere technician: he is also a child confronting natural phenomena that impress him as though they were fairy tales." Word up, Marie. So the next test was eyeballing a photo of a Coca-Cola can next to the real thing and playing a bit of Raging Thunder 2. This revealed the HD7's washed-out colour, while the Nexus S was deemed to be oversaturated.

Overall, the iPhone 4 was the screen battle's winner, with the HD7 and the Nexus S in hot pursuit. If you're keen to read all the details of how the phones were tested, we recommend you pop over to CNET US.

Of course, the screen is only one factor is how you choose a phone, so be sure to read our full reviews to get the whole picture.

Photo credit: Eric Franklin/CNET.com