Galaxy Note 5 has best smartphone display ever tested, says DisplayMate

Though Samsung's latest Galaxy Note has the same screen size and resolution of its predecessor, the display performance shows significant improvement, says screen tester DisplayMate.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
3 min read

Samsung's new Galaxy Note 5 has earned top marks for its display performance. Josh Miller/CNET

Samsung's new Galaxy Note 5 has the best performing screen in town, according to a new report from DisplayMate.

In a new round of lab tests analyzing the screens of both the Galaxy Note 5 and the Galaxy S6 Edge+, DisplayMate President Raymond Soneira gave both phones high marks for their display performance. The Note 5 sports a 5.7-inch high-resolution Quad HD 2,560x1,440 pixel display. The S6 Edge+ offers the same screen size and resolution but with a screen that wraps around each side. Among the two, however, the Note 5 earned Soneira's highest kudos.

Smartphone buyers may consider a variety of features when choosing a phone, but the screen performance should be one of the top factors. Size is important as consumers have been opting for bigger-screen phones. But the quality of the screen is critical as it determines the readability of the text, the appearance of photos and graphics and the ability to look good even in bright sunlight and other difficult conditions. Soneira refers to the screen performance as the "crown jewel of the smartphone."

Samsung has been facing a rough time in the smartphone arena, with its once stellar sales and market share steadily dripping down for almost two years. Launched in March, the company's Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge have failed to turn the tide, resulting in Samsung suffering its seventh straight drop in quarterly earnings for the quarter ended June 30. Battling Chinese vendors such as Xiaomi and Huawei on the low end and Apple on the high end, Samsung needs the Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge+ to help revive sales and recover some of that lost market share.

Which factors earned the Note 5's screen its stellar grades?

Compared with the Galaxy Note 4, the Note 5 offers a much higher level of peak brightness, greater screen visibility and better readability under high ambient light conditions. Ambient light refers to the available or existing light surrounding an object. High ambient light is typically reflected on the screen, often washing out the image.

Further, the Note 5 is more power efficient than its predecessor, so it achieves its superior screen quality while slurping up less juice from the battery. The new Note also scored well for "including the best absolute color accuracy of any mobile display that we have ever tested, and delivering absolutely stunning and beautiful images," Soneira said.

Based on the lab tests, the Note 5 is the "best performing smartphone display that we have ever tested," Soneira said, earning it the crown from the previous record holder, the Galaxy Note 4.

Also offering a solid screen performance, the Galaxy S6 Edge+ was notable more for its curved display. Soneira called such displays "the wave of the future" as they improve display performance by reducing and even removing reflections from ambient light sources that wash out the screen. That capability enhances both readability and image quality and lets the display run at a lower brightness, helping to preserve battery life.

Both the Note 5 and S6 Edge+ use OLED (organic light-emitting diode) displays, which are thinner and lighter than the LCD (liquid crystal displays) used in such devices as the Apple iPhone. In September 2014, Soneira awarded the iPhone 6 Plus for the best LCD display on the market. But he noted at the time that Samsung's Galaxy S5 and Galaxy Note 4 were the top performers for OLED displays.

Samsung got a pat on the back from Soneira for its focus on enhancing the peak brightness and performance under high ambient light conditions instead of on bumping up the resolution. With other smartphone vendors continually trying to increase the screen resolution and number of pixels per inch, Soneira called that effort a "marketing wild goose chase into the stratosphere." Instead, other vendors should follow Samsung's path.

"With screen size and resolution already functionally maxed out, display and smartphone manufacturers should instead dedicate their efforts and resources into improving real world display performance in ambient light, something that every consumer will benefit from, and will also immediately notice and appreciate -- providing a true sales and marketing advantage," Soneira said.