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iPhone 6 Plus claims crown in LCD display test

The LCD display for Apple's new 5.5-inch iPhone is the best performer ever tested by DisplayMate. Does that mean it's the best display on the market?

Apple's iPhone 6 Plus has the best LCD display around, but that doesn't necessarily mean it has the best display in the business. Sarah Tew/CNET

The iPhone 6 Plus earned top kudos for its LCD display quality in a new test from screen tester DisplayMate.

In its latest series of lab tests and measurements, DisplayMate called the iPhone 6 Plus the "best performing smartphone LCD display that we have ever tested." Specifically, the new 5.5-inch iPhone reached or broke records in a variety of areas, including highest peak brightness, lowest screen reflectance, highest contrast ratio, highest contrast rating in ambient light, most accurate intensity scale and gamma and most accurate image contrast.

The only minor criticisms cited by DisplayMate President Raymond Soneira in his "iPhone 6 Display Technology Shoot-Out" were in resolution, pixels per inch and absolute color accuracy. But even in these areas, the phone did very well -- although it didn't break any LCD performance records.

"It delivers uniformly consistent all around Top Tier display performance," Soneira wrote of the iPhone 6 Plus. "The iPhone 6 Plus is only the second Smartphone display (LCD or OLED) to ever get all Green (Very Good to Excellent) Ratings in all test and measurement categories (except for Brightness variation with Viewing Angle, which is the case for all LCDs) since we started the Display Technology Shoot-Out article series in 2006, an impressive achievement for a display. The iPhone 6 Plus has raised the bar for top LCD display performance up by a notch."

What of the smaller 4.7-inch iPhone 6? Ok, but not quite as good as its larger sibling.

The display on the iPhone 6 has a resolution of 1,334x750 pixels and a pixel density of 326 pixels per inch, lower than the 1,920x1080-pixel resolution and 401 ppi density found on the iPhone 6 Plus. As a result, "fine text and graphics look better on the iPhone 6 Plus if you look carefully and closely at the screen," Soneira said, and even rescaled images look better on the larger-screened phone.

"The display on the iPhone 6 is none-the-less still a Very Good display, and most buyers will be happy with its performance, but it's somewhat disappointing that Apple went for satisfactory as opposed to the best," Soneira added. "Maybe that was done for intentional product differentiation with the iPhone 6 Plus, or perhaps to improve their margins...With a 1,920x1,080 display the iPhone 6 would have taken the crown."

Soneira also emphasized that the iPhone 6 Plus may have the best LCD display around, but that doesn't necessarily mean it has the best display in the business. Smartphone makers use both LCD and OLED screens, both of which have certain advantages and disadvantages For example, LCD displays are cheaper to make and typically last longer, while OLED screens are more expensive but are considered brighter than LCD panels.

Among smartphones with OLED displays, Soneira said that Samsung's Galaxy S5 and Galaxy Note 4 are the top performers.

"The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are the current Best Mobile LCD Displays and the Galaxy S5 and Galaxy Note 4 are the current Best Mobile OLED displays," Soneira explained. "The iPhone 6 with a 4.7-inch 1,334x750 display with 326 ppi corresponds most closely with the Galaxy S5's 5.2 inch 1,920x1,080 display with 432 ppi. The iPhone 6 Plus with a 1,920x1,080 display with 401 ppi corresponds most closely with the Galaxy Note 4's 5.7-inch display with a 2,560x1440 display with 518 ppi."