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Samsung Galaxy S4 rocks the best phone OLED yet, says report

Samsung's AMOLED screen is brighter and less reflective than ever before, according to a battery of display tests.

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Jessica Dolcourt Senior Director, Commerce & Content Operations
Jessica Dolcourt is a passionate content strategist and veteran leader of CNET coverage. As Senior Director of Commerce & Content Operations, she leads a number of teams, including Commerce, How-To and Performance Optimization. Her CNET career began in 2006, testing desktop and mobile software for Download.com and CNET, including the first iPhone and Android apps and operating systems. She continued to review, report on and write a wide range of commentary and analysis on all things phones, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds. Jessica began leading CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
Expertise Content strategy, team leadership, audience engagement, iPhone, Samsung, Android, iOS, tips and FAQs.
Jessica Dolcourt
2 min read
First Look
Watch this: Samsung's Galaxy S4 powerhouse

The Samsung Galaxy S4 may have a 5-inch screen with a killer 1080p HD resolution, but that doesn't tell you as much about its display quality as you might think.

That's because, as any display guru (like CNET's David Katzmaier) will tell you, a screen's ultimate rating spans resolution and pixel density, sure, but also color reproduction and accuracy, total brightness, viewing angles, and reflectance.

The screen material technology also plays a huge role; when it comes to smartphones, LCD displays make up the lion's share of manufacturers' choice, with Samsung at the forefront of OLED (or AMOLED) research.

According to DisplayMate, a company that tests a wide range of displays for public and private studies, Samsung has made huge improvements in the Galaxy S4's screen quality over last year's Galaxy S3.

In a shoot-out, DisplayMate's lab tools measured a 25 percent boost in manual screen brightness settings (and a 68 percent bump if you use automatic mode,) and a 20 percent increase in power efficacy.

Although some may rant and rail against Samsung's use of PenTile in its pixel and sub-pixel makeup, DisplayMate maintains that the Galaxy S4's PenTile looks sharp in the majority of visual situations.

Likewise, a highly reflective, mirroring screen is a known Samsung weak spot, though the Galaxy S4 improves over the Galaxy S3, according the report.

Meet the stunning Samsung Galaxy S4 (pictures)

See all photos

I, too, noticed that the screen looked dimmer than LCD-screened competitors such as the HTC One and the iPhone 5, and a high level of reflectance sometimes got in the way of indoor and outdoor viewing. Overall though, Samsung has carried on its reputation for delivering rich, saturated displays on its mobile phones, and the technology appears to be getting better and better.

CNET plans to subject the Galaxy S4 to our own battery of display tests in due time, just as we did for the 5.5-inch Galaxy Note 2.