Smartphone cameras seem to be losing prominence. In recent years, users have witnessed how most of the brands that compete in the high-end have opted to incorporate more and more cameras in their mobiles. And more sophisticated. But this strategy could be reaching its ceiling, among other reasons, due to the room for improvement that the cameras of the most advanced mobile phones have begins to give symptoms of exhaustion.
Even so, the photographic capabilities of smartphones are still very important. Most brands continue to pay a lot of attention to them during their presentations, but something is changing. And it is that some of those same manufacturers are dedicating the same time in their conferences, or even more, to the screen than to the cameras. As we will see in this article, it seems reasonable to accept that screens have not yet reached the maturity that cameras seem to be approaching, so smartphones still have significant room for improvement if we stick to this component. Of which there is no doubt is that more and more brands are betting on differentiating themselves thanks to attributes of the screen of their mobiles that until recently they were not part of the discussion. And this is only the beginning.
Technical specifications of the screens of the latest high-end smartphones
The screen of mobile phones has been an attractive element since the first smartphones arrived in stores, but they are currently gaining prominence that until now did not seem to be within reach. Many of the flagship terminals that the brands have presented in recent months are not only betting on panels with larger diagonals and higher resolution; they also stand out for their maximum brightness delivery ability, their typical contrast ratio, and most of all, for its refresh rate. And it is that some brands are making an effort to make us notice the positive impact that a greater soft drink has on our experience. And not just when we play.
Many of the latest flagship terminals bet not only on panels with larger diagonals and higher resolution; They also stand out for their maximum brightness delivery capacity, their typical contrast ratio, and, above all, for their refresh rate.
Although, as we will see throughout this article, this trend is very evident, not all brands bet with the same forcefulness to stand out by using the characteristics of the screen of their flagship mobile as a strategy. There are manufacturers, although few, that have adopted a more conservative stance and they continue to mount panels with Full HD + resolution, or with a definition slightly higher than this but lower than QHD +, and a native refresh rate of 60 Hz. Apple and LG are currently being debated in this league.
A good part of the brands is betting on the QHD + resolution and a 90 or 120 Hz soda. In this “division” Google, OnePlus, OPPO and Samsung are debated. And a step further if we stick to the resolution, although not to the refreshment, is Sony, which has integrated a 4K OLED panel in its Xperia 1 II. The native refresh rate of this screen is 60 Hz, but this terminal uses an algorithm designed to reduce motion blur by introducing additional frames generated by artificial intelligence. In this way, according to Sony, it offers us the feeling of being in front of a screen with a 90 Hz refreshment.
The smartphones that we are going to talk about in this article are the following: Google Pixel 4 XL, Huawei P40 Pro +, iPhone 11 Pro Max, LG V60 ThinQ 5G, OnePlus 8 Pro, OPPO Find X2 Pro, Realme X50 Pro 5G, Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, Sony Xperia 1 II and Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro. This table details the specifications of your screens:
|Google Pixel 4 XL||Huawei P40 Pro +||iPhone 11 Pro Max||LG V60 ThinQ 5G||OnePlus 8 Pro||OPPO Find X2 Pro||Realme X50 Pro 5G||Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra||Sony Xperia 1 II||Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro|
|PANEL||6.3-inch QHD + OLED||6.58 inch OLED||6.5 inch OLED||Dual screen (optional) 6.8-inch OLED Full HD +||6.55-inch AMOLED QHD +||6.55-inch AMOLED QHD +||6.44-inch AMOLED Full HD +||6.9-inch AMOLED QHD +||6.5-inch 4K OLED||6.67-inch Full HD + AMOLED|
|RESOLUTION||3,040 x 1,440 pixels||2,640 x 1,200 pixels||2,688 x 1,242 pixels||2,460 x 1,080 pixels||3,168 x 1,440 pixels||3,168 x 1,440 pixels||2,400 x 1,080 pixels||3,200 x 1,440 pixels||3,840 x 1,644 pixels||2,340 x 1,080 dots|
|DENSITY||537 dpi||441 dpi||458 dpi||395 dpi||513 dpi||513 dpi||409 dpi||511 dpi||643 dpi||386 dpi|
|ASPECT RATIO||19: 9||19.8: 9||19.5: 9||19.5: 9||19.8: 9||19.8: 9||20: 9||20: 9||21: 9||19.5: 9|
|SOFT DRINK||90 Hz||90 Hz||60 Hz||60 Hz||120 Hz||120 Hz||90 Hz||120 Hz||60 Hz (90 Hz equiv.)||90 Hz|
|BRIGHTNESS||Not available||Not available||1,200 nits||Not available||1,300 nits||1,200 nits||1,000 nits||Not available||Not available||1,200 nits|
|TYPICAL CONTRAST||100,000 to 1||Not available||2,000,000 to 1||Not available||Not available||5,000,000 to 1||Not available||Not available||1,000,000 to 1||5,000,000 to 1|
|HDR||Yes||Yes||Yes||HDR10 +||HDR10 +||HDR10 +||HDR10 +||HDR10 +||Yes||HDR10 +|
Refreshment: more is better, but sometimes to the detriment of resolution
Going from the native 60Hz refresh rate to the one most of us are used to at 90Hz, or, better yet, 120Hz, it shows. Any operation that we carry out with the mobile that involves a very fast displacement of the images, such as, for example, the vertical displacement along a text document with a significant length, returns us sharper images and smoother scrolling if the soda is higher. As you can see in the table above these lines, Google’s Pixel 4 XL, Huawei’s P40 Pro +, Realme’s X50 Pro 5G and Xiaomi’s Mi 10 Pro incorporate panels with a native 90 Hz refreshment. We’ve seen Sony’s Xperia 1 II emulate this performance using a motion blur reduction algorithm, but its panel is 60Hz.
One notch higher in ambition, if we stick strictly to soda, there are the OnePlus 8 Pro, OPPO’s Find X2 Pro, and Samsung’s Galaxy S20 Ultra. These three mobiles use a panel with a 120 Hz refresh rate that, in practice, offers us an even greater softness than that of terminals with a 90 Hz refresh rate. However, this attractive a priori improvement has a price in some terminals that users are interested in knowing: enabling the maximum refreshment may lead to a decrease in resolution. This doesn’t happen on the OnePlus 8 Pro or OPPO’s Find X2 Pro, but it does happen on Samsung’s Galaxy S20 Ultra. This last mobile forces us to abandon the QHD + resolution if we want to enable the 120 Hz refresh.
One last important point: a higher refresh rate always leads to higher energy consumption, so the autonomy of smartphones with higher refreshments tends to suffer. Most of the brands allow the user to decide whether or not they want to enable the highest refreshment so that we have greater control over consumption. Some have even implemented a dynamic refresh rate adjustment mode, so that an algorithm is in charge of deciding whether or not it is worth activating the highest refresh rate depending on the task that we are carrying out at a given moment. OPPO’s Find X2 Pro bets on this strategy.
Everyone is betting on HDR, but not everyone is HDR10 + certified
The maximum brightness delivery capability of a smartphone screen matters. Especially if you like photography and you usually see your snapshots on your mobile screen. It can also improve our experience with some cinematographic content, and it can certainly make a difference when we use our terminal in brightly lit spaces in which it is necessary that the screen is capable of giving us a lot of light so that it manages to impose itself on the ambient brightness.
The OnePlus 8 Pro is capable of delivering a maximum brightness of 1,300 nits. Hot on his heels, and at 1,200 nits, are the flagship smartphones from Apple, OPPO and Xiaomi. Of course, it is not clear that all brands measure maximum brightness in the same way.
That brands are striving to increase the brightness delivery capacity of their mobile screens is good news. In the table that you have a little above you can see that all the smartphones that we have selected to prepare this article are compatible with HDR technology, but only a few satisfy HDR10 + certification, which entails the ability to correctly interpret the dynamic metadata embedded in some content. This group includes the terminals of LG, OnePlus, OPPO, Realme, Samsung and Xiaomi.
The interesting thing is that the presence of the HDR10 + certification does not always go hand in hand with the greater brightness delivery capacity. If we stick to this particular feature, the OnePlus 8 Pro stands out, which, according to this brand, reaches 1,300 nits. Hot on his heels, and with 1,200 nits, there are Apple, OPPO and Xiaomi mobiles. And with a very respectable 1,000 nits max, the Realme X50 Pro 5G defends itself. Of course, it is not clear that all brands use the same methodology when evaluating the maximum brightness delivery capacity of their mobile screens, so the most reasonable thing is that users accept these numbers with caution.
Colorimetry: mobiles are already following in the wake of the most ambitious televisions
Many of the manufacturers that have unveiled their new high-end smartphones in recent months have made an effort to tell us about the fidelity with which their mobiles reproduce color. In this large group reside Apple, OnePlus, OPPO, Realme, Sony and Xiaomi. These brands have revealed that their mobiles are capable of covering the DCI-P3 color spaceAlthough only some of them have expressly emphasized that this coverage is 100%, such as OPPO, Sony and Xiaomi. However, this does not mean that the others do not also offer us full coverage of this color space in their terminals. It is likely that they simply expressed this characteristic less precisely.
That many of the high-end mobile phones that we can currently find in stores reproduce color more accurately is good news, above all, for photography enthusiasts who usually enjoy their snapshots on their terminal screen. The colors in our photos are more accurate, and, in addition, the gradients are usually more uniform. This improvement is usually appreciated quite clearly if we look at the skin tone of the people who appear in our photographs because it is one of the most difficult textures to reproduce as long as, yes, the camera that has taken the capture also do it justice.
To ensure that the latest batch of mobile phones reproduce the color with the maximum possible precision, most of the brands are choosing to use 8-bit panels with 2-bit anti-aliasing. This technique usually gives good results, and is inspired by the FRC (Frame Rate Control) technology used by some televisions because, roughly, what it does is generate a wider color space using adjacent pixels of different colors that provide us the feeling that we are looking at a third color that is not actually part of the original 8-bit panel color space.