The problem with Super AMOLED screens: Nasty color banding

Samsung’s Super AMOLED screen panel is gorgeous, especially when displaying  Windows Phone 7′s Metro UI (with the drak theme) unfortunately there are several ugly drawbacks. First, you have to live with fuzzy text because of the PenTile Matrix Sub-pixel arrangement. Secondly, you will witness sever color banding, thanks in parts to the same PenTile Matrix (it is RGBG compared to a regular RGB lcd…) and also to the extremely vibrant and high color contrast of the screen. I took two photos to show you how ugly it can look like on the Samsung Omnia 7 vs the regular TFT LCD screen of the LG Optimus 7. This is really a problem especially for developers who now have to pay close attention to the assets they are using when building their applications. I’m not entirely sure if the OS is currently running at 32bit color depth but if I had to guess I would say that it is probably set at 16bit (could be wrong thought). Moving up to 32bit could potentially diminish the problem a bit on Samsung’s AMOLED screens. Samsung can also tweak the amplitude of the modulation of the sub-pixels to reduce the problem. One more picture after the break:

I just want to add that this isn’t specific to Windows Phone 7 at all. The same issue is present on Android to and only appears with certain color gradients.

UPDATE: I’ve just shot a video of this here

  • P8denu

    the Samsung Omnia 7 is left or right?

  • http://www.mobiletechworld.com MobileTechWorld

    Omnia 7 is on the right

  • http://twitter.com/lukepuplett Luke Puplett

    I can confirm! My Omnia 7 hates a gradient.

  • Anonymous

    so for a developer the omnia 7 is a better choice as he/she’ll be able to spot problematic assets. Correct?

  • Diego!

    Well.. I’d rather have the SuperAMOLED display. The S-LCD panel looks too washed out to my taste (IMHO).

  • http://www.facebook.com/jbarinas Juan Barinas

    My Samsung Focus has the same problem. I was informed by a Windows Phone dev to take the phone back to the store and have it replaced, as this is not supposed to be happening.

  • http://www.mobiletechworld.com MobileTechWorld

    I’m fairly sure that they are wrong because all PenTile panels (Super-AMOLED and regular AMOLED) behave like that. My Samsung Galaxy S does it too etc..

  • http://www.facebook.com/jbarinas Juan Barinas

    It’s very noticeable on my Focus and it’s something I can’t get over. It’s quite annoying to look at. Ruins the otherwise great WP7 experience, which mostly just needs copy and paste ASAP in my book.

  • BucksterMcgee

    Yeah, I agree. Otherwise the colors of the screen are absolutely amazing. I will have to say if the screen isn’t supposed to do that, according to a WP7 dev, then the last 3 Focus’s must have the exact same problem, because they all do that.

    I’m really hoping it’s a software limitation, like a driver or something, and not just a limitation of the screen, because if they could fix it, (e.g., 16bit to 32bit) then I would pretty much be completely happy with my Focus.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ckeledjian Charles Keledjian

    I doesn’t make any sense. I have the Samsung Focus and I can tell you that photos, with millions of colors look sharp and amazing, with no color banding at all, so this proves that the screen can show color gradients with no baning noticeable to the human eye. All the examples where banding is visible are digital images, not photos, which makes me suspect that the problem is the image itself, which had already the banding and 16-bit color, but because LCD don’t have the high contrast SuperAMOLED has, it is not that noticeable in LCDs, but if you look close, the banding is still there. Developers problably used the less memory intensive graph that still looked good in LCDs and now the higher contrast and color richness of SuperAMOLED shows the banding.

  • http://www.mobiletechworld.com MobileTechWorld

    Frankly I see it as being more of a pain to developers IMO. Only the Super-AMOLED devices are affected by this so it’s up to Samsung (or Microsoft) to try find a workaround (I’m not holding my breath thought…)

  • Anonymous

    I agree. It is a hardware issue.
    Rumor has it that a Super-Amoled-2 (i.e. third gen amoled) is to be released soon

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Harlan-Certainly-Isnt-Gross/1548319501 Harlan Certainly Isn’t Gross

    I barely notice it. Although I do notice when I got back to my Nexus One, the display looks like crap. I think it’s a matter of preference: what I care about most is the resolution. But I am running a Galaxy S and I’ve never seen it look that bad like in the pic.

  • http://twitter.com/lukepuplett Luke Puplett

    Update – I came back to this thread because I noticed that the gradients in the small images on Marketplace items are crisp and perfect. It doesn’t seem to always be bad, which makes me wonder…

    When making my first app, the first thing I did was upload a splash screen image. It looked terrible. I removed all the compression and it got much better, so I wonder if AMOLED is just better at exposing compression artifacts.

  • Dan

    It’s the device…. It just that in some places (like when viewing a photo) Windows Phone does some on-the-fly dithering, which reduces the appearance of bands

  • Anonymous

    Smaller images will have fewer pixels to show the gradient problem.

    It is a problem with the PenTile design – nothing is going to change that.

    Having said that, going from a gorgeous Samsung i8910 AMOLED to a washed out Xperia X10a LCD – I miss my AMOLED.

    Phones are going to be primarily used for talking, texting, gaming and playing music. None of that requires a high resolution. The higher contrast of AMOLED makes it more practical. The new Super AMOLED Plus displays now eliminate this issue altogether: http://www.engadget.com/2011/02/21/samsungs-super-amoled-plus-displays-dispense-of-maligned-pentil/

  • Anonymous

    Smaller images will have fewer pixels to show the gradient problem.

    It is a problem with the PenTile design – nothing is going to change that.

    Having said that, going from a gorgeous Samsung i8910 AMOLED to a washed out Xperia X10a LCD – I miss my AMOLED.

    Phones are going to be primarily used for talking, texting, gaming and playing music. None of that requires a high resolution. The higher contrast of AMOLED makes it more practical. The new Super AMOLED Plus displays now eliminate this issue altogether: http://www.engadget.com/2011/02/21/samsungs-super-amoled-plus-displays-dispense-of-maligned-pentil/

  • Anonymous

    Smaller images will have fewer pixels to show the gradient problem.

    It is a problem with the PenTile design – nothing is going to change that.

    Having said that, going from a gorgeous Samsung i8910 AMOLED to a washed out Xperia X10a LCD – I miss my AMOLED.

    Phones are going to be primarily used for talking, texting, gaming and playing music. None of that requires a high resolution. The higher contrast of AMOLED makes it more practical. The new Super AMOLED Plus displays now eliminate this issue altogether: http://www.engadget.com/2011/02/21/samsungs-super-amoled-plus-displays-dispense-of-maligned-pentil/