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The science behind the Nokia Lumia 900's screen quality

Nokia Lumia 900 with ClearBlack Technology

One of the many things that stood out in our review of the AT&T Nokia Lumia 900 is how good the screen looks. Nokia is using ClearBlack display technology with the Lumia 900 that definitely makes a difference.  But why?

In a recent interview with CNET Raymond Soneira, president of DisplayMate Technologies, explained why ClearBlack display technology gives the Lumia 900 such a nice screen.  Soneira explains that reflectance of a screen can degrade the sharpness and color quality you see. It may be nice to touch up your make-up or comb your hair from your Windows Phone screen's reflection but it doesn't help with screen quality.

Nokia manages to address this issue with the ClearBlack technology and circularly polarized glare suppressing optics. The polarized optics disrupts the reflections, minimizing tier influence on image quality. According to Soneira,

"The Lumia 900 has the lowest screen reflectance of any mobile device I have ever measured, 4.4%, which is almost forty percent lower than the iPhone 4."

DisplayMate Technologies also found the reflectance rating of the Lumia 900 to be noticeably better than that of the new iPad which is rated at 9.9%. Science asides, the bottom line is that the Lumia 900's screen looks really good.

source: Cnet

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Reader comments

The science behind the Nokia Lumia 900's screen quality

27 Comments

Lol :)  When I purchased a N8, I didn't want black even though it is most versatile.  I bought the Blue Nokia N8 because it actually looked better especially with the silver etching highlights around the volume rocker, camera button, and camera module.  And blue is actually versatile, especially if you want to change it up with cases - I've got black, white, pink, and red...great accents!
 
I don't think you would regret going with Cyan!

I ordered the black one because it is versatile color and I also  ordered the blue gel case to give it color and protection :-)

Pre-ordered the cyan, but the more I see the clear black display against the white 900, the more I seem to like it. I've never been a fan of white phone, but depending on the quality of the colored covers, I may switch it out. But I don't know if att will exchange it once I've used the device & the 22nd is too far off for me to wait.

My Lumia 800 display beats my previous Omnia 7 on white and colours, definitely clear black wins against super amoled (black are equal).

I created an account here just because of you so I can reply to your comment, my friend.
ClearBlack ARE Super AMOLED displays!! ALL Nokia ClearBlack AMOLED displays come from Samsung.
The Lumia 800 is using the exact same 3.7" Super AMOLED PenTile display running on the Omnia W/Focus Flash. And the technology behind it is essentially the same as our Omina 7, Galaxy S and Samsung Focus.
The Lumia is using the exact SAME 4.3" Super AMOLED Plus RGB display running on the Focus S and Galaxy S2. It used to be marketed as 4.27", but then they just rounded it up to 4.3" to make it sound bigger.
ClearBlack is just a filter Nokia added to its displays to stop the light from bouncing back at you. This unfortunately makes the display look slightly darker compared to a non-polarised ClearBlack display, i.e. the Focus Flash or Omnia 7, but in turn gives it warmer colours, which I believe is what you're experiencing.

"The Lumia 900 has the lowest screen reflectance of any mobile device I have ever measured, 4.4%, which is almost forty percent lower than the iPhone 4."
 
Thanks for pointing this out!  As I've read many reviews today on this phone from many sites there are many people wanted to belittle the screen of this phone. Or rate it below the iPhone.  It just seems to me there are many people out there namely writers who have input just wants WP to fail.  It's as if they have beef with Microsoft and or Nokia and they simply want this OS to fail.  It's just quite shameful.
 

Amoled is a great screen technology. Beautiful color compared to Lcd. Side by side any Lumia or Focus to an iPhone and you'll see the difference. Having said that Amoled does consume more power which grows as the screen does. A trade off I am happy to make. Great job Nokia. Build more.

You got your facts wrong, my friend.
AMOLED consumes less power than conventianal TFT or LCD displays. An LCD display, when switched on, stays with the backlight constantly on, even when there are darker areas or you're looking at a black picture. An AMOLED display, especially Samsung's Super AMOLED and upwards, however, has a small electric current running through each pixel, yes EACH, which can be turned on or off when needed.
For example, if looking at a black and white photo on an AMOLED display, less current would pass through the darker pixels causing them to shine less bright than the lighter parts in the photo. If the photo were to have any parts that are completely black, then the current would be cut off to them and these pixels would be completely switched off and absolutely no light would be shown, therefore what you would get would be the deepest blacks. Hence the name ClearBlack from Nokia. Although it was Samsung that created the technology. In an LCD or SLCD display, the back light of the display would be constantly on, even in the darker areas of the photo and the black areas too. There is currently no way of dimming or switching off one area of the display while keeping the other area on.
Therefore, an AMOLED display consumes LESS energy, and to my knowledge, Samsung managed to lower the power consumption of the display even more with the Super AMOLED Plus display, which is what the Lumia 900 has.

Thank you for the informative comments. Learned something new today. Just to clarify though, if you were to use the white background with a Super AMOLED (Plus) Display, vs. the dark (black) background, would you consume more power than an LCD/SLCD display? Or are there still enough pixels being dimmed or turned off on the Super AMOLED, that it would/should be more efficient than the always on LCD/SLCD.

Hey, are you the guy from Mobility Digest??
Anyway, if both the LCD and the AMOLED were displaying a completely white background, then the AMOLED would consumer more energy. Not a lot more, but definitely more than the SLCD/LCD.
 
For example, if the LCD consumed 2.7 watts on a completely white background, the AMOLED would consume 3.2 watts. However, if the background were to be completely black, the LCD would continue consuming the same 2.7 watts as the background light on the panel cannot be switched off unless you turn the screen off.
 
The LCD would consume the same amount of watts independent of whichever shade of grey, black, blue, green, whatever, the colour it is. On the other hand, if the AMOLED were to display the same completely black background then it would only consume 0.8 watts, if not less, since no light is being projected, then no pixel needs be turned on, and the screen only consuming 0.8 watt because of the constant current running through the pixels. Because of this constant current, they say it damages the pixels on the display and so it cuts an AMOLED's life-span, with a predicted 5 - 7 years life-span. But don't get worried because AMOLED displays on mobile phones haven't been around that long, so nothing has been proven. Although this is something Samsung is spending big bucks on trying to overcome. However, since most of us have 2 year contracts, we would have long upgraded to another phone well before the display supposedly starts to deteriorate. Unless you plan on keeping and using your phone until 2016/17.
 
Anyway, back to the main point... If you were to think of 0.8 being a completely black screen and 3.2 being a completely white screen, then any shade of white or grey would consume anything from 0.8 - 3.2 watts.
 
Don't be alarmed from this though. If, for example, you were watching a dark movie, say a vampire movie, where it's mainly set at night or in dark places, then an AMOLED display could consume between 1.5 - 1.9 watts, sometimes more, sometimes less depending on the level of black. Whereas an LCD would still consume 2.7 throughout the entire movie.
 
HTC used to have AMOLED displays from Samsung for one of their 2009/2010 Android device. I believe it was the G1 or something. However, at the time, Samsung had very few factories that manufacured AMOLED displays, so they came in very limited numbers, and as the demand for the HTC handset grew Samsung could not keep up with supply. HTC looked to Sony to supply the remaining displays for their handsets. A test was then conducted indoors, outdoors, etc to see which display was better. (Please not that at the time, they were only AMOLED displays and not Super, or AMOLED + and so the result came out very similar to one another)
Anyway, one of the tests was to put both variants of the phones together, both in offline mode with all radios turned off, both charged to 100% and both playing the same movie in a continuous loop until the battery ran out. The LCD variant ran dry in 3 hours and 40 mins, while the AMOLED variant kept playing until 4 hours and 30 mins. And as far as I'm aware the Super AMOLED consumes less energy than the AMOLED, and the Super AMOLED Plus consumes less energy than the Super AMOLED! Not sure about the HD Super AMOLED. I guess we'll just have to wait when Nokia use it on the flagship WP8 device with their ClearBlack polariser.
 
If you had the same phone in each hand and one had a Super AMOLED display and the other an LCD and they were both using the white background, the AMOLED's battery would run out after around 9 hours while the LCD would only run out in its 12th hour. However, on a black background, while the LCD would still last 12 hours, while the Super AMOLED variant would last 16 hours. More interesting would be if you had a Super AMOLED Plus variant, which could last you 19 hours.
 
And so, to answer your question, yes an (Super) AMOLED (Plus) will consume more energy than an LCD in a white background. On average it is  more efficient than an LCD. However, the bad news is that it is still not efficient enough to counteract the white background and will therefore consume more energy than the LCD if the white background is chosen
 
I hope that answers your question.

Hehehe, nice one. It actually took or about an hour to type and search stuff on the net so that I wouldn't get my facts wrong

Nice detail and I stand partially corrected, less power displaying black, more displaying white. Take a look through your web sites and tell me which use more white and which use more black. It's a your mileage may vary answer.

On a related note I found a nice comparison of phone screen technology on CNET from a year ago. In reading the reviews of the Lumia, yes Walt in particular, he totally ignored the size and color accuracy of the Lumias screen. I do believe that someone has had a little too much Koolaid.

http://www.cnet.com/8301-17918_1-20056639-85.html

I didn't realize it was THAT good, this is bonus for me.  I live in Arizona and the sun is always a pain on smartphones.

Yes and no, it has the clear black display but it does not use/have Amoled screen. From my experience in direct sunlight my 710 is just as clear without Amoled as my dads razor in direct sunlight due to the amount of glare. That said inside or in the dark his screen is way better. I only hold hopes that t-mo gets this phone.

Looks like an amazing screen to me, and I am coming from an iPhone 4.  Even so, some reviewers didn't find it as sharp as the iPhone or some Android phones, due to the lower resolution.  The current resolution puts it at 216 PPI, which is less than say, the iPhone (326) and the HTC ReZound (342), but above many new Android phones.  So, I'd say we are in good shape.