Display

I suppose that’s as good a segue as any into the Sensation’s display. It’s a 4.3” qHD (960x540) “Super LCD” display. As the displays editor in addition to smartphone editor here at AT, I have to admit that I’m granted an interesting perspective. On one hand, you have the traditional desktop LCD market, which is currently mid-stroke in a frenzied race to the bottom, and on the other, the new and emerging world of sub 10” mobile displays. Well, anything tablet sized and below. 

I find myself more excited and concerned with mobile displays at any given time than desktop LCDs because that’s where everything exciting is going on. Further, it’s mobile displays where all the new innovation and competition is happening - Super LCD, AMOLED, Super AMOLED with and without Plus, qHD LCD, and qHD LCD with PenTile, all in just the last year! On the desktop side, it seems everyone wants to outdo each other at shaving another $20 off mediocre 1080P TN panels.

In the mobile game right now, you need to have some sort of non garden variety display on a flagship device, and more and more that means one of three things. Either you have to have a display that’s inordinately huge, has extremely high DPI, or is one of three AMOLED varieties. 

If you remember, about a year ago HTC started marching down the AMOLED path. The Nexus One, then the Incredible, and Desire had first generation 3.7” AMOLED displays with PenTile. As things went on, availability constraints made the Incredible supplies scarce, and forced HTC to switch to Super LCD with the Desire. Depending on the content you spent most time looking at, the Super LCD Desire variant also got better battery life. I suspect that things are a bit more balanced with Android 2.3’s black-heavy theme, but back in the 2.1 days the Incredible and other AMOLED-topped displays ate battery. Since then, HTC has stuck to its guns with exclusively Super LCD displays, although they don’t underscore the Super part of that descriptor as much anymore. 

So what is Super LCD? Earlier I mistakenly stated that it was IPS - it’s actually a PVA derivative. So why PVA? Well, remember AMOLED’s strengths - excellent (completely off) blacks, extremely fast response times, and good viewing angles. It’s easy to nail the first and last with IPS, but I wager that HTC also wanted to eliminate any chance of smear, and went for S-LCD which (thanks to its PVA heritage) offers a nice balance of the three. In addition, the S-LCD panels use a traditional RGB (3 subpixel per pixel) stripe rendering layout, making it even better in some ways than the original AMOLED for things like web browsing and sharp-edged or one pixel thick UI elements. Panel types aside, S-LCD is good enough that it’s hard to tell apart from IPS. Right now the options are either to get WVGA with SAMOLED+ sans pentile, or qHD with an LCD. Soon we'll have a third option, Super AMOLED qHD but with pentile. I wonder what that'll be called - at this rate, perhaps Super AMOLED Extreme HD MAX? 

So how does the Sensation’s qHD 4.3-incher stack up? I’d argue that it performs very well. First off are our usual charts where we report brightness (white and black) and resulting contrast measured using an i1 Pro at maximum brightness.

Display Brightness

Display Brightness

Display Contrast

Here the Sensation is actually almost top of the charts when it comes to contrast and its blacks. It isn’t the brightest display at just short of 400 nits, but does very well in the tests. I suspect the Sensation could benefit from more brightness in general, but it isn’t a huge thing. 

The previous charts are at maximum brightness, I also want to continue looking at how whites, blacks, and white point change across the brightness scale. To do this, we measure all three at steps of 25% on the brightness slider and create some graphs. 

We’ve just started doing this, beginning with the Droid Charge, so we’re also learning here, but the HTC Sensation has some interesting behavior. Blacks strangely enough get better at maximum brightness by a small margin, and again we see that brightness for white is pretty close to linear. Where I’m very impressed with the Sensation is its white point, which is nearly 6500K at maximum brightness. Contrast that to Super AMOLED Plus, which we showed was up past 8000K (blue).

I’d say that mirrors my experience and what I see, especially because I end up pulling down tons of screenshots over ddms on my own calibrated display, and can simply compare side-by-side to the handset. When it comes to faithful color rendering, S-LCD is a clear winner. 

Side by side with another Super AMOLED Plus packing smartphone, the AT&T Infuse 4G (which we’re still working on), this is readily apparent. This is essentially a 0.2” bigger but completely comparable version of the Charge / Galaxy S 2 display. Here you can see that the Super AMOLED Plus panel looks bluer, and by comparison the Sensation a bit warmer. In addition, colors are more saturated on the Infuse. 

 

Physical Overview Continued Display: qHD, PPI, and HDMI out through MHL
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  • StormyParis - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    and I was looking forward to getting the Sensation, especially for its big, high-rez screen.

    I'm thinking of going the Galaxy S 2 route instead:
    - GS2 is much lighter (115 vs 150 grams). Less sagging pants and shirt pockets sound really nice (I currently have a 155g HD2)
    - screen seems better: fewer pixels, but much better contrast and angles
    - Samsung actively supports CM7, I'm not even sure if the Sensation is unlocked (HTC says they're no longer locking, I don't know if originally locked devices get an unlock)
    - everything else seems broadly the same. camera maybe a bit better on the GS2
    Reply
  • piroroadkill - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    I personally think the HTC Sensation looks much nicer than the Galaxy S II, and it also provides all 4 Android buttons, which is more useful.
    Also, Sense 3 is a genuinely nice addition, so I REALLY don't understand the lust for AOSP based ROMs.
    I know which phone I'll be recommending if people ask me...
    Reply
  • kaworu1986 - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    I actually registered just to post this, and here it goes:
    Sense (and the other skins) just need to DIE: they're bloated, ugly and inefficient (not to mention introduce bugs that stock Android does not have); worse than that, they are way of creating vendor lock-in and force users to upgrade hardware by withholding Android updates (a very clever trick to neuter one of the greatest advantages of Android, its open source nature).
    Why can't OEMs just stick to do their job? People complain about the crapware OEMs install on PCs (which at least you can uninstall or just format) and somehow this is OK? Also, commodization is exactly what makes the PC ecosystem great: customers can shop around for the best price for their performance needs without having to worry about their devices being left without a software upgrade path or features unavailable. And with phone makers locking their bootloaders the last way of getting out of their death grip, custom ROMs, are being taken away from us.
    Finally, I'd much rather rely on software written by a good software company (Apple, MS, Google) with 100s of engineers dedicated to the project than the much smaller team an OEM can afford to put on the job.
    Reply
  • piroroadkill - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    Well, I have a Desire HD, rooted, s-off, I can put whatever the hell I want on it...

    Oh, and I choose to use a sense based ROM with Sense 3. I've had a phone with pure CyanogenMod, it's all well and good, the point is, as long as the phone isn't horribly locked, and xda-dev get their dirty mitts on it, you can have whatever yo uwant!
    Reply
  • piroroadkill - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    Oh, that said, I don't use the launcher. I use Launcher Pro. Reply
  • Chloiber - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    Exactly the same here, except I'm using a Desire (non-HD). I really like Sense. I rooted the phone about one year ago and was using Stock Android ROMs a lot. I really liked it. Now I returned to a Sense 2.1-3.0 mix and I like it even more. Some things are simply better with Sense. I also replaced the launcher with LauncherPro (also on Stock Android) because it gives you a really nice, smooth experience. In this regard, pretty much every stock browser, be it Sense or stock Android have failed thus far.

    @Brian
    Strange that Brightness, Airplane Mode and Screen Rotation is missing, as it is included in Sense 2.1 (for example Desire S). But you probably already knew that, as you listed exactly the 3 things that are included there... :-)
    Reply
  • shabby - Sunday, July 3, 2011 - link

    Aosp ui is pretty archaic compared to touchwiz/sense, it lacks a lot of features that makes the phone more user friendly to the average person.
    Compare the aosp lockscreen to the sense3 lockscreen, which do you think the average person would want? Compare the widgets from touchwiz4 to the widgets of aosp... oh wait there aren't any in aosp. Catch my drift? Majority of users aren't like you and me that want a plain aosp/cm7 phone, so sense/touchwiz will never die, top selling phones will never be plain google aosp phones because that's not what majority of the public wants.
    Reply
  • JasonInofuentes - Monday, July 4, 2011 - link

    I think it's important to keep in mind that AOSP was designed with UI modifications in mind. It's not like HTC/Moto/Sammy/LG/Lenovo/Sony got their hands on source and went to work altering it against Goog's wishes. They wanted to be supportive of modifications to the OS from corporations and amateurs alike.

    Yes, the course was lost as manufacturers delayed updates in order to implement their UI, and some of the UIs were buggy, but then again lots of popular custom ROMS are buggy and users still love them. The point is, if there's value added, which in the case of Sense 3.0 and, by reports, the new Blur then it might be worth the cost to many. But devs should work with Google to make sure that their skins add without being too deleterious. Where I think all OEM devs should back off is in integrating social media streams; unless your implementation is decidedly better than the best social media apps then it's likely going to be a redundant, unwelcome presence.
    Reply
  • mikehunt80 - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    I don't think I've ever used the search button in previous devices, but I guess that's personal preference.

    I tried out the Sensation before buying the Galaxy S2. There was absolutely no contest. The S2 felt snappier browsing the web (A9 is 25% quicker clock for clock vs. A8/snapdragon), much lighter and nicer to hold without feeling cheap or creaking and I thought the screen on the Sensation was fairly poor in comparison. On top of that the S2 will play absolutely any video you throw at it, I'm told it'll even play 1080p mkvs and my 720p mkv Avatar makes people's jaws drop on the S-Amoled+ screen.

    The Sense launcher is nice, but I use Go Launcher EX, which has most of the features of the Sense and is almost infinitely customizable. The Sense lock widgets screen looks nice, but is useless is you use pattern or pin lock.

    Both great phones, but the S2 to the more rounded device for me.
    Reply
  • piroroadkill - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    Good point on the video compatibility.
    It best bloody play 1080p mkv though, since my dirt cheap chinese tablet (<$200) can play 1080p mkv without any pauses.

    That's one thing a lot of the top tier devices miss, and I agree that that actually swings things in favour of the Galaxy S II..
    Reply

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