The Nexus One's Dirty Display Secret

If Nexus One reviewers could agree on one thing, it was that this phone has a stunning screen. But for those inky blacks and rich colours, you may have to pay a price: I mean, look at that.

DisiplayMate ran a battery of comparative tests on the Nexus One's AMOLED screen, and came away with a damning litany of issues:

• The Nexus One only uses 16-bit colour, which means that "Red and Blue only have 32 possible intensity levels and Green only has 64 possible intensity levels," as compared to the iPhone and others, which have at least 256 intensity levels for each colour. Result: That horrible banding you see above.

• Android's sub-pixel rendering is great for icons and text, but terrible for images. Photos are "rendered poorly and inaccurately, with over-saturated colours, bad colour and grey-scale accuracy, large colour and grey-scale tracking errors, calibration errors, lots of image noise from excessive edge and sharpness processing, and many artifacts." Result: Blown-out areas in photographs, image noise and general gaudiness in colourful images.

• The display's peak white brightness is oddly low. Result: It's hard to see the screen when used outdoors. (This, for what it's worth, we already knew.)

There a lot more to chew on in DisplayMate's post, and the effect is actually worse that portrayed in their images, or ours above, since by the time you see them, they've been photographed, resaved and redisplayed on another display. And the results aren't trivial: in the right kind of photograph, there is significant colour banding on the Nexus One, where there wouldn't be on virtually any other smartphone.

But when we came across this story, it took most of us by surprise, because those of use that'd used a Nexus One were utterly convinced of its display's awesomeness. From our review:

The AMOLED screen is gorgeous, and all the colours pop to the point that it makes both the iPhone 3GS and the Droid look washed out. It's really, really good.

Here's the thing: This is still true. HTC and Google likely made a conscious decision to sacrifice colour fidelity, outdoor viewability, and maybe even touch accuracy for a screen that, experientially speaking, blows everything else out of the water. And depending on how anal you are, this is probably fine.

The question now facing Nexus One owners is a psychological one: Now that you know about the display's flaws, will you still be able to look right past them? [DisplayMate]

Trending Stories Right Now