Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

DisplayMate’s Review of the Samsung Galaxy S8’s Display

Dr. Raymond Soneira:

The Galaxy S8 is the first in a new generation of OLED Smartphones that have a Full Screen Display design. It is the most innovative and high performance Smartphone display that we have ever lab tested, earning DisplayMate’s highest ever A+ grade.

The display may be just one component in a smartphone, but it’s arguably the one many users will notice most. And virtually every statistic in Soneira’s review backs up his claim that this is the best display that has ever shipped in a smartphone.

However, on colour accuracy:

One very important capability of the Galaxy Smartphones that is often overlooked by many consumers and reviewers, is the set of user selectable Screen Modes that are available under Display Settings, which we cover and measure each one in detail below.

[…]

In order to see the high Color Accuracy, the Display Setting for the Screen Mode needs to match the Color Gamut for the content that is being viewed. All of the reviewers that continue to rant about the poor Color Accuracy of the Galaxy OLED displays have failed to set the proper Screen Mode for their content, which is very accurate as shown in our extensive Lab Measurements and Viewing Tests.

This is preposterous. Colour management is hard — that’s why Craig Hockenberry had to write a book about it. Leaving it up to typical users to recognize when they should enable Adobe RGB instead of sRGB is an idiotic move, and for Soneira to consider this a feature rather than a bug truly shows the contrast between his level of expertise and what users actually want.

One of the four Screen Modes available on the S8 is called Adaptive Display:

The Adaptive Display screen mode provides real-time Adaptive processing that can dynamically adjust images and videos. For some applications it will vary the White Point, Color Gamut, and Color Saturation based on the image content and the color of the surrounding ambient lighting measured by the Ambient Light Sensor (which measures color in addition to brightness).

The other Screen Modes tested by DisplayMate indicated very high colour accuracy, comparable with the displays in the iPhones 6 (but not the 7). Adaptive Display mode, on the other hand, was extremely inaccurate in DisplayMate’s testing because of its egregiously over-saturated colours.

Emphasis mine:

Select the Adaptive Display screen mode using Display Settings – it is the factory default screen mode for the Galaxy S8.

Samsung created a display that can very accurately display the P3 wide colour gamut, yet they chose to set the default to the least-accurate colour profile. Most users won’t change this, just as most people don’t change their wildly over-saturated default TV setting.

I have no doubt that the display component in the Samsung Galaxy S8 is one of the best smartphone displays to have ever shipped. But a display cannot really be separated from the smartphone it’s shipped in. If most customers are likely going to keep its default colour gamut setting, can it really be called the “most innovative and high performance smartphone display”, or receive DisplayMate’s highest-ever grade with honesty? Even if the display can be considered separate of the product, does it really matter that it’s so advanced if few people will ever get to see its true colours?