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Lab tests confirm Samsung Galaxy S3 is a display dimwit

The Samsung Galaxy S3 is a pretty bright phone, intelligence-wise. But its screen is a bit of a dim bulb. In a new lab report, Dr. Ramond Soneira of DisplayMate Technologies compares all three Galaxy S generations and finds that the Galaxy S3, while impressive all around, just doesn't pump out the lumens.

The Galaxy S3 uses a 1280 X 720, PenTile AMOLED screen, which is higher resolution, but dimmer than the Galaxy S1 and Galaxy S2 screens, Soneira said. The culprit seems to be power management: in trying to get decent battery life with its huge 4.8-inch display, Samsung had to turn the brightness down.

Power consumption figures bear that out. Samsung cut maximum display power from 2.1 watts on the Galaxy S2 to 1.3 watts on the Galaxy S3, dropping maximum brightness from 289 candelas per square meter to 224. The lower power usage, however, lets the S3 get solid battery life even with the larger screen: running time with the display on increased from 4.4 hours on the Galaxy S2 to 5.6 hours on the S3.

That doesn't mean the screen isn't visible in bright light, though. Soneira rated the Galaxy S3's screen as "very good" in terms of viewability in bright light, in part because the screen is extremely non-reflective.

Still, the brightness/battery maths may be one reason Apple has kept iPhone screens small so far. Comparing the Galaxy S phones to the iPhone, Soneira found that the iPhone 4 has a 7.8-hour running time with a screen brightness of 541 candelas per square metre; the S3's brightness is roughly half that.

In our own tests, we also found that the S3 isn't very bright. Turning off the automatic brightness option helped quite a lot; Soneira calls that function "positively awful and close to functionally useless," an assertion with which I agree.

That doesn't change our overall conclusions about the Galaxy S3 line. Thanks to its low reflectivity, the screen is bright enough to use anywhere you need it - and the all-around excellent performance of Samsung's new phones have received rave reviews from virtually all corners of the tech world.