The Samsung Galaxy S III has a PenTile display: What is it, and why should you care?

Galaxy S III Top ScreenSamsung announced its long-awaited Galaxy S III smartphone last night, and with it came an almost bewildering list of new features, from S Voice to Direct Call. In fact, the presentation concentrated more on these software additions than the phone’s hardware, but that hasn’t stopped people noticing the S III uses PenTile screen technology.

At the moment, this news is mostly being discussed by the more technically minded, and as many are dismissing it as a bad thing, it’s probably a good idea to see why this is the case before it becomes blown out of proportion.

You’ll already know the Galaxy S III has a 4.8-inch Super AMOLED touchscreen with a 1280 x 720 pixel resolution, but several shots of the screen taken at the launch event, such as this one from GSMArena.com, show the S III’s screen uses a PenTile RGBG matrix.

Prior to its announcement, there was considerable speculation that the screen would be a Super AMOLED Plus panel, and therefore a traditional RGB stripe matrix, just like the Galaxy S II and the Galaxy Tab 7.7.

RGB PenTile ComparisonPenTile vs. RGB stripe

The difference between the two comes down to the layout and the size of each red, green and blue sub pixel in the display. The RGBG tag refers to the order in which these sub pixels appear, as you can see on the right in the image opposite, the green sub pixels are smaller than the red and the blue, due to our sensitivity to bright green colors.

With an RGB stripe display, the pattern on the left, the sub pixels are of uniform size and order, providing accurate colors and a very sharp picture.

PenTile screen technology is favored for several reasons, but primarily for two: Its low power consumption compared to RGB stripe displays, and its ability to achieve an HD resolution on an AMOLED screen. According to Nouvoyance, the company that produces PenTile displays, there is no cost benefit involved.

So, if PenTile displays are just different to RGB stripe displays, rather than better or worse, why are people getting upset over its use? The answer can be found in the image below.

One S One X Screens theverge

When Theverge.com reviewed the HTC One S, it published a picture comparing the PenTile Super AMOLED display of the One S with the RGB stripe Super LCD 2 found on the HTC One X. The differences between them are immediately obvious, from the lack of definition to the variation in color, and it’s something we noted in our review of the One X too.

So should you be concerned over the use of a PenTile screen in Samsung’s super-flash Galaxy S III? On phones with a lower resolution screen, perhaps, but less so with a high definition resolution.

Samsung has used a very similar panel on the S III as it did with the Galaxy Nexus — a 1280 x 720, 4.65-inch Super AMOLED — and the Galaxy Note, which has a 1280 x 800, 5.3-inch Super AMOLED screen.

Galaxy S II Galaxy Note ScreensThe Note’s massive screen looks excellent, even when zoomed in, as demonstrated by this picture taken by Phonearena.com. We can’t see anything to be worried about here.

What we must remember when talking about HD PenTile displays, and comparing them to alternative screen technology, is that for the most part people won’t notice any difference in normal, everyday usage. There are drawbacks to everything, and there will always be very vocal detractors; but in this case, if you’d never heard of PenTile or RGB stripe before now, then chances are the S III’s screen will look nothing other than brilliant.

However, if you’re a screen obsessive, then the shortcomings may be more noticeable; but until the Galaxy S III can be compared, side-by-side with the One X, the Note, the iPhone 4S and even the S II, it most certainly shouldn’t be condemned as inferior.

The early word on the S III’s screen is good, so don’t be put off due to this relatively minor technical fact that could see more press over the coming weeks, and definitely not until you’ve seen the screen in action for yourself.

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