Best phone screen: display tech explained


A term coined by Samsung, Super AMOLED HD is simply a high-definition (720 x 1280 or higher) Super AMOLED display.


In an odd move Samsung ditched the subpixel construction from Super AMOLED Plus and returned instead to a standard Super AMOLED subpixel arrangement for this display, claiming that it was more durable.

It was first used in the Samsung Galaxy Note. Unsurprisingly, the Samsung Galaxy S3 also has a screen of this type.

Super AMOLED Plus HD

Putting right the 'one step forward, one step back' approach to a display used for Super AMOLED HD, Super AMOLED Plus HD is a high-definition Super AMOLED Plus display.

It's not a display type that's currently in use, but Samsung is rumoured to be working on it.

Retina display

A marketing term created by Apple, a Retina display is a display with a pixel density high enough that the human eye is unable to make out any individual pixels at a normal viewing distance.

In other words it's a display with no pixellation at all.

Retina display

The exact pixel density required to be classed as a Retina display varies between devices as it is dependent on normal viewing distance.

So for example an iPhone 4S, which would be held close to the face, has 326 pixels per inch, while an iPad 3 only has 264 pixels per inch, as, thanks to its bigger screen, the optimal viewing distance would place it further away.


This is a particular type of TFT-LCD screen, and has been touted as rivalling AMOLED for image quality. It offers lower power consumption than most LCD technologies, but without sacrificing any picture quality.

Mobile BRAVIA Engine

BRAVIA, an acronym of 'Best Resolution Audio Visual Integrated Architecture', is a Sony brand which has long been used for their televisions.

The Mobile BRAVIA Engine is made up of a number of image processing technologies and is designed to improve images and videos by making them sharper and reducing noise.

It also aims to improve the contrast and create more natural colours. It's not a screen type so much as a suite of post-processing effects which can be turned on or off.

Mobile BRAVIA Engine

The Mobile BRAVIA Engine is used exclusively in Sony handsets, such as the Sony Xperia S.


This LCD-derived screen technology from LG used on the Optimus Black phone. It's said to offer hugely increased brightness while being extremely energy efficient.

Mobile phone screen resolutions

QVGA (240 x 320)

This is really the bottom end of modern phone resolutions.

Standing for 'Quarter Video Graphics Array', it means essentially a quarter the resolution of VGA and is only normally used for budget phones.

QVGA 240 x 320

The HTC Wildfire and, more recently, the Samsung Galaxy Y sport this resolution.


The 'W' here stands for wide, and means that any display that has the same height as QVGA (240) but a greater width, can be described as WQVGA.


The Sony Ericsson Aino has a WQVGA resolution of 240x432.

HVGA (320 x 480)

'Half' or 'half size' VGA, HVGA can actually refer to a handful of resolutions, but the most common one is 320 x 480, which is half the size of VGA, hence the name.

HVGA 320 x 480

The iPhone 3GS has a resolution of 320 x 480 and so too does the HTC Wildfire S.

nHD (360 x 640)

Nokia 808 Pureview

This resolution is not often used by phones, but can be seen for example on the Nokia N97 or the more recent Nokia 808 Pureview.


This means 'Wider' VGA (Video Graphics Array) and refers to any display with a height of 480 pixels but a width greater than 640 pixels.

The most common WVGA resolution is 480 x 800 and this can be found on lots of smartphones.


The Samsung Galaxy S2, for example, has this resolution, along with the Nokia Lumia 900 and others.

FWVGA (480 x 854)

This stands for 'Full Wide' VGA and unlike WVGA it doesn't need to be cropped to produce an aspect ratio of 16:9.