Super AMOLED vs Super LCD: What's the Difference?

S-AMOLED vs IPS LCD

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Super AMOLED (S-AMOLED) and Super LCD (IPS-LCD) are two display types used in different kinds of electronics. The former is an improvement on OLED while Super LCD is an advanced form of LCD.

Smartphones, tablets, laptops, cameras, smartwatches, and desktop monitors are just a few types of devices that use AMOLED and/or LCD technology.

All things considered, Super AMOLED is probably the better choice over Super LCD, assuming you have a choice, but it's not quite as simple as that in every situation.

Keep reading for more on how these display technologies differ and how to decide which is best for you.

What Is S-AMOLED?

S-AMOLED, a shortened version of Super AMOLED, stands for super active-matrix organic light-emitting diode. It's a display type that uses organic materials to produce light for each pixel.

One component of Super AMOLED displays is that the layer that detects touch is embedded directly into the screen instead of existing as an entirely separate layer. This is what makes S-AMOLED different from AMOLED.

You can read more about S-AMOLED in our What Does Super AMOLED Mean? piece.

What Is IPS LCD?

Super LCD is the same as IPS LCD, which stands for in-plane switching liquid crystal display. It's the name given to an LCD screen that utilizes in-plane switching (IPS) panels. LCD screens use a backlight to produce light for all the pixels, and each pixel shutter can be turned off to affect its brightness.

Super LCD was created to solve problems that come with TFT LCD (thin-film transistor) displays to support a wider viewing angle and better color.

Read more about in-plane switching LCD in our What is IPS LCD?.

Super AMOLED vs Super LCD: A Comparison

There isn't an easy answer as to which display is better when comparing Super AMOLED and IPS LCD.

The two are similar in some ways but different in others, and it often comes down to opinion as to how one performs over the other in real world scenarios.

However, there are some real differences between them that does determine how various aspects of the display works, which is an easy way to compare the hardware.

For example, one quick consideration is that you should choose S-AMOLED if you prefer deeper blacks and brighter colors, because those areas are what makes AMOLED screens stand out. However, you might instead opt for Super LCD if you want sharper images and like to use your device outdoors.

Image and Color

S-AMOLED displays are much better at revealing dark black because each pixel that needs to be black can be true black since the light can be shut off for each pixel. This isn't true with Super LCD screens since the backlight is still on even if some of the pixels need to be black, and this can affect the darkness of those areas of the screen.

What's more is that since blacks can be truly black on Super AMOLED screens, the other colors are much more vibrant. When the pixels can be turned off completely to create black, the contrast ratio goes through the roof with AMOLED displays since that ratio is the brightest whites the screen can produce against its darkest blacks.

However, since LCD screens have backlights, it sometimes appears as though the pixels are closer together, producing an overall sharper and more natural effect. AMOLED screens, when compared to LCD, might look over-saturated or unrealistic, and the whites might appear slightly yellow.

When using the screen outdoors in bright light, Super LCD is sometimes said to be easier to use but S-AMOLED screens have fewer layers of glass and so reflect less light, so there isn't really a clear-cut answer to how they compare in direct light.

Another consideration when comparing the color quality of a Super LCD screen with a Super AMOLED screen is that the AMOLED display slowly loses its vibrant color and saturation as the organic compounds break down, although this usually takes a very long time and even then might not be noticeable.

Size

Without backlight hardware, and with the added bonus of only one screen carrying the touch and display components, the overall size of an S-AMOLED screen tends to be smaller that of an IPS LCD screen.

This is one advantage that S-AMOLED displays have when it comes to smartphones in particular since since this technology can make them thinner than those that use IPS LCD.

Power Consumption

Since IPS-LCD displays have a backlight that requires more power than a traditional LCD screen, devices that utilize those screens need more power than those that use S-AMOLED, which doesn't need a backlight.

That said, since each pixel of a Super AMOLED display can be fine tuned for each color requirement, power consumption can, in some situations, be higher than with Super LCD.

For example, playing a video with lots of black areas on an S-AMOLED display will save power compared to an IPS LCD screen since the pixels can be effectively shut off and the no light needs to be produced. On the other hand, displaying lots of color all day would most likely affect the Super AMOLED battery more than it would the device using the Super LCD screen.

Price

An IPS LCD screen includes a backlight while S-AMOLED screens don't, but they also have an additional layer that supports touch whereas Super AMOLED displays have that built right into the screen.

For these reasons and others (like color quality and battery performance), it's probably safe to say that S-AMOLED screens are more expensive to build, and so devices that use them are also more expensive than their LCD counterparts.