The iPhone 5 Display Analyzed: Is It An Upgrade?


Continuing their normal grind, AnandTech has continued to test the various aspects of the iPhone 5. Today they have released a thorough analysis of the display on Apple’s latest smartphone. Despite the pixels-per-inch remaining at 326 and the display size being pushed-up a half-inch, the maximum brightness and contrast has seen slight improvements.

On launch day, the iPhone 5 display was specified at a 800:1 contrast ratio with 500 nits of brightness. AnandTech has completed testing to see if those numbers hold up, using a calMAN 5 and SpectraCal C6 colorimeter. Measurements were taken multiple times for accuracy and compared up against an iPhone 4.

The first test found that the backlight on the iPhone 5 was significantly better than the one found on the iPhone 4. Since the smartphone had a maximum backlight of 562 nits, Apple’s estimated figure was correct. The iPhone 5 even saw an improvement on the absolute minimum backlight figure, at 8 nits.

Below is another chart for readings on the black levels of brightness. Having a lower number is better, but seeing that users can change the backlight, this shouldn’t be an issue.

Now for the contrast ratio reading. The iPhone 5 comes out as the winner of this one as it clearly has the higher contrast ratio when at minimum and maximum backlight levels.

If you would like a deeper analysis of the iPhone 5’s display I would visit AnandTech for further details. They have grayscale charts, sRGB charts, Gamma target graphs, and much more.

Oh, and to answer the question in the title, yes the iPhone 5 display is an upgrade. Its 4-inches result in overall better brightness and contrast levels.


  • max15411

    Lame. Slight improvement at best. Definitely not worth an upgrade from the 4 or 4S.

  • RyanStOnge

    Can you see the images above? I’m having the weirdest issues today. Images aren’t showing up or uploading right.

  • roadcarver

    It would be nice to compare it with the 4s as well. It would be interesting to see the deltas between the two screens. IMHO, iPhone 4 screen does the job for now, although a lot has to be desired during bright/direct sunglight usage as it gets washed out. Any iPhone 5 users tried their device out in direct sunlight?
    @Ryan – I an see the images. Yesterday images weren’t showing up it was just a box with black borders with a red X in the center.
    The site recently has been a crap shoot. At home, I cannot see all the comments even though I have IE9.

  • RyanStOnge

    Yeah, certainly would be nice to see the 4S comparison too. But the AnandTech writer only has a 4, thus explaining the lack-of.

    And hmm, I am getting weird responses like that too with the images. Now everything is fine, earlier this morning was a different story.

  • mm201

    Read the full review. The colour gamut has made huge strides forward and is well calibrated out of the box.

  • roadcarver

    I believe another article shows the individual pixel of the iPhone 5 is much sharper under a microscope, and brighter. I don’t have an iPhone 5, just the original iPhone 4 with the loss of signal death grip. IMHO, I will wait for the “5s” to fix their WiFi and LTE dropping issues. Perhaps the screen will get wider :p

  • Not lame, and not slight improvement. Read the full article, then read the DisplayMate article. This phone is significantly better in quality over the 4/4S. The pixels are tighter, the colors are more vivid and accurate. There isn’t a gap in the touch display and the pixels like before, bringing them to the top of the screen with less interference , something seriously substantial.

    Just the clarity, the color brightness, the less gap between the screen and the pixels, all of these things took an excellent screen and made it the current champion on the market. It beats the S3 handily and I can honestly say I’ve never seen a display this crisp and beautiful in all my ears owning cell phones.

    Seriously though, go in person to see it. Hold it next to a 4, 4S, S3. The differences are there. You won’t see tons between the s3 and the 5. But if you’re a person who is attentive to that, there’s no doubt it’ll stand out to you.

    Slight improvement? Hardly. It’s like a new phone. It’s not retina all over again, but like with the iPhone design, it’s a massive redesign and improvement. I can’t even look at my iPhone 4 in the same way, there’s no comparing the two.

  • Here’s the DisplayMate link, it’s a highly scientific method that also compares it to the S3:

  • You really, really, really didn’t read the article and just looked at the pictures here, I’ll give you a quote from the article that says it all:

    I’ll even take one specific bit out of the small bit I took that says it all:

    “To put this in perspective, in the past few years I’ve reviewed probably 30-40 different displays, from PC monitors, to TVs to projectors. Not a single one, out of the box, can put up the Gretag Macbeth dE numbers that the iPhone can, and perhaps one projector (which listed for $20,000) can approach the grayscale and color accuracy out of the box.”

    “Wrapping up, the iPhone 5 display is a whole quantum leap better than the display on the iPhone 4. Contrast levels and light output have both been increased, and color performance is astonishing. The full sRGB gamut is present here, and color errors are remarkably low for a even a high end desktop display. While many were hoping for a move to OLED or some other screen innovation, this really is a huge step up that is very easy to quantify. To put this in perspective, in the past few years I’ve reviewed probably 30-40 different displays, from PC monitors, to TVs to projectors. Not a single one, out of the box, can put up the Gretag Macbeth dE numbers that the iPhone can, and perhaps one projector (which listed for $20,000) can approach the grayscale and color accuracy out of the box.”

  • I can, the only issue I have with the article, and I can see it from Max’s post, is that it’s really giving a poor picture of what the article is saying, showing only the smaller sections involving the different levels, which don’t show the zing in differences.

    Even if you just take the summarizing paragraph, I think it will give a better overall picture to what the article is truly trying to get across.

  • I also think that because the displays between the 4 and 4S are basically the same, there was no point.

    What would have been more substantial is to use the S3 or any of the other competing smartphones on the market today… but in reality, the S3 is THE major head to head competition for the iPhone. DisplayMate does cover that and is quite a fantastic read… of course seeing the iPhone blow away the S3 is nice as well.

    On top of that, the other articles reviewing the depth and clarity of the camera with lower specs than the S3 prove that pure numbers mean squat. The camera quality on the iPhone, the Sony sensor blow away the competition. Looking at macro pics on the iPhone versus the S3, there’s no comparison. Even though the s3 has an aperture of f/2.0 versus the iPhones f/2.4, the iPhone takes far better low light pictures, both in quality and clarity. So far, even though pics in low light are still meh (as they are on EVERY phone’s camera to date), add a bit of light and you get some serious shazamatude.

  • Jon

    Uhm, Ryan, a brighter screen (8 vs 5) on the lowest brightness setting is NOT an improvement as your article suggests.

  • Yeah, I was going to mention that too. Sounded wrong to me. A display with the most range would be better, so you’re looking for one that can get a darker minimum and brighter maximum.

  • Jon

    Indeed. For those who have tried to (or do) read their iPhone at night with the lights off, the screen is still way too bright. Even with white text on black background, it’s still throwing a lot of light right into your eyeballs.

  • I do that fairly often, and I’ve found that after upgrading my iPhone 4S to iOS 6, the phone is way dimmer at night. It’s been fairly tolerable for the last few weeks. I’ve been quite pleased. 🙂

    I’ve also noticed that when it first turns on, it keeps the brightness low until it finds out the ambient light, and then adjusts accordingly. This is nice because you’re not blinded by bright light for a few seconds when you turn it on at night.

  • Jon

    Cool. Thanks for the comments.

  • Nilay Maheta

    Did anyone notice that iphone 4s max brightness is better iphone 5. I even feel that 4s has much whiter light where as 5 has offwhite light.