Ina Fried

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Samsung Is Only Tablet Maker Giving iPad 2’s Display a Run for Its Money

Although the first wave of Android tablets couldn’t hold a candle to Apple’s iPad 2 when it came to screen quality, analysis firm DisplayMate says the latest Galaxy Tab model offers a significantly better display than the other Android models, on par with the Apple tablet in many respects.

DisplayMate gave both the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the iPad 2 a grade of A-minus for their screens, while the Motorola Xoom, Asus Transformer and Acer Iconia A500 all received a grade of B-minus. The firm had previously sung the praises of the iPad 2 display, which it called largely comparable to the iPhone 4’s Retina display, albeit with lower pixel density.

“While the iPad 2 display easily outperformed all of the previous Android Tablets, with the new Galaxy Tab 10.1, Samsung has delivered the first Android Tablet with an impressive, potentially outstanding display that beats the iPad 2 — except it produces gaudy oversaturated colors,” DisplayMate president Ray Soneira said in an email.

Given that the tablets are all roughly similar in price, Soneira said the wide disparity in screen quality is somewhat surprising.

“This is especially true for the Android tablets because they all have identical 10.1 inch 1280 x 800 screens running virtually identical software,” he said in a report being released on Tuesday. “One major issue is the manufacturers are all scrambling to get their products to market so there isn’t enough time to properly engineer everything. But the biggest factor is undoubtedly the explosive growth in the demand and volume of mobile displays, so many existing and new factories don’t have the time and/or expertise to properly manufacture and calibrate all the displays they are producing.”

Soneira offers some free advice to the industry, suggesting a number of things all the major tablet makers could do to improve their screens in the next go-round. Among his recommendations are improving the software that adjusts screen brightness to match lighting conditions and reducing the reflectiveness of the screen.

“All of these tablets have large shiny mirror-like screens that are good enough to use for personal grooming,” Soneira said. While that might mean one less item that one needs to pack in one’s suitcase, Soneira quips, “it’s actually a very bad feature that requires higher screen brightness and more battery power to offset the reflected light.”

Another interesting fact Soneira points out is that the 10.1-inch screen of the large Android tablets doesn’t necessarily pack more screen real estate than the 9.7-inch iPad.

“Most people (and reviewers) seem to believe that the 10.1 inch screens (measured diagonally) on the Android Tablets are larger than the 9.7 inch iPad screen — but they are actually 5 percent smaller than the iPad in terms of the image area of the screen, which is what really counts,” Soneira said. “This is due to both aspect ratio geometry (the screen area decreases as the aspect ratio increases) and the Android system bar, which reduces the image area.”

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus