|Nov 30, 2012, 08:30 PM||#1|
MacBook Air 2012 - Samsung vs LG display Review
I thought I'd try to put an end to this LG vs Samsung display nonsense once and for all. I recently decided to get a portable Mac and settled on a beautiful top of the line 2012 MacBook Air. 2.0GHz i7, 8GB RAM and a 512GB SSD etc.
Before my purchase I spent weeks reading all of the reviews (Anandtech, Ars Technica, Engadget etc.) as well as all of the paranoia-laced threads on MacRumors with the usual component manufacturer worries and inconsistencies.
Based on the general Anandtech and MacRumors consensus I knew I wanted a unit with a Samsung SSD and display. They're the best after all - right?
My first order (roll of the dice) came with a 512GB Samsung SSD (SM512E) and LG/ShengRuihk display (LP133WP1-TJA7). Yes, ShengRuihk manufacture panels for LG.
When I switched it on I noticed it was very bright and fresh looking. Before I ran the terminal 'display manufacturer' command I could have sworn it was a Samsung. Colors were very natural, the stock color profile was very good. This was a winner.
Nope, it was an LG. From everything I had read on MacRumors and Anandtech I really thought that the display would have looked pretty bad, but it looked great. Some could potentially argue that it looked a little bright and thus washed out - but the reality was that the colors were very natural and not overly-saturated. Next to my 2011 iMac the colors looked almost identical. Most importantly, the greys of the Mac OS X interface looked fantastic.
I was really happy with the display, but at the same time I was also gutted that I didn't get a Samsung. Could the Samsung really be better than this with deeper blacks etc?
The scenario played over and over in my mind and the OCD buried inside me finally won. I decided to roll the dice once more and order a second unit.
My second order arrived. This time it came with a 512GB Samsung SSD (SM512E) and a Samsung display (LSN133BT01A02).
Jackpot! - or so I thought (keep reading).
I powered it up and could instantly tell that the contrast was a little higher. Everything looked really great. I could see what everyone was on about over at Anandtech and MacRumors. Once I got over my initial elation, I settled down and spent some time with it before powering up my LG unit for comparison.
The first thing I noticed was that the greys of the Mac OS X interface seemed a little 'hot'. There was definitely an incredibly subtle red hue in the grey mix. This bothered me a little. It definitely wasn't as neutral as you'd expect from a r50,g50,b50 value. It felt more like a warm grey. The other thing I noticed was that window drop shadows were more noticeable than usual and stood out when on top of other white windows. I could clearly see a defining edge. I couldn't remember seeing this with the LG.
My initial impression was still great. The general contrast of the display felt really good. A subtle improvement on the LG. I was sure I could fix the slightly 'warmish' tones of the UI with a bit of color calibration.
Before I go any further I want to point out that I'm using the stock Color LED profiles for each unit. Another important thing to note is that both stock profiles are actually subtly different.
LG: Color LCD-00000610-0000-9CDF-0000-0000042737C0.icc
Samsung: Color LCD-00000610-0000-9CF0-0000-000004273C00.icc
With this difference I assume that Apple do indeed have separate profiles for each manufacturer. I tried interchanging the profiles and they're definitely different. The LG profile on the Samsung display looked terrible and visa-versa.
It was now time to power up both units and do some some real-world side by side comparisons to work out if the Samsung display really was as good as it seemed.
I powered on my LG and instantly noticed that it was a little brighter than the Samsung. I was right, the greys of the Mac OS X interface looked much better on the LG. Totally neutral with no red tint. I also noticed that the window drop shadows looked less pronounced on the LG - possibly due to the greyness of the gradient compared to the slightly warmer Samsung display.
I started thinking about this whole LG 'washed out' thing that's been thrown about at MacRumors. These things are always subjective but to me, I think this comment is a result of the slightly brighter LG display and more accurate greys making the display feel brighter and less saturated. The Samsung display has a touch more contrast resulting in slightly darker blacks but it's also more saturated too. This is probably why most casual users think that the Samsung display is better than the LG.
More contrast and more saturation = better. Right? Maybe not...
At first glance, most would assume that the Samsung is the better display. If you use your MacBook Air for reading, browsing, coding and other non-design related work then the extra contrast and saturation might be perfect for you and probably the best rationale for the Samsung praise here at MacRumors.
However, the the Samsung display has once huge caveat that a lot of people have overlooked in their testing - how it deals with gradients.
Let's get one thing straight before I continue. Both displays aren't great with gradients. There's no such thing as a perfectly smooth non-banded gradient on a non-IPS LED display but the LG is much better at rendering gradients than the Samsung. To put it simply. Gradients look ok on the LG and terrible on the Samsung. For some strange reason the Samsung display cannot render consistently toned gradients.
For years I've always used a pixel and vector based gradient test as the benchmark for display quality. For testing, I used monochromatic gradients from 100% black to 0% (white). I tried linear and radial gradients as well as colored tests too and the results were the same. The LG has a consistent and natural tone to the gradients. Banding is visible but the steps are more natural/even and the tone is consistent throughout.
The Samsung display is really bad. Banding is heavily pronounced and wildly inconsistent producing uneven tones with a variety of red, green and blue banded hues creeping into monochromatic gradients. It's the same for radial gradients.
Of course, the majority of users don't spend their time working with pure gradients so the test is a little extreme - but, for me, a great example of the quality of the display.
This test has real-world implications. For example, set your background to the dark grey solid color and log-out. The log-in screen has a dark vignette (dark surrounding) that highlights the gradient issue. Of course, if you don't have an LG or Samsung display to compare it to, it really doesn't matter but it's clear from my testing that the LG display is much better.
The Samsung has all the praise on MacRumors and Anandtech but (as usual) a lot of these opinions come from one or two simple/early observations that end up turning into assumed fact. The Samsung display generally looks great and has good contrast. However, the default profile makes greys look a little red and there's no getting away from the quality of gradients. They look really bad with inconsistent banding. One last observation with the Samsung is that there's a weird hard-to-describe texture behind the display that can sometimes make solid colors look blotchy.
The LG display is very bright and natural. Greys look grey - not warm/red grey. For this reason, some may think that it's 'washed out'. Saturation and contrast is really good with the default profile and gradients render much better than the Samsung display - possibly a true test of the display quality. The display is also really flat with none of the slightly blotchy texture of the Samsung (admittedly, very hard to see).
Both displays are really good. If you've got a Samsung - be happy. It's a great vibrant display for everyday use. If you've got an LG - be happy, especially if you're a designer. You can value it's color accuracy and gradient rendering quality.
I ended up returning the Air with the Samsung display. I personally believe the LG is better quality and much more natural with accurate color for print and screen design.
Hope this helps with your own units and any purchasing decisions.
Last edited by Update; Nov 30, 2012 at 08:54 PM. Reason: Spelling
|Nov 30, 2012, 09:29 PM||#2|
WOW. The gradient thing is very obvious. As an owner of an LG display this makes me feel good.
Honestly I have never had an issues with the LG. I fixed the profile a bit and now I find it to be very accurate.
|Nov 30, 2012, 10:01 PM||#3|
After reading the threads on MacRumors I really felt that the whole debate was totally misrepresented by people who were simply regurgitating other people's opinion without having first hand experience with the displays.
I wanted to take the time to do a reality-check review. Both displays are really good but the LG definitely has the edge in my opinion. Of course, it's just my opinion but the photos help back up my points. I am aware, however, that some users would rather have a bit of extra contrast and saturation over accuracy. This is totally fine too.
|Nov 30, 2012, 10:20 PM||#4|
Wow excellent comparison, thanks! I'm starting to wonder if I should just keep the MBA I received 2 days ago. I was going to exchange it because of a very small chip in the aluminum casing near the back but now I'm wondering if I shouldn't.
|Dec 1, 2012, 07:14 AM||#7|
I am going to be cracking open my MBA later in the day and would appreciate help with the following:
1. What is the string does one need to enter in terminal to determine which screen they have [i.e. SM512E for Samsung or LP133WP1-TJA7 for LG]?
2. To be clear, am I understanding your post correctly in that that the ShengRuihk display (LP133WP1-TJA7) is the LG display and, on this point, are there other LG displays?
Thanks so much,
|Dec 21, 2012, 11:23 AM||#9|
MBA 13", i5 1.8GHz, 8GM RAM, 128GB SSD
These are amazing products that enrich our lives that we see as toys, remember that they are expensive and should be used as tools to reach our dreams~
|Dec 21, 2012, 04:44 PM||#10|
So I am going to give it one more shot.
I ordered another MBA and a Retina MBP. I am going to open the MBA first and if the screen doesn't flicker badly, I am keeping it and returning the rMBP as it came in the package.
But if I find that this MBA also flickers bad then the MBA goes back for good and am keeping the rMBP.
The acid test for flickering for me is to hold the down arrow key from top of a long page like say macrumors and hold it to see the page scroll. The text shimmers and almost becomes invisible and it does it at such a fast rate than my eyes dont sit well with it.
Lots of Apple,Sony and other gadgets.
Last edited by krravi; Dec 21, 2012 at 06:04 PM.
|Dec 21, 2012, 09:52 PM||#11|
I use this link to test the screen:
Hope this help. I have 13" LG 2012 release / ML 8.2.
|Dec 22, 2012, 01:20 AM||#12|
This thread was awesome - my first macbook air was an LG display and I had to replace it due to a faulty key. I was issued a replacement and it had a Samsung screen, and I was able to put them side by side before I returned the LG display Air.
The colors were more true on the LG display, and the shadow/gradient problem described by the OP was spot on.
Also, it seems as if the Samsung display has a 'yellowish' tint that I'm trying to correct with a color profile, but I can't seem to find many around (all the uploaded profiles are mainly for the LG). At the same time, the LG has a higher 'max brightness'. I put both side by side, tuned up the brightness to max, and the LG was definitely brighter - I turned off the lights to double-check.
In any case, I don't really mind anymore. They're both alright. If I had my pick, I wish my replacement came with an LG display instead of Samsung. Hope that helps a bit.
|Dec 22, 2012, 02:38 AM||#13|
All LCD's flicker a little bit, but mine was worse. It looked like an army of ants marching up and down the page. Considering that the MBA for its lightness would be used more to read articles than do anything, i couldn't take it.
And i tried the link you posted and yes there is flicker. But those pages are designed to do that and my guess is that 90% of the monitors will flickr using that page.
But regular everyday web pages should not....
Lots of Apple,Sony and other gadgets.
Last edited by krravi; Dec 22, 2012 at 02:59 AM.
|Dec 22, 2012, 05:38 AM||#14|
The test link should not have flicker, unless during zoom-in/out. If you let the screen idle, it should not be any flicker.
I've tested also in apple store, and found that few 11/13" MBA (pre-2011 - not sure exactly year) experienced the problem and few are not. That could be because of the demo machine.
|Aug 11, 2013, 11:11 AM||#15|
iPhone 5 13" Macbook Air 2013
FOLLOW MY INSTAGRAM: @imjoee
|Nov 8, 2013, 12:27 PM||#16|
I had the early chance to quickly compare models and sided with the Samsung panels, but I have to agree with everything that has been said. I had the chance to take a close look over some days of intense use and comparison because I had to delay TNT to pick up my old MBA, which resulted the new MBA come in early enough to have both.
My "old" to-be-replaced MBA had the LP116WH4-TJA3 LG panel, my new one the somewhat older LTHxxxxxxx Samsung one (yes there are two Samsung panels around, and this one is not the one mentioned here). Right out of the box I knew the new MBA had a Samsung screen. OS X looked brilliant right from the setup, text was way more enjoyable to read and colors went really dark, achieving a superb saturation and contrast.
As the new machine grew to be a nice development, I also realized that some things felt more difficult, but I could not point it out instantaneously. I thought it was the known lower brightness of the Samsung screen, but it was more, unfortunately. On the old machine, I tried to play a game, Diablo 3, and it was still a great experience. I was really enjoying the brightness level of the LG screen when having dark dungeons on the screen, and I was prepared to miss it. However on the new Samsung screen, things did not just get darker, colors simply faded out at some point and shared the same appearance as black did, whereas the LG still remains precise to the colors, displaying even the darkest color differences. I tried playing around with profiles, making screenshots, opening identical images at the same time and watching movies simultaneously, and the result was this: You can adjust the LG to look like the Samsung screen up to 95%, but you cannot reach that same level vise-versa with the Samsung one, you get close to 75%, but that's it.
On top, I can really second that with the red tint issue. The easiest way to recognize that is by watching movies or images and then looking at faces. Really, if you do anything else which does not involve the OS interface or text, you see the LG as a superior screen over the Samsung.
I believe it is that way because Apple used Samsung panels over a long timespan and everything displayed there is optimized to look best on them. Samsung panels look inkier and darker overall which is why OS X might have overall brighter color usage, which therefore results in your LG looking washed out at first.
So in short: If you're using your Mac just for browsing, checking mails and stuff, you might be most comfortable with the Samsung one. But if you go more forward, maybe finishing graphics stuff from work, watch a movie or play a game, you might really reconsider and take a close look at the LG panels. In my honest opinion, they are the most color-precise panels around for MBAs and do a superior job with different levels of brightness. And yes, I also had an AU Optronics to check, too.
Still, the Samsung SSDs are the best around, just google around and you will find proof with multiple Black Magic HD test results. Sandisks come close, while Toshibas are the worst. Apple just had to push out an update for all MBAs with Toshiba drives to check them.
If you yourself have a chance to compare these models, you can also look within OS X. Some elements reveal that the LG can display more color ranges than the Samsung ones. Good examples can be found within the dock, try the Safari, Mail, iTunes, iBooks (that one looks very ugly on a Samsung panel) and Settings icons. And, if you got an iPhone or iPad, make screenshots and compare them with the supposedly superior screens of the iOS devices. Again, the darker areas do wonders!
|Nov 8, 2013, 05:20 PM||#17|
Edit: Please note that this comparison only applies for the LTH version of Samsung panels. I compared the LG panel to an LSN version of the Samsung panels and the LSN Samsung panel does not suffer from the issues mentioned above. Since the OP stated the issues I had with my LTH Samsung panel, I believe them to be a simple batch thing.
Still, even now having the old Samsung panel around means that the lottery is even harder than just the LG/Samsung/AU Optronics deal. If you got an LG, better keep it. It is at least the second best choice out of 6 models, which seem to still be around.
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