I love AMOLED blacks

The AMOLED vs LCD discussion has been up here before, and when it all comes down to it, it’s subjective whether you prefer the realistic LCD colors or the saturated AMOLED colors. One area where AMOLED truly is better however is with the “color” black. That’s simply because AMOLED doesn’t display black, it simply doesn’t display anything at all. LCD uses a separate layer for back lighting that shines through the actual pixel layer to produce a back lit image, and the back lighting doesn’t have the same resolution as the pixel matrix.

As such, the LCD actually displays the color black and has a back light light it up, which means that in most cases blacks actually become more like dark grays. With AMOLED having pixels that light up themselves, and thus not requiring a back light, producing a black image simply means not turning on certain pixels. The result is that an AMOLED screen on a black device essentially makes it impossible to see where the bezel ends and the screen starts if the screen is “displaying” black.

Aside from truer blacks, this is actually something that you can take advantage of. Heck, Windows Phone 7 is almost built on the principle, with white-on-black being used to its full effect with AMOLED technology. The same principles can be applied “manually” to an Android device as well, by using black themes for apps, black wallpaper, and basically anything else that is black. Aside from looking good when it blends into a black device, it can also save you a very noticeable amount of battery power, which is logical since less of the screen is on when using black styles on everything. I use black wallpaper, black lockscreen, and black themes for various things. You can see how this makes it impossible to tell the screen from the rest of the device in the image at the top.

Yesterday, something Aaron said about apps that provide makeshift notification LEDs by displaying colored pixels on part of the screen gave me an idea. Since AMOLED black means that part of the screen is off, I figured I could modify my camera LED Gmail notifier and incorporate how AMOLED works into it. I mostly need the LED notification when I’m at home and in front of my computer and doing something fullscreen (so I don’t see the desktop notification on my PC), which means that the phone is in its DIY cradle and looking right at me. I can see the screen just fine, but Gmail notifications don’t make the screen turn on.

My idea was therefore to switch out the camera LED notification with a more elegant screen-based visual notification. I created a task in Tasker that displays a Gmail icon for four seconds and then turns the screen back off. The icon displays on a black fullscreen background, which in practice means that only the part of the screen that displays the icon turns off on an AMOLED device. The result looks like this:

(Since this is about AMOLED blacks and not this setup, I won’t bother you with details on how this was done in Tasker. If anyone wants a rundown on that though, I can tell you – just leave a comment to let me know.)

While you could, of course, run this on a device with an LCD, you wouldn’t get the same effect. The darker the room is, and the higher the back lighting is set, the more of the “partial screen turn on effect” you would loose by doing this with LCD, as the blacks would become more gray and visible.

My point through all of this is basically summed up in the title: I love AMOLED blacks. There are simply things you can do and benefits you get from using black with AMOLED that LCD can’t duplicate, and I’m having a lot of fun experimenting with it. At this point I don’t think I could go back to LCD for my phone, and the only two tablets I’m interested in right now are the Galaxy Tab 7.7 and Toshiba Excite 7.7, both AMOLED tablets.

It’s also why I wouldn’t trade my “aging” Galaxy S II for devices like the HTC One X/HTC EVO 4G LTE, because – higher resolution or not – in a side-by-side comparison I simply think LCD screens look broken compared to AMOLED. But again, this is subjective, and I know some prefer more realistic colors.

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets and tends to stick with his choice of device for a long time as a result of that. After a five year break from writing, he's back to share this view with the world once again.