What is a Super AMOLED display?

Hand holding Samsung Galaxy S10 with colorful screen in front of multicolored lights.
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You’ve probably seen the term “Super AMOLED display” used in smartphone marketing materials in recent years. These displays are more popular than ever, so what exactly does AMOLED mean and what makes them different from old classic OLEDs?

Different types of OLED screens

OLED stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode, and it’s a type of display that first appeared in the late 1980s. OLED displays are self-emissive, which means they create their own light and don’t do not need backlight.

The “AM” in AMOLED stands for “active matrix”, which is different from less efficient PMOLEDs (or “passive matrix” OLEDs). In passive matrix models, external circuitry is required to control each pixel on the panel. At the intersection of the anode and cathode bands, the pixels can turn on and off as needed.

Close up of a powered off LED panel
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An active matrix OLED display incorporates a thin film transistor (TFT) layer in place of the anode strips, which allows pixels to be addressed more efficiently. Since there is less external circuitry required thanks to the TFT layer, active matrix panels consume less power than their passive matrix counterparts.

AMOLED panels are more suitable for larger screens like TVs and monitors. PMOLED screens are easier to manufacture but are better suited for smaller screens that are only a few inches. AMOLED panels are faster, allowing them to support higher refresh rates and achieve better pixel response times.

RELATED: The 5 Best OLED TVs You Can Buy Today

Super AMOLED is Samsung’s marketing

Super AMOLED is specific to Samsung devices and is often used in the branding of Samsung-branded smartphones and tablets. Samsung says that “Super AMOLED is an AMOLED display with built-in touch,” which means that the digitizer (which converts touch to input) is merged into the display stack. This makes the screen thinner than having an extra digitizer layer.

Super AMOLED Display Marketing on Samsung Website

Samsung also claims that these displays have a contrast ratio of 100,000: 1, although that figure should only be applied to those branded “Super AMOLED” rather than all AMOLED displays on the market.

Samsung is by no means the only company to do this, Apple also using its own “Super Retina” and “Super Retina XDR” display nomenclature.

Learn more about OLEDs

OLED panels are part of what are arguably the prettiest TVs on the market. They have a theoretically infinite contrast ratio for deep blacks and near-instant pixel response times for gaming enthusiasts, and they’re ultimately cheap enough to be considered mainstream.

But before you buy an OLED, make sure you understand the difference between self-emitting organic panels and traditional LCD screens.

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