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Old 10-25-2012, 01:20 AM   #1
ChristieNooks
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Default I Would like to call Attention to the Samsung Galaxy Note II Brightness Issue

I have owned the International version of the Note II for a few weeks now. I just read Anandtech's review and as usual was of extremely high quality. But there was one thing that jumped off the page as very wrong based on my experience, and it's the measured brightness of the Note II.

The Anandtech review measured the Note II's brightness at only 244 nits. This measurement is even lower than the Galaxy S3's measurement of 277 nits.

GSM arena measured the Note II's brightness at 478 nits...



244 vs 478 nits is a highly significant difference.

As someone who owns both the Note II and Galaxy S3 ( International versions of both ), this lept off the screen to me as my Note II is very noticeably brighter and whiter than my S3. But according to anandtech measurements the opposite should be true.

I believe I may know the problem and here are the options as I see them...

1. Anandtech received a faulty Note II

2. On the Galaxy S3, there is a brightness slider and a box that you can tick for "Auto" brightness. When you tick the auto box on the S3 the brightness slider disappears. However on the Note II the brightness slider will not disappear. This is because this new feature is allowing you to fine tune the the auto brightness.



What I'm saying is that if the auto brightness is on, even if you have the brightness slid all the way to max, you still won't be getting anywhere near maximum brightness. Turning auto brightness off will result in a noticeably brighter display. This is fairly obvious however and I don't believe the reviewer made this mistake.

There is one more setting though in the Note II that can DRAMATICALLY affect brightness and it's not obvious, which brings me to #3...

3. The "Auto adjust screen tone" function.

Go to Settings -> Display -> and then scroll all the way to the bottom and it looks like this...



This feature is turned on or off by default depending on the firmware your Note II has. It is critical that this feature be turned OFF before making any brightness measurements.

For maximum brightness this feature should be turned OFF and this feature deserves a bit of an explanation. Turning this feature on and off in the menu and you probably won't notice any difference as the menus are mostly black.

However in a fully white screen ( as is how nits are measured )...



...the difference in both brightness and whiteness is DRAMATIC. This isn't something that you'll have to compare and say "well maybe I can see a bit of a difference, I guess" - No. The difference is immediately noticeable.

When this feature is turned on, whites will appear dull and somewhat cream colored. When this feature is turned off whites will be MUCH whiter and brighter. I would say 80-100% brighter. ( Yes, that much )

I tried taking screen grabs to show you the difference but it doesn't show up that way. I also tried taking pictures but my camera auto adjusts to the brightness and it doesn't show up there either.

If you have a Note II try turning OFF the "auto adjust screen tone" and you should notice a significant increase in the brightness of whites ( such as the Google search page ) or any other website which has a lot of white.

There is of course one more option...

4. The T-Mobile variant of the Galaxy Note II really is only 50-60% as bright as the International version.

Thank you for your time.
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Old 10-25-2012, 04:10 AM   #2
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OK, this isnt really an issue for the forum, its an issue for the main site.

Go back to the main site and find the article and find a feedback button, tell them about your concern. (Or just post a link to this thread).


Also, welcome to our forums.
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Old 10-25-2012, 05:23 AM   #3
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Good catch, but yeah the reviewers don't really monitor the forums for this kind of stuff.
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Old 10-25-2012, 06:39 AM   #4
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thanks for that wonderful information, ChristieNooks. you first post is more helpful than 13,000 of my posts combined. i feel ashamed.
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Old 10-25-2012, 07:17 AM   #5
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Thanks for this info as many of s might need it when we get ours
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Old 10-25-2012, 09:10 AM   #6
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OK, this isnt really an issue for the forum, its an issue for the main site.

Go back to the main site and find the article and find a feedback button, tell them about your concern. (Or just post a link to this thread).


Also, welcome to our forums.
To be honest, I love that she posted it here. This was a concern of mine because the Anandtech review was the only one who mentioned the lowered brightness, since I tend to trust them a bit more.
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Old 10-25-2012, 09:30 AM   #7
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thanks for that wonderful information, ChristieNooks. you first post is more helpful than 13,000 of my posts combined. i feel ashamed.
I have nothing useful to add, but this post made me lol for honesty.
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Old 10-25-2012, 10:14 AM   #8
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Tweet this thread @nerdtalker
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Old 10-25-2012, 10:25 AM   #9
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Very interesting information. If you don't mind, could you also check if the "black crush/clip" issue found on many of the ATT version of the original Galaxy Note is present in the Note II?

https://dl.dropbox.com/u/16473596/Black%20Crush.png
If you open that PNG image, it should should show discrete greys for each level (with level 1 grey being nearly black). With the models affected by "black crush/clip", there are two results:
(1) Greys from 6 and below are crushed into just black (TW ICS behavior)
(2) The greys from 1 and up are clearly too bright (TW GB behavior)
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Old 10-25-2012, 11:06 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by ChronoReverse View Post
Very interesting information. If you don't mind, could you also check if the "black crush/clip" issue found on many of the ATT version of the original Galaxy Note is present in the Note II?

https://dl.dropbox.com/u/16473596/Black%20Crush.png
If you open that PNG image, it should should show discrete greys for each level (with level 1 grey being nearly black). With the models affected by "black crush/clip", there are two results:
(1) Greys from 6 and below are crushed into just black (TW ICS behavior)
(2) The greys from 1 and up are clearly too bright (TW GB behavior)
I just tried to go into a dark room and take pics of what I was seeing but I couldn't get any of the pics to even come close to resembling what my eyes were seeing, so I guess I'll just describe what I saw.

I tried your test for both my S3 and Note II...

For the S3, 21-11 on the right side showed a smooth gradient but on the left side things didn't look so good. 10, 9 and 8 were a single shade of grey with 6 and lower being completely black.

For the Note II, 21-11 on the right side showed a smooth gradient and on the left there was also a smooth gradient from 10-3. I could see that the #2 block was ever so slightly lit but I could not read the number 2. Numbers 1 and presumably 0 I could not see at all.

I hope that answers your question. I'm curious, what exactly does that test tell you?
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Old 10-25-2012, 11:14 AM   #11
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The original problem was the black clipping where level 1 grey (RGB:1,1,1) starts too bright (it's more like RGB:27,27,27). What happens is you get these really ugly artifacts when you watch a dark Youtube video.

With ICS, Samsung sort of fixed the problem by crushing all the grey levels below a certain point to black. This made the artifacts in Youtube far less visible but you lose out details (since it's just black instead). This can be considered "fixed".


From your results, it sounds like the S3 has the same thing as the Note 1 on ICS. For the Note II, it sounds like the problem is mostly non-existent which is very good.

It's a really strange issue because not all of the original Notes have this problem (the white models in particular rarely have the problem). It's also hard to explain since screenshots can't show it (you need to take a real life photo in good conditions).


Thanks for taking the time to look at this.
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Old 10-25-2012, 11:22 AM   #12
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No, problem at all

So you are saying that the S3 has black crush and the Note II doesn't? Is that correct?

Also are you saying that this black crush issue is software related or is it the actual display? I guess what I'm trying to ask is if this black crush will go away when my S3 receives the Jelly Bean update?
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Old 10-25-2012, 11:26 AM   #13
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No, problem at all

So you are saying that the S3 has black crush and the Note II doesn't? Is that correct?

Also are you saying that this black crush issue is software related or is it the actual display? I guess what I'm trying to ask is if this black crush will go away when my S3 receives the Jelly Bean update?
It sounds like the S3 does have it (at least yours does =) while the Note II doesn't. Which isn't a huge deal as it's a much more minor issue compared to black clipping.

As for what the problem is caused by, that's a matter still up for debate. It's clear there's some software wiggle room since Samsung changed the behavior in ICS but that leads to the question why Samsung didn't just outright fix it if it's not some sort of hardware limitation (perhaps the SAMOLED controller has limited brightness levels?).

So it's rather unknown whether the JB update will fix it. It'll be interesting to see when JB comes to OTA.
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Old 10-25-2012, 11:34 AM   #14
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Tweet this thread @nerdtalker
I guess someone contacted Brian:
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Well Thursday is already off to an interesting start. Gotta re-measure the GNote2 display again.
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Old 10-25-2012, 11:56 AM   #15
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Yeah, that was me - or at least I was one of them.
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Old 10-25-2012, 02:02 PM   #16
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OP is correct, I noticed the same thing with my S3 while playing around with it.
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Old 10-25-2012, 02:19 PM   #17
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2. On the Galaxy S3, there is a brightness slider and a box that you can tick for "Auto" brightness. When you tick the auto box on the S3 the brightness slider disappears. However on the Note II the brightness slider will not disappear. This is because this new feature is allowing you to fine tune the the auto brightness.
Thanks for that, I just checked and it works that way on my S3 running JB, I hadn't noticed that feature.
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Old 10-25-2012, 03:53 PM   #18
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Ok so thanks for pinging me about this issue, I think it's always worth double checking especially if there's a discrepancy between what I'm seeing and what others have seen out there.

I'm always checking twitter (@nerdtalker) as well, if you want to get in touch instantly, that's the best way. I generally babysit the comments for a day or so after, but then it becomes difficult to know what's new (I think this is being addressed).

So to start, I always disable all of the auto brightness functionality and the smart dimmer functions, as these not only create a massive headache when doing the display characterization but also obviously affect the battery life tests which are run at exactly 200 nits. I'll take that opportunity to point out that most other sites are doing the 50% setting game which pretty much just penalizes brighter displays and creates garbage battery life testing data. As an aside, whether or not 200 nits is too bright for AMOLED or penalizes it despite the increased visual contrast is a whole other discussion, one that I'm still going back and forth with OEMs on. I'd like to just go to some contrast or modulation based definition, without getting too complicated. As I've seen in the past, 200 often is nearly 80-90 percent in the display brightness UI on most end shipping phones with AMOLED.

Anyhow I'm not above making mistakes, and this review was largely written in one nonstop 24 hour caffeine and manic-powered marathon run, so I re-measured the Galaxy Note 2. This is of course the T-Mobile device, which is all I have at the moment. I did this re-measurement using the i1 Display 2 and new X-rite i1 Display Pro we're going to standardize on which is much more performant/fast/accurate at blacks, in conjunction with Francois' awesome Voodoo Screen Test Patterns app. Now before you go a-ha! when you launch the app and see it set brightness to 50% on initial run, know that I know about this behavior and manually tapped 100% since we're interested in full-out performance here.

This first image is of HCFR using the original i1 Display 2, and shows 271.3 nits (cd/m^2), which is slightly brighter than the previous measurement, but nowhere near the 400 or so that GSMArena measured.


The second is of the new HCFR build which supports i1 Display Pro, and shows 253.03 nits, which is basically around the same / instrumentation error. I actually trust the i1 Display Pro more for various reasons and it has better filters, but we see here basically the same number.


Subjectively the Galaxy Note 2 on T-Mobile looks to be right around there as well, 250ish. Without sounding too full of myself I've gotten really good at ballparking display brightness (I can nail 200 nits +/- 5 by eye usually).

I also have a lot of gripes about the colorimeters in general. They're good approximations, but really I have a feeling purchasing a real OSA (optical spectrum analyzer) is in the cards eventually. I used to have daily access to a *real* 0.01nm $100k OSA but that's somewhat in the past now. Either way eventually I'd like to make the jump to a real grating OSA at some point instead of these meters with filters, or even the really basic prism ones you can buy for display work with 10nm resolution, but I digress...

So the question is to why this is different than the International Galaxy Note that GSMArena measured. I have a few theories:
  • Almost every time you see differences between international devices and devices that are carrier branded and headed for the USA, think carriers. Carriers dictate every setting, every nuance, every small seemingly inane thing in phones these days, which is part of why I harbor so much animosity for them. Why does the USA version of this phone shoot video at a lower bitrate or default of the box shooting 480p or 720p? Some carrier dictated it that way. Why does the Galaxy Note 2 ship with S-Beam and NFC turned off? (I'm not kidding, it's disabled on the T-Mo version, and I wonder what percentage of users will ever delve deep enough to enable this...) Carriers. Why are most of the defaults completely illogical things like that? Carriers. Why does the USA Note 2 ship without split screen? Carrier validation. So I suspect that the goal here was to keep the maximum brightness constrained in an effort to also set a workable lower bound for battery life, since display is still the largest driver of the battery life time you'll get. Auto brightness works within these bounds on Samsung devices, so there's a logical explanation in my mind for why you'd artificially set a lower upper bound than the international (un-messed-with) version.
  • I'm not a huge fan of GSMArena's test methodologies. I can't speak for their measurement standards or how they do things, since it isn't really very public, and honestly it isn't something I want to go dig around asking since really I just don't even want to know. I have however had stuff like this and other numbers come into question before about how their battery life tests diverge so wildly from ours, and went on a big rant on reddit r/android (I'm really not known there in an official capacity, and sometimes the stuff I see there just exceeds my laziness potential energy and forces a long rant) about how they're doing things like not setting displays to a given luminance value instead of brightness percentage in the UI. I also strongly suspect there is little consistency of operator, which in my own non-smartphone related research time in various research labs was always the single most infuriating source of noise. I ranted to a few of my fellow optics/physics friends about this lack of consistency of operator, and then being expected to turn around and produce results that match the nonsense. It's something even we struggle with, but generally Anand, Chris, Vivek, Jason and myself all are in sync using the same tools. Maybe the international note is 400 nits? Maybe it isn't. I'm skeptical. I'd believe one of the forum posters here with an i1 Display Pro and HCFR if I saw that.
  • Battery life, aging, and wear concerns related to AMOLED. Again I suspect this is just done to set an upper bound. We've shown in the past that AMOLED can go much, much brighter than even 400 nits. I actually measured SGS2 international at over 650 nits using some kernel hacks that set the maximum 255 value for everything which Francois (@supercurio) sent over back when we were hacking on that display a lot. The phone drained in minutes and quickly throttled display brightness as it overheated, but if you push AMOLED all the way it can go pretty crazy high. So really AMOLED continues to be constrained for burn-in, aging/wear, and battery life reasons, this is just an engineering trade-off, unlike LCD which is gated entirely by your backlight, and there aren't any reasons any OEM would really gate that.

Also one last thing, I left this out of the review for whatever reason (there are always things I'm forgetting to add in), but this: http://www.ignisinnovation.com/techn...o-p-technology is basically the Galaxy Note 2 / that generation of SAMOLED display tech. Scroll down to the subpixel matrix geometry photo, literally exactly what's in the Note 2. I suspect we'll see more of this. Not sure what that means for http://www.nouvoyance.com/ ...

Last edited by Brian Klug; 10-25-2012 at 04:09 PM. Reason: typos
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Old 03-20-2013, 06:19 AM   #19
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I unticked the "Auto adjust screen tone" function and with auto brightness on or off and brightness whacked up to 100% the whites on my N2 were still dull and creamy, unlike my SG1 where the whites are brilliant.

I sent the phone back and hope the replacement doesn't suffer the same screen.
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Old 03-20-2013, 02:46 PM   #20
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This thread is so sad. I'm surprised I missed it. The low brightness is expected of these OLED displays. Try to go higher and you end up ruining battery life and the pixels, destroying the display. Just leave it alone and be happy. Also, GSMArena is a bias site. I wouldn't trust their numbers...
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Old 03-20-2013, 05:55 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by ChronoReverse View Post
The original problem was the black clipping where level 1 grey (RGB:1,1,1) starts too bright (it's more like RGB:27,27,27). What happens is you get these really ugly artifacts when you watch a dark Youtube video.

With ICS, Samsung sort of fixed the problem by crushing all the grey levels below a certain point to black. This made the artifacts in Youtube far less visible but you lose out details (since it's just black instead). This can be considered "fixed".


From your results, it sounds like the S3 has the same thing as the Note 1 on ICS. For the Note II, it sounds like the problem is mostly non-existent which is very good.

It's a really strange issue because not all of the original Notes have this problem (the white models in particular rarely have the problem). It's also hard to explain since screenshots can't show it (you need to take a real life photo in good conditions).


Thanks for taking the time to look at this.
No problems seeing down to the #2 if the rooms dark on my SGS3 (international version) 4.1.2.

I can try and take a photo if you want?
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Old 03-20-2013, 05:57 PM   #22
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This thread is so sad. I'm surprised I missed it. The low brightness is expected of these OLED displays. Try to go higher and you end up ruining battery life and the pixels, destroying the display. Just leave it alone and be happy. Also, GSMArena is a bias site. I wouldn't trust their numbers...
I'm pretty surprised you missed it as well considering that you troll constantly about Samsung screens.

Also you have any evidence at all about the bolded?
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Old 03-20-2013, 06:16 PM   #23
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No problems seeing down to the #2 if the rooms dark on my SGS3 (international version) 4.1.2.

I can try and take a photo if you want?
No, your word is fine. It seems like I just had a bad stroke of luck in picking the Galaxy Note 1. The beta product in every conceivable way to the Galaxy Note 2.

However, it could easily be that Samsung adjust the levels and simply moved the black point (i.e., 2 is visible but brighter than it should be).

In any case, the GS3 isn't on the list of phones I'd be upgrading to anyway since the GS4 is announced.
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Old 03-20-2013, 06:34 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by ChronoReverse View Post
No, your word is fine. It seems like I just had a bad stroke of luck in picking the Galaxy Note 1. The beta product in every conceivable way to the Galaxy Note 2.

However, it could easily be that Samsung adjust the levels and simply moved the black point (i.e., 2 is visible but brighter than it should be).

In any case, the GS3 isn't on the list of phones I'd be upgrading to anyway since the GS4 is announced.
Its pretty hard to see the lower levels in a light (or even dim) room particularly if there's any bright areas on the screen.

Yeah, I'd pick the S4 over the S3 in a heartbeat.

Not sure I can justify an upgrade though.
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Old 03-20-2013, 10:48 PM   #25
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I'm pretty surprised you missed it as well considering that you troll constantly about Samsung screens.

Also you have any evidence at all about the bolded?
No backlight means each pixel has to work harder the more you increase the brightness. OLEDs displays have a shorter shelf-life than LCDs. Also, the brighter anything is the more energy is used...
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