Are all Samsung 4K laptop panels junk?

Discussion in 'Hardware Components and Aftermarket Upgrades' started by Khenglish, Feb 6, 2021.

  1. Khenglish

    Khenglish Notebook Deity

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    So wanting a mobile but very functional laptop yesterday I ordered an ASUS Q538EL, and today I returned it.

    The LCD which reviews had stated was great was just flat out deplorable as far as 4K panels go. The panel in it is the 4K OLED Samsung ATNA56WR15-0 (also known as the SDC4143). This panel is also found in the HP Spectre x360 series. I kept reading reviews on how bright and high contrast it is, only to think "wtf is wrong with the screen" seconds after powering the laptop on.

    I mean I get that all 60 Hz 1080P screens are budget garbage with horrible contrast, brightness, and are almost all 6-bit with dithering and banding issues. Any 4K screen has a mild effort put into it and the worst 4K screen will blow away any 1080P screen in color and brightness that's not a 144Hz gaming model, so when a reviewer gets two laptops of the same model with different screens, the 4K immediately looks relatively great.

    I've used the 4 following 4K 15" screens (despite all screens being labeled as 15.6", all modern screens are smaller by .1-.2"):

    Sharp LQ156D1JX01B (this is the IGZO model)
    Samsung LTN156FL02-001
    Samsung ATNA56WR15-0
    AUO B156ZAN03.2

    Of these 4 models I can't say how disappointed I was with the main brand Samsung and Sharp displays, with the name AUO that no one knows of blowing them all away.


    Sharp LQ156D1JX01B

    330 nits brightness
    1000:1 contrast
    RGB strip pixels (true 4K)
    8 bit color
    True 15.6"

    With these specs the Sharp sounds like a great display, but it's not. It lacked strong enough drivers to properly create a display image. It only displayed the color red correctly. Blue and green only looked correct on the right side of the screen. As you looked left the pixels got progressively smaller, with obvious black lines between rows at the far left edge. If there was a bright color in one section of the screen, to the left of that image all pixels of that color would be darkened to the screen edge.

    The overall color and contrast was good, just on one side of the screen...

    Samsung LTN156FL02-001

    270 nits brightness
    700:1 contrast
    Pentile pixels (correct 2160 rows vertical, but only 3K horizontal)
    6 bit color
    true 15.6"

    This is the first 4K panel I got to work, even though at one point I tried powering it on with the LCD cable wired backwards (this resulted in one section of its pcb always running hot and needing a makeshift heatsink to avoid the panel turning off under high brightness). Despite being 6-bit the color on it was pretty good, with it difficult to find any banding or flickering issues. The pentile pixels were apparent but not too distracting. In games it was hard to notice, but in text I would see faint short barbs sticking out, as pentile has subpixels shared between rows and just isn't good as displaying straight lines. Sharpness was still much closer to that of a true 4K than that of a 1080p screen.

    Overall I would have been fine with the screen as long as I hadn't partially blown it up so that it would overheat and turn off.


    Samsung ATNA56WR15-0

    Only 15.5"
    6 bit color
    Pentile pixels (not really 4K)

    I can't find any specs on this screen other than reviews from the HP Spectre x360 15 and ASUS Q538EL saying that it's beautiful, which unfortunately I thought were true. Compared to the Samsung LTN156FL02 it was roughly equal in color quality, but contrast is better with much higher brightness. Being 6-bit was much more obvious, with flickering visible immediately on the desktop background after first starting it. While being a minor issue on the other Samsung, the pentile pixels on this were absolutely horrific. With the windows 10 setup screens I was immediately wondering wtf was wrong with the display. I saw thousands of dark dots in a grid all over the screen. If I moved a foot back the screen looked fine, but when I sat normally it just looked terrible.

    I have 20/10 vision so I would think that most people wouldn't notice this, but for me this screen was entirely unbearable and I returned the laptop an hour after receiving it.


    AUO B156ZAN03.2

    400 nit brightness (I have to turn it down even during the day while indoors)
    1200:1 contrast
    RGB pixels (true 4K)
    8 bit color
    Only 15.5"

    This isn't even AUO's top screen (they have a 120Hz model) but it destroys everything else I've tried. it has the fullest pixels of any display, where I can't see a border to the pixels no matter how close I put my face to the screen. As expected from the 1200:1 rating the contrast is astounding. The color is astounding. Everything about this screen other than response time is phenomenal. There is a blacklight blemish on the lower left edge though, with two small white bright spots shining through.

    My only issue with the screen is I ordered the 120Hz model and got this 60 Hz screen instead.

    Here's a comparison image of the AUO vs the awful Samsung display. You can see the Samsung pixels all have a visible border when zoomed (not visible to me sitting normally) while the AUO only shows slight column boundaries. The dark spot grid is visible in this image on the Samsung. To my eye the dots in the Samsung were even worse than this image shows. While the AUO color is better I think the slight red on the Samsung image is the phone camera's fault. AUO has made some junk screen-door 1080p displays, but this panel is not one of them.

    4K_compare.jpg

    Other than the screen I was impressed with the Q538EL. Anyone else wants another $500 for the same specs it offered. I think the image above shows why I could not stand its horrible screen. If I could find out if the eDP connector was .4mm or .5mm pitch and I could get hold of a digitizer I'd buy that laptop again and swap out the horrible screen. In Best Buy I saw an HP Spectre x360 15" with the same exact pentile pattern garbage, so I knew my display wasn't just defective.

    I mainly wanted to rant after having to return the laptop today and I thank whoever made it this far. I hope my ranting provided useful knowledge to people to help pick out screens.
     
    tilleroftheearth likes this.
  2. Raidriar

    Raidriar ლ(ಠ益ಠლ)

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    Can’t say anything about 4K laptop panels, but at least for FHD, I prefer AUO these days too.

    Samsung used to make some very nice panels (RGBLED for M17x R2 in 2010, M18x panel with full SRGB coverage in 2011, SuperPLS display in the Alienware 18 in 2013) but their more recent offerings have fallen flat.

    The FHD AUO panels in the Razer Blade Pro 17 (2017) and in my current Razer Blade 15 Advanced are beautiful, fast, accurate, bright panels
     
  3. Khenglish

    Khenglish Notebook Deity

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    I have found the RGB coverage claims to be mostly meaningless. I have seen 60% or 72% color screens have much better looking color than 95% screens. Having a wide range of color doesn't matter if the color is just wrong.
     
  4. Tech Junky

    Tech Junky Notebook Evangelist

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    I think most of the time unless you're dropping $3K+ you're going to get slighted on the panel unless you shop around for specific panels in specific laptops.

    I went 4K w/ a BOE after figuring out the polarization on the LG panel was off by 45 degrees. Another thing to check w/ polarized lenses when looking at panels. If it's not clear then it's off angle and going to cause you more eye issues / headaches.

    At this point I would just buy a laptop with the HW specs w/o worrying about the display as much and just shop for a panel after the HW meets requirements. Typical panel replacement will take 15-30 minutes and cost ~$150 and you'll have what you want for the next few years instead of the mass marketed junk that comes in the box.
     
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  5. Khenglish

    Khenglish Notebook Deity

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    Yeah that seems to be the case. The difficulty here is that the panel is touch and has a digitizer glued on. Thinking about it though, I think I can evenly heat the LCD assembly on my IR heater for my BGA station, and squeeze electric motor wire (very thin & strong) between the digitizer and pry off the LCD while preserving the digitizer (the digitizer is tougher than the LCD and the LCD breaks first). If I am wrong though then I have a fairly expensive 2 in 1 laptop that doesn't have a digitizer, and a floating LCD that isn't secured in the assembly.
     
  6. Tech Junky

    Tech Junky Notebook Evangelist

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    You didn't mention touchscreen before.

    In the case of a touchscreen it's probably easier to buy a complete screen assembly with everything in place and just bolt it on in place of the original.
     
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