Samsung's new Galaxy Tab S tablet looks different. As soon as I turned on the screen, I noticed that the colors are stunning and vivid. Red looks redder, and greens are greener. The lawn and the trees in "Ghostbusters" look alive, as does a purple-tinted apparition.
The Tab S is also thinner than other leading tablets, at a quarter of an inch (6.6 millimeters). The model with the smaller screen is lighter, too.
Samsung Electronics Co. achieves all this by using a display technology previously limited to smartphones. It's called AMOLED, for active-matrix organic light-emitting diodes. Samsung released an AMOLED tablet in 2012, but it was expensive and didn't sell well. The new ones are priced more competitively -- the same as iPads of comparable size.
The Tab S with an 8.4-inch screen, measured diagonally, costs $400, while a 10.5-inch version costs $500. Both start selling in the U.S. on Friday.
AMOLED screens are more expensive than conventional LCD screens, but they produce richer colors. They also require no backlighting because the individual pixels produce their own light. That eliminates at least one layer of material and contributes to thinness.
No backlighting means the screen is able to produce a true black. On LCD screens, black isn't really black, but more like a patch of night sky with a hint of light from nearby stars. These differences are subtle, but noticeable once you place a Tab S next to Apple's iPad and Amazon's Kindle Fire HDX. True black means deeper contrasts in video and photos.
No backlighting also saves power, at least for darker images. On the other hand, AMOLED screens tend to need more energy to match the brightness on conventional displays. So images with a lot of white and bright colors might actually drain the battery faster.
On the 10.5-inch model, the battery level drained to 80 percent after displaying a mostly white Web page for two hours. By contrast, it drained to just 92 percent with a mostly black Web page. On the iPad Air, it was down to about 88 percent in both cases. Nonetheless, battery life on the Tab S is impressive -- more than 12 hours of streaming video on Hulu with the large version and more than 11 with the small one. That's comparable to what I get on iPads.
AMOLED screens have a few other drawbacks besides uneven power consumption:
-- As much as I like the rich colors, they can sometimes look unnatural. Caucasian faces sometimes look too orange, for instance. (continued...)
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