Smartphones vs. laptops: Of mice and... touchscreens

GSMArena team, 10 May 2013.

Screen comparison

One of the areas to benefit the most from the turbo-powered smartphone evolution lately is undoubtedly display quality. While the the early day smartphones had screens of similar quality to those of their laptop peers, now the two are usually miles apart.

It's telling that at this moment there are probably more 1080p smartphones in the market than there are laptops (not counting the huge 17+ inch work stations). Smartphones have also been enjoying the unrivaled contrast and punchy colors of AMOLED screens for a while now, while laptops are still waiting on the sidelines.

So even though the Lenovo Yoga 13's IPS capacitive touchscreen of 1600x900 is pretty good for a laptop, it's no match for the 441 ppi AMOLED of the Galaxy S4 or the 469 Super LCD3 of the HTC One. Of course the Yoga trumps them both with its sheer size, but its image quality is simply no match for those beasts.

Neither the contrast, nor the viewing angles or the 133ppi of the Yoga can hold a candle to what are certainly the two best screens in the smartphone market. There's just none of that high-end vibe and the paper-like look to be found in the laptop world at that point.

Of course we should keep in mind that the user interface of the Windows 8 OS doesn't scale very nicely at densities beyond that of the Yoga, so it's not all about investing more money in the hardware here. 1080p on a 13" Windows machine is okay, when you're in Modern UI or the apps designed specifically for it, but it can be a problem for productive tasks in Desktop mode. Once again it's the legacy software that's holding the laptops back.

A cool feat of the Samsung Galaxy S4 screen is that even if you are not a fan of the oversaturated look of AMOLEDs, you have the option to tune the saturation down for a natural look and enjoy the best of both worlds. There's a dedicated Adobe RGB setting that sees to it. Laptops are no strangers to color profiles but their screens more often than not simply lack the kind of quality hardware to be able to perform well in both scenarios.

We ran our traditional contrast ratio test on the Lenovo Yoga 13 and here are the results.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Samsung I9505 Galaxy S4 0 201 0 404
HTC One 0.13 205 1580 0.42 647 1541
Lenovo Yoga 13 - 0.32 352 1092

There's also the matter of sunlight legibility, where the smartphones score another point. The Galaxy S4 does greatly in bright sunlight and HTC One is not half bad either. The Yoga is good for the ultrabook class, but can't quite match the low reflectivity of those two and its inferior brightness certainly doesn't help either.

Performance

In general, laptops and smartphones have very different platforms and hardware, so evaluating their performance can be a bit tricky. Still we found a few cross-platform benchmarks that should give us a good idea of their relative standing.

As luck would have it the first two of those coincide with the most use case for both personal computers and smartphones - web browsing.

First is SunSpider, which measures JavaScript performance. The Lenovo Yoga 13 running Internet Explorer 10 monstered the Galaxy S4 scoring much better here, although we have to mention that JavaScript is single-threaded, which means the two extra cores of the Samsung flagship don't help it at all here.

SunSpider

Lower is better

  • Lenovo Yoga 13
    143
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 (Octa)
    804
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 (S600)
    810

Moving on to BrowserMark 2, which is a suite of tests including JavaScript and HTML5-rendering. Here, the gap between the Yoga 13 and Galaxy S4 was much smaller to the point of being hard to notice in real life.

BrowserMark 2

Higher is better

  • Lenovo Yoga 13
    3410
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 (Octa)
    2710
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 (S600)
    2580

Of course speed isn't everything when it comes to web browsing as things like a larger screen and full Flash support still count in favor of the Yoga. Still, that's hardly the point here.

Lastly, we ran GeekBench 2, which is a cross-platform benchmark, which allows us to compare the overall Galaxy Samsung Galaxy S4 performance (CPU, GPU and memory) against the Lenovo Yoga 13. The powerful Intel Core i5 naturally came out on top here, but the difference is less than two-fold.

Geekbench 2

Higher is better

  • Lenovo Yoga 13
    5001
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 (Octa)
    3324
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 (S600)
    3227

The ultrabook beat the smartphone in all tests and we wouldn't expect anything less, but the margin of its victory is way smaller than we though. The JavaScript test aside (which favors per-core performance over number of cores and where devices are often to perform by their manufacturers), the other two produced a difference of under two times and we'd certainly call that a win for the smartphone camp.