How Galaxy S8’s 5.8” screen is smaller than Pixel XL’s 5.5” screen


Samsung and LG’s latest smartphone offerings both emphasised their “bezel-less” displays – large screens in phones with small fingerprint. Samsung S8 has an advertised 5.8” display and the S8+ has a mind-boggling 6.3” screen, both able to fit in devices that aren’t the size of small tablets. LG G6 offers a slightly smaller 5.7” screen within a very similar body size to the S8. This has been achieved by 2 ways: firstly reducing the bezels as much as possible; secondly by changing the display aspect ratio to 18.5:9 (or more conveniently read 2:1). In contrast, majority of modern smartphones have an aspect ratio of 16:9.

But are they actually bigger screens in a smaller body?

Screen sizes have always been measured diagonally, from corner to corner, called the hypotenuse in mathematics. This is the case with TV screens, mobile phone screens, car navigation screens; basically any rectangular or square screen in the world. What it does not represent is the actual surface area of the screen. So this is what we’ll be looking at today.

Phone Galaxy S8 Galaxy S8+ LG G6 Pixel Pixel XL
Dimensions 5.86 x 2.68 6.28 x 2.89 5.86 x 2.83 5.66 x 2.74 6.09 x 2.98
Surface area 15.705 sq in 18.149 sq in 16.564 sq in 15.508 sq in 18.148 sq in
Advertised screen size 5.8” 6.3” 5.7” 5.0” 5.5”
Aspect ratio 18.5:9 18.5:9 18.5:9 19:6 19:6
Screen surface area 12.868 sq in 15.183 sq in 12.429 sq in 10.683 sq in 12.926 sq in
Screen-to-body ratio 81.94% 83.66% 74.95% 68.92% 71.22%

As you can see the Galaxy S8’s 5.8” screen actually has less real-estate screen compared to Pixel XL’s 5.5” (12.868 VS 12.9926 This is because of the difference in aspect ratio. In fact, any 18.5:9 ratio screen would have less real-state screen compared to its 16:9 counterpart.

The total surface area for a 18.5:9 screen is 0.3825x2 (where x is the diagonal measurement in inches). This is compared to 0.4273x2 for a screen with 16:9 aspect ratio. So in short, a 16:9 screen will have approx 12% more real-estate than its 18.5:9 counterpart of the same diagonal measurement.

In summary, Samsung and LG have done a brilliant job in reducing the bezels around the screen and thus have a higher screen-to-body ratio. However, the switch to 18.5:9 ratio allows them to boast a larger diagonal screen size without an increase in the real-estate screen size, and could be seen as a marketing trick. This is in addition to all the other drawbacks of the 18.5:9 ratio screens, such a black bars, hard to reach the top-heavy UX of Android, and lack of content.

You can find the actual math/calculations here and here.

Leave your comments below about what you think about 18.5:9 aspect ratio, and whether the diagonal measurement should no longer be used.


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