It’s 11:00 PM on Wednesday night. The work is done, dinner is eaten and I have already played for a few hours. Now it’s time to relax. Should I watch HBOs The last of us show? It looks great, I loved the game and Craig Mazin’s work Chernobyl was life changing, but…
…my TV is annoyingly bright at the foot of my bed, and it’s just an LCD screen after all. Why not just relax with my much more expensive, much nicer OLED iPhone 13 and put on a random YouTube video instead?
I spend my days (and nights) living and breathing technology – especially technology that delivers high-end hi-fi or AV performance. So you might be surprised to learn that the most beautiful, most versatile screen I own is actually my iPhone.
And while simple tech journalists don’t make a lot of money, it’s not because I don’t invest in decent hardware. I do – especially on displays. I swear. Nevertheless, my iPhone reigns supreme, which is a problem that has led me to change my viewing habits in ways I don’t appreciate…
So I review technology and my iPhone is my best screen? What gives?
I have an iPhone 13 Pro Max. This little puppy cost what I can only describe as a truly unholy sum of money, almost $1500 in total. My phone is already worth more than any screen in my house, but there’s more to it than just the price.
What makes the iPhone 13 Pro Max screen so great? Well, you get Apple’s Super Retina XDR Pro Motion display, an OLED panel, a resolution of 2778 x 1284 with a pixel density of 458ppi, 120 Hz, a contrast ratio of 2,000,000:1 and 1200 nits of maximum brightness with HDR. If you were looking for similar specs on a TV, you’d probably want to shell out thousands of dollars for the fun.
However, different devices are built to do different things, which is why different displays have different strengths. For example, TVs excel in pure picture quality; but they often lack the response time and high frame rate support of monitors. While monitors can have excellent latency and refresh rates, they often lack the image quality and HDR performance we enjoy on top-end TVs.
Due to their smaller size and mixed-use cases, phones tend to combine the strengths of both TVs and monitors in today’s market. After all, it’s a lot easier to make a great screen when that screen only needs to be a few inches. This is very much the case in my situation.
For example, I am a big gamer. A console gamer for sure – I love my PlayStation 5 – but I’m primarily a PC gamer, so you’ll most often see me with a 32-inch 3440 x 1440 IPS ultrawide monitor. My baby may have set me back over a thousand dollars, which isn’t cheap, but without any sort of HDR support and a relatively basic display technology, it just doesn’t compare to my phone managing to offer the same 120Hz refresh rate with HDR and an OLED panel.
As a guy who works at home, I do of course have a setup with multiple monitors. However, my standard 32-inch Samsung 4K/60Hz LED monitor and my 27-inch BenQ 144Hz/1080p monitor both fare even worse compared to my iPhone than my ultrawide monitor. This once again confirms the iPhone’s status as the leader of the pack. My 4K monitor might have an edge in pixel count, and my BenQ might have an edge in latency and refresh rate, but it doesn’t mean much in practice.
My TV screen is even worse compared to my phone’s. I haven’t bitten the bullet yet and bought myself an LG C2, but I do have a relatively modern, value-for-money set that supports 4K/HDR – a TCL Roku TV with a 60Hz LED panel and full- array local dimming. But again, it doesn’t match the quality I get on my iPhone.
And that includes just about every device I own with a display, which leads us to the main point of this article: Why is it so bad that my iPhone reigns supreme?
Well, why shouldn’t the iPhone come out on top?
The iPhone does have a premium screen, but that doesn’t necessarily make for a better experience. It’s also not necessarily best for my mental health to use my phone as much as a TikTok creator.
Considering how powerful and well-featured my phone is, and how it’s the most beautiful screen in my house, I find myself relying on it a lot more than I should. For example, when I’m in bed, I find my TV looking down at me and pray that I turn it on and give the old boy some love. But I often ignore his pleading cries and just cozy up with my phone.
The last of us, Alice in Borderlands’ second season, and even now old things like Master of nothing third season or catch up Attack on Titan they’ve all fallen to the wayside, in part due to the amount of time I spend scrolling through vertical videos or watching YouTube on my phone. I’ve built up this bad habit of doing that, partly because of how expensive and beautiful my phone is compared to my other kit.
Still, I don’t want to use my phone all the time. Whenever audio comes through my phone’s tiny speakers versus my gorgeous Paradigm 15B bookshelf speakers, I feel like I’m missing something. Scrolling through my news feed on my phone feels like a waste when I have all this screen real estate in front of me.
It’s great that mobile technology is so advanced, but if I want to be less tied to my mobile device, an important part of that equation is to keep my mouth shut and opt for better gear in terms of everything else, rather than on spend my phone. I don’t think my desire for high technology will go away, but the highest quality technology I have can change.
For example, I plan to do better. I don’t need a new phone any time soon, and I’ve already taken the plunge and ordered my very first OLED monitor, the giant (AKA cinematic) BenQ EX480UZ equipped with fantastic latency, pixel density and even true HDR10 support. This way I can enjoy high-end technology without all the guilt and squinting.
Whichever tech you personally buy depends on who you are as a person, of course, but do you really want to stare at a phone for hours on end anyway? I know I don’t, so I’ll put the phone down, resubscribe to HBO Max and see if Pedro Pascal steps in The last of us is as good as I remember it Game of Thrones.
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