I have an update (a long one). I've tested several screens in different setups:
- Macbook pro 13 2015
- Ipad Pro 10.5 (2017)
- Iphone 8 plus
- Dell e5480
- Asus ZenPad S 8.0
- HTC 10
I've tried recording microscope view on all of them with iPhone 8 plus (240 fps) or HTC 10 (120fps). HTC 10 seems to catch flickers better so I finally used it instead of iPhone 8+ (I only checked HTC 10 with iPhone's camera).
Test consisted of running HTML page with a JS script that started with color shades of higher brightness going down to lower values. At first I started with 255 (highest) value for Red, Green and Blue and was going down to 0, but then noticed that most interesting part is between 100 and 0, so I started there and went down in increments of 20.
To give you some input - here's how I perceive (and rate) all the above screens:
- Macbook pro 13 - (3/10) father of all the eye strain, can't use it anymore for longer periods
- Ipad pro 10.5 - (8/10) I couldn't use it for a long time when Macbook pro 13 was in action, but now it's fine, I don't get strain with it, just minor tiredness from using a screen
- Iphone 8+ - (6/10?) it's my wife's phone, so I don't use it often, at first it seems nice, but after some time it has some hints of straining features (screen to sharp, some brightness issues, etc.)
- Dell e5480 - (4/10) I can use it for a while, but it's generally straining my eyes, not to the level of Macbook, but still unusable
- Asus Zenpad S 8 - (6/10) medium strain after longer usage, ok for shorter sessions
- HTC 10 - (8/10) same as Ipad pro 10.5 - I wish all the screens I have were of the same quality. No strain, apart from standard tiredness after long sessions
Now let's dive into results:
- Macboook pro 13 - obvious flickering on subpixel level for many color shades / steps of brightness
- Ipad pro 10.5 - no noticeable flickers, maybe a little bit at lower brightness, but not as aggressive as these of MBP 13 (by the way - it has a little bit different shape of subpixels - they look a little bit like half-moon)
- Iphone 8+ - it flickers on lower brightness levels, a little better than MBP 13
- Dell e5480 - it flickers similarly to MBP 13, on top of that it has PWM on everything below 100%, so it's a double winner 😃
- Asus Zenpad S 8 - flicker on lower brightness levels, didn't seem to be so aggressive
- HTC 10 - no noticeable flicker, maybe a little bit at the lowest setting (a different layout of subpixels - they're formed into "stairs", not standard vertical lines)
As you can see, only HTC 10 and Ipad 10.5 didn't produce obvious flicker on these tests and it matches my feelings about them - they're the only 2 screens I can use on daily basis, other ones (apart from Iphone) are worse.
Below you'll find the video with examples of different screens - at first it's just red subpixel part (red and green subpixels proved to reveal flicker the best) and then as a bonus I made a video of webpage browsing on my Macbook, which also shows different flickers (this time not isolated to just one color).
As usual - open it up in full screen as flickering is more obvious then.
I'm not sure if it's actually FRC or dithering there, but at least it proves that, even when not clearly visible, there's a hell lot of flicker on our screens.
Another important thing is relation between screens that are bearable for me and these who don't seem to flicker. I just don't know how to test these screens at shops, I won't be able to put them under the microscope 😉