If you’re looking for the Apple Watch with the best image quality and lower reflectance, one display expert says the Watch for you is the entry-level Apple Watch Sport. He says the costlier stainless steel and Edition models’ sapphire glass cover degrades the quality of the device’s OLED display.
In his detailed testing of the new Apple Watch display, Raymond Soneira of DisplayMate Technologies found that the scratch resistant sapphire found on the mid- and high-end Apple Watch models “significantly affects the optical performance” of the OLED display. Compared to traditional glass, the sapphire is said to perform poorly in high ambient light and at large viewing angles.
“In order to increase the use of sapphire for displays, the sapphire industry will need to modify the optical properties of sapphire without significantly affecting its scratch resistance and other mechanical properties,” Soneira writes. It can’t be done using traditional anti-reflection optical coatings which scratch easily.”
The entry-level Apple Watch Sport makes use of the same, cheaper “Ion-X” strengthened glass cover as the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.
Underneath the protective cover, whether it be Ion-X or sapphire glass, is the same OLED display panel, which earned high marks from Soneira. The expert notes the smaller Apple Watch screen has the same color calibration and accuracy as the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.
When compared to the Ion-X cover, the Sapphire glass display reflects about twice as much ambient light, reflecting about 8.2 percent of the light, compared to around 4.6 percent for the Ion-X glass.
Lesson learned here? If you’re going for style and the wow factor, you’ll likely want to lean towards the stainless steel and gold Edition models of the Watch. For plain old everyday readability, it’s the much cheaper Apple Watch Sport that delivers much more bang for the buck.