My iPhone 13's screen is so good, it's ruining my viewing habits – here's how

iPhone vs monitors
(Image credit: Ruben Circelli)

It's 11 PM on a Wednesday night. Work's done, dinner's been eaten, and I've already gamed for a couple hours. Now it's time to wind down. Should I check out HBO's The Last of Us show? It looks amazing, I loved the game, and Craig Mazin's work on Chernobyl was life-changing, but…

…my TV is irritatingly bright at the foot of my bed, and after all, it's just an LCD panel. Why not just kick back 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 – particularly tech that delivers a premium hi-fi or AV performance. So, it may surprise you to find that the prettiest, most feature-rich display I own is actually my iPhone.

And, despite lowly tech journalists not making the big bucks, that isn’t because I don’t invest in decent hardware. I do – especially on displays. I swear. Nonetheless, my iPhone reigns supreme, which is a problem that's led me to change up my viewing habits in ways I don't appreciate…

So, I review tech and my iPhone is my best display? What gives? 

Smartphone: Apple iPhone 13

(Image credit: Future)

I own an iPhone 13 Pro Max. This little puppy cost what I can only describe as a truly unholy sum of money, nearing $1500 in total. Already, my phone is worth more than every other display in my home, but there’s more to the story than just price.

What makes the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s display so grand? Well, you’re getting Apple’s Super Retina XDR Pro Motion display, an OLED panel, a 2778 x 1284 resolution with a pixel density of 458ppi, 120Hz, a 2,000,000:1 contrast ratio, and 1200 nits of max brightness with HDR. If you were looking for similar specification on a TV, you would likely be looking at spending thousands of dollars for the pleasure.

However, different devices are built to do different things, and thus different displays have different strengths. TVs, for example, excel at straight-up picture quality; but they often lack the response time and high framerate support of monitors. While monitors can have excellent latency and refresh rates, they often lack the picture quality and HDR performance we enjoy on top-end TVs.

Because of their smaller size and mixed-use cases, phones tend to combine the strengths of both TVs and monitors in the current market. After all, it's a lot easier to make a fantastic display when that display needs to span only a handful of inches in size. Accordingly, this is very much the case in my situation.

For example, I’m 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 find me using a 32-inch 3440 x 1440 IPS ultrawide monitor. My baby might have run me over a thousand US dollars, which is not cheap, but without HDR support of any kind and a relatively basic display technology, it’s just no comparison to my phone that manages to offer up the same 120Hz refresh rate with HDR and an OLED panel.

As a chap who works from home, of course, I do have a multi-monitor set-up. However, my basic 32-inch Samsung 4K/60Hz LED monitor and my 27-inch BenQ 144Hz/1080p monitor both fare even worse in comparison to my iPhone than my ultrawide monitor does. This once again reaffirms the iPhone’s status as the leader of the pack. My 4K monitor may have the edge in terms of pixel count, and my BenQ might have the edge in terms of latency and refresh rate, but practically speaking this doesn’t mean much.

My TV screen fares even worse in comparison with my phone’s. I haven’t bitten the bullet and bought myself an LG C2 just yet, but I do have a relatively modern, good-bang-for-your-buck set that supports 4K/HDR – a TCL Roku TV with a 60Hz LED panel and full-array local dimming. Again, though, it doesn't match the quality I get on my iPhone.

And that just about covers every device I own with a display, which leads us to the big point of this article - why is it such a bad thing for my iPhone to reign supreme?

Well, why shouldn’t the iPhone come out on top? 

Smartphone: Apple iPhone 14

(Image credit: Apple)

The iPhone does have a more premium display, but that doesn’t necessarily make for a better experience. Nor is it necessarily the best for my mental health to be using my phone as much as a TikTok creator.

Considering how powerful and well-equipped my phone is, and how it’s the best-looking display in my home, I find myself relying much more on it than I should. When I’m lying in bed, for example, I find my TV staring down at me, praying for me to turn it on and give the old boy some love. But, I often ignore its pleading cries and just cozy up with my phone.

The Last of Us, Alice in Borderlands' second season, and even now-ancient stuff like Master of None's third season or catching up on Attack on Titan all have fallen to the wayside, in part, because of how much time I spend scrolling through vertical videos or watching YouTube on my phone. I've built up this bad habit of doing that, in part, because of how expensive and nice my phone is compared with my other kit.

Nonetheless, I don't want to use my phone all the time. Every time audio is coming through the tiny speakers of my phone vs my beautiful Paradigm 15B bookshelf speakers, I can't help but feel like I'm missing out. Scrolling through my news feed on my phone feels like a waste when I've got all this screen real estate in front of me. 

It's great that mobile tech is so advanced, but if I'm going to be less tethered to my cellular device, an important part of that equation is putting my money where my mouth is and opting for better kit in terms of everything else, rather than spending on my phone. I don't think my desire for high-quality tech is going away, but the highest-quality tech I have can change.

I, for one, plan on doing better. I don't need a new phone anytime soon, and I've already taken the plunge and ordered myself my very first OLED monitor, the gigantic (AKA cinematic) BenQ EX480UZ outfitted with fantastic latency, pixel density, and even some genuine HDR10 support. This way, I can enjoy some high-end tech without all the guilt and the squinting.

Whatever tech you personally buy will, of course, depend on who you are as a person, but regardless of all that, do you really want to spend hour after hour staring at a phone? I know I don't, so I'm setting the phone down, resubscribing to HBO Max, and seeing if Pedro Pascal's acting in The Last of Us is as good as I remember it in Game of Thrones.


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Ruben Circelli

Ruben is a long-time freelance consumer technology and gaming journalist, and was previously a Staff Writer at What Hi-Fi?. Since 2014, Ruben has written news, reviews, features, guides, and everything in-between at a huge variety of outlets that include Lifewire, PCGamesN, GamesRadar+, TheGamer, Twinfinite, and many more. Ruben's a dedicated gamer, tech nerd, and the kind of person who misses physical media. In his spare time, you can find Ruben cooking something delicious or, more likely, lying in bed consuming content.