The twisted nematic effect was a breakthrough LCD technology that became dominant during the beginning around 1980 and throughout the 1990s. However, despite its popularity, specific TN LCD panels suffered from several limitations, and the disadvantages of TN display technology restricted the applications of LCD.
Nonetheless, the introduction of in-plane switching or IPS during the mid-1990s, and its mass popularity in the mid-2000s marked another breakthrough in LCD technology. IPS display technology has expanded the application of LCD to include high-definition television and computer monitors, as well as high-resolution screens for mobile devices.
This article lists and describes the advantages and disadvantages of in-plane switching display technology, thus also discussing the strengths and limitations or drawbacks of IPS LCD panels, and in comparison with other display technologies.
The Benefits: Advantages of IPS LCD Panels
1. Better Color Reproduction
One of the notable advantages of in-plane switching or IPS LCD panels over twisted nematic or TN LCD panels is color reproduction. This further translates to better color accuracy, improved overall image quality, and better viewing experience.
A typical TN panel only has either a 6-bit or 8-bit color depth. The number of possible colors and the level of gradient it can produce is limited. A conventional or low-end IPS also has the same color depths but more modern ones start at an 8-bit color depth.
Furthermore, although another type of LCD technology called virtual alignment or VA has a similar color depth, several manufacturers have introduced mid-range and high-end IPS panels with higher 16-bit to 24-bit RGB color depth.
Active-matrix organic light-emitting diode or AMOLED display technology is the closest competitor of IPS display technology. IPS still has better color accuracy between the two. AMOLED tends to produce images with high color saturation.
Nevertheless, when compared to other display technologies. IPD LCD produces more vibrant and realistic colors. This makes it ideal both for content consumption and in color-critical content creation applications such as photo and video editing.
2. Wider Viewing Angle
TN panels also suffer from a very limited viewing angle as demonstrated by poor off-axis image quality. The introduction of VA LCD technology tried to resolve this limitation but it still suffers from color shifts when viewed from a slightly different angle.
Nonetheless, a wider viewing angle is another advantage of in-plane switching over TN and VA technologies. This is true for typical IPS LCD panels. High-end IPS LCD panels have even wider viewing angles with no image distortion and minimal color shifts.
This advantage of IPS LCD is possible because it is capable of changing the physical behavior of the liquid crystal layer by making crystal molecules respond to the electric field in parallel to the TFT. This also results in better color reproduction.
A wider viewing angle means that devices such as smartphones can be held at various angles and eye levels. This advantage also means that television sets or computer monitors with IPS LCD panels offer a better visual experience than other LCD panels.
3. Better Outdoor Visibility
Colors and images on an IPS panel remain considerably more visible under bright outdoor lights or direct sunlight than other display technologies. This is an advantage of in-plane switching technology over TN and AMOLED display technologies.
It is important to note that LCD is a photo-emissive display technology that requires backlighting to make the color and images it produces visible. Electro-emissive display technologies such as OLED or AMOLED produce both light and color on their own.
The specific backlighting technologies or schemes for liquid crystal displays have improved over the years. Specific schemes such as quantum LED or QLED and mini-LED have improved the overall quality of panels based on LCD technology.
Note that TN suffers from poor visibility under direct sunlight because of its limited color depth. AMOLED has similar problems because of the absence of backlighting. IPS LCD panels can have better outdoor visibility with better backlighting.
4. Longer Lifespan
The emergence or development of dead pixels is an inherent issue affecting different LCD technologies. This means that the lifespan of IPS LCD panels cannot be generally compared to the lifespan of TN LCD panels or VA LCD panels.
Note that TN display technology is easier to implement and thus, TN panels are easier to produce. This further translates to more manufacturers producing TN panels, thereby increasing the tendency for low manufacturing standards.
Some manufacturers are also producing low-end TN LCD panels to meet demands for cheaper LCD. VA LCD panels and IPS LCD panels might have a longer lifespan than TN LCD panels. It is important to note that this can be an overstatement.
However, when compared to OLED or AMOLED technology, IPS technology provides a longer product lifespan. OLED is specifically more susceptible to pixel degradation or faster screen burn-ins and damages due to exposure to water.
The Drawbacks: Disadvantages of IPS LCD Panels
1. Limited Contrast Ratio
It is worth mentioning that in-plane switching LCD technology has a better contrast ratio than TN LCD panels because they have better color depth. However, in considering VA LCD and AMOLED display panels, IPS LCD panels fall short in comparison.
An LCD technology based on vertical alignment can effectively and more precisely block backlighting. This results in noticeable deeper blacks, brighter whites, and an overall higher contrast ratio compared to in-plane switching LCD technology.
OLED still has an incomparable contrast ratio. A specific AMOLED display panel can produce natural and deeper blacks. These blacks actually represent the absence of light and color. This results in an almost infinite contrast ratio.
An IPS LCD can still produce considerable levels of blacks but this is still dependent on backlighting. Conventional LED backlighting does not have efficient local dimming capabilities, unlike mini-LED backlighting technology.
2. Inefficient Power Consumption
Furthermore, when compared to both TN LCD panela and AMOLED display panels, another disadvantage of IPS LCD panels is power consumption. The technology inherently consumes more power and is less power efficient.
TN panels are suitable for battery-operated and low-powered devices. OLED or AMOLED has also been used in more modern devices in which battery life is a critical feature. OLED consumes less power because of the absence of backlighting.
A typical IPS LCD requires 15 percent more power than a TN panel. IPS technology is also dependent on strong backlighting to make colors and images visible to the users. OLED is the most efficient at consuming power among the three.
The aforementioned drawback means that consumer electronic devices featuring IPS LCD panels have more power requirements because of their higher power draw. This affects the energy efficiency rating and battery performance of these devices.
3. Slow Pixel Response Time
Other disadvantages of in-plane switching technology are slow pixel response time and a lower inherent refresh rate. Take note that the natural response time and refresh rate of IPS panels are slower and lower than TN or AMOLED panels.
A pixel response time is the duration it takes a single pixel to transition from one state to another. The refresh rate is the frequency at which the image is refreshed. A slow pixel response time and a low refresh rate create ghosting effects and motion blurs.
This limitation makes IPS LCD panels an unsuitable option for use in fast-paced applications such as competitive video gaming. TN technology has the fastest response time and higher refresh rates among existing LCD technologies.
It is important to note that manufacturers have LCD panels based on in-plane switching technology with faster pixel response times and higher refresh rates. These are more expensive than conventional IPS LCD panels and TN LCD panels.
4. Production Cost and Market Price
Manufacturing a particular IPS LCD panel is costlier than manufacturing a TN LCD panel because of the involved manufacturing complexities and the needed raw materials. These higher manufacturing costs result in higher prices for end consumers.
Entry-level laptops such as netbooks and inexpensive mobile phones such as feature phones are commonly equipped with TN panels. Devices equipped with IPS LCD panels are more expensive and those with high-end ones have higher price tags.
It is worth mentioning that AMOLED display panels are still more expensive than IPD LCD panels. High-end smartphones and television sets with premium pricing have now featured OLED technology because of its various advantages.
The arrival of quantum LED and mini-LED backlighting technologies have also improved the features of in-plane switching technology. However, compared with conventional IPS LCD panels, these technologies drive further the manufacturing cost.
Conclusion: Advantages and Disadvantages of IPS Panels
Based on the aforementioned pros and cons of IPS LCD panels, in-plane switching technology, and other LCD technologies such as twisted nematic and vertical alignment. The strengths or advantages of IPS LCD panels center on better color reproduction and image quality. These stem from having higher color depth, more accurate color reproduction wider viewing angle, and better visibility under direct sunlight.
Nonetheless, the drawbacks and disadvantages of IPS LCD panels make them unappealing to some extent. They are not as power efficient as TN LCD panels or AMOLED panels. They are not as inexpensive or as readily accessible as TN LCD panels as well. These disadvantages translate to the limited applications of in-plane switching technology when cost or price and power consumption are factored in.
It is important to underscore the fact that the arrival of newer technologies has helped in making IPS LCD panels still relevant. Quantum LED or QLED and mini-LED backlighting schemes have improved the color reproduction and overall image quality of equipped IPS LCD panels. Take note that mini-LED panels have qualities and advantages that can even rival OLED or AMOLED display panels.
FURTHER READINGS AND REFERENCES
- Aoki, N., Komura, S., Furuhashi, T., Adachi, M., Itou, O., Miyazawa, T., & Ohkura, M. 2007. Advanced IPS Technology for Mobile Applications. Journal of the Society for Information Display. 15(1), pp. 23-29. DOI: 10.1889/1.2451548.
- Kim, K. H. & Song, J. K. 2009. Technical Evolution of Liquid Crystal Displays. NPG Asia Materials. 1, pp. 29-36. DOI: 10.1038/asiamat.2009.3
- Kim, J. J., Park, E., & Sundar, S. S. 2012. IPS vs. AMOLED: Effects of Panel Type on Smartphone Users’ Viewing and Reading Experience. In eds. Park, J., Jin, Q., Sang-soo, Y. M., & Hu, B., Human Centric Technology and Service in Smart Space. DOI: 10.1007/978-94-007-5086-9_11