Comparison between IPS vs AMOLED display technologies

Comparison: IPS LCD vs AMOLED Display Technologies

In-plane switching or IPS and active-matrix organic light-emitting diode or AMOLED are two of the most in-demand electronic display technologies of today. Both IPS panels and AMOLED panels have been featured in an array of consumer electronic devices such as televisions and monitors, smartphones, tablet computers, and wearable technologies.

Apple has used IPS LCD panels under the Liquid Retina branding across a range of flagship products including the iMac and MacBook lines of desktop and laptop computers, the iPod and the iPhone, the iPad line of tablet computers, and the Apple Watch. Samsung uses AMOLED panels in its premium products including the Galaxy Tab S series of tablet computers and the Galaxy A and Galaxy S lines of mid-range and flagship smartphones.

Nevertheless, between the two display technologies, AMOLED is the more recent tech, and its application has further progressed toward low-power and large-size display applications. IPS LCD remains a feasible contender because of its defining advantages over AMOLED and the emergence of complementary technologies such as the mini-LED backlighting scheme and quantum LED or QLED backlighting technology.

This article compares and contrasts IPS display panels and AMOLED display panels based on eight key characteristics: color reproduction and color accuracy, viewing angle, contrast ratio, brightness and outdoor visibility, response time or screen responsiveness, power consumption and power efficiency, lifespan, and innovative applications.

A Look Into the Difference Between IPS LCD and AMOLED: Which Display Technology is Better

1. Color Reproduction and Color Accuracy

There is no drastic difference between IPS and AMOLED in terms of color reproduction and color accuracy. Both in-plane switching or IPS LCD panels and AMOLED display panels produce more vivid colors than other display technologies such as older LCD technologies to include twisted nematic effect and vertical alignment technologies.

Furthermore, depending on the manufacturers and hardware specifications, both IPS and AMOLED technologies are capable of 16-bit to 32-bit RGB color depth. This means that there are IPS and AMOLED panels that can produce millions to billions of colors.

It is still important to note that some AMOLED display panels tend to produce unnatural or oversaturated colors. This phenomenon has been observed in Samsung devices and has something to do with color calibration during production. High-end IPS LCD panels tend to produce more accurate colors when compared to AMOLED panels.

Remember that color accuracy is important in certain use cases in which color is critical. It is in this regard that IPS technology is a preferable display option to AMOLED technology in color-critical applications such as photo editing, graphics design, and video editing.

2. Viewing Angle or Viewing Cone

Another similarity between IPS and AMOLED is a wide viewing angle or wide viewing cone. This means that both display technologies are able to demonstrate a respectable off-axis image quality. Color and images specifically appear relatively the same in either an IPS LCD panel or an AMOLED display panel when viewed from different angles.

Take note that display panels with narrow viewing cones create color shifts or duller and darker colors and brightness when viewed from an angle other than a straight-up 90-degree angle. These problems are inherent in twisted nematic or TN LCD panels.

It is still imperative to underscore the fact that a side-by-side comparison of an IPS panel and an AMOLED panel would reveal that the latter has a better viewing angle. IPS panels are still prone to slight color shifts. This is true for low-end IPS panels. The discrepancy between the two display technologies is still considerably negligible.

3. Contrast Ratio

The ratio between the luminance of the brightest color and that of the darkest color or, in other words, the difference between the brightest whites and the darkest blacks is called the contrast ratio. This is one of the characteristics when looking for a high-quality display panel. Those with a higher contrast ratio tend to produce deeper blacks and clearer overall images.

AMOLED panels have naturally higher contrast ratios than IPS panels. This is because the blacks in a particular AMOLED screen are actually unused pixels and technically represent the absence of light. This results in deeper and more natural blacks than IPS.

The whites in AMOLED panels are also more natural because IPS and other LCD technologies are prone to producing whites with a slight hint of blue colors due to the backlighting. Note that IPS panels have brighter whites though and some AMOLED panels can produce whites with blue tints. These discrepancies are a product of varied hardware specifications.

IPS panels still have whites brighter. However, when it comes to blacks, IPS LCD technology cannot produce deep or natural ones, unlike OLED technology. This is because an LCD panel still requires backlighting for the other colors and images to be visible.

Deeper and more natural blacks are better suited for viewing photos and watching videos because they represent more realistic images and provide better viewing and visual experience. AMOLED technology theoretically has an infinite contrast ratio with advanced panels having a 2000000:1 ratio while IPS panels have a 1000:1 to 10000:1 ratio.

4. Brightness and Outdoor Visibility

Another notable difference between IPS and AMOLED is their brightness and visibility. Both technologies produce considerably bright colors indoors or under ambient lighting conditions. However, when used outdoors, especially under bright sunlight a side-by-side comparison of IPS panel and AMOLED panel would reveal that the former has better visibility.

One of the drawbacks of AMOLED is its poor visibility when viewed under direct sunlight. This comes from the fact that it does not use backlighting because light comes from organic diodes themselves. Some AMOLED panels are hardly viewable under this condition.

An AMOLED panel has a reduced maximum brightness when compared against an IPS panel. In-plane switching uses backlighting to make colors and images visible. A typical IPS LCD panel is brighter and more viewable outdoors than a typical AMOLED panel.

Manufacturers of high-end AMOLED panels have implemented several workarounds to improve brightness. These include reducing the gaps between layers of the display to improve opacity and applying a special coating to lessen external reflectivity. Note that low-end IPS displays have poorer brightness and outdoor visibility than high-end AMOLED panels.

5. Response Time

In-plane switching technology inherently suffers from slow pixel response time when compared to TN LCD technology. Moreover, when compared against AMOLED display technology, IPS technology also lags behind in terms of pixel response time.

AMOLED panels have faster pixel response due to the simpler mechanism of producing pixels or colors. A typical AMOLED panel can have a response time of 1 ms while a typical IPS panel has a response time of around 1000 ms to 2000 ms.

Figures for refresh rates can be different between the two technologies depending on hardware specifications. AMOLED screens in smartphones have featured a 120 Hz refresh rate while several IPS monitors have refresh rates as high as 600 Hz.

6. Power Consumption

AMOLED panels are generally more energy-efficient than IPS panels. The blacks do not consume power and darker colors consume less power than whites and brighter colors. Power consumption in an in-plane switching technology is constant regardless of what color or set of colors and images are being displayed.

In addition, unlike IPS LCD and other LCD technologies, an AMOLED panel does not require backlighting for colors to become visible. Each of its organic diodes emits light without generating too much heat. This characteristic translates to energy saving due to the absence of backlighting and lesser energy loss from heat.

The efficiency of AMOLED is still dependent on use cases because power consumption is uneven. Images with mostly whites or bright colors might consume around 0.7 watts while images with mostly blacks and dark colors might consume around 0.3 watts. A typical IPS panel will consume a constant 0.35 watts regardless.

7. Lifespan or Longevity

One of the notable reasons why in-plane switching LCD technology has been regarded as superior to AMOLED display technology is lifespan. AMOLED panels are more prone to screen burn-ins and overall color degradation.

AMOLED panels used in high-end smartphones can last for less than two to three years before obvious signs of degradation appear. Blue-producing diodes fade faster than reds and greens. This results in reduced brightness, color shifts, and noticeable burn-in over time.

An IPS panel is still susceptible to dead pixels. However, when factoring in longevity, its life span is considerably longer than an AMOLED panel. A high-quality IPS LCD panel can last from 8 to 10 years without showing noticeable signs of degradation.

The organic materials in an AMOLED panel are also susceptible to water damage unlike the inorganic crystalline found in an IPS panel. Submerging an AMOLED panel in water will immediately result in screen burn-ins and dead pixels.

8. Innovative Applications

Wider innovative application is a notable strength or advantage of AMOLED over IPS or any other LCD technologies. A conventional AMOLED panel is thinner than an LCD. This thinness translates to lightness and flexibility or the design and development of consumer electronic devices with compact and more novel form factors.

Manufacturers such as Samsung and LG Electronics have introduced novel applications for AMOLED display technology. Curved and foldable smartphones made of plastic OLED and flexible OLED have been available in the market. Future applications of AMOLED include paper-thin and flexible high-resolution displays that can be rolled.

The technical requirements behind an IPS LCD do not afford it the aforementioned design advantages. An IPS panel is thicker than an AMOLED panel because it has more layers in its structures. These include a layer for backlighting, a liquid crystal layer, a color filter, and a polarizer. An AMOLED has a single light-emitting organic layer.

Conclusion and Takeaways: Understanding the Similarities and Differences Between IPS LCD and AMOLED

Both in-plane switching LCD technology and AMOLED technology have their respective distinctive pros and cons. This means that choosing which of the two is the best display technology is tough. However, based on the aforementioned comparison, there are situations in which either one of these two technologies is more suitable

The vibrant and oversaturated colors, wide viewing angle, and deeper blacks of AMOLED panels make them ideal for use in entertainment purposes or content consumption. The faster pixel response also makes them better suited for use fast-paced gaming. IPS panels are better suited for reading because of their daylight and outdoor visibility. They are also more suitable for use in use cases in which color reproduction and color accuracy are critical. Examples include photo editing, graphic design, and video editing, among others.

Nevertheless, considering the aforementioned comparison of IPS and AMOLED display technologies, the most notable and worrisome downside of AMOLED panels is their shorter lifespan due to their faster pixel degradation. Modern manufacturing technologies have improved the lifespan of modern AMOLED panels but the fact remains that IPS panels are more durable.

AMOLED seems not a feasible technology for use in laptop or desktop monitors. Colors and images displayed in these devices are static and have little movement. This is true when using productivity applications, reading or reviewing documents, and browsing websites in which there are minimal color and image movements or transitions across the screen. It is still worth mentioning that there are desktop monitors and laptop computers with AMOLED display panels despite these notable limitations and drawbacks.