Apple's iPad Air Adopts IGZO Technology for Thinner, Lower-Power Displays

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Apple's new iPad Air marks a significant technological step forward for the company, improving performance while reducing the device's volume and weight by over 25%. Much of the size and weight savings have been enabled by improved power efficiency, allowing Apple to reduce the device's battery thickness and capacity by roughly the same 25%.

Component thickness reduction in iPad Air

As noted in IHS iSuppli's component cost analysis released earlier today, the iPad Air now uses just 36 LEDs to light its display, down from as many as 84 in previous generations. Apple has also reduced the thickness of the display assembly, and so it appears that the display is indeed one of the areas where Apple has been able to make the most improvement on size and weight, both in the components themselves and in the battery capacity needed to drive them.

In a new analysis comparing the iPad Air's display to that of the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 and the Google Nexus 10, Ray Soneira of DisplayMate Technologies confirms that Apple has indeed changed display technologies in the iPad Air, moving to indium gallium zinc oxide (IGZO) semiconductor materials from the amorphous silicon (a-Si) compounds used in previous iPads. While rumors of Apple moving to IGZO for the iPad and other products have circulated for several years, Sharp has experienced difficulties ramping up production and it has taken until now for Apple to bring the technology to its products.

Among the evidence cited by Soneira for his claim that the iPad Air has moved to IGZO technology are power measurements showing that the iPad Air's display offers a 57% improvement in power efficiency compared to previous iPads, a jump that simply would not be possible with a-Si technology. IGZO offers significantly better electron mobility than a-Si, allowing for much lower power requirements. The shift in technology has also enabled other improvements in the display of the iPad Air compared to its predecessor, and Soneira notes that Apple continues to offer an excellent display on its tablet lineup.
Compared to the 4th generation, the screen Reflectance decreased by 23 percent, the Peak Brightness increased by 7 percent, and the Contrast Rating for High Ambient Light increased by 32 percent - all good. Absolute Color Accuracy and Image Contrast fidelity are very good (but somewhat below the Kindle Fire) and are discussed in detail below. The emphasis for the iPad Air is in reduced size, thickness, and weight. The most important under the hood display improvement is the switch from a-Si amorphous Silicon LCDs up to a much higher performance IGZO LCD backplane, which was discussed in our iPad 3 Display Shoot-Out article last year. The switch to IGZO produces an impressive 57 percent improvement in display power efficiency from previous Retina Display iPads - so the iPad Air doesn't get uncomfortably warm like the earlier iPads.
MacRumors spoke with Soneira about the state of the display industry and Apple's potential plans for the future, and Soneira noted that he expects the Retina iPad mini launching later this month to also adopt IGZO technology. If anything, a move to IGZO is more important on the iPad mini than on the iPad Air due to higher pixel density on the smaller device, with a-Si being infeasible for a Retina display at that size.

While the iPad Air's display is excellent, Soneira notes Apple is no longer at the top of the heap, with Amazon's Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 display actually performing better than the iPad Air's display. This is made possible by Amazon's use of low temperature polysilicon (LTPS) technology, which offers even better performance and lower power requirements than IGZO.

LTPS is commonly used on displays for smaller devices such as the iPhone, but Amazon has pushed the technology to the edge by bringing it to tablet-sized displays despite high costs and complicated production. Apple is unlikely to follow Amazon's lead in the near future, in large part due to scalability issues that simply won't support the tens of millions of tablets Apple is producing each year.

IGZO also offers a more natural transition for display manufacturers, as they can in many cases simply upgrade their existing equipment from current a-Si production, while moving to LTPS would require a complete change in production. IGZO is also just the first of a number of metal oxide semiconductors that show promise for improved display performance, pointing to solid opportunities for the technology to continue to evolve.

Overall, Soneira notes that the iPad Air display has seen a very solid incremental upgrade, although he does have a few quibbles such as the continued presence of an air gap between the display and the cover glass when Apple has been moving toward laminating the two components together in other products. And with Amazon able to pursue LTPS technology for the Kindle Fire HDX due to its smaller size and lower unit volumes, Apple is finding itself facing stiffer competition in displays where it has long been the industry leader.

Article Link: Apple's iPad Air Adopts IGZO Technology for Thinner, Lower-Power Displays
 

newdeal

macrumors 68020
Oct 21, 2009
2,377
1,471
Should decrease time to charge also which is much needed my 3rd ten iPad takes forever to charge
 

magbarn

macrumors 68020
Oct 25, 2008
2,304
1,408
Sooo... When are we getting IGZO on the MBP/MBA lines? A 12 hours rMBP 13 should be entirely feasible with this tech or gasp a rMBA 12.
 

SockRolid

macrumors 68000
Jan 5, 2010
1,560
118
Almost Rock Solid
... confirms that Apple has indeed changed display technologies in the iPad Air, moving to indium gallium zinc oxide (IGZO) semiconductor materials from the amorphous silicon (a-Si) compounds ...
As I had suspected. There are few if any ways to get such good battery life without drastic improvements to the display efficiency. IGZO conductors have 40 times greater electron mobility than amorphous silicon, so the conductors can be thinner and more transparent, which allows for better brightness with less power consumption.
 

emseven

macrumors regular
Sep 19, 2013
115
0
Picture this: 12" Macbook Air with Retina IGZO display in 2014. 12 hours battery life.
 

Taz Mangus

macrumors 601
Mar 10, 2011
4,070
625
From what I read, WOW :eek:

I can't wait to get my iPad Air which arrives tomorrow. Coming from a iPad 1 to iPad Air.
 

r018u

macrumors member
Aug 4, 2010
36
14
Great read, thanks for posting this article. It's good that Apple are finally moving forward with their display technology after years of rumours.
 

Tomo2

macrumors newbie
Jan 9, 2013
11
0
I almost wish the iPad was the same thickness as the 4th gen. The battery life would have been awesome.
 

macduke

macrumors G4
Jun 27, 2007
10,939
14,624
Central U.S.
Could you imagine this in the MacBook Air? You'd only need to charge it every 2-3 days with normal use!

They'll probably try to make the Air thinner though.
 

joejoejoe

macrumors 65816
Sep 13, 2006
1,424
99
does this mean that the display can turn off individual pixels?

i thought IGZO turns off any pixels that are 100% black to improve contrast, but haven't seen there anywhere in reports mentioning the iPA?
 

osx11

macrumors 6502a
Jan 16, 2011
825
0
Wouldn't Apple have announced this if it were the case?

Something seems strange here.....
 

jamesryanbell

macrumors 68020
Mar 17, 2009
2,171
93
Yet again, BIG DIFFERENCE. iPad Air is the most significant iPad to come out since the original model (yes, even over iPad 3).
 

Munnichs

macrumors member
Mar 30, 2011
48
0
If those stupid people from UPS would deliver mine, I could see this great iPad myself.............!:apple::apple:
 

TXCherokee

macrumors 6502
Aug 24, 2012
338
180
Now that the Mac Pro people aren't complaining anymore on every thread about an update, I want to interrupt this post....Where is the updated Mac Mini??!! :D
 

osx11

macrumors 6502a
Jan 16, 2011
825
0
"Amazon's use of low temperature polysilicon (LTPS) technology, which offers even better performance and lower power requirements than IGZO."

This is interesting!
 

WatchTheThrone

macrumors regular
Aug 2, 2011
239
137
Wouldn't Apple have announced this if it were the case?

Something seems strange here.....
Apple sometimes doesn't announce what tech they use if it's gonna confuse the regular user. They'd just rather tell you how thin and how great the battery life still is without telling you what helps it get there.
 
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