iPod Touch non-IPS Retina LCD: surprisingly good!

Discussion in 'iPod touch' started by NathanA, Sep 21, 2010.

  1. NathanA macrumors 6502a

    Feb 9, 2008
    Hey, all,

    As the 4th-gen iPod Touch was nearing release, I read the threads about the fact that the new Touch's Retina LCD would not be IPS with great interest. I was prepared to be greatly disappointed when I finally saw one in person, but I was not.

    First, as a bit of background, I'm a bit "picky" when it comes to display quality, and I've been a cheerleader of IPS LCD display technology for a while. IPS has been around for a few years now; it certainly isn't some new LCD technology that Apple was one of the first to recently "discover," although I hope that the fact they are now cheerleading it as well will only help to finally make it more mainstream. (I'm holding out on buying a MBP until Apple finally switches to IPS on that line of laptops, which I'm willing to bet is going to happen in the next rev.) My ThinkPad laptop from 2006 has a 133dpi IPS display, which was state-of-the-art back then, and it is gorgeous save for the fact that it uses a CCFL backlight instead of LED. (In fact, IBM/Lenovo shipped their first IPS LCD ThinkPad way back in 2002, and eventually discontinued their IPS option, which they called "FlexView," in 2006, as documented in a blog post made by one of their employees which I found to be very interesting as well as informative.)

    My ThinkPads with IPS displays (I've owned two) completely spoiled me. Even before I bought my first one, I'd always been frustrated with poor color reproduction and contrast in LCDs. FlexView was a dream, and since then all other laptop displays I've had to endure have felt like a huge downgrade. The iPhone's original 163dpi display was nothing to sneeze at in the resolution department (although, compared to Retina...heh, heh), but as far as TN LCD panels go, they were pretty average, and of wildly-varying quality from panel to panel and phone to phone. In fact, I sent back my first two 3GS phones because the colors were so off and the contrast complete crap compared to my 3G phone, which wasn't that hot to begin with. (Third 3GS LCD was, indeed, the charm. At least relatively speaking.)

    Enter iPhone 4. Never before the iPhone 4 has a display on a computing device not only utterly EXCEEDED my expectations, but completely blown them away. That LCD is a masterpiece. Black is black. White is white. Colors pop like never before. The image doesn't wash out at the slightest angle change. And, of course, the resolution totally kills anything else on the market. When I heard that the iPod touch 4th-gen was going to get the same display, I knew that iPod touch users were going to be in for a treat.

    ...then I heard that it was not going to be IPS. Seriously, Apple?? After all of the IPS parades you've been throwing?

    After giving it some thought, if I had to guess why they didn't go with IPS on the Touch, I would offer the following possibilities:

    1) Cost. The iPhone 4 is a subsidized device that really retails for $599 for the 16GB model, so Apple can afford not to cut corners on things like the display. The iPod Touch has to be kept affordable (base price $229) in order to make sense as a product. The iPhone is the "Pro"/premium product, so it gets the premium treatment in some respects.

    2) Bulk. The IPS displays that are used in laptops are bigger/thicker and bulkier/heftier than their TN equivalents. An IPS Retina display might have put the iPod Touch over the tipping point that Apple was aiming for. (I hear those of you who would argue that this feels like form-over-function design, though, and don't necessarily disagree.)

    3) Power consumption. IPS displays in general consume quite a bit more POWER than their TN equivalents (I seem to recall that sacrificing the IPS/FlexView display on a ThinkPad might gain you somewhere between 1-2 hours of battery life). The iPhone is much thicker and they can fit a bigger battery in there than they can in the Touch.

    4) Supply. iPhone 4s are selling like hotcakes still, and Apple might have been afraid that if they used the exact same display in the new iPod Touch, that supply constraints on the display might cause BOTH devices to fall way behind in manufacturing yields. So they decided not to put more strain on the IPS Retina supply chain by using a different display in the new Touch.

    (These are all just educated guesses, of course.)

    Still, that doesn't make the decision to not go with IPS any less disappointing for those who know and appreciate the benefits of IPS and were specifically looking forward to seeing the iPhone 4 display on an iPod Touch.

    Well, I've now had the chance to handle an iPod Touch 4th-gen unit and even use it for a couple of days straight. During that time, I got to compare it side-by-side with my iPhone 4. And you know what? It's a surprisingly good display.

    Is it as good as the iPhone 4's IPS Retina LCD? Nope. Sure isn't. And if I were in the market for an iPod Touch, and money was no object, I'd be sorely tempted to just pick up an iPhone 4 at the unsubsidized MSRP. But after using it, I've concluded that the iPod Touch 4's display is "good enough," and that's coming from an IPS diehard.

    The contrast is not as good as the IPS Retina display, true, and the viewing angles are not as good, either. (And to all the naysayers out there who keep harping on people by asking them if viewing angle is important, the answer is YES. Have you never played accelerometer games like Super Monkey Ball? Have you never wanted to share a video on your iPhone or iPod Touch with multiple people?) But if we compare this display to previous iPhone and iPod Touch displays, these two attributes aren't terrible, either; I would say that the contrast is at least as good as the contrast on the best of the iPhone and iPod Touch displays of previous generations that I've handled (and I've handled a lot, and like I said earlier they have VARIED a lot), and the viewing angle is, again, at least as good as the best examples of the previous iPhone display.

    For those who are acquainted with the pre-Retina iPhone and iPod Touch displays, that might sound like I'm damning with faint praise, but where this new display really shines unexpectedly is in rendering more accurate colors. Again, it is not as good as the IPS, but compared to ALL of my past iPhone screens, it's quite a bit better. In fact, I compared a few photos and videos between the iPhone 4's screen and the iPod Touch 4's screen, and yes, there were differences, but overall the colors mostly matched up between the two screens. Overall, photos and video look great on the iPod Touch 4 LCD. Only complaints are that it appears that there is a very slight red cast on the iPod Touch Retina LCD compared to the iPhone, and of course because of the lower contrast ratio, blacks are not great...but when I say "great" I mean "iPhone 4" great. Also, with both set to maximum brightness, the iPhone 4 seemed ever-so-slightly brighter, but that could have been an illusion caused, again, by the iPhone 4's amazing contrast ratio. Compared to non-Retina iPhone and iPod Touch displays from previous generations, it is at least as good, if not better. There was absolutely no yellowing of the display anywhere on it, which was partly what drove me MAD on previous crap iPhone screens.

    What it comes down to for me is this: if Apple had been able to consistently deliver non-IPS / TN screens of this quality on previous devices that I've owned, I would have been happy and would never have felt compelled to return the devices a few times to get an acceptable screen.

    And, of course, the resolution increase is fantastic and just as noticeable and pleasant to the eye as on the iPhone 4.

    So for those of you who are holding out on a purchase because of this issue, I would at least advise you to see one for yourself in person before deciding that there is no way you can live without an IPS display on the iPod Touch. It is one of the best TN displays I've seen on any computing device, and the resolution is still out of this world.

    Just my $0.02,

    -- Nathan
  2. alust2013 macrumors 601


    Feb 6, 2010
    On the fence
    Wow, that was incredibly thorough and very fair. I haven't seen one of the new touches to compare it to the iP4 (or my 1st gen for that matter), but now you are making me want to spend that $300 that I don't really have on the new touch :p
  3. classie787 macrumors member

    Jul 28, 2010
    Darn. You beat me to it. I was going to post a new thread mocking all those that bashed the new display. I just returned from the Apple Store (my first ever visit!) and got to play with the new iPods, iPhone 4's, and the iPads. I must say that all three surprised me...in positive ways.

    I'm big into resolution and display quality. The first thing I noticed when playing with my cousins new iPod 3RD GENERATION in July was the room for improvement in the display. Now that I've played with a 4th gen, I can tell you all that this display is no joke. I'm seriously into photography and this display does my shots justice; the 3rd generation did not. I found it to compete quite favorably with the iPhone 4, although it was not as good as the iPhone at odd angles. Actually, I thought the iPod fared better than I had anticipated at odd angles, and the iPhone 4 worse that I would have thought...although the iPhone still beat out the Touch.
  4. GoodBoy macrumors 6502

    Nov 17, 2007
    TN matrix would by acceptable, if it had better viewing angles, and I'm not talking about extreme viewing angles. On iPod's screen, even slightest screen movement result in color shifts. This is especially noticable on dark colors. Even when viewed head-on, it is noticable that screen isn't evenly backlight on it's entire area. This sucks big time. And it's not just iPod touch 4gen, it's all iPods this way. Apple is just using some of the cheapest TN panels on the market, and trust me IPS isn't the only alternative, becasue there are much better TN matrixes on the market, than the ones put in iPods.
  5. hcho3 macrumors 68030

    May 13, 2010
    It's a freaking mp3 player with 960X640 resolution and it costs 229 dollars. It has gyroscope, 8GB storage, 256 MB ram and A4 cheap. It also has 2 cameras. Please find me a mp3 player it has all this and costs 229 dollars. The whiners needs to shut the hell up. Either that or tell apple they are willing to pay at least 200 dollars more for their iPod touch and they will add GPS, 512 RAM and IPS display for ya. If not, back off. This is a business not a child play.
  6. clibinarius macrumors 6502a

    Aug 26, 2010
    In private, I'm a strong apple critic, and if I posted more on here, I suppose I would be too. However, I have this ipod touch. Yes, it might have a "cheap" TN. But its much better than most I've encountered. You're right, Apple could spend more money though on their products. How about we lobby them to have a gold back cover instead of chrome?

    Even at extreme angles my ipod is completely readable. Does it look great? No. But if you're playing video games you can still concentrate. I can see I'm listening to rubber soul, and I can still read "slide to unlock" and that its 10:08. And no one looks at photos at that angle.

    The screen is good. Anyone who has used it knows its sufficient. My only complaint about the ipod is actually the lack of space/price: $170 for 64 GB of flash ram at the price apple can command is a rip. There's really no reason they couldn't do 128 at that price. I just got a 32GB SDHC for $30.

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