iPad Air (display assembly 001)

Apple has long been rumored to be adopting Sharp’s sophisticated IGZO display technology for iPhones and iPads, but the reported ongoing yields issues have prevented it from making the switch over concerns on maintaining a minimum level of capacity.

At the same time, it hasn’t gone unnoticed that the iPad Air achieves the same 10-hour battery life (and 24-hour LTE hotspot performance) in spite of packing in a powerful 64-bit A7 processor and, more importantly, a much smaller battery than its predecessor, 32.9 Whr versus 43 Whr for the iPad 4.

Now, one of the benefits of using IGZO display technologies is vastly reduced power consumption. So, has Apple switched to IGZO panels for the iPad Air or not?

To find that out, Eric Slivka of MacRumors spoke to one guy who knows these things inside out, Dr. Ray Soneira of DisplayMate Technologies.

Soneira suspects Apple is using IGZO panels for the iPad Air based on the 57 percent improvement in power efficiency of the iPad Air’s display versus previous iPads.

Such a marked improvement simply is not possible with the amorphous silicon (a-Si) compounds used in previous iPads. Conveniently, indium gallium zinc oxide (IGZO) semiconductor materials could explain the iPad Air’s power-efficient display.

In addition to rendering deeper blacks, more vibrant colors and providing an all-around sharper image on ultra-high resolution displays, IGZO panels are said to consume only a fraction of the power versus the traditional LCD technology, as in about ten percent of the LCD’s power draw.

iPad Air airplane game app

Also, bear in mind the display is by and large the iPad’s most power-hungry component.

Therefore, had Apple kept the traditional LCD around, it could only have gotten away using the smaller battery for the iPad Air while maintaining the ten-hour battery life by switching to a much more power-efficient screen.

Enter IGZO, which allows for the iPad Air’s brighter image with higher contrast and less refractions. Here’s a passage from Soneira’s display shootout comparing the iPad Air’s display to that of the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 and the Google Nexus 10 (emphasis mine):

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.

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.

Even more to the point, an IHS iSuppli teardown analysis has revealed that the iPad Air uses fewer LEDs versus its predecessor. These power-hungry modules provide the backlighting for the screen and the iPad Air achieves the same level of brightness with just 36 LED lights versus 84, or less than half the LEDs than the iPad 3.

The traditional LCD IPS screen on previous iPads definitely requires way more than 36 LEDs in order to push the light between the densely packed pixels. But not IGZO.

Soneira expects Apple will adopt IGZO panels for the upcoming iPad mini with Retina display, even more so given its higher pixel density on the 40 percent smaller canvas. Put simply, an a-Si screen would be infeasible for a Retina display at that size.

13.11.04-Display_Shootout

For the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9’s better-than-iPad-Air-screen, Amazon utilizes the more complicated – but also better performing and more power-savvy – low temperature polysilicon (LTPS) technology.

That tech, Soneira cautioned, doesn’t scale well to support Apple’s volume requirements that now approach a hundred million tablet panels on an annual basis.

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.

Before wrapping up, Apple says it has managed to achieve the iPad Air’s 24 percent reduction in overall volume by shaving fractions of millimeters off many components: the cover glass is 17 percent thinner, the touch sensor is as much as 70 percent thinner, with the Retina display itself having shaved of 20 percent off its overall thickness.

And if you believe the rumors based on supply chain chatter, apparently Sharp has finally managed to commercialize mass-production of IGZO panels for smartphones and will begin churning them out at its Kameyama Plant Number 2 before the end of 2013.

Who wants an iPhone 6 with an IGZO screen?

  • LAGISSUEZ

    Just told the wife I didn’t want this iPad cause the next one was going to have an igzo display. Well, I guess I can wait since I already set myself into that motion. Here’s hoping for multiple accounts via touch ID.

    • Palmer Paul

      Multiple TouchID accounts is more of a software feature than a hardware one…therefore, you might as well just buy the iPad Air, as it is by far “the best iPad yet”.

      • LAGISSUEZ

        Yeah I’m aware of that except Apple is liable to implement it only with touch id as a means of getting you to buy their newest iPad. I mean there really is no reason it can’t have multiple accounts right now.

      • Palmer Paul

        I’m sorry. I mistakenly recalled that the iPad Air had a TouchID sensor. Anyway, since it actually doesn’t, it would make more sense to wait if the Multiple Accounts feature is an important one to you.

  • Joseph A. Ahmad

    I was really hoping the iPhone 5s was going to have Sharp’s IGZO technology in it. But hopefully we’ll see it next year. I’ve been telling people all this time that if an iPhone adopts an IGZO screen, you would see dramatically better battery life (assuming Apple maintains all other variables constant: processor, battery size/output, and so on).

  • Taf Khan

    Yes igzo display rocks. Now we know how the mini retina managed to get all hi res!

    So Apple the first to go IGZO and 64bit.. .

    It would be good if IDB did a comparison of displays between iPad air and ipad 4.

  • Jon

    Finally the IGZO display !! 🙂

    Oh by the way, there’s a minor spelling mistake in this sentence.

    “Therefore, had Apple kept the traditional LCD around, it could only have gotten away using the smaller battery for the iPad Air while maintaing the ten-hour battery life by switching to a much more power-efficient screen.”

    The word “maintaing” is supposed to be “maintaining”. 🙂

  • n0ahcruz3

    I want to hear it from apple or sharp that they indeed put igzo on the new ipad

  • Pablo

    Why would apple change to IGZO in a brand new device without telling that on the keynote? I think IGZO would be great marketing stuff for apple, I don’t see the point in not letting know about the change, that makes me doubt about iPad Air having or Retina Mini having IGZO screens

    • a beto e merik

      play safe, in case the IGZO thing turned bad with their new devices. Furthermore, it is a new technology that Apple wishes to keep in theirs and being pioneer in commercialize it before others start adopt it.

    • madmaxmedia

      Apple doesn’t hype tech specs. IGZO is a lot less meaningful to most people than the reduced size and weight, along with increased battery life- those are the bottom line.

      • Pablo

        Yeah but I would’ve expect something like “and with the new IGZO screen we’ve increased the battery performance…” bla bla, something like that, and pointing out it is unique to apple, innovative, etc etc etc

  • Name

    if you Google search “igzo” and click on sharps website, scroll down and there’s a picture of an iPad Air.

    • Andrieux Querido

      True 🙂

    • Andrew Rosario

      Um… That is an iPad 2/3/4. You can tell by the bigger bezels, the metal hinge on the Smart Cover, and the grey back on the Smart Cover.

  • Andrew Rosario

    But there is something really odd. iFixit has tore apart the iPad Air, and they said it was an LG panel. Now, if I am not mistaken, LG doesn’t make IGZO panels, as they haven’t acquired the license from JST.

    Mysterious…

    • mrfixit123

      Its not from LG, some Korean manufacturer makes it. You can buy all of the same Apple monitors and LCDs from those Korean websites and ship it to the USA. We are behind Korea a good 4 years.

  • little A

    I love the display. Especially, I love watch movies on iPad after I rip my DVDs to it with aneesoft dvd ripper.

  • mrfixit123

    Stupid. The new iPad Air is NOT IGZO. What a stupid expert guy. All you have to do is open the tablet and you can see it’s not IGZO. IGZO is a superconductor and doesn’t have any LCD glass. This screen is made in Korea
    Also IGZO would give an iPAD Air something like 40 hours of battery life.