What is To In-Plane Switching or IPS Screen Technology?

In-plane switching is a kind of screen technology where the orientation of molecules that comprise the liquid crystal layer in between the glass substrates are switched and re-arranged.  In actuality it is only a variant of TFT LCD or thin film transistor.  Note that there are only two common or general variants of TFT LCDs.  There is IPS TFT LCD and TN TFT LCD or twisted nematic.




Inside an IPS screen, the alignment of the liquid crystals is horizontal instead of vertical.  In addition, IPS utilizes a lateral electrical field where the electrical field gets applied in between both ends of the crystal molecules so that the crystals are kept parallel with the screen’s glass substrate and the electrode pair.  In addition, because the liquid crystal molecules are not anchored onto the lower glass substrate they can move freely into the arrangement that is desired.

In 1974 there was a similar concept that was introduced.  However, the product that was implemented failed to overtake TN display.

In 1990 Guenter Baur and his colleagues filed a patent within the U.S. as well as several other countries on certain details regarding advantageous molecular arrangements.  The patent was assigned to the German multinational pharmaceutical and chemical company Merck KGaA.




Hitachi, the Japanese multinational conglomerate, filed patents for improving the technology.  In 1996, they finally introduced the implemented product.  It had a poor initial reception due to its high manufacturing cost.  This resulted in IPS only being featured in high end monitors.  However, like all other forms of technology, over time refinements and improvements brought the cost down to more acceptable levels for mass-production.

LG, the Korean multinational company, developed their own IPS screen technology version, and in 2007 introduced their product.  Since that time the company has become the largest manufacturer of LCDs featuring IPS screen technology.

Another thing worth mentioning is that after the first generation iPad was introduced by Apple in January 2010 the public became even more aware of IPS.  IPS technology was highlighted by the late Steve Jobs as being one of the major selling points of this highly anticipated device. IPS has also been highlighted by several other tablet and mobile devices as a major selling point.



IPS Screen Technology Advantages Over Amoled And TN       

Displays that feature TN screen technology often suffer from poor colour reproduction and poor viewing angle.  Those limitations can result in poor moving picture quality and off-axis image quality.

There are of course high-quality TN LCDs as well.  However, this screen technology in average products has limitations that are quite evident.  In computer and laptop screens, a majority of TN LCDs are only able to represent around 70 percent of the 24-bit colour that is available from a graphic card due to the fact that only 6-bits per RGB colour can be displayed.

TN LCD shortcomings have been resolved with the introduction of IPS.  Wide viewing angle is one key advantage that IPS screen technology has.  It is achievable due to the fact that technology has the ability to change the liquid crystal layer’s physical behaviour through forcing the crystal molecules to respond to the electrical field which is in parallel with the TFT.  Better colour reproduction is another result.




Due to the positive qualities that IPS screen technology offer, it has become quite common and popular in laptop, computer and television displays.  It has also become quite popular with consumer electronic devices, especially tablets and smartphones.  A major consideration for both consumers and device manufactures has been to ensure that these devices can be held in various ways without there being viewing angle issues in terms of them being too uncomfortable or distracting.

The IPS definitely outperforms TN displays.  However, this screen technology’s major competitor is OLED or most importantly AMOLED (active matrix organic light emitting diode) screen technology.



When comparing the two, the advantages that IPS has over AMOLED include better response times, intense white colours and better colour representation and reproduction.  Other IPS displays are available that have better viewing angles as well as clearer and sharper images compared to AMOLED.  These advantages of course depend on the manufacturer as well as the display quality which is determined by the specific AMOLED or IPS technology iteration.

An IPS screen, under either direct sunlight or outdoor lights is more readable or viewable compared to an AMOLED screen due to the fact that it has a built-in backlight.  There is no accompanying backlight with an AMOLED due to the fact that light comes directly from each of the diodes.

Another significant advantage that IPS has over AMOLED is having a lifespan that is considerably longer.  AMOLED displays have short lifespans due to the fact that the organic constituents have a tendency to degrade more quickly.  Therefore, when AMOLED and IPS screen displays are compared, an IPS will usually last several years, while an AMOLED might feature death pixels or burn-ins.


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