What are the different LCD screen types?
TN, MVA, Sunlight Readable, & IPS LCD Screens
TFT LCDs are a staple in the digital display marketplace and are used in display applications across every industry. With every display application presenting a unique set of requirements, the selection of specialized TFTs has grown to meet these demands. To meet these unique requirements, a variety of LCD screen types have been developed. Each of these screen types has their own unique qualities. Almost all of these qualities have to do with how images appear across the various screen types.
The main aspects that differentiate screen types are brightness, viewing angles, color, and contrast. We’ll outline how these differences affect the price and power consumption of the display and provide examples of how each LCD screen is used in specific applications.
TN (twisted nematic) and IPS (in-plane switching) are the most common LCD screen types. TN TFTs are considered “standard” in the TFT world and are essentially the base model of all TFTs. IPS improves upon nearly every aspect of TN TFTs and has a growing presence in the digital display marketplace. We’ll also cover Sunlight Readable screens and MVA (Multi-domain Vertical Alignment) screens later on in this post.
Twisted Nematic (TN) TFT LCDs
The most common LCD screen type
TN (Twisted Nematic) LCDs are the most common LCD screen type. They offer full color graphics, images, and moderate viewing angles. TN LCDs maintain a dedicated user base despite other screen types growing in popularity. This is due to some unique key features that TN display offer. For one, TN TFTs have the fastest response times and refresh rates out of any TFT LCDs.
Refresh rates and response times refer to the time it takes for pixels to activate and deactivate in response to user inputs. This is crucial for fast moving images or graphics that must update as fast as possible with extreme precision. TN TFTs remain very popular among competitive PC gaming communities where accuracy and response rates can make the difference between winning and losing.
This display type remains a popular choice due to its reliable performance and cost-effective price point.
Twisted Nematic Screens at a Glance
In-Plane Switching (IPS) TFT LCDs
LCD screens with improved colors and viewing angles
IPS (In-Plane Switching) technology improves image quality by acting on the liquid crystal inside of the display screens. When voltage is applied, the crystals rotate parallel (or “in-plane”) rather than upright to allowing light to pass through. This behavior results in a number of big improvements to the image quality of these screens.
IPS is superior in contrast, viewing angles, and color representation compared to the screens on TN LCDs. Images on screen retain their quality without becoming washed out or distorted no matter what angle they’re viewed from. Because of this, viewers have flexibility to view content on screen from almost anywhere, rather than having to look at the display from a front-center position. IPS makes it possible to get colorful, accurate, and sharp images when viewed from almost any angle.
As we mentioned before, TN LCDs offer a slightly higher refresh rate than IPS. Keep in mind that the time for pixels to go from inactive to active is measured in milliseconds. So for most users, the difference in refresh rates will go unnoticed. IPS outperforms TN displays in every major category except for refresh rates and price.
Sunlight Readable LCD screens
LCD screens for indoor and outdoor lighting conditions
Sunlight Readable TFTs are simply TN TFTs with one added feature: you can read them in direct sunlight. Normally a TN TFT screen would not be bright enough to compete with direct sunlight. The images on screen would get washed out if you tried to view them in bright conditions. Sunlight Readable screens solve this by using a display enhancement film and a much brighter LED backlight. All this results in an LCD that can display full color graphics in areas with bright ambient light – even direct sunlight.
Slide to compare a TN TFT (left), and a Sunlight Readable TFT (right) powered on in direct sunlight.
Sunlight readable displays are essentially a step in between TN and IPS displays. They offer improved brightness so they can be viewed in any lighting conditions. However, they don’t have the improved viewing angles or color reproduction of IPS. Sunlight Readable can consume more energy than other screen types due to their stronger backlight.
This enhanced backlight may also may cause the display to become warm over time. Consider proper ventilation and cooling when adding a sunlight readable display to any application to avoid overheating.
You can find Sunlight Readable screens in outdoor tools and equipment or on kiosks in environments with bright ambient light.
Multi-Domain Vertical Alignment (MVA) TFT LCDs
wide viewing angle LCD screens
MVA screens offer features found in both TN and IPS screens. Displays with MVA screens deliver wide viewing angles, high contrast, and accurate color reproduction. They maintain high response rates similar to TN TFTs but do not have the same brightness as Sunlight Readable screens. You won’t be able to view these displays in direct sunlight and might have a hard time reading them in areas with high ambient brightness.
MVA are generally best for low-cost applications that need to be viewed from multiple angles, like digital signage in a commercial setting.
MVA Screens at a glance
There are multiple screen types to choose from depending on your unique requirements. Based on current trends, it’s expected that IPS and TN screen types will remain the dominant formats. It’s likely that IPS will reach a similar price point to TN LCDs as the technology advances.
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