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

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%.

ipad_air_thin

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.

ipad_air_heroAmong 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.

Related Roundup: iPad
Tag: IGZO
Buyer's Guide: iPad (Buy Now)

Top Rated Comments

LagunaSol Avatar
96 months ago
I get so tired of Apple not innovating and stuff. ;)
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
iapplelove Avatar
96 months ago
I love my air.
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Taz Mangus Avatar
96 months ago
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.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
emseven Avatar
96 months ago
Picture this: 12" Macbook Air with Retina IGZO display in 2014. 12 hours battery life.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
NorEaster Avatar
96 months ago
I get so tired of Apple not innovating and stuff. ;)

Are you saying this because you think Apple invented IGZO? Do you also think Apple is the first to release a product utilizing IGZO?
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Szarky Avatar
96 months ago
I had my heart set on IGZO so when they announced the Air and said nothing about it, I was so pissed off at Apple for not having used this technology. I came very close to not buying the iPad and waiting until the next gen with IGZO came out. With its excellent marketing, I wonder why they dont advertize this or that they use Gorilla Glass for example. They could lose a lot of customers. Its really amazing technology and the only complaints I had with the iPad was because of no GG or IGZO. Just add RAM in the next gen and it will be perfect.

I shared your confusion but after thinking about it, it actually makes a lot of sense. They want to advertise "The iPad." They don't want you thinking of any other company or technology. They don't want you to think Gorilla Glass or IGZO made the product great, it was Apple who made it fantastic. ;) I think putting too many names and technologies with an announcement downplays the master creator in a sense. Of course the geek in all of us wants to know the specs! But they're more concerned selling this stuff to the average consumer than the 1% spec drooling nerds. :)
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

microsoft edge ios android

Bill Gates Says His Preference for Android Over iPhone is Due to Pre-Installed Software

Friday February 26, 2021 3:35 am PST by
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates this week participated in his first meeting on Clubhouse, the increasingly popular invite-only conversation app, where he fielded a range of questions as part of an ongoing book tour. Gates was interviewed by journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin, and given that the Clubhouse app is currently only available on iOS, naturally one of the questions that came up was...
Top Stories 47 Feature copy

Top Stories: MacBook Pro, iMac, and AirPods Rumors, macOS 11.2.2, MagSafe Wallet Revisited

Saturday February 27, 2021 6:00 am PST by
March is right around the corner, and that means our first good opportunity for Apple product launches in 2021 as the company frequently has significant launches in March or April each year. We're hearing rumors about MacBook Pro, iMac, AirPods, and more, although many of these will be coming out at different times over the course of the year. This week also saw a macOS update to address a ...
iphone 6 in hand

Apple Faces Another iPhone Lawsuit Over 'Programmed Obsolescence'

Monday March 1, 2021 6:44 am PST by
Apple faces a new class-action lawsuit that accuses it of deliberately releasing iOS updates that slowly reduce the performance of an iPhone, forcing customers to upgrade their devices. The lawsuit comes from the Portuguese Consumer Protection Agency, Deco Proteste (via Marketeer), which in a statement says that it will proceed with a case against the Cupertino tech giant because it...
maxresdefault

HomeKit Essentials Worth Checking Out

Saturday February 27, 2021 7:05 am PST by
HomeKit was slow to take off after its 2014 launch, but now that it's been around for seven years, there are hundreds of HomeKit products available, ranging from doorbells and speakers to TVs, lights, and cameras. In our latest YouTube video, we rounded up some of our favorite HomeKit products that we find most useful. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. HomePod...
First Look Big Sur Feature2

Apple Releases macOS Big Sur 11.2.2 to Prevent MacBooks From Being Damaged by Third-Party Non-Compliant Docks

Thursday February 25, 2021 10:07 am PST by
Apple today released macOS Big Sur 11.2.2, the fourth update to the macOS Big Sur operating system that launched in November. macOS Big Sur 11.2.2 comes two weeks after the release of macOS Big Sur 11.2.1, a bug fix update. The new ‌‌‌‌macOS Big Sur‌‌‌ 11.2.2‌ update can be downloaded for free on all eligible Macs using the Software Update section of System Preferences....
iphone 12 pro display video

iPhone 13 to Include 1TB Storage Option and LiDAR Across the Board, Says Wedbush Analyst

Monday March 1, 2021 4:00 am PST by
Apple's forthcoming iPhone 13 could include a 1TB storage option for some models and LiDAR Scanners across the entire lineup, according to a report from Wedbush analysts. In a new note to investors, seen by MacRumors, Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives said that initial Asian supply chain checks gave the firm "increased confidence" that Apple's 5G-driven product cycle would extend well into 2022,...
flat mbp 14 inch feature yellow

Redesigned 14-Inch MacBook Pro Expected to Feature Brighter Mini-LED Display With Slimmer Bezels and More

Thursday February 25, 2021 7:48 am PST by
Apple plans to unveil new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with Mini-LED-backlit displays in the second half of this year, according to industry sources cited by Taiwanese supply chain publication DigiTimes. The report claims that Radiant Opto-Electronics will be the exclusive supplier of the Mini-LED backlight units, while Quanta Computer is said to be tasked with final assembly of the...
mac mini developer transition kit photo feature

Apple Requiring Developers to Return DTK Mac Minis by March 31

Friday February 26, 2021 3:57 pm PST by
Apple today sent out emails to developers who are in possession of a Developer Transition Kit, asking them to return the machines by March 31. The Developer Transition Kits are Mac minis with A12Z chips that Apple provided for development purposes ahead of the release of the M1 Macs. Apple in the emails provided developers with shipping instructions, and plans to begin collecting the DTKs...
iphone 12 120hz thumbnail feature

Kuo: iPhone 13 Lineup to Feature Smaller Notch and Larger Batteries, 120Hz Display for Pro Models, and More

Monday March 1, 2021 7:50 am PST by
iPhone 13 models will all feature a smaller notch, while the two Pro models will be equipped with low-power LTPO display technology for a 120Hz refresh rate, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in a research note obtained by MacRumors. Several other sources have previously claimed that some iPhone 13 models will support a 120Hz refresh rate, including display industry analyst Ross Young, leakers ...
unc0ver version 6 release

Jailbreak Tool 'unc0ver' 6.0.0 Released With iOS 14.3 Compatibility

Sunday February 28, 2021 9:26 am PST by
The team behind the "unc0ver" jailbreaking tool for iOS has released version 6.0.0 of its software, which can allegedly be used to jailbreak any device running iOS 11.0 through iOS 14.3 using a kernel vulnerability. The unc0ver website describes how the tool has been extensively tested across a range of iOS devices running various software versions, including an iPhone 12 Pro Max running iOS ...