What Is the Real Difference Between TFT vs. IPS Displays?


If you want to buy a monitor, normally there are only two choices: TFT display or IPS display.  In order to make the right purchase decision, it is important to know the technologies behind the two displays.

What is a TFT Display Technology?

The word TFT means thin film transistor. It is the technology that is used in LCD or Liquid Crystal Display. Here you should know that this type of LCDs is also categorically referred to as active-matrix LCDs. It says that these LCDs can hold back some pixels while using other pixels. So, the LCD will be using a very minimum amount of energy to function (actually to make the liquid crystal molecules between two electrodes twisting). TFT LCDs have capacitors and transistors. These are the two elements that play a key part in ensuring that the TFT display monitor functions by using a very small amount of energy without running out of operation.

Normally, we say TFT LCD panels or TFT screens, we mean they are TN (Twisted Nematic) Type TFT displays or TN panels, or TN screen technology.

Features of TFT Displays

The brightest feature TFT displays have is its low cost because of the simpler process of manufacturing, low cost material and one of the oldest technologies for LCD displays. But they are not the best quality considering poor viewing angles, lower contrast ratio, slower response time, lower aperture ratio (each pixel not bright enough) and the worst is that there is one view angle with Gray Scale Inversion (reversed image), see the bottom one of picture 1 below.

Gray Scale Inversion for TFT Displays

What is an IPS Display Technology?

IPS (in-plane-switching) technology is like an improvement on the traditional TFT LCD display module in the sense that it has the same basic structure, but with more enhanced features and more widespread usability. IPS LCD monitors consist of the following high-end features. It has a much wider viewing angle, more consistent, accurate color in all viewing directions, it has higher contrast, faster response time. But IPS display is not perfect as its higher manufacturing cost. See the Fig.2 below

IPS Display

TFT display vs IPS display

Both TFT display and IPS display are active matrix displays, neither can’t emit light like OLED, it has to be used with a back-light of white bright light to generate the picture. Newer panels utilize LED backlight (light emitting diodes) to generate their light and therefore utilize less power and require less depth by design.  Actually neither TFT display nor IPS display can produce color, there is a layer of RGB (red,green,blue) color filter in each LCD pixel to make the LCD show color. If you use a magnifier to see your monitor, you will see RGB color. By switching on/off and different levels of RGB brightness, we can produce a spectrum of many colors.

RGB pixels in a LCD monitor

OK, let’s do the final comparison.

  • Wider Viewing Angles: IPS Display Wins. If youdon’t want to compromise on the viewing angles and want to have the best experience of viewing the screen from wide angles, the IPS display is what you want.
  • Higher Contrast:  IPS Display Wins.
  • Faster Response Time: IPS Display Wins. IPS TFT Screens have around 0.3 milliseconds response time while TN TFT Screens respond around 10 milliseconds which makes the latterpoor for gaming purposes.
  • Cost: TFT Display Wins (around 30%-50% lower). The TFT lcd production technology is more mature than IPS LCD, it has a better production yield than IPS LCD.
  • Color Image Quality with Consistent, accurate and Clear Color: IPS Display Wins
  • Lower Energy Consumption: TFT Display wins. TN TFT LCD has more than around 15% power consumption than IPS lcd. The reason still comes from the array way of liquid crystal inside the IPS LCD screen. Because the liquid crystal molecules are arrayed in the electrode plane, the power would be saved for switching on liquid crystal in IPS screen than twisting it in TFT lcd screens, that is the reason IPS screen is better than TN TFT lcd in power consumption.  Regarding the IPS LCD screen have better contrast, but in the same time, it have less transmissive ratio (transmittance), so we need more light from lcd backlight, if used more led chips, so it also need more power to the lcd backlight, so the total display module might need more power consumption if the backlight driving current for IPS LCD panel. so we need to be moreconcerned about the backlight current consumption instead of the IPS TFT panel itself. The main power consumption would be from the lcd backlight, not the IPS TFT panel. Battery life will likely be longer if other hardware is the same.
  • Better “Image or Pixel Sticking” or “Ghosting” (Image Sticking is when an image will stay on for a short time when instead it should be off):  Hard to say depending on different display screen manufacturers. Generally speaking, TFT Display has aslightly better chance not to have the issue.

In summary, normally high-end products like Apple Mac monitors and Samsung mobile phones most likely use IPS panels. Some of the even high end TV and mobile phones use AMOLED( Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diodes) Displays. The technology provides even better color reproduction, image quality, better color gamut,  less power than LCD technology. Please note that OLED includes AMOLED and PMOLED (Passive Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diodes). What you need to choose is AMOLED for your TV and mobile phones instead of PMOLED. If you have more budget, you can have your screen with touch screen, most of the touch nowadays uses PCAP (Projective Capacitive) touch panel. This kind of touch technology was first introduced by Steven Jobs in the first generation iPhone. Of course, a TFT LCD display can always meet the basic needs with reasonable price.